1880 Opium Importation from China to the US is Banned
Opium is first on our chart of illegal drugs. One way to look at this, the earliest drug ban enacted by the US Government, is as a pioneering step in the direction of government being involved in public health. This sunny interpretation, however, ignores the enormous role anti-Chinese racism played in this particular legislation. Opium was seen as a Chinese problem, and this legislation went hand in hand with a wave of anti-Chinese “Yellow Peril” style sentiment. Although that term had not yet been coined, the sentiment was there in force in 1880…..only two years later, we would see the “Chinese Exclusion Act” passed, and in 1880 itself there was an anti Chinese massacre in Denver.
Pure Food and Drug Act
Inspired by muckraking journalism in general and Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle in specific, the Pure Food and Drug Act, among other things, required labelling a product when they contained alcohol, cocaine, heroin, morphine or cannabis. It also expressly forbade that implication of ingredients that weren’t in the actual product. This regulation was obviously feather light, but represented some of the first tentative…