REEFER MADNESS IN WISCONSIN
. . . The Charles Dirschel (Drunk Driver) investigation
All of the following documents (shown below), were found at the National Archives, College park, MD, and have been doctored for quicker download times. If needed for historical reasons, contact the museum for copies of the originals.
September 23, 1939.
Mr. James J. Biggins,
Dear Mr. Biggins:
The Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Journal, of September 11, 1939, gives an account of the arrest of one Charles Direchel, 32, of 905 Madison Avenue, south Milwaukee, which states in part as follows:
“MARIJUANA sent Driver on Wild Ride, Is Claim. Man Admits Smoking Two cigrettes, Deputies State; Family of Four is hurt in crash ending chase.Please let me know what facts are brought out at the trial as to whether or not Dirschel was under the influence of marihuana.
Very truly yours,
Bureau of Narcotics
817 New Post Office building
September 28, 1939
In re: Charles Dischel
905 Madison Avenue
south Milwaukee, Wis.
Mr. James J. Biggins
Bureau of Narcotics
The Bureau letter of September 23, 1939, signed by H.J. Anslinger, Commissioner, and received in this office of September 25, 1939, requested that this office ascertain what facts were brought out in the trial of one Charles Dirschel in district Court, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, as to whether or not he was under the influence of marihuana at the time of an accident he had at South 51st St. and Highway 100, Milwaukee County, Wisconsin.
The accident referred to resulted in the injury of 4 persons and damage to other cars on the highway. In a statement he made to the Deputy Sheriff at the hospital the following day, Charles Dirschel claimed that he had smoked 2 marihuana cigarettes. This statement was given by Dirschel before consulting an attorney.
On September 26, 1939, the writer visited the Sheriff’s office, Safety building, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where Captain Lempke advised that the arrest was made by Deputy Sheriffs Sidney S. Novek and William J. Hill. Deputy Novak was interviewed and stated that Dirschel had informed him that he had purchased 2 marihuana cigarettes in Chicago, Ill. A few weeks previous to his arrest, and that the purchase was made on Maxwell St. from a person, unknown to him, who had solicited him for the purchase of same. Mr. Novek produced a record for the case which reads as follows:
“Injured persons, all residing at 1914 South 11th St., Milwaukee, Wisconsin:
Joseph Marinello, age 43: Laceration to scalp, carebrum contusions, possible fracture of the vertebrae and multiple contusions and abrasions.
Rose marinello, age 8: Possible fractured leg, injured right ankle.
Virginia Marinello, age 6: Fractured left should blade and multiple contusions.
Mary Marinello, age 29, wife of Joseph Marinello: Abrasions and possible cerebrum contusions.
Charles Dirschel’s record at the Sheriff’s office is as follows:
June 6, 1936, auto speeding: $10.00 and costs.
Nov. 2, 1936, auto speeding; $10.00 and costs.
Jan. 4, 1937, drunken driving; $10.00 and costs.
March 16, 1937, auto speeding: $10.00 and costs. Sep. 17, 1938, auto speeding; case suspended.
On the afternoon of the same day, before he appeared in court, Charles Dirschel was interviewed by the undersigned, and he stated that while in Chicago, Illinois, to purchase machinist’s tools on Maxwell St., about 3 weeks before his arrest at 51st and Highway 100, he was approached by a man he did not know, who solicited him for the purchase of what he called Mexican cigarettes. He claimed to have purchased 2 such cigarettes at $.05 and that in appearance they were much like an ordinary tobacco cigarette. He claimed the cigarettes referred to were in his pocket until the day of his arrest, Sep. 10, 1939. He also stated that he had never smoked marihuana cigarettes before or since the above incident. He further stated that on September 10, 1939, he had taken 3 drinks of brandy and 3 glasses of beer at a tavern in Waukesha county, before he had smoked about 1/1/2 of the Mexican cigarettes. He said that his mind shortly thereafter was a blank until he gained consciousness in the Milwaukee General Hospital the following day, September 11, 1939.
The case was called before Judge Harvey Neelen of the District Court, and Dirschel entered a plea of guilty of driving an automobile while under the influence of a narcotic drug and alcoholic beverages. Various witnesses were called who testified to the erratic driving done by Dirschel in Weukesha County and Milwaukee County, in which he drove into ditches, cornfields, and into the front yard of one home before striking the Marinello car. Several witnesses testified as to Dirschel having his hands off the wheel and acting in a very wild manner, such as running both hands through his hair while driving along.
Charles Dirschel then took the stand and testified in substance the same as verbal statement given to Narcotic Inspector E.A. McHugh. He again made the statement that after smoking the Mexican cigarettes his mind was a blank and that he was not conscious until the following day. In the accident referred to above, Mr. Dirschell was injured by receiving a cut on his jaw requiring several stitches. Judge Neelen immediately sentenced him to 6 months in the House of Corrections,
Milwaukee County, Wisconsin. It would appear to the writer that there was a possibility that the smoking of the cigarettes referred to may have been a cause for the accident, and for his erratic driving when the same were smoked after he had consumed 3 drinks of brandy and 3 drinks of beer. Dirschel claimed he smoked the cigarettes 2 or 3 hours after he drunk the brandy and beer.
2 cigarette butts found in the Dirschel car were also shown to the writer by the deputy Sheriff, and were found to be tobacco cigarettes.
E.A. McHugh, Narcotic Inspector
Bureau of Narcotics
817 New Post Office building
September 28, 1939.
Mr. H.J. Anslinger,
Commissioner of Narcotics,
Dear Mr. Anslinger:
Referring to your letter of September 23, 1939, wherein you quote an article that appeared in the Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Journal, of September 11, 1939, giving an account of one Charles Dirschel, 32, of 905 Madison Avenue, South Milwaukee, I beg to advise that I assigned narcotic Inspector E.A. McHugh to attend this trial of Dirschel, at Milwaukee, on the 26th instant. Inspector McHugh furnished a report in this matter, on even date. I am enclosing this report in duplicate. We are closing this investigation in our files.
Unless otherwise directed by you, we will consider this investigation closed.
James J. biggins,
District No. 9.
At the present time, due to lack of resources, the museum has not able to conduct its own investigation into the matter. However, on the surface it looks a lot like alcohol had a lot to do with the accident.
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