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Why the U.S. Made Marijuana Illegal

Discussion in 'Politics Discussion' started by Joshua Aaron, Jul 28, 2019.

  1. Joshua Aaron

    Joshua Aaron Autistic Bisexual

    Sep 6, 2018
    {Part 1/2}
    [Source: Why the U.S. Made Marijuana Illegal - history.com]
    Fear of Mexican immigrants led to the criminalization of marijuana.
    This week, Senator Cory Booker introduced legislation to legalize marijuananationwide. If passed, the New Jersey’s Democrat’s bill would “expunge federal marijuana convictions and penalize states with racially-disparate arrest or incarceration rates for marijuana-related crimes,” according to The Washington Post.

    Thing is, the drug wasn’t always prohibited. Anglo-Americans and Europeans have known about marijuana’s medicinal benefits since at least the 1830s. Around that time, Sir William Brooke O’Shaughnessy, an Irish doctor studying in India, documented that cannabis extracts could ease cholera symptoms like stomach pain and vomiting. By the late 19th century, Americans and Europeans could buy cannabis extracts in pharmacies and doctors’ offices to help with stomach aches, migraines, inflammation, insomnia, and other ailments.

    Just because people in the past used something for medicinal purposes doesn’t always mean it was a good idea. But modern research has backed up claims that marijuana has real medical benefits. For example, it can decrease seizures and alleviate pain without causing physical dependence.

    Despite its medical usefulness, many Americans’ attitudes towards cannabis shifted at the turn of the century. This was at least partly motivated by Mexican immigration to the U.S. around the time of the 1910 Mexican Revolution, according to Eric Schlosser, author of Reefer Madness: Sex, Drugs, and Cheap Labor in the American Black Market.

    “The prejudices and fears that greeted these peasant immigrants also extended to their traditional means of intoxication: smoking marijuana,” Schlosser wrote for The Atlantic in 1994. “Police officers in Texas claimed that marijuana incited violent crimes, aroused a ‘lust for blood,’ and gave its users ‘superhuman strength.’ Rumors spread that Mexicans were distributing this ‘killer weed’ to unsuspecting American schoolchildren.”

    It’s worth noting that research has shown alcohol to be more dangerous than marijuana. In addition, cannabis doesn’t really cause superhuman strength, and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s fact sheet on the drug says that “No death from overdose of marijuana has been reported.”

    Even though there was no evidence to support claims that marijuana had a Jekyll-and-Hyde effect, 29 states outlawed marijuana between 1916 and 1931. The Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 essentially banned it nation-wide despite objections from the American Medical Association related to medical usage. This act came just a year after the film Reefer Madness warned parents that drug dealers would invite their teenagers to jazz parties and get them hooked on “reefer.”

    The federal government and states continued to increase punishments related to marijuana until the late 1960s, when the laws began to touch white, upper-middle-class college students who were smoking the drug.

    “During the mid-1970s, virtually all states softened penalties for marijuana possession,” reports The New York Times. However, the federal government continued to cling, as it does today, “to a policy that has its origins in racism and xenophobia and whose principal effect has been to ruin the lives of generations of people.”

    Today, 29 states and Washington, D.C., have legalized medical marijuana, and 8 states plus D.C. have legalized it for recreational use. It’s illegality at the national level has created tension between the federal and state governments. However, growing consensus around the issue suggests that legalization—or rather, re-legalization—could be in America’s future.
  2. Joshua Aaron

    Joshua Aaron Autistic Bisexual

    Sep 6, 2018
    This second part is an excerpt from Drug War Rant about a man trying to get marijuana illegal due to his own greedy financial gain, which he did successfully. His name was Harry J. Anslinger.

    Harry J. Anslinger

    Anslinger was an extremely ambitious man, and he recognized the Bureau of Narcotics as an amazing career opportunity — a new government agency with the opportunity to define both the problem and the solution. He immediately realized that opiates and cocaine wouldn’t be enough to help build his agency, so he latched on to marijuana and started to work on making it illegal at the federal level.

    Anslinger immediately drew upon the themes of racism and violence to draw national attention to the problem he wanted to create. He also promoted and frequently read from “Gore Files” — wild reefer-madness-style exploitation tales of ax murderers on marijuana and sex and… Negroes. Here are some quotes that have been widely attributed to Anslinger and his Gore Files:

    “There are 100,000 total marijuana smokers in the US, and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos, and entertainers. Their Satanic music, jazz, and swing, result from marijuana use. This marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers, and any others.”

    “…the primary reason to outlaw marijuana is its effect on the degenerate races.”

    “Marijuana is an addictive drug which produces in its users insanity, criminality, and death.”

    “Reefer makes darkies think they’re as good as white men.”

    “Marihuana leads to pacifism and communist brainwashing”

    “You smoke a joint and you’re likely to kill your brother.”

    “Marijuana is the most violence-causing drug in the history of mankind.”

    And he loved to pull out his own version of the “assassin” definition:

    “In the year 1090, there was founded in Persia the religious and military order of the Assassins, whose history is one of cruelty, barbarity, and murder, and for good reason: the members were confirmed users of hashish, or marihuana, and it is from the Arabs’ ‘hashashin’ that we have the English word ‘assassin.'”

    Yellow Journalism

    Harry Anslinger got some additional help from William Randolf Hearst, owner of a huge chain of newspapers. Hearst had lots of reasons to help. First, he hated Mexicans. Second, he had invested heavily in the timber industry to support his newspaper chain and didn’t want to see the development of hemp paper in competition. Third, he had lost 800,000 acres of timberland to Pancho Villa, so he hated Mexicans. Fourth, telling lurid lies about Mexicans (and the devil marijuana weed causing violence) sold newspapers, making him rich.

    Some samples from the San Francisco Examiner:

    “Marihuana makes fiends of boys in thirty days — Hashish goads users to bloodlust.”

    “By the tons it is coming into this country — the deadly, dreadful poison that racks and tears not only the body, but the very heart and soul of every human being who once becomes a slave to it in any of its cruel and devastating forms…. Marihuana is a short cut to the insane asylum. Smoke marihuana cigarettes for a month and what was once your brain will be nothing but a storehouse of horrid specters. Hasheesh makes a murderer who kills for the love of killing out of the mildest mannered man who ever laughed at the idea that any habit could ever get him….”

    And other nationwide columns…

    “Users of marijuana become STIMULATED as they inhale the drug and are LIKELY TO DO ANYTHING. Most crimes of violence in this section, especially in country districts are laid to users of that drug.”

    “Was it marijuana, the new Mexican drug, that nerved the murderous arm of Clara Phillips when she hammered out her victim’s life in Los Angeles?… THREE-FOURTHS OF THE CRIMES of violence in this country today are committed by DOPE SLAVES — that is a matter of cold record.”

    Hearst and Anslinger were then supported by Dupont chemical company and various pharmaceutical companies in the effort to outlaw cannabis. Dupont had patented nylon, and wanted hemp removed as competition. The pharmaceutical companies could neither identify nor standardize cannabis dosages, and besides, with cannabis, folks could grow their own medicine and not have to purchase it from large companies.
  3. tree

    tree Blue/Green Staff Member V.I.P Member

    Jun 29, 2013
    • Informative Informative x 1
  4. Joshua Aaron

    Joshua Aaron Autistic Bisexual

    Sep 6, 2018
    My thoughts: Weed was made illegal for racist reasons. Opponents of legalized marijuana today are not aware of this. If they are aware of it, they completely ignore these facts and continue to want it to remain legalized. Cannabis was (and still is) a plant with many health benefits. Since seeds used to be readily available, anybody can grow it in their own back yard for cheap. However, the pharmaceutical industry disliked that.

    Marijuana was made illegal during a time where most Americans were Christian and it was also a time where racism was somehow okay, so the words "satanic" and the phrase "Reefers makes darkies ( derogatory term for black people) think they're good as white men" was appealing to the public.

    Despite there not being any scientific proof that weed caused people to go insane or become violent, the plant was banned anyways.

    Humans have been growing and using cannabis for thousands of years. Not only was it used for recreational and medical purposes, it was also used in clothing, as food clothing, and a countless amount of other applications. Heck, it was (and still is) used in the paper-making industry.

    In conclusion, there is really no good reason to have it remain illegal. The facts are all laid out, there is scientific and historic proof against the criminalization of marijuana. Thus, it shall be legal everywhere.
  5. oregano

    oregano Undercover Flying Squirrel (UFS)

    Mar 6, 2015
    I think that your source downplays the contribution of William R. Hearst to the banning of marijuana. Hearst may have provided most if not all of the financing for Reefer Madness, a movie specifically meant to create a demand among average people for criminalizing marijuana.

    In fact, Hearst, or one of his subordinates, invented the term "marihuana" in order to associate the plant with Mexico/Mexicans, both of which were deeply hated by whites. During the depths of the Great Depression, thousands of Mexican immigrants-and their US born children-were forcibly repatriated to Mexico, the argument being that they were taking jobs from white people. (Sound familiar?) Hearst's motivation? It likely had a lot to do with the fact that Hearst owned vast stretches of forest, and wanted hemp paper out of the picture. Also, Hearst wanted to fan anti-Mexican racism to sell newspapers.

    As for the pharma companies, much of the available "medicine" in the 1930s was "patent elixir", which was little better than what we would term "snake oil" and which greatly relied on the "placebo effect". Compounds such as opium, coca, and THC that actually worked threatened the sale of these elixirs. Gradually, everything was outlawed except the patent medicines. It wasn't until after WW2 that modern pharmacology came into existence. Eventually, the medicine makers had to concede the effectiveness of opium, coca, and other compounds, but that only seemed to make them want to double down on cannabis.

    Edit: Wikipedia says that the film was financed and made by "a church group" that is not named. I have heard multiple times that the true financier was Hearst. I find it likely that a church could not have afforded to make such a film in the mid 1930s, with a stated budget of $100,000 USD in 1936 dollars. Churches were generally poor then and financed by collection plates, drawing from the meager incomes of their parishioners. The wealthy "megachurch" would not emerge until the 1970s.
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2019