Heroin and the Law
Heroin is a dangerous and illegal drug, derived from the poppy plant (the source of opium). It is classified, by the federal government, as a Schedule I narcotic. This means that it is a mind-altering drug that has no medicinal properties and is not legal in any form.
Heroin comes as white heroin, black tar heroin, and brown powder heroin. All of these are produced through different means of manufacture and the use of different equipment and other chemicals to create the end product.
Federal law makes the possession or sale of any of these illegal products the cause for immediate arrest and prosecution. However, heroin was not always illegal. Before 1890, there were cities and states that made heroin legal for opium dens.
Opium dens were like bars, only for opium instead of alcohol and with beds to lie down on, rather than barstools to sit on. Men would go to these places to smoke opium and get high together on the premises. They would lie down on the provided beds, as the drug took its effects. It was a socially accepted and popular activity.
As with gambling, alcohol, and tobacco sales, in the United States today, the government noticed an opportunity for taxation. In 1890, Congress committed to law an act regarding heroin and other opiates. It was not to illegalize them, but to tax them. It took some time before the actual banning of opiate drugs began.
Once the detrimental effects of heroin became unavoidably clear, in 1924, the Heroin act declared the manufacture, distribution, and possession of heroin illegal. This caused a drastic change from the previously unregulated marketing of heroin to total restriction.
In 1922, the Narcotic Drug Import and Export Act further tightened the restrictions on Heroin. Finally, in 1932, the Uniform State Narcotic Act pulled the states together to form a cohesive set of laws about heroin and other opiates, to protect the public as a greater whole. Today, both state and federal governments maintain and enforce the laws restricting Heroin in any form.