The Narcotics Cops

The first attempt by the government to control the use of narcotics by Americans was the Harrison Narcotics Act of 1914. It did not do much good. It required businesses that dealt in opium and cocaine products to register with the federal government and, of course, taxed them a penny per ounce on items they shipped through the United States Postal Service. Doctors were allowed to dispense heroin, opium, and morphine to patients for medicinal purposes. This resulted in the first versions of “rehab centers.” Like the methadone clinics of later decades, these facilities tried to break people's morphine addiction by giving them heroin. Morphine addiction became a serious problem for many American soldiers during World War I. In 1923 the Supreme Court decided to make it illegal for doctors to prescribe heroin and morphine for any reason. Did government interference end the scourge of drug addiction in America? Of course not. All it did was make the trafficking of drugs go underground. And there was an organization in place ready, willing, and able to take up the slack and make billions over the remainder of the twentieth century. Enter the Mafia.

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