Marijuana Politics PT 2 – Origins of Prohibition


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Marijuana Politics

Last week we spoke a bit about the current political climate surrounding cannabis. We spoke about how marijuana politics differ on a state and federal level within the US. Today however, we’re taking a trip back in time to the year that cannabis was first made “Illegal” on a federal level.

Marijuana Politics – Going back to Reefer Madness

Marijuana Politics
It’s the 1930s. Alcohol prohibition just ended a few years prior. An entire department was created to track down illegal bootleggers and suddenly found themselves without a purpose. Headed by Harry J. Anslinger, a new threat had to be found.

Anslinger, who so happened to be friends of a newspaper tycoon [Randolph Hearst], decided that cannabis would be the best ‘new enemy’ in the US to maintain his position within the government. Along with his buddy Hearst, they started to make a negative propaganda campaign against a new threat, “Marihuana!”

The reason they had to first taint the good name of cannabis was because it was widely used within the US. Commonly known as Hemp to the majority of Americans, a crucial crop to the creation of the U.S, the re-branding allowed Anslinger and his ilk to taint the good name of cannabis.

Over a few years, with stories like “Marijuana makes you violent” and fictional tales of crimes, they managed to sway public opinion.

And in 1937, the Marihuana Tax Act was passed.

This didn’t directly outlaw weed, but rather required citizens to obtain a Tax Stamp to grow it. Unfortunately, the government wasn’t handing those out anymore. If you were caught growing without a stamp, you’d be breaking the law.

Ramping it up to full on illegality

Marijuana Politics
There was a stint during WWII where hemp became legal once more, but after the war it became illegal once more.

It remained in this tax-limbo up until about the 1960s. During the Nixon administration, the War on Drugs was born.

Nixon was fed up with hippie protesters and “the blacks” [as he called them] and needed a legal excuse to disrupt constitutionally protected protest. He discovered that cannabis was the common denominator.

He then ordered a commission to find all the negative effects of weed. This commission was called the Schaefer Commission. They actually found that cannabis was quite harmless and recommended that it be legalized.

Nixon ignored the data from his commission and went ahead and made cannabis a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substance Act alongside heroin and other drugs.

 

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