Free Minds & Free Markets

The Great Opium Bonfire of 1914

Friday A/V Club: That time the authorities set 10,000 packages of opium, morphine, and cocaine on fire in San Francisco's Marshall Square

DisneyDisney"Ten thousand packages of morphia, opium, and cocaine and several hundred pipes, centuries old, beautifully carved, and ornamented with gold and jewels were made into a funeral pyre at San Francisco," Technical World reported. It was 1914, and the war on opiates was still young. To demonstrate its commitment to the fight—and, the magazine adds, "as a warning to the Chinese and others engaged in the smuggling of opium and morphine into this country"—the State Board of Pharmacy was publicly burning the contraband.

It seems to me that this sort of public bonfire runs the risk of getting a bunch of spectators high, but I am not an expert on the ideal conditions for inhaling opium fumes. In any event, if a chunk of the city did enter a narcotic haze that day, Technical World failed to note it. It did mention that the mayor suddenly suggested, right before the burn was to begin, "that it would be well to save the oldest and most elaborately decorated pipes and present them to the Golden Gate Museum. His suggestion was acted upon, and several pipes, known to be more than two hundred years old, were rescued." Kind of odd not to think of that until the last minute, but I suppose it's better than thinking of it two days later.

The San Francisco Chronicle informs us that the contraband on display was linked to approximately 1,200 drug convictions. With numbers like that, this crackdown would clearly be a cakewalk. Here's one last quote from Technical World's 1914 dispatch: "All signs indicate that the illicit traffic will ultimately be stamped out in the West."

You can watch the big burn here:

(This is the 200th edition of the Friday A/V Club! To check out the past installments, go here.)

Photo Credit: Underwood Archives

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  • loveconstitution1789||

    Learn about the laws concerning opioids from the 1800s until today.

    Prior to 1890, laws concerning opiates were strictly imposed on a local city or state-by-state basis. One of the first was in San Francisco in 1875 where it became illegal to smoke opium only in opium dens. It did not ban the sale, import or use otherwise. In the next 25 years different states enacted opium laws ranging from outlawing opium dens altogether to making possession of opium, morphine and heroin without a physician's prescription illegal.

    The first Congressional Act took place in 1890 that levied taxes on morphine and opium. From that time on the Federal Government has had a series of laws and acts directly aimed at opiate use, abuse and control. These are outlined below:

  • loveconstitution1789||

    All unconstitutional bans of a product or service.

    Even the Prohibitionists knew that alcohol bans were unconstitutional without an Amendment of the Constitution.

  • a ab abc abcd abcde abcdef ahf||

    Not a ban, a tax.

    The first Congressional Act took place in 1890 that levied taxes on morphine and opium.

    For someone who likes to quote the Second Amendment so strictly, you get awful lax elsewhere.

  • CatoTheChipper||

    Yes, it was a tax. But it was a tax that had the effect of a ban, the sort of tax that Justice Learned Hand had in mind when he said, "The power to tax is the power to destroy."

    Same with the original prohibition of the narcotic drug marihuana. The law imposed a tax but it was impossible, literally impossible, to pay the tax.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Poor alphabet troll wants legislative intent sometimes but not other times.

    If the intent of a tax is to effectively ban a product or service, its a violation of the Constitution.

    Taxes are for raising revenue for government.

  • a ab abc abcd abcde abcdef ahf||

    For someone who quotes absolute phrases ("shall not be infringed") as gospel, you do a remarkably poor job of justifying immigration control. How about showing where the federal government gets its authority to control immigration?

    Article 1, Section 8: To establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization... To declare War ...

    Article 1, Section 9: The Migration or Importation of such Persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the Year one thousand eight hundred and eight ... I have never seen this used in any context but slavery, which is the only subject the Framers dodged, kicking the can down the road 20 years. They didn't dodge war or naturalization; why single out immigration, which was not contentious?

    14th Amendment, Section 1: All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.

    9th Amendment: The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

    10th Amendment: The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

    Don't fall back on hand-waving about border control being too obvious to enumerate; it's hard to think of a natural right more obvious than self-defense.

  • RockLibertyWarrior||

    @scattered alphabet NPC retard: Your a dishonest, control freak cunt. Like the mythological Satan in the Bible who twists scripture, you people twist the constitution to further your big government control over other people, yeah fuck you you snake, like a snake your head needs to be stomped on.

  • Mongo||

    When I smoked opium I wanted to go to sleep.

    I can go to sleep easily so I thought it was a waste of a strong high.

  • Eddy||

  • Vulgar Madman||

    Well that explains a lot.


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