Examining the historical background, political forces, key influencers, and corporations that succeeded in prohibiting the cultivation and use of cannabis: one of the most versatile botanical herbs found on earth that provides both medicinal products and the fibers that can be woven into cloth, canvas, rope, clothing, and paper.
Factors That Resulted in the War on Cannabis
As noted in a report published in Medical Marijuana Inc, News:
“By the late 18th century, early editions of American medical journals recommend hemp seeds and roots for the treatment of inflamed skin, incontinence and venereal disease,” write Patrick Stack and Claire Suddath of TIME Magazine. “Irish doctor William O’Shaughnessy first popularized marijuana’s medical use in England and America… He found marijuana eased the pain of rheumatism and was helpful against discomfort and nausea in cases of rabies, cholera, and tetanus⁸.”
The early years of the 20th century in America were influenced by the political reforms advanced by Progressive Era activists. The first in a series of consumer protection laws that Congress passed was the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 that led to the formation of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Allowing the government to have oversight authority over the drug market opened the door for corporate interests to step in and lobby in favor of their patent medicines and medical procedures, rather than natural remedies like cannabis that had been freely available and prescribed for decades.
The influx of Mexican immigrants who arrived in the United States to escape the turmoil caused by the Mexican Revolution (1910-20) began to shift public opinion away from the use of cannabis and hemp. The migrant workers smoked the cannabis leaf in cigarettes and pipes as a means to relax and unwind – a practice that was largely unfamiliar to most Americans at that time. The Mexicans referred to their cannabis as ‘marihuana’ – a racially-charged label that politicians, government officials, and the media adopted to promote their drug demonization efforts.
Alarmed, California became the first state to pass marijuana legislation that outlawed the preparation of hemp, or loco weed. Other states such as Wyoming (1915), Texas (1919), and Iowa (1923) followed suit.
Starting in the Roaring Twenties and continuing for years to come, anti-marijuana campaigns were waged to sway public opinion about the alleged effects that the drug caused. These campaigns included unproven claims that marijuana turns users into violent killers and drug addicts.
Besides Mexicans, marijuana use became associated with the black community and popular jazz artists such as Louis Armstrong, who was arrested for his recreational use of marijuana in 1930.
Anslinger, Hearst, and Big Pharma
In 1930 Harry J. Anslinger was appointed director of the new Federal Bureau of Narcotics division of the Treasury Department – a position he would hold until 1962. He was, in effect, the first drug czar of the United States. While the Harrison Act of 1914 authorized federal tax penalties for cocaine and opiates, Anslinger felt that such cases were too few in number to build and promote his agency. When legal production and consumption of alcoholic beverages resumed in 1933 with the repeal of the 18th amendment and passage of the 21st amendment, Anslinger sought to focus on a highly visible target, and outlawing marijuana became his goal.
Anslinger’s views about marijuana usage reflected his racial bias:
“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.”
“Marijuana is an addictive drug which produces in its users insanity, criminality, and death.”
“Marijuana is the most violence-causing drug in the history of mankind.”
An influential ally in Anslinger’s war on cannabis came from William Randolph Hearst, the rich and famous newspaper magnate. Hearst disliked Mexicans, largely because he had lost 800,000 acres of timberland to Pancho Villa during the Mexican Revolution. As a heavy investor in the timber industry that supported his newspaper chain, Hearst did not want competition in the form of hemp paper. Reprising the yellow journalism tactics deployed during the Spanish American War of 1898, Hearst profited from the sale of newspapers that featured sensationalized tales of the (supposed) violence caused by marijuana. Newspapers such as Hearst’s called Mexican cannabis use a “marijuana menace.”
The DuPont chemical company and several pharmaceutical companies jumped on the bandwagon to outlaw cannabis. DuPont held the patent on nylon and did not want competition from hemp. On the other hand, the drug companies knew that they could not standardize cannabis dosages and would stand to lose massive profits if people were allowed to grow their own cannabis to treat their illnesses.
After two years of secret planning, Anslinger manipulated Congress into passing The Marijuana Tax Act of 1937, overcoming the objection of Dr. William C. Woodward, Legislative Council of the American Medical Association. The bill imposed a tax of roughly one dollar on anyone who dealt commercially in cannabis while implementing penalties and enforcement provisions to cannabis handlers.
The Swinging Sixties were noteworthy as a decade when a large number of college students and the younger generation began to take marijuana and LSD to get high. In response, Congress passed The Controlled Substances Act of 1970 that was signed into law by President Nixon. The law classified marijuana, heroin, and LSD as Schedule 1 drugs that have no accepted medical use and possess the most potential for abuse. The legal opposition to marijuana usage runs afoul of all the documented evidence that cannabis is one of the most beneficial herbs on earth.
The Tide is Turning for Marijuana and Cannabidiol
Thanks to scientists and researchers who identified the connection between the cannabinoids in the plant and the cannabinoid receptor system in the human body, the prevailing attitude toward marijuana began to shift in 1996 when California became the first state in the U.S. to legalize medical cannabis.
As noted in Dr. Mercola’s report on cannabis that was published on Waking Times:
There are cannabinoid receptors in your brain, lungs, liver, kidneys, immune system and more; the therapeutic (and psychoactive) properties of marijuana occur when a cannabinoid activates a cannabinoid receptor. Your body also has naturally occurring endocannabinoids similar to THC that stimulate your cannabinoid receptors and produce a variety of important physiologic processes.
The two most important cannabinoids are cannabidiol (CBD) and the psychoactive component, THC. Now legal in 30 states, most of the states allow limited dispensing of medical marijuana under certain medical circumstances.
Not surprisingly, Big Pharma is attempting to classify CBD oil as a drug and, thus, make it illegal to sell as a supplement. The drug makers consider cannabis to be a major competitor, and rightfully so. On June 25, 2018, GW Pharmaceuticals became the first company to gain FDA approval for a CBD-based drug.
Cannabis: A Lost History
Dr. Mercola | Waking Times
July 12, 2018
Why Is Marijuana Banned? The Real Reasons Are Worse Than You Think
By Johann Hari | HuffPost Blog
Dec 6, 2017
The Racist Roots of Marijuana Prohibition
Foundation for Economic Education
Apr 11, 2017
WHY IS MARIJUANA ILLEGAL? A LOOK AT THE HISTORY OF MJ IN AMERICA
Medical Marijuana News
Why is Marijuana Illegal?
by Pete Guither
Sativa vs. Indica vs. Hybrid: What’s the Difference Between Cannabis Types?
Bailey Rahn | Leafly.com
July 10, 2018
What is the difference between Cannabis and Marijuana?
Cannabis Seeds Store
Pure Food and Drug Act: A Muckraking Triumph
United States History
Recent Articles of Interest
Michigan Approves 11 New Conditions for Medical Marijuana Treatment
Erin Corbett | Fortune
July 11, 2018
The state of Michigan on Monday approved 11 new conditions for treatment with medical marijuana, including arthritis, autism, and chronic pain.
15 Essential Health Benefits of THC
By Anna Wilcox and Rachel Garland
May 16, 2018
Do we really need THC – the most widely recognized component of cannabis? This is the same compound that produces the “high” in cannabis. It has generated more than its fair share of critics, and many believe that the compound has no medicinal value at all. Yet, science has demonstrated this is far from the case. In conjunction with other cannabinoids, the molecule has been found to help people deal with mental and physical ailments.
1936-1950 Anti-weed film posters
by Alex Q. Arbuckle | Mashable
In 1936, the film Reefer Madness (was) released. Originally conceived as a morality tale to warn parents against the dangers of cannabis, it was recut into an exploitation film, a lurid melodrama about a group of dope-smoking teens who descend into a hell of murder, suicide and madness brought on by the infernal herb.
Cannabis: A Lost History (FULL DOCUMENTARY)
Published on Jan 4, 2018
Reefer Madness (1936) – Original Title: Tell Your Children
Published on Apr 20, 2012
Cannabis History – Harry J. Anslinger
Published on Apr 3, 2009