Henry Anslinger, Federal Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs (FBNDD ) director, was the point man for the Cabal in the Marijuana Tax Act congressional hearings, held beginning from April 29, 1937. Anslinger and his men had prepped the entire legislative floor together with their back office staff on the upcoming hearing, and everyone waited with baited breath for his presentation.

To say that it was a disappointing climax would be an understatement. Armed with something akin to a collection of tabloid cut and paste book, which in his later years labeled as the Gore Files, Anslinger comments were unique in the sense that it was not corroborated by any single independent factual data. His testimony was based almost exclusively from newspaper reports, folk tales and absent witnesses.

However, before we proceed to Anslinger’s Congressional Hearing submission, it would perhaps be appropriate to take a peek at an earlier conference held in Room 81 of the Treasury Building in January 14th 1937, that will ultimately provide the foundation for Anslinger and his cohort’s deception.


Cannabis Sativa Linne Conference

Among those present during the conference were

• Dr. Lyster F. Dewey (retired) Department of Agriculture.
• Dr. James C. Munch, Professor of Pharmacology, Temple University
• Dr. Carl Voegtlin, Chief, Division of Pharmacology, National Institute of Health
• Mr. Arthur F. Sievers, Division of Drug and Related Plants, Department of Agriculture
• Mr. Peter Valaer, Alcohol Tax Unit Washington Laboratory
• Mr. H. J. Wollner, Consulting Chemist to the Secretary of the Treasury.
• Mr. A. L. Tennyson, Legal Division, Bureau of Narcotics
• Mr. S. G. Tipton, General Counsel's Office
• Dr. John Matchett, Chemist, Bureau of Narcotics
• Mr. R. L. Pierce, General Counsel's Office
• And of course, M. H. J. Anslinger, Commissioner of Narcotics


Excerpts from conference transcripts:

Dr. Wollner: I think I am inclined to agree with Dr. Voegtlin. The thing has not been sufficiently investigated to say definitely that there is only one or that there is more than one. From the legal point of view we cannot tie up any legislation with the term cannabinol. I am afraid that has to be out until we know more, and that may take thirty or forty years. There is a concomitant to that, since we do not know the active ingredient or ingredients, we are not in a position to say one chemical treatment or another might not produce those active ingredients from that portion of the plant which at the present time is believed to be totally innocuous. We might be able to take the stalk which is today a harmless part of the plant and generate it from copious quantities of the active ingredient.

Mr. Tennyson: That bears directly on the discussion we had on limiting this for the purpose of a workable piece of legislation to flowering tops, seeds, and leaves of the plant. Our idea was to attempt to help the hemp industry if we could do it.

Mr. Wollner: We might, among ourselves, compromise the situation. That situation must be acknowledged in the same way you have to accept the fact that morphine can be extracted from the stalk of the opium plant.

Mr. Anslinger: We might be in a bad position if we eliminated the stalks and later found it to be present in them.

Dr. Fuller: My experience with it was that the active principle was tied up in the resin -- whether this was gathered up and held there mechanically and did not exist in the more cellular portions of the plant I do not know. That was my only experience. I made no tests on the stems.

Mr. Anslinger: We could make those tests, couldn't we?

Mr. Wollner: I wonder whether our botanist friends could help us? What is the history of plants of this type? Are we likely to have them behaving as morphine and present in all parts of the plants?

Dr. Fuller: I can tell you our experience with belladonna, which is easily identified. The succulent parts, that is, the leaves toward the ends of the lateral stems and tops were always the most potent. We grew some that were over 2 percent alkaloid. As you come down to the big leaves which grew to maturity early and were beginning to disappear, there was very little alkaloid. The main stem and lateral stems that were woody were devoid of alkaloid. Toward the ends -- in the top stems -- we got alkaloid. Where they were more or less woody there was none.

Mr. Wollner: Wouldn't that be predicated on the sensitivity of your tests? Wouldn't it be reasonable to assume that at any one time you would find it in the pipe lines?

Dr. Fuller: Yes, the pipe lines contained it all the way through as long as they were succulent. The root as well as the leaves of the belladonna contains the alkaloid. The woody stem did not contain it.

Dr. Sievers: The resin is probably parallel to essential oils which are present in leaves or flowers more than in the woody part. The stems as a rules contain a great deal less. Occasionally you will find it in the root. I hardly think the seed would contain much resin and at this time I would like to be put clear on what Dr. Munch has developed -- whether he really thinks the seed will produce any effects as the resin does.

Dr. Munch: The active material from the fruits does not produce the same type of pharmacological response as the active material from the leaves. We have instances recorded in the literature of narcotic effects on children from the fruits.

Mr. Tennyson: When you speak of fruits, do you include seed?

Dr. Munch: Technically this is a fruit and not seed.

Dr. Fuller: The words are more or less synonymous in the way they are used.

Dr. Dewey: It says the young shoots here showed a very high percentage in comparison with the old shoots.

Mr. Sievers: The old stems would still contain less.

Dr. Munch: Yes.

Mr. Tennyson: It occurs to me, Dr. Wollner, that if we get a law we have to support it and everything in it when we go before the committee. We have here some other uses -- I don't know whether I am anticipating one of these questions or not. There is a use for fiber, for bird-seed, and for oil in the varnish industry. Those people will probably come in and complain about what they consider a foolish attempted control if we try to make this all-inclusive. If we are going to cast suspicion on every part of the plant we certainly will have to be fortified.

Mr. Wollner: I would offer this question to that, although we think it is well taken. It does not follow that because the seeds or the stalks are potential sources that we wish legislation to control their use. I do feel that we should be in a position to know what the situation is. I think that would be a preferred position to be in -- to be able to say that there is a possibility, but if it is existing, it is in amounts not sufficient to warrant its inclusion.

Mr. Tennyson: We had a complaint from the Sherwin-Williams Company who wanted to start a farm. We tried to discourage that. The point was raised in connection with this tentative act we have drafted. We are faced, on account of constitutional limitations, with the necessity of drafting this as a tax measure, with lessening of application of the tax to the legitimate articles of commerce which are innocent. In that phase of the situation we have quite a problem to qualify the exemptions, say seed, where there is apparently such a use for it.

Mr. Wollner: One thing would help us a great deal. It would be relatively simple, I imagine, to delete certain portions of the plant if we could say how much of the active principle was available in those parts of the plant. I turn to Dr. Voegtlin on this. Is it possible to use a bio-assay?

Dr. Voegtlin: No, I don't think it is characteristic enough. We are interested in the psychic manifestations which are produce by this product. These are, of course, not recognized in dogs or rabbits.

Mr. Wollner: Could you answer this question: Has an active principle ever been separated from Cannabis Sativa, which was not associated with cannabinol?

Dr. Munch: If, by cannabinol, you refer to a particular product mentioned in the literature by Fraenkel, then I can answer the question. I believe that if the material reported by Fraenkel is considered as an entity, there may be another constituent in the leaf of Cannabis. Subsequent work has not confirmed the original cannabinol, and there are possibly three or four active principles at the present time, depending on the author.

Mr. Wollner: We are after limiting specifications. It is not necessary that the active principle be cannabinol or that it be the one and only, but if we could definitely establish that the active principle has been found then we could say "a substance which contains less than a certain amount of cannabinol is exempt." Do you see what I mean? How do you feel, Commissioner?

Mr. Anslinger: I would like to ask Dr. Munch a question. I thought you had found one other principle?

Dr. Munch: I believe there are at least three active principles.

Mr. Wollner: What would the legal aspect of this be, Mr. Tennyson? Would it be legally sound to measure the activity of the product by the amount of a material which is present and always associated with the material?

Mr. Tennyson: This is a taxing measure, you know. We like to think of it as some standard definite term that can be referred to that everybody knows about. If you are going to tax something on the basis of its strength, you have a lot of trouble.

Mr. Wollner: You tax liquors by nature of their content and material.

Mr. Anslinger: Wouldn't that place a colossal burden on your division, Dr. Wollner, when we get these cases into court?

Mr. Wollner: I think the Beams reaction would give evidence of cannabinol.

Mr. Tipton: If the Commissioner finds a field of fifteen acres growing will it be necessary to test ever plant to determine that, or can you, when you have tested one strain, say the rest of the field is the same?

Mr. Wollner: That would not be necessary, would it? If you find a man with one hundred heroin pills it is not necessary to test the hundred. We are trying to exempt the usable parts of the plant.

Mr. Anslinger: I am afraid of making it too complicated. The agents out in the sticks would be confused.

Mr. Wollner: What's wrong with Mr. Valaer's approach?

Mr. Pierce: That would make the question easier constitutionally to defend I think, than if you were to link it with some constituent part.

Mr. Wollner: Suppose Dr. Matchett, as a result of his investigations in the laboratory, finds he is able to recover a certain amount of this green resin from the stalks, what is Commissioner Anslinger supposed to do then? For the purpose of this act could we define the substance first as a resin, secondly, as the leaves of the male and female plant, third, as the tops of the plants?

Mr. Pierce: Would that include bird seed?

Mr. Tennyson: No.

Mr. Wollner: If Sherwin-Williams wants to put in an acreage then they could do it.

Mr. Fuller: They can winnow the seeds out of the flowering tops.

Mr. Anslinger: The reason I am after the seed is the preventive measure. Getting the seed out will make our trouble disappear.

Mr. Sievers: Isn't that the same situation you have with regard to poppy? You can grow them in this country for seed legally, can't you?

Mr. Tennyson: What you say is probably true, but we like to discourage that as far as possible.

Mr. Sievers: There is no law at present that would prohibit me from growing poppy as a seed poppy.

Mr. Anslinger: In every case I know of where it was done we got the defendant.

Dr. Fuller: Can't you have some provision in your legislation for destroying the seed after the oil has been taken out?

Mr. Tipton: I would like to pursue this definition further. That sounds pretty good if you can define this greenish substance.

Mr. Wollner: I don't know whether it would be necessary to define it beyond stating its generic state: "The resin which is derived from this plant."

Mr. Tipton: Can you say that the active principle is in the resin?

Mr. Wollner: Yes, we can definitely say that the active principle is in the resin.

Mr. Tipton: Your suggested definition is the flowering tops, the leaves, and the greenish resin?

Mr. Wollner: But that doesn't satisfy Commission Anslinger because potentially every seed is harmful.

Mr. Anslinger: Our experience has been that in almost every large seizure made we got a large quantity of the seed from the defendant for growing purposes.

Mr. Wollner: What would happen if we proscribed the use of seed for bird seed?

Mr. Anslinger: Dr. Munch told me it would stop the birds from singing.

Mr. Wollner: Bird seed only in part contains the Cannabis Sativa seed. I do not think our state of knowledge on that is sufficient. Not enough work has been done to say that it is detrimental tot the birds. The idea would be to license the growing of this stuff and to rule out the use of it for bird seed. If anybody else had it after that they would be guilty of a violation.

Mr. Tennyson: The tentative idea was to place a transfer tax on whatever we should cover, for instance, marihuana, or a general term which would be recognized -- a moderate tax for recognized purposes and a prohibitive transfer tax for any other purpose. What was the first amount?

Mr. Tipton: $1.00 to register.

Dr. Dewey: The use of hemp seed for bird seed costs about $1.00 per hundred pounds.

Mr. Wollner: I don't see that it would present any difficulties from the point of view of our technical side to include all the parts of the plants we know to contribute to the drug.

Mr. Pierce: We have excluded transfers to certain users. We would like to know if it would be safe to exclude transfers to persons just selling bird seed and who do not plant tit? Can any ill effect come from this?

Mr. Wollner: Suppose a man said he just discarded some bird seed and threw it out his window?

Mr. Pierce: If it is growing he is liable for the tax.

Mr. Wollner: Suppose he plants it on someone else's property?

Dr. Dewey: Practically all of our wild hemp is from bird seed. I don't know of a single instance in America where the fiber type has become wildly grown.

Mr. Tipton: Is hemp seed indispensable from bird seed? If Commissioner Anslinger would agree to cut out bird seed it would certainly help the bill and enforcement.

Mr. Anslinger: Can they prove that the birds need this food?

Dr. Matchett: Two people told me the hemp seed had potentialities for evil for the bird if the husks were not removed; furthermore, that the seed is an oily seed and is dangerous especially if the oil is rancid. I gathered that the hemp would not be indispensable, but did not ask it directly.

Mr. Wollner: Can we start setting up a definition for the purposes of the legal division? We include in that the resin derived from the plant Cannabis Sativa.

Dr. Fuller: Would you want to include the solid extract too?

Mr. Wollner: Any extract or derivative thereof.

Mr. Tennyson: You would not need to do that.

Mr. Wollner: In other words, the usual terminology would obtain with reference to this. Can't we get away from the use of the term marihuana?

Mr. Tennyson: We just happened to mention it as a general term.

Mr. Wollner: I think we would be on sounder ground if we left t in the scientific name Cannabis Sativa Linne.

Mr. Tipton: In a statute you can pick a term and define it as you please. Marihuana struck us as a good short form. Its meaning in any other regard would be of no consequence.

Mr. Tennyson: But don't you think, in order to be a little more scientific, we might call it Cannabis?

Dr. Munch: Certain state laws prohibit the use of marihuana. If your Federal law defines marihuana, will that strengthen your state laws?

Mr. Tennyson: One of the purpose of the conference is to give the States a better definition.

Mr. Wollner: We can say that Cannabis Sativa means Cannabis Sativa Linne.

Mr. Pierce: Isn't there some advantage in using the popular term marihuana?

Mr. Wollner: It is technically unsound and wrong, but that's up to you men to decide.

Whatever you call it, it means Cannabis Sativa L, and any preparations, derivatives, etc. -- what else should there be?

Mr. Tennyson: "The salts, derivatives and preparations" or "any resin, salt, derivative and preparation thereof." Do you want to give that? Marihuana means Cannabis Sativa L. and any resin, compound, mixture, salt, preparation, etc." Would that mean everything?

Dr. Dewey: Yes.

Mr. Wollner: Cannabis means the flowering tops, the leaves and any resin, compound, mixture, salt, derivative or preparation of the plant Cannabis Sativa L.

Dr. Munch: That will include the fiber, won't it?

Mr. Pierce: We can exclude the fiber.

Dr. Munch: In the Mexican Pharmacopoeia it says that marihuana refers to the feminine inflorescence of Cannabis Sativa.

Mr. Wollner: Can we deliberately exempt the stalks?

Mr. Tipton: I think it would be better to say "Marihuana is the resin, and the flowering tops and leaves of the plant Cannabis Sativa L., the preparations, etc." That will eliminate the stalks yet include the resin.

Mr. Tennyson: Is the "flowering top" sufficient to include the seed.

Mr. Wollner: It is not quite specific

Mr. Valaer: Let me give you a rough idea of what I have in mind. For the purposes of this act marihuana shall include all of the species of Cannabis Sativa Lynne, Noraceae and its synonyms: Cannabis eradica paludosa endrs; Cannabis indica Lamarck; Cannabis macoosperma stokes; Cannabis chinensis, delile; Cannabis giganta, delile; and by all other designations known. The provisions of this act shall pertain to all parts of the pistillate (female plant) and all parts of the staminate (male plant) and all parts that have been found to secrete the characteristic resin of Cannabis Sativa L.

Mr. Wollner: That throws it wide open again. We would have you out in the field looking for secretions. I don't think you give us enough leeway for exempting the stalks. The suggestion of Mr. Tipton fortifies us in this respect. The stalks as such cannot be smoked.

Mr. Wollner: Would you be authorized to issue specific regulations interpreting this?

Mr. Tipton: You have to be pretty definite in your act.

Mr. Wollner: Would you be undertaking too much if you exempted the oil?

Mr. Pierce: In ou transfer tax we could make exceptions for the paint companies.

Mr. Wollner: If you are going to take care of these things in your transfer tax why not take care of your stalk there too?

Mr. Pierce: We could. We are attempting to thrust the marihuana traffic into legal channels where it could be taxed some.

Mr. Wollner: Mr. Pierce, would you try to re-word that definition?

Mr. Pierce: How would it be if you let us work out the definition. We have pretty well in mind what you wish to have exempted.

Mr. Wollner: Commissioner Anslinger, have you any suggestions?

Mr. Anslinger: No, I think that's going to be a great improvement over the definition we started with. I wanted to show the extent of the traffic and give some of the gentleman an idea of this problem to show we are not on a fishing expedition. Last year there were 296 seizures we know about. The illicit traffic has shown up in almost every state.

There was a question about the forms of Cannabis derivatives employed medicinally. This will take care of that trade, won't it? Is the tax to be prohibitive as to the trade? We prepared for the legal division a statement as to what was used. We had a list of about three hundred compounds.

Mr. Pierce: We have allowed exemptions in another part of the law for medical or veterinary uses.

Mr. Tennyson: Even that's going to be awfully expensive, Mr. Pierce

Mr. Anslinger: I was surprised to hear some medical experts at Geneva recently say that is has absolutely no medical use. I think that the Indian delegate wanted to know what he was going to do for his corn plaster, and one of the medicos said it wasn't the cannabis, but something else, that had the analgesic effect.

Mr. Anslinger: (Reading the 14th question.) "What are the proofs that the use of marihuana in any of its forms, are habit-forming or addicted, and what are the indications and positive proofs that such addiction develops socially undesirable characteristics in the user?" We have a lot of cases showing that it certainly develops undesirable characteristics. We have a case of a boy, about 15, (reads from report of case). This took place in a community playground in Finely, Ohio. The playground supervisors were the men who were selling the stuff. It all developed from the case of this youngster who was evidently going crazy. That's only one of the many cases we have.

Mr. Tipton: Have you a lot of cases on this--horror stories -- that's what we want.

Mr. Tennyson: Isn't there some literature on the effects, Dr. Voegtlin?

Dr. Voegtlin: Oh, yes.

Mr. Anslinger: And it leads to insanity?

Dr. Voegtlin: I think it is an established fact that prolonged use leads to insanity in certain cases, depending upon the amount taken, of course. Many people take it and do not go insane, but many do.

Mr. Wollner: At the League of Nations they whitewashed the whole thing.

Mr. Tipton: the Commission inquired into the fact and said there was no more reason to control the hashish than to control alcohol. If it leads to insanity, and we have a lot of horror stories, we can build it up.

Mr. Wollner: There was a report given out by Wilbert in 1910 in which he claimed, as one of his conclusions, that there was no evidence of a habit-forming nature from the use of Cannabis by the Anglo-Saxon race. I just mention that because it may be pulled on you in opposition some time.

Dr. Dewey: Dr. Patrick, of the Bureau of Chemistry, definitely stated it was the most dangerous habit-forming drug he had taken, and he tried all of them.

Mr. Wollner: Are there any other questions?

Mr. Pierce: I think we can work out the tax on medicinal uses so that it won't be prohibitive.

Dr. Fuller: I don't think you will find the volume is very great. I think the ue of Cannabis is diminishing as a legitimate use. that is just my opinion from the point of view of one who has studied the situation for a good many years.

Anslinger and the subordinates of the SecTreas, Andrew Mellon, as evident to any neutral observer, were gently manipulating the scientists present during the conference to acknowledge in a term as broad as possible, of the inherent dangers of the entire hemp plant, while at the same time making assurances that the Act would be managed in such a way that any benevolent usage of marijuana would be only mildly affected.






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