This Week in History

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November 15, 1875: San Francisco passes the first US anti-drug law, an ordinance outlawing Chinese opium dens.

November 12, 1970: Keith Stroup forms the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).

November 12, 1980: New York City Mayor Ed Koch admits to having tried marijuana.

November 15, 1984: Spanish police arrest Jorge Ochoa on a US warrant and both the US and Colombia apply for his extradition. Soon after, the Medellin cartel publicly threatens to murder five Americans for every Colombian extradition. The Spanish courts ultimately rule in favor of Colombia's request and Ochoa is deported. He serves a month in jail on charges of bull-smuggling before being paroled.

November 11, 1988: The Anti-Drug Abuse Act establishes the creation of a drug-free America as a policy goal. A key provision of the act is the creation of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) to set priorities, implement a national strategy, and certify federal drug-control budgets.

November 17, 1993: President Clinton signs the North American Free Trade Agreement which results in an enormous increase in legitimate trade across the US-Mexican border. The volume of trade increases the difficulty for US Customs officials seeking to find narcotics hidden within legitimate goods. [Ed: Of course, reducing the supply of drugs was already an essentially hopeless task.]

November 17, 1993: At an International Network of Cities on Drug Policy conference in Baltimore, Maryland former Colombian high court judge Gomez Hurtado tells the Americans present, "Forget about drug deaths, and acquisitive crime, and addiction, and AIDS. All this pales into insignificance before the prospect facing the liberal societies of the West. The income of the drug barons is greater than the American defense budget. With this financial power they can suborn the institutions of the State and, if the State resists... they can purchase the firepower to outgun it. We are threatened with a return to the Dark Ages."

November 15, 2001: Asa Hutchinson, administrator for the Drug Enforcement Administration, and Republican Gov. Gary Johnson of New Mexico debate the war on drugs in front of about 150 people in Yale's Law School auditorium.

November 15, 2002: NFL star and NORML advisory board member Mark Stepnoski is interviewed on the O'Reilly Factor.

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Error in opium den entry

The adjective Chinese is incorrect. The full text of the ordinance was:

ORDINANCE PROHIBITING OPIUM-SMOKING DENS

Section 1. No person shall in the city and county of San Francisco keep or

maintain or become an inmate of or visit or shall in any way contribute to the

support of any place, house or room where opium is smoked or where persons

assemble for the purpose of smoking opium or inhaling the fumes of opium. Any

persons who shall violate the provisions of this section shall be deemed guilty of

a misdemeanor and upon conviction thereof shall be punished by a fine of not less

than fifty dollars and not exceeding five hundred dollars, or by imprisonment in

the County Jail for a period of no less than ten days nor more than six months, or

by both such fine and imprisonment. 

 

**********************

You're welcome to a .jpg of the 11/16/1875 San Francisco Chronicle article reporting on this which contains the text of the ordinance and some background. The article suggests the ordinance was a reaction to opium-smoking establishments kept by Chinese for the exclusive use of white men and women with particular concern that patrons included young men and women of respectable parentage and young men engaged in respectable business avocations in the city.

The ordinance may sound as though it prohibited more than it does but if I recall correctly it's a modification of a common anti-saloon ordinance and "any place, house or room where..." is just to make sure no loophole exists that would allow saloons (opium dens in this instance) to legally operate in tents, private rooms or anywhere that could be argued was not within the definition of saloon (opium den). I don't believe this was the first US anti-drug law but that's a matter of what is considered a drug or an anti-drug law.

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