01/13/21 David Herzberg

Cultural Baggage Radio Show
David Herzberg

In White Market Drugs, David Herzberg explores these crises and the drugs that fueled them, from Bayer’s Heroin to Purdue ’s OxyContin and all the drugs in between: barbiturate “goof balls,” amphetamine “thrill pills,” the “love drug” Quaalude, and more. As Herzberg argues, the vast majority of American experiences with drugs and addiction have taken place within what he calls “white markets,” where legal drugs called medicines are sold to a largely white clientele.

Audio file

DEAN BECKER (00:00):
I am Dean Becker. Your host. Our goal for this program is to expose the fraud misdirection and the liars who support for drug war empowers our terrorist enemies and riches Barbara's cartels, and gives reason for existence to tens of thousands of violent, new as games who profit by selling contaminated drugs to our children. This is cultural baggage.

DEAN BECKER (00:30):
Hello, my friends. I am Dean Becker, the Reverend most. Hi, this is cultural baggage. The first a new show for 2021. Friends. David Hertzberg is an associate professor of history at the university of Buffalo. He's author of happy pills in America from Milltown to Prozac and he's author of a brand new book. Why market drugs, big pharma, and the hidden history of addiction in America without a want to welcome professor David Herzberg. Hello.

Hi, thanks for having me. Well, thank

DEAN BECKER (01:06):
You for your book. I, uh, um, I'm always, I don't know, just thrilled to see somebody who digs deep, who, uh, uh, finds the beginnings of this drug war, the means and the mechanisms whereby uh, it came to be. And, and I want to congratulate you on a great book.

Well, thank you very much. It's, uh, you know, it's a labor of love and it took a long time, but, uh, you know, it's interesting to me because one of the things I think about, uh, the book is that if the history of where the drug war was, it, you know, it's the, it's the history of legalized drugs. You know, we, we, of what that looked like and, and what worked and didn't work, what worked and didn't work in the situations where drugs were legal.

DEAN BECKER (01:49):
You know, I, I have this new effort I'm working on. I call it, uh, you know, reclaiming the moral high ground. It began as, I guess well-intentioned, uh, perhaps I also think maybe it was just a bunch of charlatans fooling us along the way, but, um, uh, supposedly it was done to protect us. Correct.

That was the justification. Yeah. Okay.

DEAN BECKER (02:14):
Yeah. And, and within your book, you, you tend to write your chapters and you have conclusions, and I want to read a little bit from, uh, the, the one on the, uh, preventing a blockbuster opioids. And it talks about the FBN. The, uh, federal Bureau of narcotics is remembered as a bullying agency that ignored science in favor of racist, uh, of racist sensationalism. And it used a heavy hand against consumers physicians and any blast femurs who dare to criticize the punitive prohibition model that justified its existence. Um, there's just so much truth inherent right there that tell us about the beginnings, how this all came to be.

Yeah, well, it's really interesting. I think, um, just talking about the federal Bureau of narcotics, cause, uh, you know, I'm, uh, you know, just heads up, I'm a, I'm an academic, which means that, that I tend to not see things, things in, in simple black and white terms. And so the FBM, uh, is a, is an agency that's done an enormous amount of harm in American history as the prosecutor of the drug war. And one of the main elements of the drug war was the, um, the criminalization of the life of marginalized people, uh, primarily along the lines of race, but also along any other lines of social marginalization that you can think of people, uh, uh, in poverty, people with disabilities. And a lot of the, a lot of the practical purpose of, uh, of a drug war of a criminalization of a prohibition regime is to be able to govern those populations, uh, without saying that that's what you're doing.

And the FBN clearly, uh, participated with Gusto and Harry Anslinger, the head of that, um, the head of that Bureau participated with Gusto believed in that racist mission with all of his heart. And there's no, there's no sense in the writing of the book that I'm trying to redeem that dimension of this, uh, this agency's mission. But what's interesting is that that agency also took a bullying, um, and, and a harsh approach to, uh, to a group that doesn't often get that treatment in America, which is gigantic multinational corporations, um, which were, I'm talking about the pharmaceutical industry. And so it was curious to know, take a look and see that, you know, the FBN was over the top and punitive and destructive in its, in its war against people who use drugs, but it was also strangely effective in its campaign to prevent the pharmaceutical industry from, uh, taking advantage of people in a different way, which is to sell them products under false pretenses to, uh, to not allow them to be aware of the risks and dangers that were associated with their products.

And so a lot of that chapter is kind of doing this really careful work of saying, well, they actually did a pretty good job of this one particular task and we ought to, um, and we have some things to learn from them on that part, because, you know, as it, as I think I mentioned to you, I'm not a, I'm not a Liberty very, and in any aspect of my political philosophy and I don't see drugs as a special exception to do all the other, uh, parts of capitalism, like Mo capitalism is a dangerous system that needs a whole lot of protections. And, uh, uh, for the people who have participated in it as workers, as consumers and so on. And so I'm interested in what happens after you legalize, how do you make sure the consumers don't get screwed by people who are in it just for a profit and her willing to do, uh, willing to do damage in their pursuit of profit? So it's a, it's an interesting story. The FBN is a malign organization that also did something that we can learn from well,

DEAN BECKER (06:17):
To reach back to your thoughts on Harry Anslinger. He was quoted as saying things like you give a one of these darkies, a marijuana cigarette, the next thing you know, he thinks he's as good as a white man, all that kind of stuff. He entered into the picture, entered into the legislative sessions, entered into all the lead up to what we now call the drug war then to, to give quote justification for, uh, these new laws and the punishments they wanted to meet out. And, um, you know, we all have suffered from that overreach, uh, certainly over the century or more that actually this drug war has existed. You, you, you speak of the 1906 pure food and drug acting, how it was, uh, uh, I don't know, in part, uh, a better policy than we had before. It was actually taking some, um, uh, oversight to drug production and distribution and, and the contents thereof, I guess, so to speak.

DEAN BECKER (07:15):
And you and I had a talk about a week or so ago, I guess. And I mentioned that I thought we could have actually stopped right there. It's a pure food and drug act because we actually had to control what was in the, in the, uh, pill or the, or the bottle and label the contents. So people knew what they were buying. And we've gone now to where I call the modern quote drug war. The means whereby we have given up control. We've given it up to terrorists, cartels, gangs, street, corner vendors, selling water, ever more deadly and contaminated drugs to our children. And as I told you back then I am a legalizers straight out. I don't care. Uh, let the buyer be aware, let the adults have it. Anybody sells it to kids. Let's lock them up forever. We can all disagree on what the result, the result or the change needs to be, but we all agreed there's a change needed. Would you agree with that thought?

Absolutely. Well, I would say, uh, as I say in the book, we think about prohibition and free markets as being different things. To me, they look very similar, which is a market designed to serve the interests of the people who are selling. So you just described, we've given it over to, you know, to, to criminal cartels. And this, that to me is, uh, an example of what it looks like. If you have a product with no, with no legal restraints on how you're going to sell it, because it's totally illegal. So there's, you know, you're already have broken all the laws. And so the big difference between 1906 law, uh, and the, and the drug war laws is, um, it's not so much in the, in the details. Um, although those obviously matter a lot, it's in the intent. So the 1906 law, the intent was, Hey, people use drugs and we want people to be safe.

Here's an idea about how we can make drugs safe for the people who use them. Okay. So that's one approach. I call it a consumer protection approach. To me, this is just common sense in the same way that, like, what do I know about roofs? If I'm a buy a house where there's required to be a housing inspector. So I don't buy a house with a roof, that's going to fall down on my head, or if I buy a car there's protections to make sure, you know, what do I know? Uh, you know, I don't want to buy a car that brakes don't work. So that's a, it's, it's, it's a law designed to help people be able to make safe choices. Now that the drug war laws were designed with a really different purpose in mind, they said, uh, there's a are scary people who are threatening us.

And by the us, you know, we know who this is, men in American history. It's meant people who look like me it's meant the traditional elites in this country. And that there are populations that are difficult. You know, we live in a democracy. How are you going to, um, you can't just dictate, um, social hierarchies in a, in a direct way. It's not all that easy, but we still want to protect ourselves from these people that we think are scary and drugs are especially frightening because where there's drug use, there tends to be other kinds of social contact. They focus obsessively on sexual contact, but there's, but you know, drugs are like social things. People use drugs and, uh, at, in socially lot different ways. And so, uh, they, they focused on outlawing drugs as a way to, uh, protect the public from these people that they defined as not being part of the public anymore.

You know, they're just people, right. And they're people who were using drugs, but now though, they aren't really people anymore. They're not people who need protection. So one kind of laws about protecting people. The other kind of law is about defining some people as not really people and punishing them. And they just have a totally different goals. I'm perfectly fine with the idea that, you know, a law passed 115 years ago, the 1906 act. It probably needs a lot of updating. The question is, can we update it thinking in our minds, our goal is to protect consumers, not to identify consumers as evil demons who need to be locked away.

DEAN BECKER (11:28):
Now, David does within your book. And again, folks, we're speaking with David Herzberg, he's author of a white market drug, uh, David, within your book, I'm looking at a chapter here, uh, opioids outta barbiturates. And, and, and within your book, you, you have these little sub chapters of barbiturates survive, the goofball panic, and this kind of, uh, exemplifies. We have, uh, every 10, 15, 20 years, uh, the Senate and the Congress get all wacky about drugs. And they, they come up with a new law, a new nuance, a new means to control a different drug, a different means of control. And let's talk about that, that it's, it's a series of panics along the way that, that lead us to evermore, um, draconian drug laws, right?

Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. Right. And those panics have a tendency to pick on groups of people who are already the target of stigmatization already, the target of various kinds of oppression and make them particularly scary, whether it's women, whether it's, uh, you know, people of color and central cities or whatever. Um, and the thing is the way that, the way that I read in the book is in the United States politically, it's really, really hard to achieve, um, regulations to restrain big business, because that's the way our society is set up. It favors a, you know, the favors, big businesses, they have a lot more avenues connections to people in power. And so one of the, one of the things that has happened is that, um, I mean, it's kind of, it's depressing to say it, but to put it into like really simplistic terms that sometimes reformers have used American racism to achieve, uh, market controls and thinking that they are going to that way get consumer protections.

But in fact, it just doesn't work. If you, if what you, um, if the tool that you use is something as destructive as say the kind of racism that you described as Harry Anslinger saying, that's how he won all that power. And then he would say, well, you know, I'm using that power for great, good look at how I'm constraining the drug industry. What have you, but when you win power through evil means the kind of power that you get is tainted and destructive. And it's happened again and again, these drug panics are, uh, they're so tempting for people who are, who want to regulate drug commerce, right? Who, who have in mind, like the idea of, well, these are products that can be dangerous, man. We want, there's certain things that we want. Um, you know, we want to be able to know that what's in, what's on the label is what's in the bottle.

We want to know that it is a safe, it is safe to use in the way that the label says you should use it so on and so forth. Um, but how are we going to get Congress to vote for those things? When they're deep pocketed groups who are incredibly invested in opposing those kinds of, you know, those kinds of laws? Well, one way is we can beat them over the head with scary stories about deranged junkies, trying to rape white women. And you can, and you can win power that way you can get Congress to vote. You can cobble together a coalition of consumer protectionists, and then what I call them most moral crusaders. But these are people who often are using those racist ideas to advance their, their goals. And then you get a law, but it's, but these laws are really problematic. Like you say, the laws that result from these panics are always problematic.

DEAN BECKER (14:59):
Sure. And, and to kind of underscore what you were talking about, the demonization, if you will, to single out a certain group, uh, you know, it was, um, Mexicans, blood rape, white women, if they smoke weed and, and blacks would rape white women, if they do cocaine and on down the line, it's, it's always been a, a means to frighten people into submission. So to speak, to accept it, I often talk about it that, you know, uh, there are certain few people who have a true proclivity to get addicted or to abuse drugs, to go in the wrong direction if they start using it. And so to protect that, you know, vulnerable few, we wrote these laws supposedly to keep them from falling into the abyss. But in the meantime, all the rest of us have suffered some 50 plus million arrests right here in the United States to protect that vulnerable few, we leave, uh, I don't know, just chosen the wrong Avenue here. Haven't we,

I, I don't think we've even tried to protect those people who are vulnerable. I guess that's the only where I placed, I disagree with you on there is that I don't think even the, yeah, they said that, but I mean, you know, what is it, what is this? Who are these? Who are these minority people that you're talking about? Who are, who are vulnerable? Well, I think that it is not like a, nobody is born that, like, it's not like a character trait, like having two eyes or two years. It's, it's very, we don't understand a lot about it. It could be that it's a certain times of your life you're vulnerable. And then you're not, it could be there's who knows what the factors are. You know, we know a lot about the pathway to addiction. We could tell people, we could say like, Hey, you know, uh, let's take heroin to take a particularly scary drug.

You know, we know a lot about the physiological effects of heroin and we know a lot we've seen, uh, we've seen the trajectory. People take to becoming addicted to heroin. Countless times we could provide that information to consumers. We could say like, look, here's the path. Here's what use looks like. That becomes addiction. If you notice in the first, you know, in your first three times, you're using this drug, here are the things that are incredibly bad signs for you, and you should stop, you know, that this kind of thing would probably be a hell of a lot more effective in, um, in protecting people from the harms associated with drugs than just saying, well, everybody shouldn't try it at all. Cause then, you know, a lot of people are gonna try it anyway. And just a little warning, the people who are most likely to try it when it's against the law are good. The people who are more likely to be vulnerable to addiction,

DEAN BECKER (17:39):
Uh, to, uh, talk about, uh, thought you mentioned there, there, is there a particular time in a person's life when they're more vulnerable? And I think for the most part, uh, it's proving itself to be true, that it's young people, it's young people who tend to emulate one another who tend to party together who tend to embrace the idea that drug use is a rebellious thing and let's do it for awhile. And life comes along, marriage, children, job. And it tends to diminish that, that compulsion, if you will, uh, it's not always true, but, uh, I think in general, it, it does pan out that way. Would you agree?

I definitely would agree. And this is why, you know, I've had, uh, someone asked me like, well, what would, what's the one thing, like, if you could do one thing and I'm like, so one thing, and it can be anything like anything at all for, uh, to help people who, uh, who use drugs at and with no limits, I would say, well, what I would do is I would, I would pass policies that ensure that everybody gets that chance to have the house and the mortgage and a job. And the kids, I would say, you know, social programs that make people have an ability to have a fulfilling life because that, I mean, obviously it's a fantasy, but I mean, you would see so much less harmful drug use if everybody knew that they were going to, when they got out of high school or got out of college, whatever way their path goes, they know that there's a decent life waiting for them. Yeah. That would be huge.

DEAN BECKER (19:14):
Yeah. No. And it would make a heck of a difference. I bet you, uh, what day that I, I wanna, you know, we're not going to get through your whole book and by the way, folks, I want to remind you once again, we're speaking with David Hertzberg author of wide market drugs, big pharma, and the hidden history of addiction in America and, and David, what this book does is educate what this book does. I have my, my thought again, I want to back up to it. I, I mentioned, uh, facing, uh, claiming the moral high ground is what I'm trying to do these days is to once again, say these more or less, these charlatans, these bigots, these purveyors, these authors of these drug laws knew not what they were doing, or if they did, it was nefarious. And I, and I guess what I'm trying to say is that I want people, my listeners, I want people maybe watching this video. I want people to educate themselves to become aware of the truth of this matter. So they can speak logically intelligently to their elected officials, to, uh, public, uh, you know, newspaper and broadcasters to, uh, to do away with the old propaganda and hysteria that stood for so long as true. And your book contains the truth that can help folks carry that mantle forward your thought there, David

A well, I would be really pleased if that were true, man. And so, like I said, I'm a historian history and for everybody it's, you know, it's, uh, it's a book. Uh, but, uh, but I hope that it's a bit, I hope that you could also enjoy reading it. It's not too much like eating unsweetened oatmeal or something, but, uh, you know, to me, I try to approach drugs. Like I think one of the Cardinal mistakes that we make about drugs and we made this mistake, um, because of the reasons that you've been describing because of not something about drugs, but because the other kinds of agendas that people have to get played on, we, we decided that drugs are different than every other thing in our lives. We've decided that drugs are special in magic and they don't follow the rules of everything else.

And I wanna, I wanna step away from that and just say, you know what? These are highly desirable and quite risky products. We live in a world surrounded by those. And we, and we have incredibly pragmatic approaches. I mean, I drive a, I drive a, a box at 65 miles an hour down a highway. You know what I mean? Like what could be more dangerous than that? But if you look at the, uh, yearly mortality rates, you know, not a lot, but we decided as a society that, that we mind cars. And so we take a pragmatic approach to them. We don't, we don't have all this weird, like, uh, moral zealotry around cars, we just say, okay, uh, Oh, wow. If we put an airbag in there so many fewer people die, rumble strips. Awesome. You know, um, so all of these different things that we do, and I just want to think pragmatically about drugs.

I just want to say, look, let's, let's be dispassionate about this. And that does mean recognizing these are dangerous products. Let's say, you know, what are the estimates like 10% of people may become addicted if they are using one of the addictive types of drugs, like cocaine or heroin, I would not buy a car, but there was a 10% chance that the brakes don't work, that that's not acceptable to me. So we need to, but with cars we approach the problem of saying, okay, well, this is something we want. So let's figure out a way to get that percentage down to something we can live with. And I think that the conversation we're not having about drugs is how do we get the percentage down to something as a society we can live with because people want to use drugs. One thing I can tell you as a historian is that America is an extremely pro-drug nation.

And we have been from the get-go every once in a while, we pick a demon drug and a group of people who are using it, and we have a big old war against it, but on the whole, we love drugs. We have, we legalize drugs, drugs are legal mind. Book has a history of legal drugs, drugs that are used so much more extensively because they're illegal than any of the illegal drugs. And we like that. And we're committed to it. It's been a, you know, it's been hundreds of years and we are committed to being able to buy and use drugs legally. That's what we do. I don't care how much people talk about a drug war. We are a progressive nation. So we've got to have a pragmatic conversation. We've decided we want these products. Maybe some people that's too bad to wish that wasn't the case, but it's, I'm here to tell you there's never been a year where it was any different

DEAN BECKER (23:47):
Well, and David, I look at it this way. We reached back to the late, uh, what 1880s, 1890s. They had the opium exclusion act, which, uh, tried to deny the Chinese from smoking opium. Meantime, the white folks were still drinking their laudanum with the opium contained there in, uh, that was kind of the beginning of the racial, the bigotry part of all this. And then, uh, morphine, uh, came along and then heroin came along and it was said to be safer than morphine. And it was, uh, you know, extolled and, and, and, and sold, and Bayer put it on the grocery shelf next to bear aspirin at the same price. And [inaudible], and then over the decades, you know, we talked about the barbiturates in the bogs act that all of these various laws that come along, and then more recently, we had the Oxycontin, uh, which was deemed to be safer than air one, and you couldn't get addicted to it and so on. And then that went to hell in a hand basket. Did it not?

Yeah. And it's because, and to me, this is so important because it went to hell in a hand basket, not because drugs are evil and they just, and we should just prohibit them it's because people thought, well, it's in a pill bottle, a doctor prescribed it, it's safe. And the people who were thinking that weren't weren't necessarily pain patients who on the whole had pretty low rates of, um, problematic opioid use. It was, it was their kids. It was their spouses, it was their neighbor's kids. And, and, and, you know, there's a lot of people in this country, a lot of young, uh, men and women, high schoolers who, uh, who wouldn't have picked up a bag of heroin and be like, Ooh, let's try this. But they would take a pill that was in the medicine cabinets. Why was it in the medicine cabinets?

Cause it was sold under false pretenses. Nobody said to the people taking it home, you know, you should lock it somewhere so that people who, uh, so the kids can't get at it or nobody. Um, there was that there was that, uh, seal of approval medical approval that made it seem like it was a safe thing. And that's what that's, what I'm talking about is that that to, to legalize, which I fully support doesn't mean to just hand a free ticket to big corporation, just say, okay, now do whatever you want. Like we all, I think we all have a line somewhere where we say, all right, something's gotta be illegal. Maybe your line is in 1906. Food and drug act might be a little further down the road from that. But we all recognize that there needs to be some rules of the road.

The question is what motivates those rules? Do we want to protect people or do we want to punish people? And for me, I say we protect people. We punish businesses that act badly. No, we didn't. We, if you, if you're, you know, and, uh, I I'm on record as saying that I think, uh, Purdue pharma should be dissolved. Like I know if, if corporations are, are legally, people don't understand how you can commit crimes of that magnitude and still get to continue, uh, doing business. And you know, that that's where if you really want to, if you want to have a drug regulations, aim them at the people, really the only people who have bad motives in this setup, which are people who can make a killing, make a profit people who are, are motivated by the potential of millions or billions of dollars. That's a dangerous setup, man.

I mean, it is, and it needs, we need to be, we need to have safeguards to make sure that that learner of that profit doesn't lead to ways of selling drugs. That'll, you know, not only will they harm people, but they'll harm the cause of someone like yourself, because there'll be some big disaster and a bunch of people will die. And next thing you know, a lot of people will be paying for prohibition again. Right? So you want to make sure that the market's safe so that it works. And so that you got Portugal, but you want to have a place where after you look at it after 20 years, you're like, well, that worked. There's less harm people that are doing better.

DEAN BECKER (27:48):
Yeah. Again, the book is an easy read. I didn't mean to make it sound like it was a difficult read. It's really easy to read. It has the information I've been talking about to claim the moral high ground. It tells you exactly where this stuff came from, how it came to be, how it's panning out. And w we've been speaking with the author of white market drugs. Mr. David Herzberg. I want to thank you, sir. Is there a website, uh, folks who learn more about your work?

It's just David hertzberg.com. All right. Thanks a lot for the, for the conversation, man. I appreciate it. You know, and I hope your listeners get something from it.

DEAN BECKER (28:19):
All right. Once again, I want to thank professor David Herzberg and once again, I want to remind you as he and I were talking about because of prohibition, you don't know what's in that bag, please be careful

DEAN BECKER (28:34):
To the drug truth network listeners around the world. This is Dean Becker for cultural baggage and the unvarnished truth. Cultural baggage is of production Pacifica radio network archives are permanently stored at the James A. Baker, the third Institute for public policy. And we are all still tap dancing on the edge of an abyss.