Harrison Narcotics Tax Act of 1914
The Harrison Narcotics Act of 1914, sponsored by New York Congressman Francis B. Harrison and written in large part by Dr. Hamilton Wright, is regarded by historians and criminologists as the basis for drug policy in the United States. This legislation, which went into effect on March 15, 1915, was intended to control listed narcotic substances (e.g., opiates, cocaine derivatives) through taxation and commercial regulation. On its face, the Harrison Act was designed to eliminate the nonmedical sale and use of opiates and cocaine, which were widespread, over-the-counter, and unregulated. At the same time, the Harrison Act facilitated the construction of a discursive intersection of mainstream American feelings on race with the nature and mythology of mind-altering substances, with “drug laws” becoming a euphemism for the social control of non-Whites. The law required supervised distribution to physicians, pharmacists, wholesalers, and manufacturers who, licensed by federal government, remitted an excise tax ...