DURING THE REEFER MADNESS ERA
Distressing Plight of Kansas, Overrun by a Weed Worse Than Opium
American Weekly (Sunday magazine section)
The State of Kansas, birthplace of many reforms, the home of Carrie Nation, who struck the initial blows in the fight to banish liquor, has been singled out by Nature in one of her ironic moods for the invasion of an unforeseen evil. Unnoticed for years, because of its insidious profusion, it is becoming a greater menace than any the State has ever imagined.
Kansan leaders, much to their amazement, have made the distressing discovery that thousands of its inhabitants are becoming drug addicts, helpless slaves to hasheesh---a narcotic worse, if possible, than opium, cocaine or heroin. The State is literally overrun, it now appears, with cannabis americana, a dark-green cousin of Indian hemp---a producer of weird dreams and mental and physical wrecks.
Prairies, creek bottoms and farmsteads glow with its golden yellow blooms. Backyards are choked with it. Where it isn't cultivated deliberately, it grows wild. School children are smoking it, prisoners are growing it secretly in the jailyards, grown-ups soak it in perfume. Scores have already gone crazy from it and hundreds are getting that way as fast as they can.
And the remarkable thing about it is that Kansas, so active in anti-liquor crusades, campaigns against tobacco, up-lift drives, etc., etc., can't do a thing about this drug that has suddenly become a most vital problem. So far as its legal fights and official can ascertain the State has no one statute on the books appertaining to or regulating the sale, possession or use of the drug.
Undoubtedly there will be a law later---as soon as the Legislature can pass it. But just what good that will do no one can explain. At any rate, C.H. Almond, discoverer of the peril, is directing a crusade to restrict the use of the drug. That, however, will not stop the weed's growth. It has spread already from Mexico, where it is called marihuana; no law is going to stop the winds of heaven or the flight, of birds.
So Kansas, of all States, is overrun with hasheesh, of all drugs.
Cannabis indica or americana, is one of the oldest known drugs. Back in the days of Omar Khayyam lived Hassan-ben-Sabah, the "Old Man of the Mountain," ruler, through the power of the drug, over thousands of fanatic brigands and murderers. His band was called the Hashshasin, or hasheesh eaters. It was from this secret order of murderers that the word "assassin" came into being.
Under the influence of the drug the devotees imagined that in the sacred mountains there was a beautiful, vast city, in the holiest place of which lived the Old Man. His orders they executed in blind obedience.
The drug they used was derived from Indian hemp, cannabis indica. Hashish is the Arabic, bhang or gunjah the Indian term. Translated these words mean "The increaser of pleasure," "cementer of friendship," "laugh mover." It is the American variety, similar in general appearance and effects, that thrives in Kansas. Curiously, it ravishes the soil in which it is grown as completely as it wrecks the minds of its addicts. One or two seasons of marihuana and the ground is so impoverished that other weeds will not grow there.
The drug is a stimulant as well as a producer of dreams. The characteristic symptom, when one is going under its influence, is the insatiable desire to laugh. The subject knows he is laughing at nothing, but he laughs, nevertheless. All restraints are cast off; there are gaudy, delirious dreams, fantasies, semi-intoxication, loss of muscular co-ordination, and a strange desperation that leads to violence.
The reaction is as terrible as the action is pleasant. As the effect of the drug dies off pain, unconsciousness and a species of delirium tremens follow. Its medical use is to relieve pain and bring on sleep.
A peculiar effect of hasheesh, in the proper proportions is that it intensifies the action of the nerve centers. Thus, if fingers are snapped near the ear of a subject under its influence, the slight sound seems like a thunder-clap to him.
While anybody can gather the plant and prepare it for use, it is sold more or less openly already made up. Mixed with tobacco, or made "straight" into a cigarette, a few puffs are enough to send the smoker into the realm of the half-dream, half-reality. Just now the yellow flowers are withering and the seeds drying. It is harvest time for marihuana. The harvester collects the clusters of seeds, with the tender inner leaves, dries them in a cool, dark, dry place for a few days, rubs them between his palms and then immerses them in a solution of alcohol and sugar, or in perfume and sugar. Sometimes a dash of red pepper is added. When the liquid has slowly evaporated the leaves are spread out and dried. Then they are ready for smoking, chewing or brewing.
High school children have become addicts.
"Our boys and girls are buying it from Mexicans," says Jesse Langford, sheriff of Reno County, in which is Hutchinson. "They buy it adulterated and smoke it in cigarettes. We had a little girl in jail for two days before she was able to tell us what happened."
"Not long ago we found the prison junk yard choked by a peculiar weed," says R.N. Hudspeth, deputy warden of the state penitentiary at Lansing. "We found that the weed was marihuana. We pulled up the weeds and threw them over the fence. We didn't realize that we were merely drying them for the prisoners. The prison farm was overrun by the weed. Even now the prisoners raise it secretly."
The Wichita boys, not long ago, were arrested in Newton, Kan., for stealing automobile accessories. One of them, 17, confessed that he and the others, 17 and 19, were all marihuana smokers.
"Elliott is going goofy," he said of one of his pals. "He has got so he won't walk on a sidewalk. He hops along the street from running board to running board of automobiles."
It does strange tricks to the minds of its slaves, this hasheesh. New York has an actress who, from other causes, thinks she is a mill-wheel, gets under the shower and rolls and rolls and rolls---but a Kansas hasheesh eater thinks he is a white elephant. Six months ago they found him strolling along a road a few miles out of Topeka.
He was naked. His clothing was strewn along the highway for a mile. He was not violently insane, but he was crazy---said he was an elephant and acted as much like one as his limited physique would let him. Marihuana did it.
The worst of it is, he is a real white elephant on the authorities' hands. No State or Federal institution will accept him. He can't be turned loose. The reason seems to be that in his character of elephant he eats so much---two dollars' worth of food a day, says Sheriff Oscar Carlson of Shawnee County.
The drug is outlawed in Mexico, but there is evidence that Kansas is not only consuming the drug but spreading it to outlying States. Iowa and Texas have passed laws prohibiting it.
So Kansas, passer of all sorts of laws, will soon have an anti-hasheesh law. What good it will do nobody precisely knows.
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