Harry J. Anslinger retired from the now-defunct Federal Bureau of Narcotics 60 years ago, but he remains the ultimate boogey man of every pot smoker in the world—a kind of atavistic “human paraquat” whose overt racism and institutional cruelty remains at the heart of the ongoing global War on Drugs.

Anslinger returned to public consciousness last week with the release (on Hulu) of The United States vs. Billie Holiday, a new film from Lee Daniels (Push, Empire) telling the true story of how America’s first “drug czar” used the full power of federal law enforcement to target the legendary jazz singer for multiple arrests, ultimately hounding her into an early grave.

billie-holiday
This photo captured Billie Holiday in Sept. 1958, less than a year before her death….

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