A History of Cannabis Prohibition by Thomas E Young

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If you missed Part 1 and want to catch up first it’s here


Cannabis is something that is more and more coming into the national discussion.  Whether it is a discussion around the dinner table, the office, or somewhere on the internet this topic is becoming something that can no longer be hidden or ignored.  This is most easily evidenced by just looking to this coming November 8th.  Yes there are many important things that will be there for us all to ponder on that fateful Tuesday this coming November; but, cannabis reform both in the venue of medical and recreational will be there.  The definite big player that can be the greatest changer of it all will be California.  This state is the 8th largest economy in the world and this would push cannabis reform forward as something that can truly no longer be ignored by the Federal government or the world. Many who fear this most likely are unsure of the actual basis of their fears.  Those fears are deeply rooted in the United States’ history of a combined stew of racism, corporate greed, and the avarice of the few over the needs of the many.

The scourge of 1937 came and went with the demonization of cannabis in full force.  It continued this way until early in the conflict of World War 2.  Japan had continued its conquest of the numerous islands of the southern pacific which resulted in many difficult consequences for the United States.  One of those consequences was the loss of the ability to import hemp which at the time was still a vital raw material for making rope, canvas, clothing .  So what did our government do?  It went all out to convince Americans that they needed to do their part for patriotism; Grow Hemp!  After all of the negative press that they had put out they knew they would have to truly pull out all the stops to convince the people that this would be the right thing to do.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture made a fourteen minute propaganda film, Hemp for Victory.  The U.S. government even went to the incredible length of urging kids at a 4-H club in Kentucky to grow multiple acres supplying them with the seeds to start !  But sure enough once the war was won and done they went right back to the parochial hatred of cannabis.  Even going as far as disavowing that the Hemp for Victory film had ever been created!

Well the ’50s came and the U.S. was busy with its’ over abundance and prosperity while mostly just ignoring cannabis.  That was just something those kooky beatniks used plus those crazy jazz musicians would have been the pervasive thought of the day.  The ’60s rolled in and things were about to start to change.  First the war from hell that was a place where young men were finding a plant that started to help them numb themselves to the atrocities that surrounded them  All the while kids at home were becoming more aware and disenfranchised with everything around them from their parents to the U.S government .  The biggest change coming would be in the most evil way anyone could imagine; Richard Nixon’s hateful, vengeful war on drugs!

First would come, in 1970, the Controlled Substances Act , under which new guidelines and thus controls would be created regarding all drugs within the United States.  There are multiple levels but the worst is Schedule 1 which is exactly where cannabis (marijuana) was placed.  It shares this place of infamy with other Schedule 1 items like Heroine, LSD,  and a few other items that are considered to have no medical value.  Just to place things in context Schedule 2 which is not as dangerous contains morphine, cocaine, amphetamines, oxycodone, and more.  This gave President Nixon the tool he needed to fight back against some parts of the nation that he hated the most; the youth protesting his war, enlisted who were using, blacks and others (Nixon had a lot of hate for lots of people something that most American citizens truly didn’t know at the time).  It is best expressed by John Ehrlichman; who was counsel and Assistant to the President for Domestic Affairs under President Richard Nixon, said “Look, we understood we couldn’t make it illegal to be young or poor or black in the United States, but we could criminalize their common pleasure.”.  Congrats to them for figuring out how to do an end run around the laws of the nation which protected us with falsehoods and lies that they contrived into new hateful and damaging laws!  But Nixon was not even close to being done he was just gearing up.  In 1971 the term “the War on Drugs” would be coined by the media right after Nixon made a special message to congress regarding Drug Abuse Prevention and Control.  Next came the creation of the D.E.A., the Drug Enforcement Agency, which was an amalgamation of the Bureau of Customs, Customs Agency Service; and, other federal office. We can only thank our lucky stars that Nixon’s over reaching desire to have power over everything came to a head and left him impeached and in disgrace by 1974.  It is truly frightening to think just what he would have continued to do if he had been left in power and unchecked.  Things were indeed dark enough but the true heart of darkness was still yet to come.

Part 3 of thomas E Youngs History of Cannabis is now available here