Episode 19: A Brief History of Why Cannabis was Banned in the US Nearly 80 Years Ago


– You’re listening to cannabis health radio. Here are your hosts Ian Jessop and Corrie Yelland. – Ian: Welcome to another edition
of cannabis health radio, I’m Ian Jesssop. Corrie Yelland is away for the next several
episodes, so I’ll be hosting this by myself. Attitudes in the United States
about marijuana are certainly changing. This was evident on Tuesday
in the 9 States that had marijuana on the ballot, either for recreational or medical use,
nearly every vote passed. Probably the most significant was approval
for recreational use of marijuana in
California, the most populous US State. Now all states on the u.s. west coast
allow the use of recreational marijuana and the Lieutenant Governor of
California Gavin Newsom said I think it’s the beginning of the end of the
drug war on marijuana in the United States I think will have repercussions
internationally particularly in Mexico and Latin America and there are a
million people who tomorrow can begin the process of clearing the records as
many listeners are aware the government of canada has promised to legalize
marijuana in May of next year having been in use for thousands of years it
raises the question of why cannabis marijuana became prohibited in the first
place because there are still millions and millions of people who continue to
believe cannabis is a dangerous drug I want to give you the historical
background on this plant why it has been demonized in his short book
understanding medical marijuana author GUI Reb in ski offers a wonderful
overview in one of his chapters titled why is marijuana illegal and I want to
share that with you you can also go on gooeys website gooey is spelled g o OE y
gooey Reb in ski Rab I n s ki calm and you can get a copy of a short book it’s
only about 235 pages in it he states that cannabis has been illegal for less
than 1% of the time that has been in use by humans primarily for medical purposes
and not euphoria ironically the first marijuana law in
the United States in Jamestown Colony Virginia in 1619 was one requiring
farmers to grow it similar laws existed in the Virginia Colony between 1763 and
1767 hemp the industrial form of the cannabis plant that features few or no
euphoria producing flowers was so common in colonial America that citizens used
it as legal tender and could even pay their taxes with it a hundred years
later the US census of 1850 documented more than 8,000 hemp plantations of at
least 2,000 acres II one of the first municipal laws banning cannabis was a
1914 ordinance in El Paso Texas supposedly intended to curb violence now
a fight had erupted between a Mexican accuse Italy under the influence of
marijuana and a white citizen the real purpose of the law however was to
discriminate against Mexican immigrants not the Erb in their pocket Mexican men
had begun to socialize with white women much to the chagrin of the conservative
white leaders in business men who ran El Paso
because Mexicans used marijuana its prohibition gave American authorities a
convenient excuse to deport them similarly opium was banned in the United
States in 1909 – in part discriminate against Chinese immigrants a Texas
senator in an official statement from the floor of the Senate proclaimed all
Mexicans are crazy and this stuff marijuana is what makes them crazy when
Montana banned marijuana in 1927 the butte standard quoted the legislature as
saying when some beet field peon takes a trace of this stuff he thinks he’s just
been elected president of Mexico so he starts to execute all of his political
enemies the first law in the u.s. banning marijuana was possibly based on
religious intolerance in 1910 a group of Mormons from Utah supposedly traveled to
Mexico returning to Salt Lake City with marijuana
the leaders of the church not pleased with the adoption of cannabis by some of
its members bandit although no official
documentation of this exists within the Mormon Church the influence of the
Mormons was significant enough that some historians believe Church policies
sometimes became state laws thus marijuana was outlawed in Utah as part
of the sweeping poisons and narcotic drugs legislation in 1915 in the
following years several other states banned marijuana Wyoming in 1915 Texas
in 1919 Iowa Nevada Oregon Washington Arkansas in 1923 and Montana in 1927 all
enacted laws prohibiting the possession of cannabis that intended in large part
to discriminate against mexican-americans
in 1913 California banned a variety of narcotics including opium but excluded
marijuana ironically paraphernalia such as pipes for smoking extracts tinctures
or other narcotic preparations of hemp or local weed were outlawed is in the
same legislation yes you heard that correctly a state law referred to
cannabis as loco weed by 1930 nearly 30 of the 48 states had passed laws
outlawing the cultivation sale and possession of marijuana and a variety of
narcotics often under the official justification of food and drug purity a
popular progressive movement after the turn of the century now two men are
primarily responsible for the modern federal level legal prohibition of
marijuana that has been in existence for the past 79 years those two men Harry
Anslinger and William Randolph Hearst Anslinger was an ambitious government
bureaucrat who in 1930 became director of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics the
precursor to today’s drug enforcement agency or DEA nepotism was in full force
Anslinger was appointed by his wife’s uncle Treasury secretary Andrew Mellon
of Mellon bank one of the most powerful financial institutions in the world at
the time Hearst was a publishing and timber mogul who owned major newspapers
and popular magazines think of him as the evil Rupert Murdoch of his day
Hearst according to one biography hated minorities and used his chain of
newspapers to aggravate racial tensions at every opportunity his motives were
understandable he lost 800,000 acres of timberland to Pancho Villa during the
Mexican Revolution his means of institutionalizing his bigotry however
were less deserving of empathy the term marijuana derived from the Mexican slang
marijuana with an H either purposefully or accidentally misspelled was first
coined in the United States in the 1890s it was popularized by the early 1930s by
the Federal Bureau of Narcotics and in articles appearing in magazines and
newspapers owned by Hearst Hearst via his publishing an empire continually
attempted to taint public perception of the plant by leveraging popular
prejudice against mexican-americans the Mexican Spanish term marijuana with an H
was used to elude the public’s existing familiarity and comfort with hemp and
the medical application of cannabis tinctures and by the way it was not
commonly smoked recreational drug at the time in fact the terms marijuana with an
H in marijuana with a J weren’t even included in official dictionaries at the
time if not for the efforts of Anslinger and Hearst the herb would almost
certainly be referred to as cannabis the Latin name that’s most common in Europe
the United Kingdom and Australia Anslinger drew upon the social
stereotypes and prejudices of the day to stigmatize cannabis there are 100,000
total marijuana smokers in the US he said and most are Negros Hispanics
Filipinos and entertainers their satanic music as and swing results from
marijuana use this marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations
with Negroes entertainers and others and slinger also made highly
inflammatory and provocative statements involving significant fear-mongering
such as marijuana is an addictive drug which produces in its users insanity
criminality and death his race aside is revealed by statements such as reefer
makes darkies think they’re as good as white men he also proclaimed you smoke a
joint and you’re likely to kill your brother Hurston Anslinger were supported
by Lamont DuPont of the DuPont chemical company and a variety of pharmaceutical
corporations all of which had a financial interest in defeating hemp to
promote their own products for example DuPont began selling rayon the first
man-made fiber in 1924 and invented nylon a synthetic competitor to hemp in
1935 one recent pharmaceutical and petrochemical companies disliked
cannabis was because people could grow it themselves it should be noted that
Andrew Mellon the Treasury secretary who appointed Anslinger to the Federal
Bureau of Narcotics and the wealthiest man in America at the time
along with Mellon Bank was a financial backer of DuPont in February of 1938
Popular Mechanics reported that hemp was the new billion-dollar crop in the
United States due entirely to the introduction of mass production
harvesting equipment the hemp de coeur Decatur a farm machine that mechanically
separated the fiber of the hemp stock threatened to make hemp a strong
competitor to wood the dekor decatur saved massive amounts of labour and made
hemp production affordable and practical on a small scale such as family farms
capable of yielding up to three crops per year in southern climates one acre
of hemp produces about the same amount of cellulose used to create paper among
other things as four acres of trees amazingly hemp can be made into about
5000 different products from paper clothing and food to fuel and
construction timber the promise of hemp-based products was so great that
they threatened to replace those made from
kirlyam based petrochemicals such as synthetic fibers and even gasoline if
you think this was just slightly intimidating to the likes of corporate
barons such as Hearst Mellon and DuPont you’re right
billions in profits were at stake for entrenched old-school businesses and
their financial backers and cronies surprisingly Henry Ford’s first model T
automobile was built using hemp plastic panels not mental which featured an
impact strength ten times greater than steel ford envisioned his car running on
fuel made from hemp or other plants these facts threaten du Pont’s
petrochemical market share given by new synthetic products such as rayon nylon
cellophane and oil-based plastics and Hurst’s huge Timberland and mill Empire
now Anslinger basically the government puppet of corporate barons DuPont in
Mellon and Hearst who had a clear financial interest in defeating the
success of hemp embarked on one of the world’s most effective and long-lasting
smear campaigns now you might be asking why did the Popular Mechanics article
appears six months following enactment of the marihuana Tax Act in 1937 the law
that effectively outlawed marijuana cultivation and possession it’s an
interesting question the law didn’t actually outlaw cannabis or hemp but
rather required a special tax step to be issued by the US government and guess
what no tax stamps were ever issued now together these men created a highly
inflammatory and anti marijuana public relations crusade with the goal of
making euphoric herb marijuana and more importantly at sibling hemp illegal
effectively eliminating it as a competitor to a variety of petrochemical
products which was DuPont territory and timber her school line using an slingers
position within the US government and leveraging her empire of newspapers and
magazines as propaganda outlets the two concocted outlandish stories all of
which depicted marijuana as being hyperbolically
more destroy than what is perceived today as a mild
euphoria that gives its recreational users giggles and the munchies their
dramatic and sensationalistic stories describe pot as an evil drug that led to
murder rape and insanity as early as 1923 Hearst published in the San
Francisco Examiner that marijuana is a shortcut to the insane asylum
smoking marijuana cigarettes for a month and what was once your brain will be
nothing but a storehouse of horrid specters hashish a pure more potent form
of marijuana makes a murderer who kills for the love of killing out of the
mildest mannered man in February 1928 a similarly sensational article appeared
in the Hearst publication the examiner falsely stating that marijuana was known
in India as the murder drug claiming that it was common for a man to catch up
a knife and run through the streets hacking and killing everyone he
encountered even more outlandish the article claimed one could grow enough
cannabis in a window box to drive the whole population of the United States
stark raving mad the American magazine another Hearst publication in its July
1937 issue published a sensationalized article co-authored by Anslinger
entitled marijuana assassin of youth which described the young Florida man
who murdered his family an act attributed to his habit of smoking
something which youthful friends called muggles a childish name for marijuana
the article claimed that the murderer had no recollection of having committed
the multiple crimes the officers knew him ordinarily as a sane rather quiet
young man now he was pitifully crazed such articles are obviously by modern
standards laughable especially when a significant percentage of adults since
the 1960’s have sampled marijuana those who have tried the herb know from
firsthand experience that it doesn’t make one pitifully crazed or cause users
to kill their families dr. William Woodward a doctor lawyer and the legend
slative counsel to the American Medical Association testified before Congress at
a 1937 hearing to outlaw cannabis stating that there was no evidence that
the herb is dangerous he warned that prohibition loses sight of the fact that
future investigation may show that there are substantial medical uses for
cannabis when the legislation drafted by Anslinger was presented on the floor of
the house for a vote a representative from the upstate New York asked mr.
speaker what is this bill about the speaker replied I don’t know it has
something to do with a thing called marijuana I think it’s a narcotic of
some kind the New York representative queried mr. speaker does the American
Medical Association support this bill a member of the Hearing Committee
interrupted and replied their doctor came down here they support this bill
100% and thus with that lie and despite the efforts of Woodward one of the two
medical doctors who testify before the committee hearings in the actual
opposition of the American Medical Association the US Congress passed the
marihuana Tax Act of 1937 in early August of that year the cultivation and
possession of cannabis and hemp has been illegal in the United States ever since
according to a 2010 article by The Associated Press after 40 years the
United States war on drugs has caused one trillion dollars and hundreds of
thousands of lives in the past 10 years 211 million dollars was spent to enforce
pot laws in the state of Washington alone as reported by the American Civil
Liberties Union of Washington State meanwhile Hearst Mellon and DuPont are
all household names more than half a century after the last of the group died
one of the most indicating official statements against marijuana prohibition
came ironically from one of the drug enforcement agencies own chief
administrative law judges Francis young young after a lengthy hearing regarding
the efficacy of the herb in 1988 stated marijuana’s in its natural form is one
of the safest therapeutically active substances no it would be unreasonable
arbitrary and capricious for the DEA to continue to stand between those
sufferers and the benefits of this substance despite his strong official
opinion the DEA did not implement his ruling and allowing the rescheduling a
testing of marijuana citing a procedural technicality and that was an historical
perspective of marijuana in the United States by gooey Reb in ski and you can
get that information on his web site gooey Reb in skis.com
now what happens now now that the more states in the United States have either
adopted medical marijuana or recreational marijuana well that’s a
good question in an interview with President Obama
last week talk-show host Bill Maher asked the president about the marijuana
issue ok let me ask you about a question that I know people who watch our show
we’re interested in which is marijuana reform is that something that you care
about I just something I care about it’s now we both made jokes about it but it’s
not funny to the people who get arrested yeah which is over half a million I
think last year you know you and I both could have had our lives ruined not
really by smoking it but by being arrested for it right and you know I
feel like you had a checklist about let’s get rid of a lot of the stupid
stuff like opening up Cuba you know you came out for gay marriage
I was hoping ending the drug war would be on that list it’s on the ballot now
in nine states in a week including California for recreational and Arizona
and medical in places like North Dakota isn’t it time the federal government
caught up to progressive states like Arizona and North Dakota well here’s
what I’m I have always believed that to the extent that the society
legitimately wants to guard against any kind of substance abuse that you treated
as a public health problem look I’m an ex-smoker cigarette smoker
x.x and really yeah I really wink or did you get something in your eye there I
thought I caught a wink I’m sure I’m a heck out of nicorette I
really yeah but no when I when I passed health care reform that would think
right I’d had my last cigarette but but the reason is because there was this
enormous public health effort to get kids not to pick up smoking and make
sure the parents felt guilty if if they were passing on that that habit to their
kids and I and so that’s where I think we need to go with pot alcohol and so so
I don’t think that legalization is a panacea but I think that we’re going to
have to have a more serious conversation about how we are treating marijuana and
our drug laws generally the good news is is that after this referenda to some
degree it’s going to call the question because if in fact it passed in all
these states you now have about a fifth of the country that’s operating under
one set of laws yeah and four-fifths in another the Justice Department DEA FBI
for them to try to straddle and figure out how they’re supposed to enforce laws
in some places and not in others and they’re gonna guard against transport
transporting these drugs across state lines but you know you’ve got the entire
Pacific China corridor where this is this is legal that is not going to be
tenable now it’s not something that I think is going to happen overnight and
there’s some legitimate concerns that people have about how you draw lines on
these issues but it is indisputable that right now the biggest drug crisis we
have is with opioids many of which are illegal and are ravaging entire
communities all across the country and and for us to resource and not think of
everything through the criminal justice lens but also through the public health
lens I think is something that’s going to need to have the votes in those nine
states referred to were very interesting California approved recreational use by
56% in favor Nevada approved recreational use 54% in
favor Massachusetts approved recreational use
54% in favor Maine approved recreational use
extremely close there 50.2% in favor Arizona denied recreational use 52%
against Arkansas approved medical use 53% in favor
Florida approved medical use 71% in favor
Montana approved medical use 57% in favor and North Dakota approved medical
use by 64 percent in favor so there you have it another edition of cannabis
health radio thanks for listening everyone we’ll be back tomorrow and
we’ll have another story of a person who is used cannabis and how it is
positively impacted their life appreciate you listening wherever you
are in the world you’re listening to cannabis health radio you’ve been
listening to the cannabis health radio podcast
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