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Politics, Marijuana, and Big Pharma

Updated on February 18, 2016
RJ Schwartz profile image

Our world is full of amazing things, and researching them is almost as fun as writing about them

The word Marijuana could quite possibly be one of the most controversial words in America today and merely injecting the word into a conversation causes discord; with opinions ranging from the furthest possible ends of the spectrum and everything in between. And if you’ve dared to mention the word in conversation, there are many opinionated people who will be happy to talk at length on why they are for or against marijuana being legalized in the United States. The pro-legalization crowd consists mainly of those who have been or are currently recreational users, those who see the overwhelming value of marijuana in healthcare and pain relief, and those who are against government regulation in general. The other side of the debate is supported by people who feel marijuana acts as a gateway drug, causes birth defects and health issues, and increases crime and other counterproductive actions. I’m not stereotyping either group, just offering some useful conversational pieces as to why people might choose one side or another. As a sidebar, legalization has gained strength over the last decade and several states are already seeing a developed industry and tax base from legalization.

Cannabis Tinciture
Cannabis Tinciture

The Question

One topic many people gravitate towards in the legalization conversation is asking the question of how it became illegal in the first place. Most assume that marijuana was made illegal through some kind of process involving scientific, medical, and government hearings and that the results demonstrated it was necessary to protect American citizens from what was deemed to be a dangerous drug. History, however tells the actual story that reeks of manipulation, intrigue, and suspicion. Those who voted on the fate of this plant never had the facts, instead dependent on information supplied by those who had a specific agenda to deceive lawmakers.

Numerous examples of smoking marijuana in ancient times exist
Numerous examples of smoking marijuana in ancient times exist

Known Worldwide

But before we discuss the current state of things, we should take a moment to look further back in the annals of history and learn about this so-called dangerous plant and its impact on the world. For most of human history, marijuana has been completely legal with its known uses going back further than 7,000 B.C. when it was used as a medicinal herb by the ancient Chinese, Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans for stomach ailments, cramps, and pain. The marijuana (hemp) plant was an important part of agriculture because it has an incredible number of uses including food, fabric, rope, and much more. In fact, the first marijuana law enacted in the colonies was actually a law ordering people to grow hemp due to its importance. In fact, hemp was used a legal tender in the mid-1700’s. During the 1800’s, cannabis products became a popular medicinal substance found in many pharmacies across the nation. It became a requirement to label over-the-counter medicines containing cannabis, including cocaine and heroin, with the Federal Food and Drugs Act of 1906, but these things were still legal. But things were about to change, starting in the early 1900’s when tensions with Mexico flared.

Pancho Villa
Pancho Villa

The West

In 1910 the revolution in Mexico spilled over the southern border, with General Pershing’s army clashing with Pancho Villa. Tensions rose between large and small farmers as the larger farms used cheaper Mexican labor to do their work, thus making the smaller farms uncompetitive, quite similar to what we are seeing in America today. These events were followed by the Great Depression which put a stranglehold on the American economy. Politicians were looking for anyone to blame on the poor state of the nation to deflect pressure from their failing policies, and some seized on the fact that the Mexicans who were in America were smoking marijuana. California initiated the first laws against smoking prepared hemp. But the outright outlawing of marijuana seemed to originate in Salt Lake City, Utah, heavily influenced by the Church Of Jesus Christ and Latter Day Saints. When Mormons travelled to Mexico, they returned with marijuana which infuriated church leaders who were tied to all levels of government. Other states quickly followed suit with marijuana prohibition laws, including Wyoming (1915), Texas (1919), Iowa, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, and Arkansas (1923), and Montana and Nebraska (1927). And although these laws tended to be specifically targeted against the Mexican-American population, they were applied to everyone.

Louis Armstrong long time user and defender of marijuana
Louis Armstrong long time user and defender of marijuana

The East

On the Eastern side of the nation, the “problem” was attributed to Blacks and Latin Americans. Black jazz musicians were writing lyrics which hinted at marijuana use and people began to outwardly speak about how black men high on marijuana would make them bold enough to leer at white women and confront white men openly in the streets. Wild tales of “refer madness” tied marijuana to violent and dangerous behaviors. Also during this time, the United States was dealing with alcohol prohibition, which lasted from 1919 to 1933 and marijuana was a suitable substitute for many people and usage soared. It’s important to note that Alcohol Prohibition was an actual Constitutional Amendment and therefore subject to Federal enforcement because at that time in history, the federal government did not have the power to outlaw alcohol or drugs based on heavy reliance on the tenth amendment.

The Harrison Act of 1914

Since marijuana could not be outlawed at the federal level, the decision was made to use federal taxation as a work around. The Harrison Act of 1914 regulated the production and transportation of opiates and cocaine and how they were taxed was the Federal Government’s first attempt to criminalize recreational drugs. The backers of the Harrison Act played on public fears that blacks under the influence of drugs were murdering whites and Chinamen were seducing white women with opium. Doctors quickly took notice and no longer supplied addicts with recreational drugs, but the marijuana issue was still unsettled until 1930 when a new division in the Treasury Department was established named The Federal Bureau of Narcotics, with Harry J. Anslinger as its first director. This, if anything, marked the beginning of the all-out war against marijuana.

Anslinger
Anslinger

Harry Anslinger & William Randolph Hearst

Anslinger quickly recognized that The Bureau of Narcotics as an amazing career opportunity. He also realized that in order to get additional funding and personnel that regulating opiates and cocaine wouldn’t be enough, so he focused his efforts on marijuana and started working on making it illegal at the federal level. His approach was a simple campaign of racism and violence to draw national attention to marijuana, creating a “problem” where one really didn’t exist. He made outlandish statements that gained traction with white America, calling out blacks, Hispanics, and other immigrant groups as degenerates who smoked marijuana and tried to have sexual relations with white women. He called marijuana highly addictive and explained how it made smokers insane criminals. He put a political spin into his narrative saying marijuana led to communist brainwashing and pacifism. Yet, none of his outlandish statements were based on facts, only his own take-no-prisoners ambition.

Harry Anslinger’s outrageous rhetoric was supported by William Randolf Hearst, the owner of a huge chain of newspapers. Hearst had lots of reasons to help. He hated Mexicans mostly due to the fact that he lost 800,000 acres of timberland to Pancho Villa. 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. Plus reprinting the obvious lies about Mexicans and how their smoking marijuana caused violence and other sordid thing sold more newspapers, making him rich. Hearst and Anslinger were then supported first by Dupont chemical company and then followed by various other pharmaceutical companies in the effort to outlaw cannabis. You see, Dupont had just patented nylon, and wanted hemp removed as competition. The pharmaceutical companies piled on because they could neither identify nor standardize cannabis dosages, and with cannabis, folks could grow their own medicine and not be forced to purchase it from large companies like theirs.

William Randolf Hearst
William Randolf Hearst

Marijuana Tax Stamp Act

After two years of secret planning, Anslinger brought a plan to Congress complete with a dossier full of sensational Hearst newspaper articles. It was a remarkably short set of hearings. The one real opposition was from Dr. William C. Woodward, Legislative Council of the American Medical Association. Woodward started by slamming Harry Anslinger and the Bureau of Narcotics for distorting earlier AMA statements that had nothing to do with marijuana and making them appear to be AMA endorsement for Anslinger’s view. He also reproached Bureau for using the term marijuana in the legislation and not publicizing it as a bill about cannabis or hemp. The term marijuana was not commonplace, but more of a sensationalist word used to refer to Mexicans smoking a drug and had not been connected in most people’s minds to the existing cannabis/hemp plant. It was this word substitution that kept many who may have had legitimate reasons to oppose the bill unaware of it being considered. Woodward went on to state that the AMA was opposed to the legislation and further questioned the approach of the hearings, coming close to outright accusation of misconduct by Anslinger and the committee. Unlike his opposition, he came ready to do battle, asking direct questions about where their data sources were drawn from, what experts were involved, the numbers of verified addicts, and more including why the bill was prepared in such secrecy.

Yet despite being correct in his approach, the Doctor was attacked by the committee membership which even questioned his motives in opposing the legislation. He was reprimanded for not bringing a constructive proposal, rather than criticism to the hearing. Basically he was reminded not to get in the way of something that the Federal Government was trying to do. Additional unproven statements were entered into the discussion that was primarily fear-based regurgitations of the earlier news stories. The committee went on to state that America was defenseless against the newly minted war on marijuana and that there were no laws in place for authorities to cope with fighting said war. And unfortunately that was basically it. Yellow journalism won over medical science. And on the basis of that lie, on August 2, 1937, President Roosevelt signed the bill and marijuana became illegal at the federal level. Officially known as the Marijuana Tax Stamp Act the bill made the possession or transfer of marijuana illegal throughout the United States under federal law without a tax stamp issued by the U.S. Treasury Department. Growing and selling marijuana was still legal, providing you had a tax stamp. However, the Treasury Department never issued a single tax stamps for marijuana, thus making growing, selling and possessing marijuana illegal.

Heroin
Heroin

Anslinger's Lies

Because Anslinger had vast government resources and a large public podium he was able to demonize marijuana users to promote his own personal agenda. He lied constantly, often when it was unnecessary. He and Hearst were hardcore racists, willing to say anything to ridicule or hurt anyone of color. He had the ear of lawmakers as did Hearst, and both realized that they could control the media narrative by simply not reporting any of the opposing viewpoints and overblowing those of their own (which were mostly made up.) It seems that Anslinger had more power than anyone realized. He even had the ability to circumvent the First Amendment in one case when he banned a Canadian movie called, “Drug Addict.” It was a 1946 documentary that realistically depicted drug addicts and law enforcement efforts. In the 1950’s, Anslinger once again used propaganda to scare Americans into believing marijuana was a “gateway” drug to heroin. There were a growing number of Americans using heroin then and Anslinger used that fact and turned it into to fear by claiming most marijuana users would turn into heroin addicts. He then took the bold leap and escalated this environment of fear to convince Americans that marijuana was just as bad as cocaine, opium and heroin. In 1956 the Narcotic Control Act passed which put marijuana in the same class as heroin and added even more severe penalties, once again due to Anslinger’s lies.

Congress

In 1970, the US Congress placed marijuana in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act because they considered it to have "no accepted medical use." Since then, 23 of 50 US states and DC have legalized the medical use of marijuana. Proponents of medical marijuana argue that it can be a safe and effective treatment for the symptoms of cancer, pain from trauma, HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis, glaucoma, epilepsy, and possibly other conditions. Dozens of peer-reviewed studies, prominent medical organizations, major government reports, and the use of marijuana as medicine throughout world history serve as evidence to support their findings. Opponents of medical marijuana argue that it is too dangerous to use and unnecessary since various legal drugs exist to treat the same health problems They say marijuana is addictive, leads to harder drug use, interferes with fertility, impairs driving ability, and injures the lungs, immune system, and brain.

Things Never Change

Since the passage of the 1937 law, 20,000,000 Americans have been convicted of marijuana related crimes. The terms “gateway drug,” “refer madness,” “420,” “the munchies,” and “lazy stoner” has been a part of society for over fifty years mainly being used as negative towards marijuana users. Yet after looking at the history of how the legislation was enacted, many people will cry foul. Unfortunately as we all know, anything the government puts in place is often difficult to remove.

So once you see the truth behind the players and the actions involved in making marijuana illegal, it’s much easier to connect the dots to today’s political environment and see why those same underlying techniques are basically still being employed. Senators and Congressmen wanting to look tough on crime for their constituents gave the original bill life, now a different group of lawmakers continue to use keeping marijuana illegal to posture for the voters with a tough stance. Corporations, especially drug manufacturers, don’t want to see American citizens free to grow their own “medicine” as it will cut into their virtual monopoly on medication. We can already see how the natural/homeopathic segment has been rapidly growing as more people rebel against the ghastly high prices of medicine. Yellow journalism served to convey the message of fear to the public in the past. Today it’s replaced with “studies” from what seems like credible universities and medical studies that are filled with so-called potential risks of everything terrible their minds can conjure including birth defects, mental retardation, and low IQ scores. And there is a huge lobby to “prove” it has no medicinal benefit, despite the actual evidence showing the contrary. The only part of the past narrative that lost its steam was the racism part. People who enjoy marijuana recreationally come from all walks of life, both men and women, blacks, whites, Native Americans, and Asians.

One of Holland's most popular genetic hybrids, Amnesia Haze is a strong and heady strain with a beautiful indoor yield.
One of Holland's most popular genetic hybrids, Amnesia Haze is a strong and heady strain with a beautiful indoor yield.

Fighting Back

Now, with the muscle provided by the internet and the opportunity to publish a counter point, the pro-marijuana community can fight back against a century of lies and deception. The so-called war on drugs has failed and been a huge waste of money. Cannabis supporters want people to know the truth in order to get a real objective discussion going on national legalization. Legalization of marijuana would greatly reduce crime along the southern border as the Mexican drug cartels would no longer have an underground market, which would lower their profits and reduce their influence. Cannabis is not the gateway drug everyone tries to call it. Let’s face it, based on the number of people who have smoked marijuana, wouldn’t we have a higher number of cocaine or heroin addicts if this were the case? Just because marijuana is usually the first drug people try does not mean it’s the gateway. Cigarettes are much more addictive than marijuana, but no one wants to talk about that. When tobacco companies are spending huge figures on lobbying and campaign contributions, politicians will do anything and everything to protect their interests. Alcohol, pharmaceutical, and tobacco companies all stand to lose revenue if marijuana is legalized and their clout is certainly part of the stone wall built around Congress.

I've been working on this for some time, but decided it was time to get it out there for commentary - some will hate it, others will love it.

I say, smoke 'em if you got 'em!

Blessed Be!

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  • Jodah profile image

    John Hansen 17 months ago from Queensland Australia

    What an important and worthwhile hub RJ. You have really presented some intriguing facts here and revealed many lies. Well done. Things seem to be finally changing in regard to cannabis/marijuana. Cigarettes are much more addictive and dangerous.

  • profile image

    Old Poolman 17 months ago

    Another great job of reporting factual and well researched information.

    As with most issues this one has positive and negative aspects. A few states have legalized marijuana with the warning that marijuana use, growing, and possession is still a Federal Offense. So does that make the state ruling just "Kinda Legal"? What the heck kind of law is that?

    So someone could drive to Colorado, buy some pot for personal use, and get busted by the Feds the minute they cross back into another state?

    You can bet the drug cartels in Mexico would hate to see pot legalized in all of our states. They make millions growing and selling pot into the United States.

    Our government has employees who's only job is looking for more sources of tax revenue. I'm surprised they can't see the huge amount of taxes they could collect if pot was legalized.

    I think history showed us with prohibition on alcohol how useless laws can be. Many people got very wealthy providing the illegal liquor that people wanted and could not buy legally. That same rule applies to marijuana.

  • RJ Schwartz profile image
    Author

    Ralph Schwartz 17 months ago from Idaho Falls, Idaho

    Jodah & Poolman, thanks for the great start to what I hope will be a lengthy dialogue on this thread. I realize that there are people who are firm on their beliefs about marijuana, but possibly because they do not realize the facts. The resources we spend as a nation enforcing laws and incarcerating marijuana users are better used elsewhere and the tax revenue would be welcomed.

  • Eric Flynn profile image

    Eric Wayne Flynn 17 months ago from Providence, Rhode Island

    Great job here RJ, I am in complete agreement with your stance and enjoyed the information in the essay.

    EWF

  • MarleneB profile image

    Marlene Bertrand 17 months ago from Northern California, USA

    This is an excellent report about marijuana and the political drama that surrounds it. It was interesting to read that at one time marijuana was used as legal tender. Only politicians can take something that was once perceived as valuable and turn it into something controversial. For the life of me, I can't see why alcohol and smoking cigarettes are considered safe enough to be made legal, while marijuana is considered so dangerous it is outlawed to such a degree that people have been sentenced to outrageous prison time for it. I feel our politicians and the justice system is a little unbalanced, or at least uneducated.

  • profile image

    Old Poolman 17 months ago

    MarleneB - From what I read and am told, marijuana has a long history of being very useful in treating many diseases. The big drug companies would be hurt financially by the legalization of this drug so they lobby politicians to keep this from happening.

    If you ever want to know what is driving some of the decisions made by our elected representatives just follow the money and that will provide your answer.

  • RJ Schwartz profile image
    Author

    Ralph Schwartz 17 months ago from Idaho Falls, Idaho

    the drug companies do not want you self medicating / it's bad for their bottom line

  • profile image

    Old Poolman 17 months ago

    RJ - You sure have that one right. There are some interesting articles on the history of using marijuana for treatment of many different ailments. There are also growers who are cross pollinating different varieties of marijuana plants to treat specific ailments.

    I don't use it myself but have friends who swear by the effectiveness of this treatment by using just the liquid that is extracted from the plants.

    When drug companies are putting out pills that can cost as much as $100 per day for the patient, is it any wonder some are looking into alternative medicine?

    It would be really interesting to read an unbiased non-political and factual report of the proven benefits of medical marijuana. I have no doubt the big drug companies would like to keep all of this quiet.

  • RJ Schwartz profile image
    Author

    Ralph Schwartz 17 months ago from Idaho Falls, Idaho

    Pool man - I think the Internet and the rise of many supporters is our opportunity as free citizens to demand reduced government interference on our lives - our voices are starting to be heard and the rise of non establishment candidates like Trump and Sanders proves it

  • RJ Schwartz profile image
    Author

    Ralph Schwartz 17 months ago from Idaho Falls, Idaho

    Thanks for stopping by Eric - you are a broad thinker and you're thoughts are always welcomed

  • ElvisaM profile image

    Elvisa M 16 months ago from Saint Louis

    Before I got into writing, I used to think that politicians found a new way to get what they want by lobbying against what they didn't like or understand. Because of stories like this, it is obvious that this is not a new way at all. Lies and propaganda for personal gain have always been the main resort for corrupt politicians. As time goes by, the medicinal properties of this plant will overrule the possible risks. It's already happening and it's a slow start but I believe and hope that families like Charlotte and her parents have this method at their disposal. Great article!

  • RJ Schwartz profile image
    Author

    Ralph Schwartz 16 months ago from Idaho Falls, Idaho

    Thanks for contributing

  • profile image

    Old Poolman 16 months ago

    Ralph, interestingly enough, I received a thing in the mail today where a Canadian company is offering us prescription drugs at their prices. They include a price list showing our average price and their price. I was amazed that for some drugs that cost over $1,000 per 30 day supply here are available from them for $230. Thank goodness I don't need any but that is where I would buy them if I did.

    We are only 65 miles from Mexico. Until the border towns became so dangerous a company here used to run a bus down to Nogales, Mexico for people who needed to purchase Rx drugs. They would escort the passengers across the border to one of many drug stores where they would fill their prescriptions at a huge discount. When everyone finished drug buying they would go back into Arizona, have lunch, and return to Tucson.

    The big pharmaceutical companies are terrified that the healing power of many strains of Marijuana becomes well known. Those with a medical Marijuana card can buy what they need at local dispensaries. They are even allowed to cultivate up to 6 plants at their homes if they want to.

    The irony is that this is perfectly OK with the State, but still in violation of the Federal Laws. Could it be the lobbyists have been hard at work stuffing politicians pockets full of money?

  • RJ Schwartz profile image
    Author

    Ralph Schwartz 16 months ago from Idaho Falls, Idaho

    I'd be wary of the Canadian pharmacy - many of them are selling knockoff drugs

  • lions44 profile image

    CJ Kelly 16 months ago from Auburn, WA

    Sorry I missed this hub when it first came out, Ralph.

    I'm in a good position to shed some light on this because I live in WA State. I voted against legalization, but I'm okay with medical uses under a physician's care. Anyone in chronic pain or terminal illness should get anything they need. Someone in my family suffers terrible chronic spinal pain, and I would support her use of the drug.

    Plus, research should be done into greater use of the plant's ingredients. It has been shown to be effective in helping brain disorders in children. So go for it. We need all the help we can get. Our treatments for pain management need to be reexamined.

    However, as predicted, we are having problems with the purchasers of weed at all the shops that are near me. DUIs are increasing. There are 2 shops where I live and I drive by several more each day. One town in Pierce County has sort of "weed zone", where all its shops congregate.

    I see reckless driving every day when I pass these stores. One regular customer believes the left lane is the turn lane and sits there waiting for imaginary cars to go by. Another guy regularly sits in the oncoming lane believing it's a turn lane. Others shoot out into traffic.

    As I'm stuck in traffic going through town, I regularly see these folks pop out of their cars with no apparent injuries or illness to speak of, and grab their weed. To me, they are addicts, not "recreational users." I'm starting to recognize the same people as they turn into the parking lot.

    Then there's the constant vagrancy that is increasing. We already have a serious addiction problem in this country and the solution is not easier access to marijuana. Why not vicodin brownies or Percocet candy? I can hear the "THC is not an opioid" argument coming. But I see these folks everyday, and it is scary.

    Before anyone responds with the alcohol comparison, I don't drink. So if you want to ban alcohol or make it harder to buy, I'm all for it.

  • RJ Schwartz profile image
    Author

    Ralph Schwartz 16 months ago from Idaho Falls, Idaho

    Lion - that is a real first hand account - thanks for sharing it and it will certainly add to the discussion.

  • profile image

    Old Poolman 16 months ago

    From what I am told anyone with $150 for the on-site doctor can get a Medical Marijuana permit in one visit. This same permit allows him to grow up to 6 plants at home, for personal use only of course.

    These laws and the permits are nothing but another way for some to make huge sums of money.

  • roob profile image

    Ruby 16 months ago from United States

    nice imagery throughout!

    & Old Poolman you must not smoke bud because 6 plants is not a large sum of money especially when anyone can do it over there, think about that... the price has gone down a lot.

    A good grower who has studied, who also would need an expensive setup & electricity... could get maybe a few ounces out of each plant every few months or so. The thing is, you are only allowed to have 8 ounces of dry bud on you so you couldn't really have all those. Even then 8 ounces would not be big money every few months. Maybe $1,600 every three months not including production costs. So don't go saying it is lucrative.

    The permits for growing is actually people signing over their permission as a patient to grow to someone else so they can grow many plants such as around 99! The permits to grow are not real. You have to be a collective of patients.

    Also you can get a mmj license for around $50!(:

  • profile image

    Old Poolman 16 months ago

    I guess I was misinformed. Thanks for the education.

  • RJ Schwartz profile image
    Author

    Ralph Schwartz 16 months ago from Idaho Falls, Idaho

    Smoke 'em if you got 'em is what I say !

  • roob profile image

    Ruby 16 months ago from United States

    Well Old Poolman you were not too far off at all! Your one of the most reasonable people I've seen on this site so far!

    You & RJ are both smart guys!

  • profile image

    Old Poolman 16 months ago

    I truly believe that medical marijuana may work far better than many drugs prescribed by doctors. I don't use it now but would if I needed to.

  • roob profile image

    Ruby 16 months ago from United States

    Well let me tell ya, that is true. Maybe not in all cases but it does happen to be that way in some.

    Great article RJ and nice to talk to ya Poolman

    In the spirit of this article... Peace out man!(:

  • RJ Schwartz profile image
    Author

    Ralph Schwartz 16 months ago from Idaho Falls, Idaho

    The Poolman is like the hubpages Yoda, he's so on top of every subject and he sees through the BS. You'd be wise to follow him roob.

  • colorfulone profile image

    Susie Lehto 15 months ago from Minnesota

    RJ, you answered some of my questions and confirmed some of my suspicions The government wants to regulate everything it seems and pass laws to make money off anything they can. Lies and deceptions don't matter, and leaving out the real facts to further an agenda is a part of the illusion to brainwash the general public. Well done!

  • RJ Schwartz profile image
    Author

    Ralph Schwartz 15 months ago from Idaho Falls, Idaho

    Thank you colorfulone - I'd bet every industry in America has some nefarious reasons hidden beneath the surface of why the are run the way they are run - protectionism and cronyism are industry killers

  • lambservant profile image

    Lori Colbo 3 months ago from Pacific Northwest

    I'm against pot as I've seen how it affects people I know who use it regularly and for years. My neighbor has a pot farm in her backyard just feet from my yard. When they flowered it stunk so bad I gagged Everytime I stepped outside or got out of my car. I got sick when I tried to do yard work. She's growing without a permit in a residential area. I gave her a choice, get rid of it or else. She took it into her garage but the smell came out of the vent. She finally got a filter. The neighbors are sick of it when it flowers.

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