Acting as the first Commissioner of the federal Narcotics Bureau, officially created on June 1st 1930, Harry Jacob Anslinger is responsible, above all others, for outlawing marijuana in both America and around the world. Anslinger used his position of power to conduct his reign of terror from September 23rd 1930, until July 5th 1962, when he was forced into retirement during John F. Kennedy’s brief stay in the White House. Anslinger’s most famous reefer madness story, used to justify the passage of anti-marijuana laws, was a Florida ax murder case involving a young man named Victor Licata.
During his career Anslinger made numerous references to the Florida case. The American Magazine published his most famous account of the incident in July of 1937 under the title, “MARIJUANA-Assassin of Youth”. In part, the article stated:
“It was an unprovoked crime some years ago, which brought the first realization that the age-old drug had gained a foothold in America. An entire family was murdered by a youthful addict in Florida. When officers arrived at the home they found the youth staggering about in a human slaughterhouse. With an ax he had killed his father, his mother, two brothers, and a sister. He seemed to be in a daze.
“I’ve had a terrible dream,” he said. “People tried to hack off my arms!”
“Who were they?” an officer asked.
“I don’t know. Maybe one was my uncle. They slashed me with knives and I saw blood dripping from an ax.”
He had no recollection of having committed the multiple crimes. The officers knew him ordinarily as a sane, rather quiet young man; now he was pitifully crazed. They sought the reason. The boy said he had been in the habit of smoking something which youthful friends called ‘muggles,’ a childish name for marijuana.
Since that tragedy there has been a race between the spread of marijuana and its suppression.”
The Assassin of Youth article was part of a publicity campaign orchestrated by Anslinger and the federal Bureau of Narcotics, whose aim was to ban marihuana in the U.S. using the federal government’s power to tax. During the 1937 Marihuana Tax Act hearing, Anslinger mentioned this Florida murder case as part of his testimony before congress. It was rehashing Licata’s case, among others, that helped pass the first federal law banning marijuana in the US.
I conducted an indepth investigation into the Tampa, Florida ax murders committed by a 19 year old Italian man named Victor Licata in 1933. The case was revisited using the most authoritative source, bibliography notes in John Kaplan’s book, “Marijuana, The New Prohibition” (Professor of Law, Stanford University). Kaplan’sbook provides one of the most indepth examinations of this Florida case proving marijuana had nothing to do with the murders.
When I attempted to order the newspaper articles cited by John Kaplan for debunking the case, using several Florida inter-library loan departments, I was informed of numerous reference problems. My efforts, and that of several other researchers, eventually produced all the articles Kaplan incorrectly referenced or left out of his book regarding the Victor Licata case (inaccurate information obtained from correspondents, student help, and editorial revisions may have attributed to the mistakes). In addition to the reference problems a few minor quotation errors were made, thus suggesting researchers go to the correction page, or better yet obtain all 7 articles to more accurately retell the story as presented in John Kaplan’s book, “Marijuana, The New Prohibition”.
In addition to the newspaper references Victor Licata’s Inquisition of Lunacy and police report are also required to retell his story. However, even with the newspaper articles and government reports uncovered here, the story presented in John Kaplan’s book, “Marijuana, The New Prohibition” cannot be recreated in its entirety. According to a December 30th, 1968 letter that Kaplan received from a Dr. C. A. Rich, at the Florida State Hospital, a second psychological exam was performed on Victor Licata after he was recaptured in 1950 (Licata spent five years on the run after escaping in 1945). Unfortunately, Licata’s hospital file only contained his initial 1933 Inquisition of Lunacy report and not the second exam said to have been performed after he was recaptured and returned to the hospital in 1950.
While searching for the newspaper articles cited by Mr. Kaplan, additional articles were discovered and a list of references compiled. When the Victor Licata search is complete and all the references are confirmed, this page will be updated.
After completing the Victor Licata reference search above, the late Professor Kaplan’s research material was discovered in the Robert Crown Law Library at Stanford in a box marked “Miscellaneous Material On Marijuana” HV5822.M3 M57 V.8 1Law Basement (NOTE: The bound volumes compiled by Professor Kaplanincludescorrespondence in response to his queries, but do not include his original request for information). I am providing researchers with Kaplan’s hospital communication letters dated Dec. 13 & Dec. 30 1968, as well as a compiled list of his newspaper clippings and Tampa Times communication letter. All of Kaplan’s surviving research on Victor Licata is know provided on this web page as insight into the reference problems being addressed. This final discovery allows research to replicate Professor Kaplan’s research in its entirety.
Victor Licata resided in the Chattahoochee State Hospital from 1933 until 1945. He escaped in 1945 and remained on the loose until he was recaptured on August 15, 1950. After his recapture Victor was instead sent to Railford State Prison for safe keeping. Victor resided in prison for just 2 months and 20 days when he hanged himself to death with a bed sheet in his cell on December 4, 1950. When it came to burying Victor, his body was not allowed to rest in the families stone mausoleum at L’Unione Italiano Cemetery. Prison officials, in an effort to keep Victors whereabouts secret, did not disclose his resting place to local newspaper reporters or even to the state on his death certificate (resting place listed only as Starke, Florida and no cause of death was given). Reporters did however mention that he was buried by the Lord and Fernandez Funeral Home, but upon examination of their burial records, it just so happens that there paperwork from1950 is missing. To this day I have not been able to locate Victor Licata’s resting place for a picture of his headstone…Can anyone help me locate him?
Historical Misinformation 7/10/2010
In a March/April 2010 publication of Tampa Bay’s Cigar City Magazine, a story about Victor Licata appears under the title, “Horror In Ybor City”. Author Paul Guzzo erroneously states, among other things, that “Licata did admit to the police that he smoked marijuana the night of the murders.” (quote page 25) When I asked Guzzo for a reference regarding Licata’s alleged confession he couldn’t provide any proof of the statement. Approximately six months after contacting Paul Guzzo he republished his Horror In Ybor City article, which included an additional pictture of a pulp fiction magazine story entitled, “Marihuana MANIAC!” from Inside Detective, July 1938, pp 44, 45, 46, 47, 51, 52. see p. 5. Evidently, Guzzo used a ”Get Smart” kind of detective magazine from the 30′s as his source of historical information, and not any actual newspaper accounts or police reports from the killings…..Also, Guzzo’s picture of “Henry [sic Harry] Anslinger” is actually Benito Mussolini…LOL
This story should be considered nothing but misinformation at:
http://issuu.com/cigarcitymagazine/docs/issue27mar-apr (pp. 20, 21, 22, 24 & 25)
New reference search as of 1/20/10
Looking for the original source of what I believe to be misinformation regarding some authors who claim Victor Licata “Killed another patient” while in a mental hospital. The statement appears on several Internet sites, but I have not been able to find any definitive source for the information. Possible source is a posted note attached to Albert and Robert Rowell’s book “On The Trail Of Marijuana, The Weed Of Madness” in the chapter entitled “Madness for Profit Victor Licata” at: http://www.lycaeum.org/~sputnik/Ludlow/Trail/trail.html
Also looking for source of questionable statistics relating to Gore File cases which typically states somthing to the effect that ”Of the 200 specific cases referred to by Anslinger, his accusation were proven false in 198″. I suspect “Pot Culture: Anslingers Lies” as the source at: http://www.ukcia.org/potculture/20/lies.html