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By Lionel Calhoun Moise

Fast-Growing Debasement of Our Youngsters, Making Them Wantons and Killers

SHAME and death are the evil blossoms of a sinister growth that threatens to ruin the health and minds of thousands of America’s youth. Striking in the darkness, this stealthy public enemy can be fought only by the clear daylight of publicity. Only in this way can we secure the drastic legislation to cope with a new and deadly menace. But just what is this gloomy monster of destruction?

Consternation swept an exclusive Eastern finishing school recently when one of its popular girl students suddenly killed herself. The school authorities hushed up the scandal with a story of accident, then launched an investigation to determine the cause of the tragedy.

The suicide was a charming, seventeen-year-old girl of good family. Money worries were out of the question. Her scholastic record, until shortly before her death, had been good. She had no serious love affairs. Illness was also precluded; she had been a normal, athletic girl who liked school sports and played them well enough to compete in basketball, tennis and pool events.

Her teachers were questioned. All they could vouch-safe was that, for several weeks, the girl, whom we shall call Janet, had been moody, inattentive, and forgetful.

Accustomed to the whims of schoolgirls, they put it down to some new pose—perhaps an exaggeration of the “vague” mannerism which was cultivated for a time by fashionable debutantes. But it evidently was not a pose this time, they agreed.

The girl’s school chums were questioned. Several of them seemed to be keeping something back. But the school authorities persisted, and finally got to the bottom of the whole heart-rending, pitiful story.

Janet had been one of a number of girls to attend a football game in a nearby university town. The game was followed by the usual collegiate dance and house-party—chaperoned about as well as these mass adventures of youth can be in this modern era, when adolescence practically sets its own rules.

A new acquaintance, with a family background that should have been sufficient in the way of credentials, averred that the party was getting dull and proposed a trip to a certain “hot spot”—a roadhouse where he guaranteed better swing music than was being furnished at the college affair.

Janet, another girl, and another boy agreed to go along, on the theory that they would be gone only a couple of hours, and would never be missed. In view of the similar impulsive “walkouts” that mark most such affairs, they were probably justified in the assumption.

However, before reaching the roadhouse, the sponsor of the excursion wheeled his car to a stop on a lonely woods-road, and, turning to the others, said:

“How about a little drag of love-weed?”

The girls didn’t like the sound of it.

“Aw,” said their host, “that’s just a nickname. Some call it love-weed, some call it greefa, some call it muggles. It just gives you a little extra kick— that’s all. Makes the music sound better. Take a whiff. One won’t do you any harm, anyhow.”

Janet was still unconvinced. But, after all the others had passed a cigarette from lip to lip, she yielded, rather than be called a “sissy.”

The acrid smoke made her cough.

“Whew!” she said. “You can keep them.”

“Try again,” was the reply. “Hold it longer this time. You’ll be wild about it.”

True enough, this time it didn’t taste so bad. But, as she breathed out the last of the pungent smoke, tasting something like stale coffee flavored with licorice, she resolved she would experiment no more.

The resolve came too late. With that last inhalation of the insidious, poisonous fumes, her will-power dropped away from her like a rent garment, leaving her a tractable, pliant creature, as exposed to chance suggestion as if her soul had been naked to the wind.

Again, she breathed in that treacherous, stinging vapor, surrendering herself and her youthful senses to its imperious, idiot power.

“Love-weed?” she thought. “Is this love?” Stripped of inhibitions, her ego clamored to be informed. Reality mingled with delusion, lending false glamour to the voice, the touch, and the dope-dazed kisses of her companion.

Time passed—but with no sense of time. She found herself on a dance floor, dancing with a man she had never seen before. It seemed an eternity between each beat of the music. Other men— strangers—approached her. She was passive in their hands.

The rest is too horrible to tell. Even the victim did not tell it all herself. But she confided enough to enable investigators to piece out the rest from her companions and from employees of the road-house.

Then the investigators understood why this seventeen-year-old girl, with all the world before her, had chosen the dark path of self-destruction. To the credit of the authorities of that particular school, they did not let their investigation stop when it had attained its immediate object.

What, they wanted to know, was this “love-weed”? How did it happen to be in the possession of a college boy? How widely was it used, particularly among the young? The results of that inquiry were astounding to its authors—though by no means so to the narcotic enforcement officials who eventually heard their story. They learned, first of all—as police, social workers, and child welfare groups all over the country have learned in the last few years—that “love-weed” is one

of the many names of a too-easily procurable narcotic which goes under the scientific title of cannabis Americana.

Of its other names, probably the most familiar is marijuana, originating in Mexico, where the drug has long been a source of poverty, madness and crime. Others are “greefa,” also of Mexican origin, “Mary Warner,” “reefer,” “muggles,” “mooter,” “moota,” and “joy-smoke.”

But regardless of its name, the investigators found, it is regarded everywhere in the United States today as a major menace to society and particularly to that very important factor in society, the Nation’s youth.

Scarcely known outside the medical profession a few years ago, this insidious narcotic, which might better be called “hate-weed” than “love-weed,” is now so widely used throughout the United States that every metropolitan police officer and welfare worker knows it by taste, sight and smell.

They know its pernicious effects, too, not only on the young and inexperienced, but upon the weak and criminally inclined of all ages.

Yet the fight against it has been so handicapped thus far by inadequate laws and public apathy or ignorance that it is continuing to extend its hold over a constantly widening area and an ever-increasing number of people.

THIS alarming situation was recognized by the State Department of the Federal Government in a recent report to the League of Nations Advisory Committee on Narcotics which frankly said:

“Addiction to marijuana, which was formerly confined largely to the Middle West and Southwest, appears to be spreading. It has now become a problem in the Southeastern and Northeastern parts of the United States.

“A disconcerting development in quite a number of States is found in the apparently increasing use of marijuana by the younger element in the larger cities.”

Fully a year ago, H. J. Anslinger, speaking as United States Narcotic Commissioner, pointed out the threat to youth from this hell-weed, at the same time urging stricter laws and heavier fines for marijuana peddlers.

“While the use of other narcotics is decreasing, marijuana smoking is increasing,” this Federal official said. “It is being taken up, worst of all, by young boys and girls, mostly between the ages of eighteen and twenty-two. Driven by the craving for this vicious and destructive drug, many of these youthful addicts are turning to petty crime.

“The courts have been too lenient in these cases. What we need most is jail sentences for the peddlers.”

Commissioner Anslinger estimated the total number of drug addicts in the United States at 100,000, but said the figures had probably risen since marijuana made its slimy way across the border from Mexico and crept into our unguarded citadels of youth.

Directors of the Civilian Conservation Corps recently added their pleas for protection from the new, insidious enemy. But New Hampshire, where the plea originated, is one of nineteen states which has no marijuana control law to back up the Federal Narcotic Act, and Charles A. Burrows, Federal Narcotics Agent for New England, was forced to tell the worried camp directors there was little the government could do about it.

A peculiarly perilous characteristic of the drug, from the viewpoint of youth protectionists, is that it commonly inflames the erotic impulses— especially when smoked by adolescents.

In the case of young girls, this has resulted in many tragedies resembling that of Janet. In the case of youths between fifteen and twenty-five, it leads to revolting sex crimes.

Irrespective of whether the addicts are boys, girls, or adults, continued use of the drug almost invariably leads to mental collapse and, quite frequently, to complete insanity. On this, the government report just transmitted to the League of Nations says that, taken in sufficient quantity, marijuana produces an “almost immediate lust, complete irresponsibility and a tendency toward wilful violence,” adding:

“Those who are habitually accustomed to the use of cannabis frequently develop a delirious rage after its administration, during which they are temporarily, at least, irresponsible and liable to commit violent crimes. The prolonged use of this narcotic is said to produce mental deterioration and eventually insanity.”

How has such a perilous and terrifying drug contrived to establish such an extensive hold on America’s carefully protected youth?

Parents will want to know the answer to that, and, on behalf of the many thousands of parents who read Physical Culture, I have gathered information on that phase of this momentous problem from all possible sources.

First, all agree, and the hardest to combat, is the accessibility of marijuana. Unlike the other narcotics, which can only be produced by expensive processes, marijuana can be cultivated in nearly any soil, and smoked with no more preparation than a little drying out.

SECOND, legislation has been very inadequate, owing to the slowness of some states to adopt the uniform narcotic drugs act. States which were still without this important law, as of June 22, 1936, were Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Washington and Wyoming.

Third, the idleness to which American youth was subjected during depression conditions, coupled with the emphasis on the erotic appeal in current motion pictures, plays, and some types of publications. Psychologists generally agree that the natural energy of youth is bound to find an outlet in harmful diversion, provided it is thwarted from its logical expression in necessary work or competitive play.

Fourth, the general leveling of the manners and morals of the sexes. This is regarded as of particular importance in providing opportunity.

Fifth, the after-effects of prohibition, which got youth into the habit of looking for a “thrill” outside the law.

Sixth, and not the least important, an amazing disagreement until recently among medical men themselves on the nature and effects of cannabis Americana.

No one investigating the subject can fail to be impressed by this phase of the marijuana problem.

For years, neither marijuana nor its Asiatic bad brother, hashish, which goes under the scientific name of cannabis Indica, was classed in the pharmacopeia as a narcotic.

Scientific treatises on marijuana are particularly scant, and it is doubtful that anyone has made a real analytical study of it, comparable with the thousands of such studies that have been made of the effects of opium, cocaine, and the other traditional narcotics.

However, the Federal Narcotic Bureau now classes it very emphatically as a narcotic, and medical observers of its effects on delinquent youths are beginning to think it may be the most dangerous of all.

Not because of its immediate effects, which may vary considerably with the age and temperament of the individual, but because of its wide use, its cheapness, and the insidiously harmless guise under which it masquerades.

No one can take morphine or cocaine without knowing it. But a pinch of marijuana can easily be inserted in a cigarette without the smoker being the wiser.

“G-men” who this fall unearthed and sent to prison a huge interstate vice syndicate, reaching from New York to Maine, were not surprised to find that many of the victims, as well as their enslavers, were marijuana addicts.

THE use of the drug to entrap girls was old in Asia and Mexico before it ever came to the attention of New York practitioners of this most loathsome of human occupations.

That ancient, but by no means mythical, Oriental potentate, “the Old Man of the Mountain,” employed hashish in a way that was only slightly more terrible—or less, according to the viewpoint. A ruler by blackmail, like any modern racketeer, he fed his hoodlums with a hashish paste before sending them out on murder jobs. Etymology has embalmed this practise in that dreadful word “assassin,” derived directly from “hashish.”

Police have encountered some cases of gang leaders using marijuana in that same way. But not with great success, as the drug renders the user too incautious for modern methods of killing.

By and large, police are more fearful of the steadily debasing effect of marijuana on youthful morals than of the rare addict that turns to murder.

He can be handled. But the noncriminal addict goes on about his usual pleasures, corrupting other boys and girls, and steadily widening the trail of moral devastation which this invading poison has blazed across our land.

It seems strange that American girls and boys should fall prey to such a habit, savoring of the sensuality and languor of the Orient, rather than the full-blooded vitality of the New World. But, as sociologists have been pointing out for a number of years, many a youth of today enjoys a leisure comparable only with that of the ancient Oriental potentate.

Vigorous and habitual outdoor exercise is the logical way to resist the enervating influences of easy transportation, rich and abundant food, and similar innovations that are taken for granted by the rising generation. But, lacking the natural outlets for youth’s abundant energy, it is to be expected that the weak and experimentally inclined will turn to sensation.

To this type, a “reefer party” is one more thrill. If he can find a young and innocent girl to share his moral degradation, that adds still another sensation.

Visions of an erotic nature may visit the “reefer” slave while under the influence of the narcotic. But not always. Many experience only a horrible sensation of approaching death. Charles Baudelaire, the French poet, was a hashish addict and his death was a typical example of the devastating effects of cannabis addiction. A master of language, he suddenly found himself unable to pronounce the simplest words. This was followed by a general collapse of his faculties and a condition medically classified as “general paralysis of the insane.” For the last three months of his life, he lay helpless and inert, only his eyes reflecting the torturing hallucinations that possessed his once-great mind. He died at forty-six, a melancholy figure of self-destroyed genius.

The delusion of super-acuteness of senses which he mentions in his writings is familiar to medical students of marijuana addiction. This is usually accompanied by an exaggeration of the ego, which makes the dope slave feel he actually is the master of everything and everybody.

He has ideas which he feels are very brilliant, but which he cannot express. At first, his delusions fit into his surroundings, but, as the effect of the drug becomes stronger, he gradually loses the power of controlling his thoughts, and sinks into a fantastic succession of confused dreams and impressions.

It seems incredible that a drug of such potency ever could be permitted to fall into the hands of adolescents, let alone younger children. Yet a recent survey of the marijuana situation revealed that, as far back as 1926, 200 New Orleans school children, under the age of fourteen, were discovered to be addicts! In this case, as in many others, a vicious drug peddler was to blame.

Large cities had a monopoly on the traffic at one time, but no longer. Not long ago, the police of Wichita, in the heart of the great agricultural state of Kansas, revealed that marijuana parties were being staged at road-houses by boys and girls of high school age. After a few “reefers” had been smoked, the party became an orgy conducted under conditions that shocked the investigating officers.

These orgies by youthful addicts are familiar to police—and are becoming too familiar to school principals and welfare workers.

IN a Connecticut city, officers of a morality squad recently found girls of tender years appearing in scanty garb before an audience of men. The odor of marijuana was strong in the building, and several of the members of this unsavory audience were found to be “under the influence.” No one will regret that, without exception, these particular addicts will have several years in prison to recover from their bad habits, and build up a new set of moral ideas.

High school principals in various portions of the country have also found wholesale expulsions necessary, following the exposure of marijuana “cults” among pupils.

These cults usually start with one or two couples and end up with a dozen. A teacher of thirty years’ experience gave me some details of one of these orgies, as obtained from two fifteen-year-old girls who participated. The teacher would not credit them until she had questioned the girls separately.

The ownership of the building where these orgies were held was traced to the same conscienceless peddler who had supplied the cult members with marijuana. But the parents of the students involved were opposed to letting the scandal become public, and it was impossible to conduct a successful prosecution of the man.

It is safe to say that the lives of all these children have been indelibly marked by an experience that will make it almost impossible for them to lead normal adult lives. The marijuana peddler, incidentally, left town, but the parents and teachers of his victims have no way of knowing he is not sowing the same seeds of degradation and despair in some other community.

The cheapness of marijuana is one of the things local and Federal officers find difficult to fight. They have succeeded recently in some cities in driving the price to fifty cents. When they can get it to a dollar, they will feel they have marijuana on the run.

THIS method has been effective in control of the opium and morphine traffic, and Federal officers are sure it can be worked with equal success against this new and no less deadly menace to human health and happiness.

Led by Parent-Teacher associations, clubwomen have also begun of late to take an active hand in the combat, with results that promise no good for the peddlers.

Among the first to take cognizance of the new drug threat hanging over American childhood, was Mrs. Grace Morrison Poole, dean of Stoneleigh College at Rye, New Hampshire and former president of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs of America. Speaking as president of that influential organization, Mrs. Poole said:

“The women of America are just beginning to understand the frightful peril of marijuana. We know now that it is a real danger. We suspect a carefully organized plot among dope peddlers to make addicts of school children, so as to assure themselves of a future supply of customers.

“It is a horrible and frightening situation, but we hope it has not gone too far to be checked.

“Liquor was bad enough, but it is easy to recognize. With this insidious narcotic, the girl is often ruined mentally, morally and physically before her addiction is detected.

“Educational work is needed among mothers and teachers as well as school children. We must learn to detect marijuana addiction in time, so we can save the child and punish the peddler.

“Publicity, such as is offered by the more constructive periodicals, is the best possible weapon at present, and every mother should be grateful for the help given in this crucial cause.

In an effort to get at the source of supply, the Federal Narcotic Bureau has been educating officers and civic workers in the appearance of marijuana when growing. A typical member of the large botanical family of hemp—scientifically grouped as cannabis sativa—the narcotic variety may be distinguished by its long clustered leaves, and its flowering tops. It is these tops that are used by veteran addicts, though the peddlers boast of selling everything but the roots to novices. In all except nineteen states, it is illegal to plant or cultivate marijuana, but there are always those who will take a chance. It has even been found growing wild in Connecticut and New Jersey, and state police there were called upon this summer to stamp it out. Convicts at Joliet, Illinois, and San Quentin, California, were discovered growing it in prison garden patches. Cultivated plots have also been found—and destroyed—in such unexpected districts as Coney Island and the so-called “jungle” near Brooklyn bridge.

Police in all Eastern cities report a growing addiction among whites, contrasted with the situation two or three years ago, when the most of the users were from such districts as New York’s Harlem.

Certain types of professional musicians are blamed by police for spreading the habit in night clubs. These musician addicts defend themselves on the ground that they can keep better time when narcoticized. A delusion, say the doctors, like everything else about “Mary Warner.”

Officials everywhere realize they have a long, hard fight ahead. They wish they had stopped bad Mary before she slipped over the border from Mexico, and began her attack on American youth.

But they are confident they will drive her to cover in the end, just as they have licked Lady Morphia and her train of deadly Hand-maidens.

FOR Americans, at bottom, are not sensualists nor idle dreamers—the stuff from which Queen Narcotia draws her hapless subject throng. We are realists and doers, with far too much common sense to waste time on the fatal charm of “Mary Warner” or any other prize bloom in the Devil’s pet garden.

Now and then, there will be an unfortunate Janet, for the susceptibility of individuals to marijuana varies to an amazing degree. But there will be fewer such tragedies as the peddlers go behind the bars where they belong.

Meanwhile, the advice of medical and narcotic experts to thrill-seekers, old or young, is to find some safer thrill than using marijuana in any form. Making a delayed parachute jump from an altitude of a thousand feet is suggested as a starter.