Starting Points

Points (n.) 1. marks of punctuation. 2. something that has position but not extension, as the intersection of two lines. 3. salient features of a story, epigram, joke, etc.:  he hit the high points. 4. (slang; U.S.) needles for intravenous drug use.

2021: What a Long Strange Trip It’s Been

January 6, 2021: Smoke ‘Em If You Got ‘Em.
Image Source: Ayamann Ismail, “What I Saw Inside the Capitol Riot,” Slate, Jan. 7, 2021.

Editor’s Note: Founding Points Co-Editor Trysh Travis wraps up 2021 for us and gives a preview of what’s to come on Points in 2022. See you in the new year!

As another Covid year closes out, Points readers may find themselves wondering whether a historical perspective on alcohol and drugs is really useful—or even possible, given the unprecedented nature of our lives right now. Maybe critique is overrated and use and abuse is where it’s at?

While the editorial team shares this existential quandary, we continue to live by those immortal words of Frederic Jameson: “always historicize!” Understanding The-Endemic-We- Are-Now-Living as a historical formation, rather than simply a swirling shit show with no end in sight, is of course challenging. I guess that’s why Jameson also reminds us that “history is what hurts.”

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Points Interview—Helena Barop, Poppy Wars: US Global Drug Policies, 1950–1979

Editor’s Note: Today, we’re pleased to interview Dr. Helena Barop about her new book , Mohnblumenkriege. Die globale Drogenpolitik der USA 1950-1979—or Poppy Wars: US Global Drug Policies, 1950–1979. Dr. Barop recently received her PhD from the University of Freiburg.

Please tell readers a little but about yourself:

My name is Helena Barop, and in 2020 I received my PhD in history from the University of Freiburg. I am living in Freiburg with my husband and two little kids and working as a freelance publicist. Just a few weeks ago I published my dissertation as a book, titled Mohnblumenkriege. Die globale Drogenpolitik der USA 1950-1979—which roughly translates to Poppy Wars: US Global Drug Policies, 1950–1979. My book is based on research conducted in Washington, DC, New York City, and at the United Nations Archives in Vienna. As a student of American drug policy, I have been watching the field from the side lines with some intensity. Now that my book is out, I would like to introduce it to the drug history community—even though it’s in German.

Barop Title Card
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SALIS Digital Library—Indispensable Drug & Alcohol History Resource

Editor’s Note: Today’s post comes from Points Editor Emeritus Ron Roizen.

Dear POINTS readers, 

If you haven’t yet made use of the SALIS Collection of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drugs digital library, then you may have a real treat in store. Curated and maintained by the Substance Abuse Librarians and Information Specialists (SALIS) and hosted on the Internet Archive, the SALIS Collection:

“includes key seminal, full-text books, reports, documents, and other literature. Its subjects include both legal and illegal drugs, the use and misuse of chemicals, the role of education and prevention, physical health and mental health aspects, drug policy, legal issues, and more. It is international in its scope, and covers a wide number of disciplines.”

Whether or not you happen to live in a small North Idaho hamlet (as I do), SALIS’s online collection is an alcohol & drug researcher’s godsend. 

Salis Collection
SALIS Collection home page.
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The War on Drugs: From Book to Website

Editor’s Note: Today’s guest post is from Dr. David Farber, Roy A. Roberts Distinguished Professor of Modern U.S. History at the University of Kansas. He is the editor of the recently published, War on Drugs: A History (NYU Press, 2021).

Over the last 36-and-a-half years I have done what research-oriented history professors of my generation were supposed to do: I wrote books and published articles. What I did not do—until now—was produce a website. Defying the ageist canard about old dogs and new tricks—albeit admittedly in collaboration with my much younger colleagues Clark Terrill and Marjorie Galelli—I’m happy to report that the War on Drugs Project website is now live.

This pedagogically-oriented site—with resources for teachers, students, and readers—is a spin-off of the War on Drugs book that I worked on with an all-star cast of drug historians. The original plan, though, did not include a website. At the beginning, all I knew was that I wanted to have a bunch of drug historians come to the University of Kansas in April 2020 for a weekend conversation to see if we could collaborate and produce a book about the history of the war on drugs.

War on Drugs Project
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“Global Histories of Drugs: Why and What’s Next?”—Reflections on the Cannabis: Global Histories Workshop

Editor’s Notes: Today’s post by Eron Ackerman reflects on his participation in the “Global Drug Histories: Why and What’s Next?” workshop held jointly this past October at the University of Wisconsin–Madison School of Pharmacy and the British Library. Dr. Ackerman recently completed his dissertation, “Cannabis and Colonialism in the British Caribbean, 1838–1938,” at Stony Brook University and is currently a Visiting Assistant Professor at Albion College.

When Lucas Richert invited me to attend the joint US-UK meeting, “Global Histories of Drugs: Why and What’s Next?” at the University of Wisconsin–Madison School of Pharmacy on October 6, I jumped at the chance—even if it meant having to cancel some mid-week classes. The meeting was inspired by the release of the new collection of essays Cannabis: Global Histories (MIT Press, 2021), which intersects so closely with my own work about the history of Caribbean ganja that I couldn’t miss it. The organizers used Zoom to link our group in Madison to a larger group of book contributors and guest panelists “across the pond” at the British Library.

Participants were asked to reflect upon the book in connection to four questions:

  1. Why think about the histories of intoxicants and psychoactive substances on a global scale?
  2. In what ways does research into such substances provide novel perspectives on globalization and related processes?
  3. How do national, transnational, international, and global histories of these substances relate to one another?
  4. What’s next for global histories of intoxicants and psychoactive substances?
Ackerman Title Card
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Quiet Radicals: The Life and Work of Ruth and Edward Brecher

Part 1 – Ruth Came First

Editor’s Note: This post is by Points Managing Editor Emerita Emily Dufton. She holds a PhD in American Studies from George Washington University and is the author of Grass Roots: The Rise and Fall and Rise of Marijuana in America. Email Emily at emily.dufton@gmail.com and follow her on Twitter @emily_dufton. Welcome back, Emily!

There’s something about the topic of drugs that can invite great writer couples to tackle the subject together. Going back nearly a century, spouses Dr. Charles E. Terry and Mildred Pellens co-authored their 1,042-page opus The Opium Problem in 1928. In 1996’s Smoke and Mirrors: The War on Drugs and the Politics of Failure, Dan Baum (who passed away from brain cancer last year) dedicated the book to his wife Margaret, who was his “reporting and writing partner” and “a genius at wrangling meaning from a sentence.” “My name is on the cover,” Baum acknowledged, “but the book is equally Margaret’s.”

The same can be said of Ruth and Edward Brecher, who, for 25 years, shared a byline on more than 200 articles and several books about science, drug use, and public health. Their commitment to researching complex topics and presenting them in a clear way to the general reader was so strong that, when the American Psychiatric Association presented them with the Robert T. Morse Writer’s Award in 1971, the Brechers were hailed as “scholarly crusaders for a better life for all Americans.” 

Brechers Title Card
Image of Ruth (Cook) Brecher from the Philadelphia Inquirer, April 9, 1933; Image of Edward Brecher from the Minneapolis Star Tribune, June 6, 1932.
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“Contested Cannabis: A History of Marijuana in Wisconsin and the Wider World”—Digital Exhibit and Online Roundtable Discussion

The American Institute of the History of Pharmacy (AIHP) is pleased to announce the completion of its digital exhibit, “Contested Cannabis: A History of Marijuana in Wisconsin and the Wider World,” funded in part by a generous grant from Wisconsin Humanities.

Contested Cannabis Social Card

Drawing upon AIHP historical collections as well collections at the Wisconsin Historical Society, the exhibit uses objects and items—including children’s anti-drug coloring books, pro-marijuana festival posters, archived World War One-era medicinal cannabis correspondence, and other artifacts and texts—to investigate and analyze the history of cannabis, marijuana, and hemp in the state of Wisconsin and in the United States.

“Contested Cannabis” is designed to advance public debate by examining the legal, regulatory, and cultural history of cannabis—particularly in the Badger State. The exhibit explores and explains the history of cannabis, hemp, and marijuana through five themes: Taxonomy; Hemp Agriculture; Pharmacy & Medicine; Propaganda & Education; and De/Criminalization. “Contested cannabis” is hosted by the AIHP Digital Library, which features digitized versions of items, artifacts, and objects from AIHP historical collections.

In conjunction with the digital exhibit, AIHP will be hosting an online Zoom roundtable on the topic of “Contested Cannabis: A History of Marijuana in Wisconsin and the Wider World” on December 8, 2021 from 1:00–2:30 PM Central Time (2:00–3:00 Eastern Time). Free registration is available on the project home page.

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HOPP Interview—Mat Savelli, “Crafting the Modern Via Psychoactivity Advertisements” 

Editor’s Note: This is the first installment of the Points series of interviews with authors from the inaugural issue of AIHP’s journal History of Pharmacy and Pharmaceuticals (HoPP) (vol. 63, no. 1). Today we feature Mat Savelli, Assistant Professor and Undergraduate Chair in the Department of Health, Aging, and Society at McMaster University. Read his article here (open access until February 2022!) and consider joining AIHP to subscribe to HoPP.

Article Abstract for “Crafting the Modern Via Psychoactivity Advertisements”

In this article, we examine advertisements for psychoactive products sold in five different geo-political jurisdictions: Canada, Colombia, Yugoslavia, India, and Senegal. We compare products and marketing campaigns aimed at selling psychoactive substances to consumers in these places over the twentieth century.

Mat Savelli Interview Title Card
Left: Senegalese advertisement from December 24, 1960, issue of Dakar Matin. The ad proclaims that Kiravi Valpierre wine is the “Perfect Product of Progress.” Image featured in the article “Crafting Modernity via Psychoactivity Advertisements” in HoPP 63.1
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