Harrison Narcotics Tax Act Law and Legal Definition

The Harrison Narcotics Tax Act (“Act”) was a U.S. federal legislation enacted to impose taxes on the sale, distribution, manufacturing, importation, and distribution of cocoa leaves, opium, and any form of products originating from either. However, the law did not prohibit the use or possession of cocoa or opium, usually used as heroin or cocaine, it only prohibited them from being profited on without also paying a portion to government tax.

The Act was proposed by Representative Francis Burton Harrison of New York and was approved on December 14, 1914. The Act came into effect in 1915.

The Act allowed physicians to prescribe narcotics to patients in the course of normal treatment, but not for the treatment of addiction. Although technically illegal for purposes of distribution and use, the distribution, sale, and use of cocaine was still legal for registered companies and individuals.

The warning label, "Warning: May be habit forming," on addictive medications is a direct result of the Harrison Narcotics Tax Act.