HARRY ANSLINGER: THE MAN WHO STARTED THE “WAR ON DRUGS”
“REEFER MAKES DARKIES THINK THEY’RE AS GOOD AS WHITE MEN.”
HARRY J. ANSLINGER, FIRST COMMISSIONER OF THE FEDERAL BUREAU OF NARCOTICS, WHO LAUNCHED A CAMPAIGN OF MISINFORMATION BASED ON RACISM AND VIOLENCE AND DID NOT HIDE HIS PREJUDICE AGAINST MINORITIES AND ENTERTAINERS
When Harry Anslinger became the head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics in 1930, Prohibition (1920–1933) was nearing its end, and with the relegalization of alcohol Anslinger’s bureau lost a lot of its purpose. Thus he turned his attention to the cannabis plant, launching a campaign to vilify marijuana and those who used it. He took advantage of the print media as a major vehicle in his effort, documenting 200 violent crimes in a series he called “The Gore Files,” which were published nationwide. Of Victor Licata’s case he wrote: “An entire family was murdered by a youthful addict in Florida.” These articles also contained virulently racist themes: “Negroes took a girl 14 years old and kept her for two days under the influence of hemp,” and “Marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes.” Anslinger died in 1975, five years after the Nixon administration’s Controlled Substances Act had listed cannabis in the most dangerous schedule and thereby made it federally prohibited, and three years after a presidential commission had recommended decriminalizing small amounts of cannabis.