"From the time
kids are old enough to
turn on the television, public airwaves encourage teens watching television
to drink alcohol." - Gary Cifra
process is required for manufacturers that want to avoid taxes levied on
October 28, 1919 Congress
passed the Volstead Act.
Department estimates 60 million gallons of industrial ethanol are being
"The Prohibition Era in the United States is often
used as an example of how banning recreational substances not only increases
their popularity but also causes a boom in criminal activity. Indeed, it was
Prohibition that greatly increased the strength of the American Mafia, as the
top crime lords of the day grew rich through the clandestine trade and sale of
alcohol in addition to gambling and other activities." - Whitney Webb
Hidden in Plain Sight
Coolidge turns to chemistry as an enforcement tool.
denaturing formulas exist.
[dee-ney-cher] verb (used with object), de·na·tured,
1. to deprive (something) of its
natural character, properties, etc.
2. to render (any of various
alcohols) unfit for drinking by adding an unwholesome substance that does not
alter usefulness for other purposes.
3. Biochemistry . to treat (a
protein or the like) by chemical or physical means so as to alter its original
4. to make (fissionable material) unsuitable for use in an
atomic weapon by mixing it with unfissionable material.
Most simply add
methyl alcohol into the mix.
compounds that were less lethal, designed to make the alcohol taste so
awful that it became undrinkable.
To sell the stolen industrial
alcohol, the liquor syndicates employed
alchemists to "renature"
the products, returning them to a drinkable state.
alcohol becomes the primary source of liquor.
officials demand 10%
methanol be added to all ethanol
Christmas Eve 1926
Streets aglitter with snow and
lights a man afraid of Santa Claus
stumbles into the emergency room at New York City's Bellevue Hospital. He is
flushed, gasping with fear: Santa Claus, he tells the nurses, is chasing him
with a baseball bat.
- a paroxysm of death -
tallied up more than 60 people made desperately ill from
methanol poisoning - eight
Within the next two days, another 23 people died.
York City, 1,200 are sickened by
methanol toxicity regularly during
The bootlegged whiskies and so-called gins often made
The liquor produced in hidden stills frequently came
tainted with methanol.
This outbreak was bizarrely
The deaths came courtesy of the
government knows it is not stopping drinking by putting poison in alcohol." -
New York City medical examiner Charles Norris
1927 Deaths in New York City climb to 700.
time denaturing formulas included notable poisons -
kerosene and brucine (a plant
alkaloid closely related to strychnine),
zinc, mercury salts,
government would engage in such business. It is only in the curious fanaticism
of Prohibition that any
means, however barbarous, are considered justified." - Chicago Tribune
"Must Uncle Sam guarantee safety first for souses?" -
1928 "Practically all the liquor that
is sold in New York today is toxic!" - Charles Norris
assigns his toxicologist, Alexander Gettler, to
analyze confiscated whiskey for
poisons and publicized every death by alcohol poisoning.
points out that most of those sickened and dying are those "who cannot afford
expensive protection and deal in low grade stuff."
legislation pushes for a halt in the use of lethal chemistry.
"Only one possessing the instincts of a wild
beast would desire to kill or make blind the man who takes a drink of liquor,
even if he purchased it from one violating the Prohibition statutes." -
Sen. James Reed of Missouri
1933 End of
Prohibition: Estimates of at least 10,000 people from "denaturing".
national experiment in extermination." -
Charles Norris, the chief
medical examiner of New York City during the 1920s
ends only once the 18th Amendment is repealed in December 1933.
1970s DEA sprays cannabis fields in Mexico with
Paraquat, a herbicide, primarily intended to destroy
Government officials insist awareness of the toxin will deter
A half century later they echo the official mantra of the 1920s - if
some citizens ended up poisoned, well, they'd brought it upon
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