Washington, D.C., Dec. 5, 1933
- Harry Anslinger, 1st Commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics USA Source
Harry Anslinger, in his pajamas, disheveled and miserable, sat slouched over the breakfast table in the conservatory of his home, staring blankly at the larger-than-life headlines on the morning paper: PROHIBITION REPEALED. He breathed a heavy sigh, leaned his elbows on the table, and buried his grief-stricken face in his hands. His wife, looking on sadly from over his shoulder, slid the paper out of his sight, and stuck a plate of ham and eggs under his nose.
“You must eat something, Dear,” she coaxed him, taking the seat beside him, gently patting his hand. “Come, now, I fixed the eggsmyself, the way you like them.” Anslinger looked to her briefly. “I can’t,” he mouthed silently, and hung his head again. She got up, drearily, covered the food, and put it back on a serving cart. Approaching him once more, she made a last effort to console him: “You knew this was coming, Harry. You did everything you could. Everything humanly possible. Clearly, it was meant to be. We must accept it.” “I can’t,” he repeated, in a sorrowful whimper. “Give it to the dog,” he said of the food, without looking up. “I’mnot hungry.”
Across town, an hour later, William Hagar sat, peering at the same heading, in the newspaper on Andrew Mellon’s desk. Mellon, also at the desk, had been on the phone, and trying to get off, for several minutes. Hagar began to fidget, cross his legs, uncross them, tap his manicured fingers on the desk, on the arm of his chair, and hum, nervously. He got Mellon’s attention. “Okay! Okay! Enough!” Mellon shouted into the phone. “I’ll do my best,” he softened his tone, “but tell her I’m not making any promises. Yeah. Yeah. Good-bye.”
“Jesus!” he cursed, as he slammed down the receiver. “Why me?” he murmured dramatically, lifting his tired eyes and timewornhands towards the heavens. And then he looked to Hagar: “Anslinger’s depressed. He’s resigning. His wife’s been crying to my sister, my secretary, and anyone else who’ll listen. They expect me to fix it – as if I could fix anything in this town anymore!”
“Depressed?” Hagar responded, picking up the paper, waving it in the air. “This has been coming for a year. Where’s he been?” “You don’t understand, Bill. Harry lived for Prohibition. When he made chief, it was the happiest day of his whole wretched life!” Hagar smirked, half-laughed.
“We gotta go see him,” Mellon asserted, “right away!” “Not me!” Hagar declined, loudly. “Make matters worse. Crazy bastard blames me for your fall from grace.” They glanced at each other knowingly, for a second, before Hagar broke contact. “Crazybastard’s right!” Mellon kidded him. “It’s all your fault!”
On a stormy afternoon, a few days later, Mellon, having given up on Hagar, convinced Du Pont, who was in Washington on business, to accompany him to the Anslingers. A housekeeper greeted them at the door and collected their wraps, followed by Mrs. Anslinger, who burst into tears. “Thank you so much for coming, Uncle, Mr. Du Pont,” she collected herself, gave Mellon a hug, shook hands with Du Pont, and led them to a cozy, hearth-warmed parlor. “I’m so sorry to trouble you, on this wintry day, in these terrible times. With all you’ve been through, I should be comforting you…”
“Not at all, Dear. No need,” Mellon assured her, as the three were seated round a coffee table, set with tea and assorted biscuits. “We’re fine, just fine… Monsieur Du Pont, here, and I are realists. We knew the Repeal was coming – saw the writing on the wall long ago.” He sighed and paused, but perked up quickly. “And so we did what we had to do, found ourselves a greater cause to champion!” Mrs. Anslinger nodded, but appeared somewhat confused. She remained silent, brow wrinkled, as she poured the tea and passed around the accompaniments. It dawned on Mellon then that her comments were not in reference to the Repeal, but to his ousting as Secretary of the Treasury.”
As for me, and my new appointment,” he cleverly addressed and skirted the issue at once, “nothing ‘terrible’ about that either, my Dear! “On the contrary,” he fibbed, “haven’t you heard? I actually prefer the new post to the old!” “I hadn’t heard! And I’m so glad, Uncle, truly,” Mrs. Anslinger spoke elatedly. Returning to the problem at hand, however, she came to tears again: “I’m really worried about Harry, Uncle… He hasn’t eaten or come out of his quarters in days… He’s written his resignation letter; and wants me to send it. He insists that I send it! I was hoping and praying you could talk some sense into him. He looks up to you, Uncle, more than anyone – you know that.” Mellon patted her on the shoulder. “I’ll do my best, Honey,” he said kindly, “I promise you. Come, now,” he offered his handkerchief, “dry your eyes, drink your tea, and stop your fretting. Harry’ll get over it. We all will. There’s nothing else to do!”
“Thank you, Uncle,” she repeated, as she wiped her eyes yet again. “And sorry about all the tears. It’s just that I feel so bad for Harry. And so helpless…”Come! Please!” She took a deep breath, got back on her feet, and motioned for the men to rise. “I’ll take you to him, you’ll see for yourselves how poorly he’s doing, and why I’m so distraught.”
They followed her up the stairway in the entry hall to Anslinger’s study. She knocked on the door, repeatedly, to no response. Opening the door a crack, she peeped into the pitch black room, and called out, “Harry, wake up, Dear. It’s two o’clock; and you’ve got visitors. Uncle Andrew and Mr. Du Pont are waiting to see you.” Opening the door completely to light the way, she waved the visitors in; and then she left. They found Anslinger, unwashed and unshaven, wrapped in a rumpled bathrobe, un-slippered, one sock off and one on, lying on the sofa in the dark – the picture of gloom. As they opened the drapes, Anslinger groaned, “No! Please! No!” and covered his eyes with his arm to block out the light.
“Wake up, Dear, it’s two o’clock, and you’ve got visitors,” Mellon mimicked Mrs. Anslinger’s sweetness, while rummaging through the papers on Anslinger’s desk. He found the letter of resignation, and skimmed it. Holding onto it, he pulled up a seat near Anslinger’s head, and pointed Du Pont to the opposite end. “You can’t do this, Harry,” Mellon asserted, tapping the letter on Anslinger’s chest. “You can’t resign! You’re not a quitter! Think about it, Harry. Who would they get? There’s no one in this country could run that Bureau like you do – they might as well shut it down!”
“It’s not like when you were there, Uncle,” Anslinger moaned. “I can’t do it anymore. They’ve tied my hands. Cut back my staff, cut off my funding…”
“Hearst is going to help out,” Mellon assured him. “He’s got ideas for marijuana. Inexpensive ones. You need to meet with him, Harry, right away.” Anslinger shook his head, repeating under his breath, “It’s no use, it’s no use.”
Du Pont grabbed Anslinger’s socked-toe, and wiggled it. “Forget about the Repeal, Harry – that’s history. You need to finish the job on marijuana. You’re off to a good start with the local bans. You keep that up! Then you take it to the federal level. Little by little, you get that poison off the streets! Just keep thinking of the good you’ll be doing the country!”
Anslinger lifted his arm from his eyes, and started to lift his head, but fell back. Looking up at Du Pont squinty-eyed, he spoke, uncharacteristically, in a faint, whiny voice: “It can’t be done. I’m telling you, Mr. Du Pont. Hemp’s got a thousand legitimate uses, and more to come. It’s not just the farmers, it’s the manufacturers, and even the doctors we have to contend with! It’s thousands of jobs, and millions of users. There’s no prohibiting this plant – it can’t be done!” He sighed, and closed his eyes again.
Du Pont got a hold of Anslinger’s foot now, and shook him to attention: “Listen to me, Harry! All that’s going to change! …And I’ll tell you why: “Hemp is expendable – absolute fact! There isn’t a single hemp product that can’t be replaced with something better. We’ve already seen it with cloth and paper, and the rest is on the way. We’ve got synthetics today, Harry, for everything! We’ve even got a synthetic cord in the works – amazing product; it’ll make the old rope obsolete within a year, and hemp with it – you mark my words! “Synthetics are the future, Harry!” He pretended to take a drag off a reefer, and go tipsy. “Hemp is dope!”
Anslinger sat up, smoothed out the sleeves and lapel of his robe, brushed off his shoulders, and yawned. “Marijuana is dangerous,” he muttered. “Deadly,” Du Pont egged him on, “especially in the hands of children!”
“No one said this would be easy, Harry,” Mellon put in. “This is a complicated, gut-retching assignment you’ve taken on. But it needs to be done. And we’re convinced that you, and only you, can do it!” He hesitated… “Unless you know someone else?” Anslinger shook his head ‘no.’
“Unfortunately,” Mellon went on, “we don’t have the pull or connections we had before either. But we’ve got plenty, enough to see us through. You will have what you need, Harry! Don’t be afraid to ask!”
“But you’ll be abroad, Uncle,” Anslinger whimpered, “for months at a time.”
“I will, undoubtedly,” Mellon conceded. “But,” he gestured toward Du Pont, “we’re all in this together, Harry. And Hearst, and Hagar, and Sanford, and their allies are our allies. And let us not forget, the lawyers, obscenely expensive as they are, are on my payroll!”
Anslinger cracked a smile.
Mellon smiled too. “So, Harry,” he wrapped it up, waving the letter of resignation, “can we dispose of this, finally? …Stop all the crying around here?”
‘Yes!’ said Anslinger, definitively, nodding his head, clearly relieved.
Mellon crumpled the letter, and shot it neatly into a wastebasket. “Good!” he said. “Perfect! How ’bout we celebrate with another round of tea? The biscuits are delectable.”
Anslinger was back on the job the following day. Within a week, he had met with Hearst, Sanford, the lawyers, and even Hagar; and within a month, he had finalized a plan to reinstate American Prohibition, albeit with a new drug! Utilizing the resources of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, and the fervor of Anti-saloon Leaguers desperately seeking a cause, he would spread the word about marijuana – defined as the “newest and deadliest of the hard drugs” – to grassroots America, and promote its ban. In districts where the bans were already in force, he’d send in federal agents to encourage and assist the local police with raids and arrests. Where feasible, ‘investigative reporters,’ on loan from Hearst, would cover and sensationalize the stories. As a final step, he’d push for federal control of marijuana, via nation-wide licensing, taxing, and, ultimately, criminalizing of the drug’s producers, peddlers and consumers. Given the merits of hemp, he reckoned it would take at least five years to get a bill before Congress. It wasn’t easy, but he did it in three!
Katelyn Farm, the following Spring:
The afternoon was dreary and drizzly; the living room of the Burnetts’ home dimly lit; the fresh flowers fading. Kate was at her desk at the bay window, writing to Will and missing him terribly. She raised her eyes to the sound of the front door opening. Noble entered and walked toward her without a word, his head hung low. He was holding a file of papers.
“Hi, Daddy,” Kate welcomed him. “How was the meetin’?”
Noble grunted unintelligibly.
“What’s all that?” she gestured toward the papers?
Noble mumbled low again, took a seat on the sofa, and motioned for her to join him.
“Look like you lost your best friend,” she said, and sat down beside him, and kissed him on the cheek.
He handed her the file. “The League is petitionin’ three counties, includin’ ours, to license hemp-growers,” he said gloomily, “on advice from the federal government. They’re sayin’ hemp contains a narcotic!”
About Nini & Zach
Nini Martino has been an instructor/practitioner of yoga, meditative and natural healing for thirty years, and has written on these subjects throughout. She was drawn to spiritual healing and became a Reiki practitioner while living in Spain during the 1990′s. The practice was transformational, and ultimately resulted in her first novel, THE MYTH, (iUniverse, 2005), co-authored with members of Netti’s Circle, a meditation group she founded.THE MYTH was still in-the-making when Nini received some shocking information on the history of industrial hemp. After delving deeply into it, she contacted Zack DiLiberto, a young freelance writer she had worked with on an earlier project. Zack was equally intrigued; and the two quickly came to agreement: “HEMP is a story that needs to be told; and we’re going to tell it!”
Since the first printing of HEMP, (iUniverse, 2011), Nini has been on a mission to heal the planet. She is convinced that her “easy-read” is nonetheless an eye-opener, and that by popularizing it, she can help bring the nation to its senses with respect to the wonders of hemp and the wrongness of its prohibition. She has joined forces with every organization dedicated to the fair and free-market for industrial hemp. And, of course, she is meditating on it