Last updated on: 9/24/2019 | Author:

Jan. 1915 – President Wilson Signs Harrison Act, the Model for Future Drug Regulation Legislation

“Representative Francis B. Harrison (D-NY) introduced three bills in 1913 to remedy the [drug] problem by controlling the domestic manufacture of opium and by regulating the international opium trade. According to his bills, opium could be imported or exported only for medicinal purposes. Harrison also proposed that the government ‘…impose a special tax upon all persons who… sell, distribute or give away opium or coca leaves…’

President Woodrow Wilson signed all three of Harrison’s measures into law by Jan. 1915.

The Harrison Act, as the final proposal was known, required every physician who prescribed opium or any of its derivatives to put a serial number, which could only be obtained from the Internal Revenue Department, on each prescription… Every doctor who wished to prescribe narcotics was required to register annually with the federal government.”

Although it does not apply to marijuana, the Harrison Act becomes the model for drug regulation on the federal level and is considered the basis for the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937.