Rejected by the Drug Policy Foundation- 1997
PLENARY PANEL/WORKSHOP PROPOSAL Tinctures of Opium, Wines of Coca, etc: Popular, Pre-prohibition Uses of Natural Plants Perverted by Drug Prohibition into today's "Hard" Drug Plague
11th International Conference on Drug Policy Reform, October 15-18, 1997
Douglas A. Willinger, moderator Submitted to the Drug Policy Foundation.
Speakers that it is proposed that the Drug Policy Foundation formally invite:
Jim Hogshire, author, Opium for the Masses
Dr. Andrew T. Weil, author Chocolate to Morphine
Dr. Lester Grinspoon
Cynthia Cotts, writer, National Law Journal
Dr. Ronald K. Siegel, UCLA, author Intoxication (1989)
Michael Montagne, Boston College of Pharmacology
Dr. John Morgan
"Hard" drugs - e.g. "heroin" and "cocaine" -- have evoked great fears, leading people to advocate or acquiesce to more repressive and expensive drug laws and drug law enforcement, as if these molecules were necessarily pernicious.
Yet prior to prohibition, opiates and cocaine were widely used as safely as aspirin and caffeine are now.
Because we are so conditioned to react to the powder forms of these drugs, we forget that these more direct modes of ingestion -- sniffing, smoking and injecting -- were formerly a relatively rare phenomenon.
Prior to the twentieth century's "war on drugs," most people using these drugs took them in dilute form, whether as raw plant material, or plant preparation of comparable potency. Such plants and their popular preparations, were widely recognized medicinal agents, worldwide.
These substances have long and positive histories predating their criminalization by U.S. federal statute via the 1914 Harrison "Tax" Act and successive laws, and were used throughout the medical community as effective, cheap, and safe treatments for a variety of ailments.
Opium poppies have been taken medicinally for thousands of years, taken topically, smoked (and even brewed as a tea, as suggested in Hogshire's "Opium for the Masses.")
"Cocaine" -- or more accurately, Coca just had many uses. The Extra Pharmacopoeia (the British counterpart to the U.S. Pharmacopoeia) cited Coca as a "nervine and muscular tonic, preventing waste of tissue, appeasing hunger and thirst, relieving fatigue, and aiding free respiration ... useful in various diseases of the digestive and respiratory organs.... " Meanwhile, the Wine of Coca, , became the most widely praised plant preparation of the time. ’s creator, Angelo Mariani was hailed by Pope Leo XIII as a "benefactor of humanity" for making Coca available around the world- after 40 years of Coca wine distribution."
All of this of course, prior to prohibition. Any honest program of harm reduction in drug use must go beyond the narrow-minded discussion of today's "hard drug problems": heroin and cocaine hydrochloride, to look at Opium and Coca, to reveal the drug war's most intense effects upon drug abuse -- shifting markets to the infinitely more dangerous concentrated substances, while the natural forms are virtually forgotten.