The Alcohol Link – Denial of Alcohol’s Harmful Effects — Unfounded Fear of Marijuana
Denver Colorado has become the home of a great organization called SAFER (Safer Alternative For Enjoyable Recreation). SAFER was founded in January 2005, in response to a string of alcohol-related deaths on college campuses across the state. The following quote is from their mission statement listed on their Web site.
1) to educate the public about the simple fact that marijuana is less harmful than alcohol to both the user and to society, and
2) to raise awareness of the harm caused by laws and policies that steer people toward
using alcohol instead of marijuana and punish them for making the rational, safer choice
to use marijuana.”
I believe, as the SAFER organization does, that marijuana is safer than alcohol. Therefore, on this page I will be addressing the second part of their mission statement ”to raise awareness of the harm caused by laws and policies that steer people toward using alcohol instead of marijuana”. Using my reefer madness research, I am not only able ”to raise awareness of the harm caused by…alcohol”, I can link a majority of the original cases cited for passing the first federal marijuana law to alcohol consumption. My link being Americas denial of alcohol’s harmful effects and their unfounded fear of marijuana during the early 1900′s. To narrow my examination for the purpose of this article, I have restricted my historical review to a few of the most famous cases cited in the pages of the 1937 Marijuana Tax Act hearing that contain enough information for an accurate reference search.
On July 12, 1937, during the Marijuana Tax Act hearing, Harry J. Anslinger, head of the Narcotics Bureau, stated, “I have a few cases here that I would just like to tell the committee about. In Alamosa, Colo., they seem to be having a lot of difficulty. The citizens petitioned Congress for help, in addition to the help that is given them under the State law.” Previously, during the April hearings, Harry Anslinger had entered into record a letter by Floyd K. Baskette, City Editor, of The Alamosa Daily Courier. The letter begins by stating:
“Gentlemen: Two weeks ago a sex-mad degenerate, named Lee Fernandez, brutally attacked a young Alamosa girl. He was convicted of assault with intent to rape and sentenced to 10 to 14 years in the state penitentiary. Police officers here know definitely that Fernandez was under the influence of marijuana. But this case is one in hundreds of murders, rapes, petty crimes, insanity that has occurred in southern Colorado in recent years.”
Contrary to what Anslinger and local law enforcement said, upon my search and examination of the Alamosa Daily Courier newspaper articles relating to the Lee Fernandez case, it would appear that he never mentioned having smoked marijuana. On August 22, 1936, in a front-page article from the Alamosa Daily Courier, the headlines simply read, “Rapist Facing Ten Years In Pen Blames Drink For Sex Madness”. The first sentence quotes Fernandez as saying, “Yes I did it, but I was so drunk I can’t remember anything about it.” Obviously a demon alcohol case, not reefer madness.
During the April Marijuana Tax Act hearing, Harry Anslinger also mentioned another traceable reefer madness story when he stated, “Colorado seems to have had a lot of cases of violence recently — in Alamosa County, and in Huerfano County the sheriff was killed as the result of the action of a man under the influence of marijuana.”
Upon my examination of the Huerfano County Sheriff killing, I found a September 11th 1935 World Independent newspaper article entitled, “Sheriff Starts Drive On Marijuana Growers After Serious Crimes In County”. The article briefly mentions an assault having occurred to a school dance chaperon named Esi Trujillo. Discussion of the assault briefly mentions weed, but most likely it was the result of spiked punch, not marijuana. The article then went on to mention Sheriff Swift’s arrest of another man for cultivation of marijuana. Evidently, the sheriff was never harmed in the manufacturing of this reefer madness article. However, Anslinger first reported this incident in his 1936 edition of Traffic In Opium and Other Dangerous Drugs as “nearly resulting in the officer’s death”. Then a year later, Anslinger drastically upgraded the story for the 1937 Marijuana Tax Act hearing, stating, “the Sheriff was killed”. This classic example of government-manufactured propaganda is discussed further in, “Method To The Madness, From Newspaper Reports To Reefer Madness Stories, A Colorado Case In Point”.
While speaking at the 1937 Marijuana Tax Act hearing, Anslinger mentioned on several occasions his favorite reefer madness case concerning a lad named Victor Licata from Tampa, Florida. During the April hearing, Anslinger stated, “In Florida a 21-year-old boy under the influence of this drug, killed his parents and his brothers and sister. The evidence showed that he had smoked marihuana.”
Contrary to what Anslinger said, my research, as well as that of other historians who have investigated the case, found no evidence to support Anslinger’s claim that Licata was under the influence of marijuana during his murder spree. In a complete contradiction to Anslinger’s claim, when Victor Licata broke his silence to a Tampa Times reporter, he never mentioned marijuana. In the Oct 18, 1933 article “Dream Slayer Talks In Cell”, Licata mentions that: “For hours before he went home he rode on some body’s truck-a liquor truck, but he refused to name his companions.” Once at home, Victor put his drunken ass to bed, where he had a terrible dismemberment dream, only to awake in a real blood bath. Sounds like an alcohol induced nightmare, not reefer madness.
The culmination of early government drug war propaganda was the passage of the Marihuana Tax Act. It went into effect on October 1, 1937 and with it the first federal marijuana offender, Moses Baca, was arrested for possession of a 1/4 ounce. His conviction took place in the U.S. District Court, Denver, Colorado, and was overseen by non other than Head of the Narcotics Bureau, Harry J. Anslinger. In an October 8th 1937 Denver Post newspaper article entitled, “Denver Court Imposes First Marijuana Law Penalties” reported that Baca admitted, “Under its influence, he said, he became a wild beast, and two weeks ago tried to murder his wife, the mother of his three children.”
Upon my examination of Moses Baca’s Denver Police Record, for the incident said by the Denver Post to have been committed two weeks prior (actually took place just days before, not weeks), it simply states, “This man came home drunk and beat his wife.” Again, we have The Alcohol Link…
Copyright March 29, 2009
Copyright December 8, 2009 (modified Esi Trujillo case)
Copyright January 22, 2010 (added picture and subtitle).