OPIATES IN BALTIMORE AND BEYOND: HISTORICAL MATERIALIST EXAMINATION

By: Rojizo

(Oxy in juxtaposition with heroin, symbolizing the pharma pipeline)

Over 10 percent of Baltimore is addicted to heroin and has been since the 60s. With a population of just over 600,000 its equivalent to Boston or neighboring Washington DC. Many thousands of white collar and blue collar commuters travel on the I-95 every day to DC for work, but there’s another commute happening miles north of the 95; The I 70 from Hagerstown to Baltimore, colloquially known as the Heroin Highway. People from every town on the western corridor driving the 70, sometimes multiple trips, to score “H” in B-more. The fact is it’s #1 for heroin usage in America1. The popular conception pushed by the elites goes that poverty is driving the majority Black population to drug use, and this is the reason the city has so many problems with drugs. This is a racist and ignorant misunderstanding of the problem. What they fail to understand is that it takes two to tango, and there is a dialectical or 2-sided way to look at this problem. We must first ask how does opium get here? 

Baltimore’s heroin isn’t made here. Baltimore is situated in the mid-atlantic, on a natural body of water called the Chesapeake Bay. This location makes it an excellent transport hub. Understanding the history of opium in Baltimore requires a quick look into the life of Capt. John O’Donnell, a euro-settler who used kidnapped Afrikans to build up an opium trading empire between Baltimore and China2. O’Donnell, while squatting on stolen Piscataway tribal lands, used market manipulation in China to cheaply purchase opium that was being peddled by the British via British Afghanistan to the Chinese against their will (see Opium Wars). He saw that Baltimore was uniquely situated geographically, and planned out his drug empire. O’Donnell was the first to sling dope on a mass scale in Baltimore and after creating the first opioid epidemic, O’Donnell used his ill gotten millions and funded the construction of the B & O railroad which created the first “opium highway” across the country in the early 1800s. 

Enslaver and British East India Company Captain, John O’Donnell’s statue in Baltimore. Removed in 2021 by Canton Anti Racism Alliance.

Speed up to the past year, Mexico’s federal government have announced  falling poppy production due to their increasingly devastating drug war3 (that has resulted in over 320,000 deaths since 2005). This is in conjunction with the recent announcement from the Taliban government in Afghanistan that all poppy production will be banned. This is hugely important for the heroin market because historically these two countries account for the majority of all opium production in the world. ABC news reports, “The ban is reminiscent of the previous Taliban rule in the late 1990s when the movement espousing a harsh interpretation of Islam outlawed poppy production. At that time, the ban was implemented countrywide within two years, and according to the U.N. largely helped eradicate poppy production.” Seems like a win right? 

Opioids are going no-where and its because the euro settler owning class are doing exactly what their fore-bear John O’Donnell did, only they have perfected it and changed a few names here and there. We should all be familiar with the case of Purdue Pharma, and their dope-pushing. John O’Donnells corporate lineage, they dwarf the street level organizations that the elites claim are the “real” source of the opioid epidemic4 . By their own admission they dealt the dope intentionally and without consideration for the health of the working class, “‘Purdue admitted that it marketed and sold its dangerous opioid products to healthcare providers, even though it had reason to believe those providers were diverting them to abusers,’  said Rachael A. Honig, First Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey.  ‘The company lied to the Drug Enforcement Administration about steps it had taken to prevent such diversion, fraudulently increasing the amount of its products it was permitted to sell. Purdue also paid kickbacks to providers to encourage them to prescribe even more of its products.’” These corporate elites were pushing numbers that make el Chapo look like a corner boy, and they did it through a web of bribery and deceit, “‘The abuse and diversion of prescription opioids has contributed to a national tragedy of addiction and deaths, in addition to those caused by illicit street opioids,’  said Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen”. Keeping in mind the previously mentioned Taliban ordinance in 1993 against poppy, its more than a little suspicious that when heroin supplies became unstable, Big Pharma comes up with an opioid substitute that racks our nations with a new wave of addiction starting in the late 90s. This is because it serves the ruling class’ interests that we stay doped up and malleable, an addict is easier to control and manipulate.

While some misinformed folks may look at the lower poppy production and dust their hands in victory, we know the reality. The capitalists at the top won’t stop making money at our expense just because the poppy harvest didn’t come home as planned. Already we see synthetic opioids following the same historical route from China to the US, carried by the American Capitalists, to your front door5. A new and more dangerous synthetic, aka lab made, opioid known as Isotonitazene is killing people in Florida. Here’s the attorney general Ashley Moody describing the danger, and parroting the abstinence trope, “For years, we have been warning about the dangers of fentanyl and how just one pill laced with this synthetic opioid can kill. Now, there is a new, deadlier drug being found in Florida. Isotonitazene, also known as ISO, is so strong that it can kill just by coming in contact with someone’s skin or being accidentally inhaled. ISO has already been linked to overdose deaths in Florida, so please, never take any illicit drug and know that using just one time could cost you your life.” As if she doesn’t know that abstinence has never proven effective because it doesn’t address the cause of drug use, nor does she acknowledge it is her own team lacing the drugs in the first place!

There is an ongoing racist genocidal campaign across the US being carried out by law enforcement personnel. This manifests in multitudinal ways with the most visceral being the televised lynching’s that are an everyday occurrence, but there is another more seedy side. This is part of the ongoing racist genocide being carried out against black and brown people by a collusion between the capitalists and state forces6. Police cut drugs with the deadly fentanyl and now Iso, in an effort to kill off the disaffected colonized population. Due to the historical development of the country, part of which this article has alluded to, black and brown workers are being killed at much higher rates by the laced drugs despite the fact that whites use drugs at an equal rate and the officers know it.

When the evidence is laid in front of you, it is plain to see that there is more going on than a simple personal responsibility narritive. People do have a duty to act responsibly in their community and deter drug use, but we must have a proper analysis of the problem. The drugs aint fall from the sky, they are being put into our babies hands by the descendants of John O’Donnell and the pigs. Addiction counselling can only do so much for our peoples, because addiction has been proven to act like a disease and there is consistent societal pressure to use. The US government is guilty of seizing on this opportunity to kill indiscriminately. If we don’t take this threat seriously, Baltimore and other cities grappling with the same problem will stay chained to the capitalist yoke, doomed to a sickly stupor brought on by the white supremacist imperialist american bourgeois class.

1. https://www.retreatbehavioralhealth.com/blog/baltimore-the-heroin-capital-of-the-united-states/

2. https://www.baltimoremagazine.com/section/businessdevelopment/how-baltimore-invented-the-modern-world/

3. https://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/frontpage/2021/July/unodc-report-shows-significant-drop-in-opium-poppy-cultivation-area-in-mexico.html

4. https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/opioid-manufacturer-purdue-pharma-pleads-guilty-fraud-and-kickback-conspiracies

5. http://www.myfloridalegal.com/newsrel.nsf/newsreleases/A19BD1D4E0D39DFD852588070057E62D

6. https://www.newsweek.com/police-officers-arrested-allegedly-distributing-nearly-8-kilograms-fentanyl-1634389

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