Filling The Treasury Vaults With Opium

Sometimes war calls for drastic measures – like hoarding narcotics:

As the U.S. government contemplated entering World War II, it seemed to face a dilemma. How could they acquire and store opium in mass quantities, a raw material that was both subject to international regulations and publicly deemed illicit (thanks to the activities of the [Federal Bureau of Narcotics])? In fact, it turned out to be easy: the FBN simply waived enforcement of the laws private industry had drafted to protect its business interests, and the pharmaceutical companies drew on the traffickers’ networks to provide opium for the government. … The FBN managed to stockpile roughly three years worth of opium by 1941. And as the gold vaults in the Treasury Department were empty at that time, the government decided to use them for storing [3,000,000 pounds of] the illegal narcotic.

It paved the way for the pharmaceutical industry’s stance on illegal drugs today:

The most enduring legacy of opium stockpiling was not the actual material assembled, but a powerful new affiliation between the federal government, specifically the drug enforcement arm, and private pharmaceutical manufacturers like Merck, a company that is still doing a lively business. These bonds would carry over into a postwar world where the line between public and private was (and is) increasingly, lucratively, blurred.

Previous Dish on drug prohibition and Big Pharma here.