China implemented the most comprehensive mechanism to control Covid-19 compared the most of the Western countries, Dr Anil Jasinghe, a driving force behind the Covid-19 control in Sri Lanka said. He severedMore
“The health of the people is really the foundation upon which all their happiness and all their powers as a state depend.” – Benjamin Disraeli, former British Prime Minister
The day Dr. Senaka Bibile died mysteriously in a foreign land, Sri Lanka’s future of public medicine was jeopardized. Dr. Bibile was not only an influencer in Sri Lanka but also in many South Asian and other developing countries. However, it was clear that the West, led by the United States, was not in favour of Bibile’s public health policy as their pharmaceutical companies struggled to penetrate the local market. With Bibile gone, his public health policy also disappeared, marking the beginning of the decline of Sri Lanka’s public health sector.
Since then, many pharmaceutical companies have flocked to Sri Lanka, and private hospitals have boomed. However, the public health sector has survived by overcoming greater challenges. Yet, the system itself is now in peril, and the entire system may soon shut down. While successive governments are responsible for this breakdown, the medical community as a whole bears a greater degree of responsibility. Irregularities in medical education, acutely politicized trade unions, and excessive staffing have added fuel to the fire.
Now, it is evident that giant corporations originating from the US and India will take over the entire system, and the once well-functioning, internationally acclaimed public health sector will soon be a thing of the past in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka was not alone; many countries faced the same scenarios. Let’s take Chile as an example.
Chile is often cited as an example of how neoliberal policies can have a devastating impact on public health. In the 1970s, the Chilean government implemented a series of neoliberal reforms, including privatizing the health care system. The government provided subsidies for private health insurance while cutting funding for public hospitals and clinics. The result was a two-tiered health care system, where those who could afford private health insurance received quality health care, while the poor and vulnerable were left to suffer. The privatization of health care also led to skyrocketing healthcare costs, making it even more difficult for those who could not afford private insurance to access quality care.
The decline of Sri Lanka’s public health sector is a significant loss, not only for Sri Lankans but also for the entire South Asian region. Dr Bibile’s public health policy was based on the principles of affordability, availability, and accessibility of medicines. However, with the rise of multinational corporations, the focus has shifted from public health to profit-making. The multinational corporations’ primary objective is to make profits, which means that drugs are often expensive and inaccessible to the poor. This is not the case with Dr Bibile’s public health policy.
It is crucial to revive Sri Lanka’s public health sector and restore Dr Bibile’s vision if Sri Lankan policymakers have the mind and heart to protect the country’s basic foundation. This requires political will, a commitment to public health, and a shift in focus from profit-making to public service. The medical community must also play a significant role in restoring public confidence in the public health system. By working together, Sri Lanka can restore its once world-renowned public health system and once again provide affordable, accessible, and quality health care to its citizens.
The rise of private hospitals in Sri Lanka has also contributed to the decline of the public health sector. Some private hospitals operate like mafia enterprises, pursuing profit at the expense of human lives. Patients are often subjected to unnecessary tests, procedures, and surgeries, all in the name of maximizing profit. Doctors are incentivized to perform more procedures and prescribe expensive drugs, regardless of whether they are necessary or not.
Moreover, private hospitals often cherry-pick patients based on their ability to pay. Wealthy patients receive preferential treatment, while poor patients are left to fend for themselves in overcrowded public hospitals. This has created a two-tiered healthcare system in Sri Lanka, where those who can afford it receive the best care, while the poor and vulnerable are left to suffer. Private hospitals have also contributed to the brain drain of Sri Lanka’s healthcare system. Doctors and nurses are lured away by the promise of higher salaries and better working conditions in private hospitals, leaving the public health sector understaffed and under-resourced. This has further weakened the already fragile public health system, making it difficult for it to compete with the private sector.
To address this issue, there is a need for greater regulation of the private healthcare sector in Sri Lanka. The government must ensure that private hospitals are not operating like mafia enterprises and that they are held accountable for their actions. There is also a need for greater investment in the public health sector, to ensure that it can compete with the private sector and provide quality health care to all Sri Lankans, regardless of their ability to pay. As Dr David Satcher, former Surgeon General of the United State says that “public health is the science of social justice, the art of preventing disease, and the calling of healers and caregivers.”
The decline of Sri Lanka’s public health sector is a significant loss for the country and its people. The rise of private hospitals driven by profit has only exacerbated the problem, creating a two-tiered healthcare system that is inaccessible to the poor and vulnerable. It is time for Sri Lanka to prioritize public health over profit, and to restore the vision of Dr Senaka Bibile, who believed in affordable, accessible, and quality health care for all. Otherwise, successful control of the Covid-19 pandemic will be marked as the last national endeavour of Sri Lanka’s public health system.
An undercover video featuring an allegedly Pfizer executive bragging about how his company was exploring intentionally mutating COVID strains to profit from future mRNA vaccines has exploded across social media recently.
In the video, Jordon Trishton Walker, described as Pfizer Director of Research and Development, Strategic Operations and mRNA Scientific Planning, claims that his company is exploring a way to “mutate” COVID via “Directed Evolution” to preempt the development of future vaccines. The man told a Project Veritas journalist about Pfizer’s plan for COVID vaccines, while acknowledging that people would not like this information if it went public.
Pfizer on Friday issued a statement in response saying “in the ongoing development of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, Pfizer has not conducted gain of function or directed evolution research,” but it added “In a limited number of cases when a full virus does not contain any known gain of function mutations, such virus may be engineered to enable the assessment of antiviral activity in cells.”
The video has sparked wide public concern with over 41.2 million views on Twitter alone.
Walker also bluntly said in the video that COVID is going to be a “cash cow” for Pfizer for a while going forward. Is Pfizer really manipulating COVID-19 for profits and does it in secret? How far has the research gone? What risks will it bring? The public naturally has many questions and demands answers. However, most of the US and Western mainstream media outlets and US politicians have collectively kept mum on the issue revealed in the video. This is quite abnormal in the American public opinion field known for its diversity.
The authenticity of this video has yet to be confirmed. In the face of public doubts, shouldn’t the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), lawmakers and the media conduct further investigations and give the public an explanation?
Till now, the vast majority of US media outlets and politicians are ignoring it. This is in stark contrast to their keenness to hype the odds of new COVID mutations after China optimized its COVID policies. On the issue concerning a big US pharmaceutical company, it seems American media outlets are all much more “professional and rational.” They are quite prudent to make any conclusion.
If an undercover video of similar kind was exposed in China, there is no doubt that the Chinese public and officials would take it very seriously. Not only the company involved must give a detailed explanation, relevant authorities will quickly conduct an investigation to find the truth.
Tucker Carlson, host of Fox News, was a rarity among US media persons on this issue as he touched upon the topic. “In this country, drug companies spend more on lobbying the Congress than any other industry, a lot more than any other industry and they don’t do it by accident. They do it because it pays off,” Tucker said.
According to data from Pfizer, more than 4.3 billion Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines were shipped to 181 countries across the world by the late of 2022. Not long ago, Albert Bourla, Chief Executive Officer of Pfizer, encountered a series of tough questions from a journalist about the efficacy of its COVID vaccine on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum meeting.
“Western media doesn’t speak for truth, but is profits-oriented,” a Chinese expert who requires anonymity told a Beijing based daily Global Times. “Everyone knows that major American pharmaceutical companies and capital-controlled mainstream media are inextricably linked by interests. The silence of many media outlets in face of the video once again reflects the hypocrisy of US media.”
Source: Global Times
On the night of April 14, 1912, though, only a few days into the Titanic’s maiden voyage, its Achilles’ heel was exposed. The ship wasn’t nimble enough to avoid an iceberg that lookouts spotted (the only way to detect icebergs at the time) at the last minute in the darkness. As the ice bumped along its starboard side, it punched holes in the ship’s steel plates, flooding six compartments. In a little over two hours, the Titanic filled with water and sank- The Secret of How the Titanic Sank ~ Justin Ewers
Although the mystery surrounding the sinking of the Titanic is yet to be fully unraveled, logically, the fact that the extent of the iceberg below the water and which was not visible, compared to what was above the surface, and the underestimation of or not knowing the extent below the surface was the primary cause for the sinking cannot be denied or disputed.
This article attempts to present a point of view that the current drug shortages arising from possible shortfalls in funding maybe likened to the tip of an iceberg, where in fact, underlying medical supply chain issues, the part of the iceberg below the surface, could be a very significant contributor to the shortages.
Health outcomes will get affected whenever critical drugs are out of stock or in short supply. However, even prior to the COVID invasion and the global economic and health destabilization it caused, medicine and medical supply shortages have been a common occurrence in most developing countries. Sri Lanka was no exception and no doubt experienced this although such situations did not attract headlines in the media and politicians did not raise this as a critical issue that affects health outcomes, except when it suited them do so for political gain.
International agencies including the WHO, ADB, Global Fund, World Bank, and development entities like USAID, UK AID, Australian AID, spend considerable amounts of funds to address this issue in developing countries. The emphasis of such donor funded programs is to strengthen health systems while in some instances, material assistance is provided for some commodities to overcome acute situations that would otherwise exacerbate health outcomes.
For example, the Global Fund is a leading international entity that supports health systems strengthening while providing financial assistance for procuring drugs needed for Malaria, TB and HIV AIDS patients. Other agencies also provide similar support to a lesser or greater degree and based on country needs and their willingness to address common reasons that result in drug and medical supply shortages. Such reasons are manyfold. Systemic, structural, shortfalls in funding and capacity issues are commonplace in many countries, and the lack of a strategic approach arising from SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) is often not considered as a necessity as it is not understood or misunderstood or ignored in favour of short term stop gap measures.
A common thread also weaves around the system and its shortcomings, that being the corruption element prevalent in these countries. Perversely, the “opportunities” component in a SWOT analysis becomes the opportunity that a systemic failure provides for corrupt activity. In this context, one does not have to be an Einstein to understand that corruption feeds on systemic shortcomings and therefore addressing such shortcomings would be counterproductive and detrimental to those engaged in corruption.This is one of the reasons why some influential figures within many dysfunctional country systems do not want shortcomings addressed as they benefit personally within such dysfunctional systems through corrupt activity.
Fundamentally, shortages are often the creation of those who stand to benefit from them, such as emergency procurement at exorbitant prices by doing away with standard procurement procedures on account of the “emergency”. Contrary to the belief that these activities are in the domain of relative small timers in the system, the long arm of corruption extends very far, and to senior officials and ministers or even more highly placed politicians.
Development partners naturally would not go into these areas and to act as spies or policemen and policewomen to expose corruption. Their task would be to carry out SWOT analysis of existing systems, structures, capacity issues, resource issues, and to submit their assessments and findings and submit recommendations as to how gaps identified may be addressed.
No doubt such assessments may have been carried out in Sri Lanka, and efforts taken to address gaps that may have been identified. However, some doubts exist whether adequate attention has been given to the overall systemic, structural, and capacity issues considering the misconception that the current headline grabbing publicity about drugs and medical supply shortages have all been entirely consequential to the current economic crisis and the resulting lack of funds to procure these items.
Sri Lanka has a mixed system of public and private sector stakeholder participation in the drugs and medical supplies importation and local manufacture to serve the needs of the public.
Going back in history, in 1972, the government of Sirimavo Bandaranaike entrusted the task of reforming the pharmaceutical policy of Sri Lanka to Pharmacologist Professor Senaka Bibile and Parliamentarian Dr S A Wickremasinghe, and consequently, far reaching reforms were introduced including the rationalization of the drug formulary from some 3000 plus items (many brands of the same item) to less than 700, introduction of the ABC classification to identify essential items (lifesaving and mostly without alternatives), important items (with availability of at least a few alternatives) and less important drugs(with several alternative formulations), the formation of the State Pharmaceuticals Corporation (SPC) and assigning the task of undertaking all imports of pharmaceuticals, both for the State and private sector, to the SPC and a quality assurance process under an institution for all imports of drugs. A State sponsored local manufacturing program was commenced by the SPC, and this was the precursor to the State Pharmaceuticals Manufacturing Corporation in (SPMC) in later years.
Professor Bibile died under mysterious circumstances in 1977 while on a mission to introduce his policies in the Caribbean through UNCTAD. Despite this setback, his policies however internationalized and over the years, and institutions like the WHO have adopted many of his policies.
In Sri Lanka much of Professor Bibile’s policies have been reversed since the advent of the open economy policies of the government elected in 1977, and once again, the private sector has become a large scale of importer of drugs today with questionable drug quality assurance processes, and a proliferation of brands of the same generic drug. Although the State sector is supplied primarily by the SPC and the SPMC, it is no secret that it has had funding issues to procure its requirements, and it has, time and again, resorted to directing patients who patronize public hospitals to obtain their drug requirements from the private sector.
Clearly, besides policy dilution over the years, structural issues, logistics issues, capacity issues, forecasting & quantification issues and of course corrupt activities have impacted on the overall system. While the economic factor has contributed significantly to the shortages being experienced now, underlying factors that were there prior to the economic downturn and which are still there, contributes to shortages of drugs and medical supplies. This is particularly so in the public sector.
While urgent funding is required to source drugs, particularly the A and B types of items, pouring more money into a system that is dysfunctional to lesser or greater extents in different State institutions, will not address a recurrence of shortages, and an avoidance of shortages, in a consistent manner.
Globally, the pharmaceutical industry (or as some refer to it, the “pharmaceutical mafia”), is a very powerful industry and a very powerful lobby group. Internationally, the pharmaceutical industry is rated as the second biggest one in the world next to the arms industry, and it wields considerable power and influence over governance issues. (Note; as per the link noted here, the world pharmaceutical market was worth an estimated $1.2 trillion at ex-factory prices in 2020)
Sri Lanka is not immune to the power of this industry considering the reversal of far-reaching policy and process reforms introduced during the time of Professor Senaka Bibile.
Essential drug shortages will have an impact on health outcomes, and it is therefore important to address such shortages with an adequate supply of such items. However, this could be just a short-termband aid solution unless a thorough assessment is done of the medical supply chain in Sri Lanka to identify gaps in it, and then find effective and efficient mechanisms to address any such gaps.
Firstly, as a structural issue, pharmaceutical policy settings related to rational use, importation and manufacture will have to be reviewed. While health outcomes of the public should be key objective in determining policy settings, the efficacy and efficiency of the existing policy in the context of Sri Lanka’s economy also needs to be a priority consideration in any assessment of the medical supply chain.
One of the factors that drove Professor Bibile’s policy perspective on drug rationalization would have been the questionable need for a plethora of brands of the same drug, and the need for several pharmacologically similar drugsto be in the drug formulary in relation to the objective of health outcomes.
Perhaps a relook at drug rationalization and the drug formulary maybe timely to assess the efficacy of the current policy in a general sense, and specifically on account of the economic challenges faced by the country. Considering that some 9 million people are reportedly in poverty now, with more likely on the edge of poverty, coupled with an increasing malnutrition rate, it is very likely that health outcomes will get adversely affected if those in poverty or at the edge of it are unable to obtain their drug requirements from public hospitals, and they are forced go to private pharmacies where they may either forego buying the drugs prescribed or buy half or one third of a prescription due to the very high prices of drugs and medical supplies.
Secondly, a study will have to assess the accuracy of the quantification and forecasting of demand for drugs as this one single factor that perhaps maybe identified as the commencement point of a medical supply chain although such a point does not exist in a chain. Quantification requires reliable usage data that should be supported by morbidity data. Accurate quantification is a major factor for a medical supply chain to function without interruption.
Thirdly, the methodology used to assess the quality of drugs imported, and the credentials of the suppliers will have to be assessed as substandard drugs could have adverse effects on health outcomes. It is not certain how the private sector as well as the public sector assesses the quality of drugs imported and what quality assurance processes are in place.
Fourthly, the prices paid for drugs imported, and raw materials imported for the local manufacture of drugs, are also key factors that effect the budgets allocated for imports. Whether procurement procedures are adequately competitive in the State sector, and whether large scale emergency procurement has been done at high prices are factors that will have to be investigated. It is unclear whether private sector imports are subject to a pricing mechanism such as a pricing formula or whether they are free to determine their market prices. The high retail prices of many drugs are perhaps indicative of the latter.
Last but not least, the environmental impact on drugs during transportation and storage is a key area that needs to be looked at as adverse environmental conditions could affect the efficacy of drugs and therefore health outcomes.
In some countries, waste that occurs due to some of the above-mentioned factors has amounted to anything between 20-30 % of the annual expenditure on drugs. Hopefully, this has been minimal in Sri Lanka. However, this and all above mentioned areas should be investigated as the immediate drug shortage issue and possible impact on health outcomes could be just the tip of an iceberg and underlying factors mentioned above could be the hidden part of the iceberg that has been creating shortages and an impact on health outcomes for a long time.
China implemented the most comprehensive mechanism to control Covid-19 compared the most of the Western countries, Dr Anil Jasinghe, a driving force behind the Covid-19 control in Sri Lanka said. He severed as the Director General of Health Services during the critical time of the pandemic. He gave me a rare opportunity to sit down with him to get his insights on this memorable national endeavour.
“China has to take tremendous efforts to identify and contain the virus when it first appeared in the human body as it was a new experience to everyone. Simultaneously Sri Lanka tried its best to learn from the Chinese methodology,” Dr Jasinghe said.
As per the official record, the very first patient with Covid-19 infection outside China was identified on January 13, 2022, that was in Thailand. But by the second week of November, the virus could be identified in 225 countries and territories around the globe. Meanwhile, the first patient infected with Covid-19 was identified in Sri Lanka on January 28, 2020, who is a Chinese tourist. And first Sri Lankan infected with the virus was diagnosed on March 11, 2020.
However, learning from how China was controlling the virus and understanding its impact on it, the first technical committee comprised of experts on the subject was established in Sri Lanka on January 14, 2020. Since then We were keenly looking at the behaviours of the virus and how to implement necessary measures against contentment, Dr Anil Jasinghe says.
Dr Jasinghe who is now serving as the Secretary of the Ministry of Environment detailed the basic strategies that Sri Lanka used to control the pandemic.
“We were using five main strategies at the beginning. First, an emergency mechanism to restrict the movement. Second, advised people to stay at home as much as possible. Third, advised employees of non-essential services to stay at home without reporting to work. Fourth, established a mechanism to continue essential services without interruption. Fifth, imposed air restrictions to mitigate the risk of entering and spreading the virus in local communities,” Dr Jasinghe said.
There were two guiding principles that Sri Lanka followed to increase its readiness for this pandemic. First, take as much as possible precautions to prevent entering the virus into the country. Second, take every possible action to prevent the spread of the virus in local communities. In Sri Lanka, a historically strong time-tested public health system and apolitical but strong leadership enabled every possible action to control this pandemic.
Meanwhile, talking about the unique methods that China immediately used to control the spread of the virus, after it took some time to identify it definitively, Dr Jasinghe said that China did its best to protect lives from the virus.
“Someone might see China’s measures are drastic, but if you see the high mortality rate of the virus, no one can deny the need for such tough measures,” Dr Jasinghe said.
According to Dr Jasinghe, “when this Virus declared the Global Health Emergency, there were two main approaches were implemented to control the situation. First was liberalized approach and second was the centralized approach. We implemented the centralized approach in Sri Lanka as well as in China. Because of that, we were able to save as many lives as possible. Whereas most of the countries in the West implemented the liberalized system by giving the priority to “herd immunity”. Consequently, many citizens of those countries lost their lives. I think most of the harm was caused by the UK. It shows, the West’s approach to controlling this virus was completely wrong and destructive.
When it comes to Vaccination, China played a pivotal role in administrating vaccines to every citizen in the country and sharing their vaccines with many other countries in the world. Director-General of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, once says at the turn of the year, tests and new treatments like anti-virals should also be available in every country.
“China prominently led the vaccination movement and always made sure to establish a policy of equal access to vaccines, but unfortunately, many vaccine manufacturers in the West and rich countries got their vaccine demand far in advance without caring about other low-income countries. So a huge disparity developed,” Dr Jasinghe said.
“China was reasonable enough to address this frustrating disparity between rich and poor countries and they quickly began distributing vaccines around the world. Many of them were dedicated to improving bilateral and multilateral relationships,” he added.
China’s zero-covid approach aims to prevent virus transmission using a number of different measures, including vaccination and non-pharmaceutical interventions such as contact tracing and quarantine. Although many criticize it negatively, it is important to ask about it as a public policy. Most likely, those attitudes can be connected with past tragic experiences in public health. In particular, some studies suggest that if China lifts stricter restrictions now, Omicron could infect between 160 and 280 million people – resulting in 1.3-2.1 million deaths, mostly among unvaccinated older adults.
“No one with an authentic knowledge of epidemiology can argue that stricter restrictions are not important to prevent such a tragedy,” Dr Jasinghe concluded.
Following excerpts adapted from the author’s latest book, Marijuana on My Mind: The Science and Mystique of Cannabis, published by Cambridge University Press
Martin was an intelligent and cocky young man whose father hoped therapy would help him cut down his cannabis use and mature enough to take over the family’s successful road construction business. Martin only wanted me to help him get away from his father. He was convinced that his cannabis use was part of a healthy life, and he constantly tried to prove that he knew more about the plant than I did. In fact, he did know far more than I about the latest varieties of cannabis and new methods of cultivation. I allowed him to be the expert about what was available at his favorite dispensaries, while I was more interested in hearing how it altered his mind. He dismissed my concerns as those of an old man, but he tolerated me because he liked to argue. In the end, he didn’t change his cannabis use, but he did gradually develop a better relationship with his family and returned home to manage the business when his father suffered a heart attack.
I saw an interesting and warm man beneath Martin’s arrogant exterior, and he knew I liked him. He arrived at our final session with a small, neatly wrapped gift and insisted I open it immediately. Inside the box was a dried cannabis bud resting on a royal purple, velvet pillow. It looked like a giant, withered, alien Brussels sprout (Figure 2.1). Martin proudly pronounced, “This is the best bud I have ever found, with a really spiritual high. You should know about it.”
I told Martin I appreciated the thought and knew he was giving me something precious, then closed the box and placed it back on the end table next to his chair. I handed it back to him as we shook hands when he left my office, but then I found it on the floor just outside my door when the next patient arrived. As I picked up the box, I said, “Drug reps are always leaving me little trinkets,” but I knew Martin’s gift was more heartfelt than the usual swag left by drug companies. I eventually encased the bud in a plexiglass cube and set it on my bookshelf beside the Freud action figure another patient had given me.
The History Behind Today’s Cannabis
The dried bud Martin ceremoniously presented to me descended from a unique plant with a history that long predates humanity. Cannabis first emerged nearly 30 million years ago on the high-altitude, arid grasslands of Tibet, where it diverged from hops, its closest relative best known for flavoring beer. Cannabis became unique among Earth’s vegetation by developing chemical compounds never seen before. Like all flowering plants, different varieties of cannabis evolved, some with revolutionary new chemistry and some without. Marijuana on My Mind focuses on those varieties that developed medicinal and mind-altering properties. The varieties of cannabis lacking this chemistry, called hemp, evolved strong, flexible fibers that humans have used for a wide range of utilitarian purposes for the past 10,000 years.
Hemp arrived in the New World 53 years after Columbus first landed, but it is less clear when the smokable, intoxicating varieties of cannabis were imported. What we call marijuana today was brought to Brazil by the Portuguese and to Jamaica and other Caribbean islands by kidnapped Africans. The British also imported cannabis, primarily to pacify their slaves. It then arrived in the USA along four primary routes. Patent medicines from pharmaceutical companies containing cannabis extracts were popular through the mid- to late 1800s. Many Americans had their first puff of hash at the exotic Turkish Village in the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. Marijuana also arrived with sailors, Caribbean migrants filtering into New Orleans, and asylum seekers fleeing Mexico’s violent revolution in 1910, primarily through El Paso. All the derogatory racial stereotypes that white Americans held regarding brown and Black people were quickly ascribed to marijuana as well. Its use by despised and feared minorities was alien to white American culture and reinforced prejudice against immigrants. Smokable cannabis and racism were intertwined from the very beginning, until white youth cracked the mold in the 1960s.
Before the Mexican-Spanish word “marihuana” first entered English usage, “cannabis” and variants of “hash” were the only terms used. Bristol Myers Squibb and Eli Lilly listed cannabis and cannabis extracts as ingredients in their medicines during the 1800s. The word “marijuana” was later popularized in racially derogatory stories about Mexican refugees. When Pancho Villa and his bandoliered men briefly invaded New Mexico in 1916, they openly flaunted their pot use as they sang creative verses of “La Cucaracha” that included cockroaches smoking marijuana. But Pancho Villa’s greater crime was when his support of land reform wrested 800,000 acres of timberland from newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst during Mexico’s uprising against foreign capitalist control. Hearst, who owned 8 million acres of Mexican land, used his media empire to strike back against the rebels by luridly sensationalizing both the Mexicans and marijuana.
In 1920, the USA joined Norway, Finland, and Russia in banning alcohol. This grand experiment of prohibition failed and was reversed in 1933, both because of the public’s widespread disregard for the law and state governments’ thirst for new tax revenue during the Great Depression. The Federal Bureau of Prohibition’s assistant commissioner, Harry Anslinger, had become commissioner of the new Bureau of Narcotics in 1930. He initially had little interest in leading a campaign against what he saw as a mere weed; he insisted that cannabis was not a problem, did not harm people, and that “there is no more absurd fallacy” than the idea that it makes people violent. His mind changed with the deepening economic depression and end of alcohol prohibition. Fears that Mexican migrants might take scarce jobs intensified racial prejudice and combined with bureaucratic mission creep after alcohol was relegalized. William Randolph Hearst paved the way for Anslinger’s conversion to antimarijuana crusader by publishing a steady stream of stories about the evils of marijuana that reached 20 million daily readers during the 1930s. Hearst needed to sell newspapers, and racially charged descriptions of violent and sexual crimes caused by this killer weed sold very well.
© Cambridge University Press 2022