A History of Cannabis Prohibition by Thomas E Young
Follow Thomas E Young on Twitter
The history of cannabis is long and rich in its content. I do hope to touch upon many of the interesting and wonderful facts of this incredible plant. For now though, I am going to concentrate on just the most current era and within the United States.
There are moments going back to the early 20th century that are notable in the United States regarding the history of Cannabis. One that stands out from the beginning of that time line is most definitely the year 1937. This would be the year that the Marijuana Tax Stamp act would be brought about. Although there is ample evidence that the Federal Government was highly complicit at many levels and that there were some major players from the private sector that colluded in these acts such as Lammot DuPont and William Randolph Hearst, along with the most influential individual to work towards the marginalization and demonization of cannabis was Harry Anslinger.
So this mostly began here abouts with one evil man, Harry J. Anslinger (OK, evil in my opinion). In 1929 Anslinger was working for the Bureau of Prohibition which while geared towards prohibition of both alcohol and drugs had the primary goal of Alcohol prohibition. By the early 1930’s it would have been apparent to Anslinger and others that this most important role was coming to a close with the ratification of the 21st amendment (repealing the 18th) in 1933 thus ending the prohibition of alcohol. Anslinger most likely would have enjoyed his job (remember this is the time of the Great Depression from 1929 until approximately 1939), not only at the Bureau of Prohibition but also at the Federal Bureau of Narcotics to which he was appointed to this post by Andrew W. Mellon the Secretary of the Treasury who just happened to be his wife’s uncle. Can you say nepotism?
Anslinger knew that he would have to come up with something creative to fight against since the fight against alcohol was about to be lost. So why not team up with others (remember DuPont and Hearst, more about them another time) who would not only also benefit from this but would gladly aide him in the fight against this new scourge. Interestingly enough though is the fact that originally Anslinger himself had not seen cannabis as a issue and stated ” “there is no more absurd fallacy” than the idea it makes people violent”. As with far too many government officials he easily forgot this statement and completely reversed himself in 1937 saying “Marihuana (sic marijuana) is a short cut to the insane asylum. … a storehouse of horrid specters … Hasheesh (sic Hashish) makes a murderer who kills for the love of killing.” Anslinger testified to congress in 1937 that “Marijuana is the most violence-causing drug in the history of mankind.”
Wow, now there is a 180 that would make any politician proud! All right he had his demon, so now how to kill it. He, along with the help of the Treasury Department came up with the Marijuana Tax Stamp act in December 1937. This was a crazy catch 22 law so that if a farmer wanted to grow hemp (a non psychoactive form of cannabis and a major industry at the time) or cannabis he would need to obtain this stamp which could only be obtained in D.C. by bringing the cannabis to there to apply for the stamp but doing so was a violation of the law so they would be in turn incarcerated for doing so. So this added up to far to many Americans being jailed for doing what they had done for years; grow cannabis.
From there he let state after state pass laws which outlawed the growth, production or use of marijuana (interestingly enough the last state to follow would be the state of New Hampshire which just happens to have some of the most prohibitive laws for punishment regarding cannabis). Ok so that is the beginning of the crazy and devious campaign against cannabis by the Federal Government in a nutshell.
Part 2- The Nixon Years is here