Cohen[1] - e s s a y . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ....

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Unformatted text preview: e s s a y . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Jim Crows Drug War Race, Coca Cola, and the Southern Origins of Drug Prohibition by Michael M. Cohen The story of the origins and early years of Coca- Cola which contained small quantities of coca extracts until 1903 helps illuminate changing southern and national perceptions of appropriate drug use. 1890 s advertisement, courtesy of the Collections of the Library of Congress. southern cultures , Fall 2006 : Michael M. Cohen t the end of the nineteenth century, the U.S. hunger for narcotics and cocaine was so notorious that one leading public-health offi- cial declared, We are the drug-habit nation. 1 Today, Americans lustfully if schizophrenically consume huge quantities of both the illegal dope of stoners and street junkies and the equally profitable products of high-tech bioresearch labs and multinational phar- maceutical corporations. We are now, as we were a century ago, a people torn between, as the tv says, just say no and the miracle of medicine. But what do we mean by drugs? The public imagination struggles mightily to preserve stark distinctions between the various kinds of drugs: heroin, cocaine, canna- bis, alcohol, anabolic steroids, nicotine, caffeine, aspirin, Ritalin, , Prozac, and OxyContin, to name but a dozen. The history of drug prohibition, however, shows us that the difference between a poison and a medicine, between drugs as scourge or salvation, is not so easily determined. Are those who become de- pendent upon drugs victims of a physical disease, or are they criminals and moral deviants? When do personal, medical, or recreational decisions become a social menace? And is it the chemistry or the social status of the consumer that shapes these attitudes? After more than a century of the war on drugs, the historical transformation of drug use in the United States between the 1890 s and 1930 s from the free and largely unknowing use of any drug to the strict regulation and criminalization of narcotics, cocaine, and cannabis remains largely misunderstood by the public. At the root of the drug-prohibition movement in the United States is race, the driving force behind the first laws criminalizing drug use, which first appeared as early as the 1870 s. In an era in which African Americans, Asian and Mexican im- migrants, as well as most European immigrants Jews, Slavs, and Catholic Irish and Italians were considered racial others, white racial fears amplified the sense of public menace posed by drugs and drug users. The belief of Gilded Age whites that racial difference marked a biologically determined predisposition to, say, de- viousness, slovenliness, or lustfulness served to supercharge the hazards posed by Catholic inebriation, black intoxication, or Chinese addictions....
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This note was uploaded on 09/09/2011 for the course PLSI 200 taught by Professor Schendan during the Spring '08 term at S.F. State.

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Cohen[1] - e s s a y . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ....

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