Sometimes, the best legal work you can do involves taking something that someone has already done, and then claiming that the circumstances are tweaking this already-done thing enough to make your situation new and unique when in reality it’s damn near the exactly the same.
In that spirit, I would like to point you in the direction of this website: http://www.druglibrary.org/schaffer/LIBRARY/histdrug.htm
This site, a branch site off of a larger library site, is a great reference for a lot of early drug law – much more than I’ll ever be able to publish here – and its sources are excellent places to turn to when looking for information on this kind of stuff. The site is maintained by a private individual, Clifford Schaffer.
Here’s a video of Schaffer speaking to the Fresno County board of supervisors about an effort there to ban medical marijuana dispensaries in December of 2010.
As I enter into this blog project, watching Schaffer give this talk confirms one of my worst suspicions going forward. When you start to dig into the history of American drug law, it quickly becomes maddening and frustrating. You almost lose the ability to make compelling speeches about drug law reform, because the folly of the original legislative acts is so three-stooges-eye-gougingly-obvious from the history books that any sort of nuanced argument for reform seems like nagging. You have difficulty putting together pointed arguments, because the body of historical evidence against current drug law seems so robust, so obese, that you can’t pick out the sharp edges anymore.
Given Schaffer’s level of familiarity with this history (it’s not out of question that he has the highest such level in the world), he almost comes across as annoyed in this video, having to explain the history to the board. He seems to have the same slightly salty demeanor as the the quieted child in Hans Christen Andersen’s The Emperor’s New Suit. (Incidentally, he’s written an emperor-centered essay on his website that might help support my opinion of his tone.)
In any case, I came across Schaffer’s website when I first started doing research on early marijuana law last year, and have read several of the books cited on the site. It is fantastic, valuable stuff, and has great passages from the canon of American drug law history.
Schaffer’s site doesn’t quite have the same focus that my blog does, though. I’ll be doing more legal analysis. Really, we’re doing completely different things. Mexican Opium is unique, I swear.