How the DEA Scrubbed Thomas Jefferson's Monticello Poppy Garden from Public Memory
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How the DEA Scrubbed Thomas Jefferson's Monticello Poppy Garden from
Visitors to Monticello don't learn how Jefferson cultivated poppies, and
his personal opium use may as well never have happened.
March 3, 2010
The following is an excerpt from Jim Hogshire's "Opium for the Masses:
Harvesting Nature's Best Pain Medication" (Feral House, 2009).
Thomas Jefferson was a drug criminal. But he managed to escape the
terrible sword of justice by dying a century before the DEA was created.
In 1987 agents from the Drug Enforcement Agency showed up at Monticello,
Jefferson's famous estate.
Jefferson had planted opium poppies in his medicinal garden, and opium
poppies are now deemed illegal. Now, the trouble was the folks at the
Monticello Foundation, which preserves and maintains the historic site,
were discovered flagrantly continuing Jefferson's crimes. The agents
were blunt: The poppies had to be immediately uprooted and destroyed or
else they were going to start making arrests, and Monticello Foundation
personnel would perhaps face lengthy stretches in prison.
The story sounds stupid now, but it scared the hell out of the people at
Monticello, who immediately started yanking the forbidden plants. A DEA
man noticed the store was selling packets of "Thomas Jefferson's
Monticello Poppies." The seeds had to go, too. While poppy seeds might
be legal, it is never legal to plant them. Not for any reason.
Employees even gathered the store's souvenir T-shirts -- with
silkscreened photos of Monticello poppies on the chest -- and burned
them. Nobody told them to do this, but, under the circumstances, no one
dared risk the threat.
Jefferson's poppies are gone without a trace now. Nobody said much at
the time, nor are they saying much now. Visitors to Monticello don't
learn how the Founding Father cultivated poppies for their opium. His
personal opium use and poppy cultivation may as well never have happened.
The American War on Drugs started with opium and it continues today.
Deception is key to this kind of social control, along with the usual
threats of mayhem. Ever since the passage of the Harrison Act made opium
America's first "illicit substance" in 1914, propaganda has proven
itself most effective in the war on poppies. This has not been done so
much by eradicating the poppy plant from the nation's soil as by
eradicating the poppy from the nation's mind.
Prosecutions for crimes involving opium or opium poppies are rare. But
that has less to do with the frequency of poppy crimes and everything to
do with suppressing information about the opium poppy. A public trial
might inadvertently publicize forbidden information at odds with the
common spin about poppies and opium. This might pique interest in the
taboo subject and, worse, undermine faith in the government.
The U.S. government strategy to create and enforce deliberate ignorance
about opium, opium poppies, and everything connected with them has
proven remarkably effective. The Monticello campaign exemplifies an
effective tactic. The poppies were swiftly removed, and sotto voce
threats ensured no one would talk about it afterward. Today, visitors to
Monticello learn nothing about opium poppy cultivation or why Jefferson
cultivated it in his garden.
Disinformation about poppies has been spread far and wide. Some of it is
subtle, like when the New York Times talks about people growing "heroin
poppies." Some misinformation is so bald-faced as to stun the listener
into silence, as when a DEA agent tells a reporter that the process of
getting opium from opium poppies is so complex and dangerous that "I
don't even think a person with a Ph.D. could do it.
This enforced ignorance reduces the chances of anyone even accidentally
discovering the truth about poppies. Poring through back issues of
pharmaceutical industry news from Tasmania might yield a mother load of
cutting edge poppy science -- from genetically altered poppies that
ooze double-strength opium to state-of-the-art machines designed to
manufacture "poppy straw concentrate." Tasmania's output meets roughly a
third of the world's narcotic requirement. But how many people know that
Tasmania is the home of the world's largest and most modern opium industry?
Opium and opium poppy ignorance is augmented by widespread false
beliefs, chief among them that it is extremely difficult for opium
poppies to grow anywhere in the United States. Opium poppies surely
require exotic climates or special climatic conditions, don't they?
They're found on remote mountainsides in the Golden Triangle and
Afghanistan, where growing them is a secret art known only to a few
indigenous people who jealously guard the seeds from hostile competitors.
These beliefs are all widely held, but entirely untrue. Opium poppies,
in fact, grow nearly everywhere but the North and South Poles. The
second prong of the strategy is the copious propaganda that demonizes
opium, opium poppies and opiates. At times this demonization has been
brazenly racist, catering to the xenophobic American mind at the
beginning of the twentieth century. Later propaganda linked opium with
the despised German "Hun" who ate babies and (as was reported) had been
mixing narcotics into children's candy and women's face powder in a
diabolical plot to weaken the nation from the inside. Later, Germans
were replaced by communists, who also shipped narcotics to America's
youth to weaken and enslave us. This was the authoritative word from
Harry Anslinger, the infamous first Commissioner of the Federal Bureau
Another example of false history is the mythical "soldier's disease" or
"army disease" that supposedly plagued the land after the Civil War.
According to the story, opium and morphine were used so extensively
during the war as a painkiller for wounded soldiers (especially
amputees) that the inevitable result was opium and morphine addiction.
As a result, crowds of broken-down men roamed the countryside, ramming
themselves full of holes with their crude syringes, having been turned
into dope slaves by the good intentions of doctors.
This perfect example of anti-drug propaganda sounds plausible enough
that few ever question it. And it has endured long after researchers
discovered that this mythical legend was purely invention.
There is no documentation of any mass opiate addiction after the Civil
War. The term "soldier's disease" or its variants did not appear in
literature until decades later. Yet the story fits the officially
approved stereotype by portraying opium and morphine as so powerful and
addictive that they could rob anyone's soul.
If you knew that opium poppies do not grow in the U.S., you would not
recognize an opium poppy even if you were staring directly at it. So,
the idea of making opium tea from a bunch of dried decorative flowers
purchased at K-Mart is ridiculous -- absurd, really. If it were that
easy, wouldn't everyone be doing it?
Perhaps. But the establishment prefers to not test it. The idea of an
individual having control over one's own life, especially regarding pain
relief, is far too democratic to be embraced by tyrants.
The government and its allies in the narco-military complex have gone to
great lengths to set things up as they are, and not allow a shift in
control would affect licit or illicit sales of narcotics, poppy seeds,
and any products derived from Papaver somniferum. In a market the size
of America, nothing is too insignificant to generate huge sums of money.
And the opium poppy is hardly insignificant.
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Jim Hogshire is the author of many books, including most recently,
"Opium for the Masses: Harvesting Nature's Best Pain Medication"; (Feral
New book: _Weird Words: A Lovecraftian Lexicon_:
My collected fiction: _The Unspeakable and Others_
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