1 minute read


Early Drug Laws

From all the nineteenth-century hopes for the possible medical uses of cocaine, the only practical application that held up was its use as a local anesthetic. All the other efforts to prove that cocaine was a wonder drug were dismal failures in light of the powerful addictive effects of the drug. By the early twentieth century, it had become clear that cocaine posed a serious hazard to any user.

In 1904 the cocaine was removed from the Coca-Cola syrup. In 1906 the Pure Food and Drug Act was enacted to stop the sale of patent medicines containing substances such as cocaine. Before that date, manufacturers were not required to list the ingredients of their patent medicines. The 1906 act made truthful labeling of patent medicines sold across state borders mandatory, but it did not stop the sale of cocaine products. New York State tried to curtail cocaine sales by passing a law in 1907 that limited the right to distribute cocaine to physicians. That law merely paved the way for the illicit street traffic. Dealers obtained cocaine from physicians and then sold it on the street.

The cocaine drug problem continued to rise until 1914, when the Harrison Act was passed. This legislation used the federal Treasury Department to levy taxes on all phases of cocaine trafficking and imposed further strict measures on the sale and distribution of cocaine. From that time to the 1960s, cocaine use dwindled, in part because of the rising popularity of amphetamines on the illegal market. The medical use of cocaine as a topical anesthetic and as an ingredient in cough medicines continued, while its illegal use was largely confined to the very rich.

Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Cluster compound to ConcupiscenceCocaine - History, Introduction To The West, Coca-cola, Early Drug Laws, After The 1960s