Tuesday, March 18, 2008
‘Crack Head’. Youths as young as ten years old commonly use this phrase and nobody seems to misunderstand what it means.
But what is crack, exactly? And what is the history of this destructive drug that so many people in our society seem to be continually seeking? To understand the full history of crack we must look into the history of its derivative, cocaine, and to cocaine’s derivative, the coca leaves that grow wild in the fields of Peru, Bolivia, and Colombia.
Cocaine was first refined out of coca by an Italian chemist Angelo Mariani in 1863, after the Spanish colonizers of South America had been transporting the relatively harmless coca leaves back to Europe. European entrepreneurs began putting the drug in everything, because when it was ingested it made the consumer feel so good. Until 1903, a bottle of Coca-Cola contained about 9 milligrams of cocaine.
African Americans were first introduced to the drug in the American South after the American Civil War in the late 1800s.
When ‘freed’ slaves were forced to work in labour camps for little pay, during their breaks and after dinners the workers were given doses of cocaine to make them work faster. These Africans soon became addicted to the drug and a racist myth began to be propagated that “cocaine made Negro’s go crazy and rape white women.” Southern whites bought the political lies and due to a public outcry the American constitution was amended. The Harrison Act was implemented and to this day drugs such as cocaine, marijuana, and heroin are illegal in America.
During the two imperialist world wars in the 20th century cocaine fell out of favor because it was so expensive. However, after the second war, the economy in America began to explode, the money in the economy allowed for more cocaine to re-enter the scene: just as capitalism had gone through its booms and busts, cocaine followed the economic trends.
Cocaine made a huge comeback in the 60s and by the 70s. Mainstream coverage of cocaine picked up as well: Newsweek wrote numerous stories discussing the many positives aspects of the drug.. Cocaine also entered the mainstream in other ways, the relationship of cocaine to ‘70s disco culture was a standard. Time magazine ran a cover story on the drug in 1981 and called it The All American Drug, describing cocaine to as a drug that gives you ‘speedy bursts of energy, extreme confidence, and an intense sex drive”.
Government policy and positive media attention drove cocaine to the place that it is today. Cocaine is now much cheaper now than it ever was in the 1970s or early 1980s and the prices have continued to fall. It would soon be too late to wage an effective war on drugs, especially when ‘crack’ cocaine began to sweep the nation in the mid ‘80s. Once the economic force of the commodity begins rolling in the economy, how can you stop it, when the demand is so great? But is consumer demand alone the only force that drives the North American cocaine and crack cocaine market?
In late September 2007, an American Immigrations and Customs Enforcement jet crashed in Mexico and was found by Mexican authorities to contain over 4 tones of cocaine. The cocaine had an estimated street value at over $25 million.
The question must then be asked, what proportion of the drugs in America are coming in through these official government channels? What does this mean for the crack epidemic in America and Canada? And most importantly, who is to blame? These questions will be addressed in Part 2 of the BASICS series on the History of Crack Cocaine.. As you may have noticed by now, the mainstream press tends to overlook the basics when looking at issues like these.