As per usual, children were a pawn in the push to strengthen prohibition. Congressman Boggs, who represented New Orleans, argued that the average addiction age had fallen from 37.5 years to 26.7 years between 1946 and 1950, per records from the National Institute on Mental Health (NIMH) Addiction Research Center in Kentucky. He also suggested that one out of every 200 New York City teens were already addicts. Congressman Emanuel Celler, who represented NYC, countered that the legislation might actually hurt young people who made bad decisions that led to their addictions. He opposed the mandatory sentencing.
Guess who else was against the Boggs Act? Dr. Harris Isbell, Director of Research at the aforementioned Kentucky facility, strongly opposed the inclusion of cannabis. The acclaimed researcher argued the following: “Marijuana smokers generally are mildly intoxicated, giggle, laugh, bother no one, and have a good time. They do not stagger or fall, and ordinarily will not attempt to harm anyone. It has not been proved that smoking marijuana leads to crimes of violence or to crimes of a sexual nature. Smoking marijuana has no unpleasant after effects, no dependence is developed on the drug, and the practice can easily be stopped at any time. In fact, it is probably easier to stop smoking marijuana cigarettes than tobacco cigarettes. In predisposed individuals, marijuana may precipitate temporary psychoses and is, therefore, not an innocuous practice with them.”
Dr. Isbell backed up his argument with statements from doctors, prison officials and recovering heroin addicts. Despite all this, the Boggs Act passed and went into effect in 1952.
Photo credit: Jon Tyson.