The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has a museum. Who knew?

It’s an incredibly well-done museum. Not too large. Not too much with the “interactive” stuff, either. Anna Grace and I were the only two visitors in the museum back in January but, it being a Federal building, we had to WEAR. A. MASK. Spectacular theater at this point.

I digress. Indeed, for every problem, perceived or real in the late 19th/early 20th century, there was a drug. Cocaine drops for an “instantaneous cure” of a toothache were the rage in the late 1880’s. Cocaine was used as anesthesia during dental procedures, so the natural logic followed  that cocaine drops for toothaches were a good idea. In case you’re wondering, those drops would cost around $4 in today’s currency.

Fussy Baby? A teaspoon of Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup (morphine and alcohol) was the remedy, except that one teaspoon of the syrup contained nearly ten times the recommended limit. As one might expect, many babies were soothed but never woke up again, leading to the medicine’s gruesome nickname, “The Baby Killer.” The actual number of children who died from or became addicted to this medicine is unknown, though estimates put that number in the thousands. From this came the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906, requiring active ingredients be disclosed on the packaging of medicine.

For that anxious 1960s housewife who wishes she could be out burning bras instead of laundering them? Why, just an anxiety medication whose side effects include paranoia and suicidal ideation.

By 1970 the U.S. had a collection of independent agencies tasked with enforcing Federal drug laws and coordinating drug control activities.

By the 1970s the U.S. also had a burgeoning drug problem  President Nixon launched the “War on Drugs” in 1973 through his Reorganization Plan No. 3, and formed the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. The new agency brought together the disparate agencies under the Department of Justice’s wing.

The U.S. is not alone in the War on Drugs.

As part of the section devoted to asset forfeiture, this (former) Hell’s Angel Leader’s Harley was seized when he and his fellow criminals bikers were arrested for running a methamphetamine and cocaine ring in 1996. This is one of two sections of the museum with rotating exhibits.

The other gallery with changing items is a collection of gifts presented to DEA officials following a successful mission.

On the subject of gifting, Colombian National Police gifted DEA the traditional death mask of Pablo Escobar, cast after his death. Escobar, founder of the Medellin cartel was dubbed the “King of Cocaine,” and was the wealthiest criminal in history at the time of his death.

In the “Breaking Bad” gallery, a series of exhibits on DIY illegal narcotics, including from everyday household items. The chemistry model is that of Cocaine, C17H21NO4.

A Burmese weight set, used to measure opium as well as spices. One stop shopping!

Various items related to Marijuana use. Or Pot, Mary Jane, Reefer–whatever you prefer. At my alma mater, the old hippies and anyone wanting a contact high gathered on the University of Michigan Diag every 1 April, during the annual Hash Bash to peacefully protest the reefer restrictions…by lighting up. Recreational marijuana was legalized in Michigan in 2018, but the  50 year old tradition continues.

By definition, drug trafficking is not a passive sport. Thus, elaborate booby traps like this bamboo and vine device must be in place to protect illegal crops from being detected. This particular trap is from Thailand, and really looks like it could do some bodily harm to whomever tripped off the detection wire. 😬

Wrapping up the museum, a section was devoted to the capture of “El Chapo.” Fun facts: El Chapo was illiterate, and really liked blinged out weapons, likely to compensate for, being nicknamed “The Shorty.” Escobar may have been the wealthiest drug trafficker, but El Chapo was considered the most powerful, and his wealth on par with that of Escobar. Great guys, these two.


Postscript. I was curious about “Reorganization Plans” that Presidents can draft. The idea sounds great on paper; that is, the president can use this framework to refine the organizational efficiency of the government. Should “efficiency” ever be in the same sentence with “government?”  (That is a rhetorical question.) Turns out that 9 Presidents have reorg-ed the government 16 times since these shenanigans began, furthering big government. Among the changes:

FDR created the Department of Health, Education and Welfare. That was eventually divided into separate Health and Human Services; and Education departments. Bigger is better!

JFK created the Office of Science & Technology Policy as part of the executive office of the President. Its leader resigned in disgrace last week. Science!

Nixon made NOAA and EPA appear out of thin air, bypassing the need for Congress to do its job. Congress took that to heart and has been largely useless since. 🤣

Jimmy Carter waved his magic wand and thus the Office of Personnel Management was born. When government increases in the name of efficiency, more government is needed to manage the government, of course.

Barack Obama tried to move NOAA from the Department of Commerce to the Department of the Interior, but that was rejected.

Now you know, too.