Editor’s Note: Today’s post in honor of Black History Month comes from contributing editor Sarah Brady Siff, avisiting assistant professor at the Moritz College of Law at The Ohio State University, in affiliation with the Drug Enforcement and Policy Center (DEPC).
In 1962, the United States Supreme Court struck down California’s “narcotics addict” law in the case Robinson v. California. Samuel Carter McMorris, the lawyer who argued and won the case, was a fierce criminal defense lawyer for the Black community in Los Angeles during a tumultuous era. Robinson was the second of two criminal cases McMorris successfully appealed to the Supreme Court, both of them at his own expense on behalf of indigent clients. Yet McMorris has been lost to history, left without so much as a Wikipedia page.
As McMorris knew, abuse was inherent in California’s narcotics addict law. A quarter of drug arrests in Los Angeles during the 1950s and early 1960s were solely for the crime of addiction, a charge that did not even require the physical presence of drugs themselves. The testimony of an officer that he had observed injection marks on the arm of a suspect was ordinarily enough evidence for a conviction. Police freely and frequently demanded that citizens roll up their sleeves and expose the insides of their arms so officers could inspect for needle marks. This “evidence” was so conclusive in court that suspects in custody sometimes disfigured themselves by burning the area with lit cigarettes. McMorris’s legal activism helped overturn the criminalization of addiction and this type of invasive drug enforcement.
McMorris was born in Columbus, Ohio, in 1920. His father, Arthur, was a policeman, and his mother, Marie, was a homemaker; Samuel had four younger sisters. When he graduated from East High School in 1937, his class named him both “most industrious” and “most conscientious.” He worked as a traveling salesman, served in the Army, then attended Ohio State University, where he attained a law degree in 1950.
Editor’s Note: In honor of Black History Month, today’s post about the desegregation of the University of North Carolina School of Pharmacy comes from Christian Brown, a PharmD candidate at the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy, and Ben Urick, an Assistant Professor in the Center for Medical Optimization at the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy.
When thinking about school desegregation, many picture 6-year-old Ruby Bridges, flanked by federal marshals and ascending the steps of her New Orleans elementary school in 1960. Others may think of the Little Rock Nine, who desegregated Little Rock Central High School in 1957 under the watchful eye of the 101st Airborne Division.
On the campuses of public colleges and universities around the South, though, many of the first Black students were graduate and professional students who successfully challenged the color line and gained admission to previously segregated state-sponsored programs as early as the 1930s. Although some of this history is well-known—particularly about the desegregation of law schools—the desegregation of other types of professional schools has not received much scholarly attention.
The history of the color line at Southern schools and colleges of pharmacy has been particularly understudied. Recognizing this gap in the research, we decided to investigate the history of our own institution, the University of North Carolina Eshelman School of Pharmacy. We recently began the UNC Pharmacy Desegregation Oral History Project (in partnership with the American Institute of the History of Pharmacy) to collect and record the experiences of the first Black students at the UNC School of Pharmacy. We hope to connect their stories to current pursuits of diversity, equity, and inclusion at the School and in the profession at large. To date, we have successfully interviewed two of the School’s earliest Black graduates, and we’re excited to share some of our preliminary findings.
Editor’s Note: Today’s post comes from contributing editor Brooks Hudson, a PhD student in history at Southern Illinois University.
The years directly preceding the American “crack epidemic” of the 1980s are worth re-examining. Cocaine was by no means new, and people had been using and sometimes smoking, or freebasing, the drug for years. In the early eighties, however, many cocaine users were well-educated white professionals, wealthy celebrities, or captains of industry. By about 1986, though, dealers began condensing cocaine into “crack” that people could smoke instead of snort. As the perception of people who used cocaine changed from white and wealthy to Black and poor, every aspect of reporting changed, too. We can see this unfold in real time, by tracking news coverage in the New York Times archive.
Robert Lindsey’s front-page story “Pervasive Use of Cocaine Is Reported in Hollywood” appeared in the Times on October 30, 1982. It described how drug use had become so widespread that companies insuring movies had begun to amend their policies to reflect drug-related risks. Lindsey quoted an unpublished survey of stuntwomen that claimed more than half of the women asked actively used drugs or knew someone who did.
Editor’s Note: Today’s timely Mardi Gras-themed post comes from contributing editor Sarah Brady Siff, avisiting assistant professor at the Moritz College of Law at The Ohio State University, in affiliation with the Drug Enforcement and Policy Center (DEPC).
The place: Paris. The year: 1850. “It was mardi-gras, and copious libations of flaming punch had prepared the natives for anything or everything.” So began a tale reprinted widely by newspaper editors across the globe.
In 1850, though, the local Parisians were the type to spend a lot of time hanging out at a café. So that’s where they were on Mardi Gras, drinking punch (likely made of rum) at a café just up the block from an apartment where a physician lived with his family.
This physician had received an excellent imported shipment of cannabis extract, and he was keen to share it for recreational use on this most celebratory and hedonistic day. The drunken revelers were willing participants—”adventurous tasters”—living in the same city at the same time as that famous literary circle, the Club des Hashischins. The doctor showed up with 15 grains, or about 1 gram, to distribute at the café. “Not more than a single grain was given to each,” read the article. Some swallowed it like a pill, while others smoked it or smeared it on a cigarette paper to smoke with tobacco. One grain was dissolved in a glass of Curaçao for the “master of the house; [but] his two young and handsome daughters were forbidden to taste of the drug.”
Of course one of the daughters found a way to sample the cannabis; it would hardly have been a story otherwise. After about 45 minutes, the girl shrieked and “was suddenly struck with delirium and hysterical movements of a very alarming appearance,” according to the article, which went on to describe her ordeal:
Editor’s Note: From the Collectionsis a new feature at Points that highlights articles, artifacts, images, and other items of interest from AIHP publications and collections. In honor of Black History Month, Points Managing Editor Greg Bond revisits his two-part 2018 Pharmacy in History article about Liberian Colonial ApothecaryJames E. Brown. Read the full articles (Part 1 and Part 2) at JSTOR.
In the May 4, 1834, edition of the Liberia Herald, James E. Brown, the newly arrived Colonial Apothecary, placed an advertisement announcing his new business:
“J. Brown, Druggist and Apothecary, late of Washington City, respectfully informs the citizens of Liberia, that he has taken the house formerly occupied by W.L. Weaver, Esq. in Broad Street, where he is now opening an extensive assortment of Drugs and Medicines, imported in brig Argus, from the United States, which he offers for sale on reasonable terms.” 
Over the previous two years, Brown had completed a pharmacy apprenticeship under the auspices of the American Colonization Society (ACS), making him one of the earliest known formally trained African American pharmacists or health professionals.
Brown had many friends in the United States who eagerly awaited updates after his departure. Finally, in August 1834, the National Daily Intelligencer, a leading Washington, DC, newspaper reported Brown’s arrival in Africa:
“Many of your city readers will remember James Brown, a colored man, formerly resident here, and universally esteemed as one of the most intelligent and industrious men of color amongst us. He left this city for Liberia in November last… It will, doubtless, gratify his friends, and the friends of the colonization cause to hear of his well-doing. We have to-day seen a letter from him, in which he expressed his great satisfaction with the country and his prospects.” 
For the next two decades, Brown tended to the pharmaceutical and medical needs of Liberian colonists, proselytized for his new homeland, and held a series of powerful political positions.
Brown’s remarkable career—and complicated legacy—however have been little remembered. He was one of the first African Americans to receive formal health sciences training in the United States, but he was a vocal life-long supporter of the extremely controversial colonization movement. He strongly advocated for African American freedom, justice, and self-determination, but he failed to extend the same principles to the native Africans he encountered in Liberia. This post provides a brief introduction to the life and times of James E. Brown, Colonial Apothecary.
Editor’s Note: Today’s post comes from contributing editor Peder Clark. Dr. Clark is a historian of modern Britain, with research interests in drugs, subcultures, health, everyday life, and visual culture. He completed his PhD in 2019 at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) and currently holds a position at the University of Liverpool.
“Sipping on some sizzurp, sip, sipping on some, sip / Sipping on some sizzurp, sip, sipping on some, sip”
With bass rattling and drums stuttering, what was this magical elixir that Memphis rapper Project Pat so thrillingly (and alliteratively) extolled? “Sippin’ on my Syrup”—released in early 2000 by Pat’s brother’s group Three Six Mafia and UGK—was an anthem that introduced the titular intoxicant to wider public consciousness.
Known by a variety of names including “Syrup,” “sizzurp,” “purple drank,” “Texas tea,” or “lean,” the drink was a potent cocktail of cough syrup (containing codeine and promethazine), a sugary carbonated beverage (typically Sprite), and hard candy such as Jolly Ranchers to add further flavor. Users report a woozy euphoria that is both relaxing and trippy and that feels”almost like you’re floating away from your body.”
By the time of “Sippin’ on my Syrup’s” recording, lean had become closely associated with major southern cities—or, more precisely, with the popular “dirty south” rap and hip-hop sound that produced Outkast, Big Tymers, Goodie Mob, Ludacris, 2Chainz, and, more recently, Travis Scott, Migos, and Megan Thee Stallion, to name just a few. Lance Scott Walker’s authoritative Houston Rap Tapes suggests that blues musicians had been adding cough syrup to their wine or beer as early as the 1960s, and, by the nineties, it was the intoxicant of choice for those in the rap game.
Editor’s Note: Today’s post comes from contributing editor Nick Johnson, a historian and editor based in Fort Collins, Colorado. His book Grass Roots: A History of Cannabis in the American West(2017) is a history of cannabis agriculture that explores the environmental and social dynamics of the nation’s most controversial crop. He also blogs (and occasionally podcasts!) about all things cannabis on his website, Hempirical Evidence.
The booming market in Cannabidiol (CBD) products has gone bust. The boom was touched off by the federal re-legalization of hemp in the 2018 farm bill, which led many farmers, investors, and entrepreneurs to stake their hopes on a new crop supplying a rapidly expanding market of CBD-enhanced products—from gummies to lotion to lip balm. The benefits and risks of such products are still being substantiated by science, but consumers gobbled them up, anyway, looking for relief from ailments ranging from arthritis to insomnia.
This is not the first time Americans have produced too much hemp for their own good. In 1942, the federal government suspended its cannabis prohibition to create a domestic hemp industry to supply cordage for the US military during World War II. After years of being told that the crop was a dangerous and addictive drug, American farmers were suddenly encouraged to grow thousands of acres of hemp. In a flash, the government built 42 hemp processing facilities across the Midwest, providing hundreds of jobs and invigorating depressed rural areas.
Editor’s Note: Today’s guest post comes from Bilal Abbas, MPA, MSW. Bilal graduated with the MPA from Rutgers University in Newark and the MSW from Columbia University in New York City in 2018. He works at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine/Montefiore Medical Center as a Research Coordinator, facilitating research related to heroin or opioid use treatment.
For over half a century in New York City, heroin bags have been distinctly branded with unique markings, including with rubber stamps. From the seller’s viewpoint, stamps create brand loyalty and identify a superior product that yields more psychoactive effects. Heroin-using communities also utilize stamps to identify potentially lethal supplies and raise awareness through word-of-mouth messaging. In the 1990s, users identified and alerted others about supplies, which had caused a number of overdoses and which they suspected to be contaminated with lethal adulterants including scopolamine. [1-3]
Fentanyl has been of increasingly paramount importance in tens of thousands of preventable deaths among Americans since 2013. Fentanyl seizures in the US increased 7-fold from 2012 to 2014, while overdose deaths involving fentanyl and its analogs increased almost 47 percent from 2016 to 2017.  A 55 percent increase in fatal overdose was observed in New York City (NYC) between 2015-2017, and in 2017, 55 percent of overdose deaths involved fentanyl. 
Due to the availability of rapid fentanyl test-strips, the novel study described in this post, Exploring fentanyl prevalence in New York City, used an exploratory framework to examine and understand the fentanyl contamination in NYC stamped heroin. Examining fentanyl prevalence in NYC heroin by stamp or “brand” can raise awareness about tainted supplies and can help to reduce opioid overdoses. My team collected samples of used and discarded heroin glassine bags in NYC neighborhoods known for heroin use and sealed them within a separate plastic bag to avoid cross-contamination.
We then used fentanyl test strips, which use immunoassay technology to quickly and reliably detect the presence of fentanyl and its analogs, to test trace amounts of heroin in each bag. According to the American College for Medical Toxicology (ACMT), it is a near scientific impossibility to overdose on fentanyl from airborne or transdermal exposure. Therefore, there were no safety risks involved in executing this study. 
Editor’s Note: Points continues its series of interviews with authors from the latest issue of ADHS’s journal Social History of Alcohol and Drugs(vol. 34, no. 2; Fall 2020), published by the University of Chicago Press. Today we feature Mariana Broglia de Moura, a doctoral candidate at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (Paris, France). You can see her article here. Contact the University of Chicago Press to subscribe to the journal or request access to this article, or any other article from SHAD’s history.
Tell readers a little bit about yourself
I am a PhD student at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (EHESS) in Paris. During my doctoral studies, I benefited from a scholarship from the Labex TEPSIS, and I am attached to the laboratories Centre Maurice Halbwachs (ENS) and Mondes Américains (EHESS) under the supervision of Benoît de l’Estoile and Mônica Schpun. My research has been greatly enriched by a stay at the Centre for the Social History of Health and Healthcare of the University of Strathclyde (Scotland) where I studied with Jim Mills. I’ve had the opportunity to publish various articles about the history of Brazilian drugs policies.
What got you interested in drugs (and their history)?
My interest in drugs came initially as a result of my Master’s Thesis, which lay at the intersection of the anthropology of health and of the history of science. I wrote about the emergence of the categories of behavioural addictions—specifically sexual addiction—in France. I wanted to understand the transformations in the field of sexuality since the 19th century, which have led us to frame a relationship to sexuality in terms of “addiction.” And, in the field of addiction, how addiction—which initially referred to the use of substances—was then extended during the 20th century to encompass a whole range of behaviours. This went hand-in-hand with a reflection about the extension of the new medical power of addictology, which led to the emergence of new social and professional actors. I also investigated preventive policies for behaviours which are socially and economically incited, but whose abuses need to be controlled.
The year I finished my Master’s Thesis, the city of São Paulo, Brazil, began to implement a very interesting public policy on drugs called “Open Arms,” which focused on Cracolândia, a long-standing site of crack cocaine consumption in the city. This program aimed to help drug users improve their precarious situations, by providing them with access to housing, work, training, and healthcare, without requiring them—at least theoretically—to abstain from drugs. This program was part of a broader policy of gentrification of the inner city.