drug czar

Office of National Drug Control Policy acting director Richard Baum
Pat Bradley/WAMC

The acting head of the Office of National Drug Control Policy is in Vermont this week to study the state’s response to the opioid crisis.  The nation’s “drug czar” says the Green Mountain State’s programs and efforts are models that can be emulated nationally.

Commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics from its establishment in 1930 until his retirement in 1962, Harry Anslinger is the United States’ little known first drug czar. Anslinger was a profligate propagandist with a flair for demonizing racial and immigrant groups and perhaps best known for his zealous pursuit of harsh drug penalties and his particular animus for marijuana users.

But what made Anslinger who he was, and what cultural trends did he amplify and institutionalize? In her book, Assassin of Youth, Alexandra Chasin looks to answer those questions and explore Anslinger’s social, cultural, and political legacy.

Alexandra Chasin is associate professor of literary studies at Eugene Lang College, the New School.