Public Relations Language Disguises How Drug Discourse Today Is More Successful – and More Sinister – Than Anything Harry Anslinger Could Concoct In His Wildest Dreams

Editor’s Note: Today’s post comes from contributing editor Brooks Hudson, a PhD student in history at Southern Illinois University. 

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If you’ve followed the opioid issue, you might suspect, based on media reports and statements from policymakers, that we have turned over a new leaf in our attitudes toward drugs and are finally moving in the right direction: today we are “expanding treatment” and abandoning the former “punitive” morality play model. Elite discourse reinforces the perception that we have become more sophisticated, science-based and compassionate to users and those with substance use disorders. 

That’s only partially true, but not because powerful institutional actors experienced a change of heart; they had to be dragged kicking and screaming into embracing, if only rhetorically, this new model. If anything, grassroots activists, harm reductionists, health workers and criminal justice advocates on the front lines have waged tireless, and at times seemingly thankless, campaigns to reform our draconian laws, and they have succeeded. (Prime examples of these successes include legalizing cannabis, decriminalizing psilocybin in Denver, and expunging criminal records for marijuana arrests in some states.) Activists also shifted the conversation away from the dehumanizing language used to describe people who use drugs among press and policymakers (“junkie,” “addict,” etc), a language that enabled us to conceive of other people as less than human, making it easy on our collective conscience to confine them to cages. Even now, further incremental baby steps are met with the same hostilities and recitations of the parade of horribles that would be unleashed as they used before. 

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Call for Nominations: The 2021 Jellinek Memorial Fund Award for outstanding contribution to the advancement of knowledge on alcohol/alcoholism

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Nominations are solicited for the 2021 Jellinek Memorial Fund Award to a scientist who has made an outstanding contribution to the advancement of knowledge in the alcohol/alcoholism field. Nominated candidates may come from any country. The category for the Year 2021 award, specified by the Board of Directors of the Jellinek Memorial Fund, will be Social and Cultural Studies. Nominees must have contributed outstanding research in this specific (albeit broad) area, and should be someone who would provide an example and serve as a model for others who might be attracted to work in this field. In addition to a cash award of CDN$5,000, the recipient is presented with a bust of the late E. M. Jellinek with an appropriate inscription.

The Jellinek Memorial Fund Award is traditionally presented at a major international conference, and if necessary, travel and accommodation expenses are provided to permit the awardee to attend the conference for presentation of the award.

To complete the nomination of a candidate, email Prof. Nick Heather at nick.heather@northumbria.ac.uk the following materials:

(1) a detailed letter describing the principal contribution(s) for which the candidate is being nominated, signed by the nominator and any co-nominators; and

(2) a current copy of the candidate’s curriculum vita.

Nominations must be received no later than November 1, 2020.

The Ayahuasca Phenomenon in Historical Perspective

Editor’s Note: Today’s post comes from guest contributor Chris Elcock. Elcock is an STS postdoctoral fellow working at the Centre national de la recherche scientifique in Paris, where he is investigating the use of ayahuasca in psychedelics science. His previous work has examined the cultural history of psychedelics and his doctoral dissertation focused on the social history of LSD in New York City.

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Chris Elcock

I recently attended the third World Ayahuasca Conference, which was held in Girona, Catalonia/Spain. Ayahuasca is a brew that combines the Banisteriopsis caapi vine and a DMT-containing plant, usually of the psychotria viridis genus. While it has been used for millennia in ritual settings in the Amazon basin, it has gradually drawn the attention of scores of experimenters across the world and the biomedical sciences are also investigating its psychoactive effects. The conference attracted people from broad horizons: indigenous peoples travelling from the Amazon basin; research teams looking into the therapeutic potential of ayahuasca; anthropologists studying the uses of this fascinating substance; theologians who drink it in syncretic brands of religion; and the many who’ve had their lives changed forever. 

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“Beyond the Medicines/Drugs Dichotomy: Historical Perspectives on Good and Evil in Pharmacy in Johannesburg, South Africa (5-7 December 2019) – Conference Report

Editor’s Note: Today’s post comes from contributing editor Dr. David A. Guba, Jr., of Bard Early College in Baltimore and Jamie Banks of the University of Leicester.

Twenty-one delegates from ten countries gathered in Johannesburg, South Africa from 5 to 7 December for the “Beyond the Medicines/Drug Dichotomy: Historical Perspectives on Good and Evil in Pharmacy” conference. Masterfully organized by Thembisa Waetjen (University of Johannesburg) and co-sponsored by the Alcohol and Drugs History Society (ADHS), the Wellcome Trust, the University of Johannesburg, and the University of Strathclyde’s Centre for the Social History of Health and Healthcare (CSHHH), the conference was held at the stunning facilities of the South Gauteng Branch of the Pharmaceutical Society of South Africa. The event also marked the latest step forward for the “Changing Minds: Psychoactive Substances in African and Asian History” project under the direction of Jim Mills (University of Strathclyde), which works to connect scholars of drugs and alcohol history in China, Africa, the UK, and beyond.

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On being cited by the Supreme Court

Editor’s Note: Today’s post comes from Richard F. Hamm, Professor of History at the University at Albany, SUNY. He is with Michael Lewis co-editor of the forthcoming Prohibition’s Greatest Myths (LSU Press, forthcoming April 2020), which has an essay by Thomas Pegram, who is also cited in Alito’s opinion in the Tennessee case.  

So, in late June of this year, I was reading a United States Supreme Court case.  Not something unusual for me, as I am legal historian as well as a historian of alcohol policy.  Actually what I was reading was the “slip opinion” which used to be the unbound just-off –the-press opinions of the justices, available before the volume of the United States Reports in which the case would be included was compiled and printed.  Today they are available on the internet.  

The case is one that would interest readers of this blog: it is Tennessee Wine v. Thomas and it concerns how far the second clause of the 21st amendment will reach.  The readers of this blog will know that amendment’s first section repealed the 18th amendment, formally ending national alcohol prohibition in the United States.  What only a few of you know is that its second section gives states broad powers to regulate alcohol.  Based on an important pre-prohibition federal law, the 1913 Webb-Kenyon Act, it reads: “The transportation or importation into any State, Territory, or possession of the United States for delivery or use therein of intoxicating liquors, in violation of the laws thereof, is hereby prohibited.”  And there as I was reading the dense prose of Justice Samuel Alito for the majority of seven justices, I came across my name and a citation to my first book, Shaping the Eighteenth Amendment (UNC Press, 1995).  It’s right there on page 14 and again on page 17, as part of the long discussion of the relationship between the federal government’s commerce power and state alcohol policy.

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Maine and its Marijuana Market

Editor’s Note: Today’s post comes from contributing editor Dr. Stefano Tijerina, a lecturer in management and the Chris Kobrack Research Fellow in Canandian Business History at the University’s of Maine’s Business School. 

Back in November of 2016 the people of Maine voted in favor of a referendum that legalized medical and recreational marijuana.  The medical marijuana market took off quickly, but recreational marijuana regulatory structures slowed down the process for those interested in the Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).  It is now January 2020 and finally the state started accepting applications for recreational retailers.  

Cities across the state have now become competitors in a new and potentially lucrative market that will be up for grabs, and that will ultimately change the local economies across the state.  Like Colorado, California, Nevada, and numerous others states that have legalized medical and recreational marijuana, Maine is positioning itself as a competitor in this emerging market.[1]

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No Elephant in the Room? The ADHS at AHA in NYC, and the end(!)(?) of the War on Drugs

Editor’s Note: Today’s post on the recent annual conference of the American Historical Association comes from contributing editor Bob Beach. Beach is a Ph.D. candidate in history at the University of Albany, SUNY. 

The Alcohol and Drugs History Society was represented last week at the Annual Meeting of the American Historical Association in a set of five fascinating panels, headlined by a wonderful discussion after lunch on Saturday on Capitalism and Addiction, but overall covering topics from pop culture to tea/coffee houses, from songs to theater to art, from India and Pakistan to Paris to New York, the very city in which we gathered.

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