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Marijuana: A History of Prohibition

Updated on June 28, 2018

Marijuana: A History of Prohibition

In a study in 2006 marijuana was said to be Americas number one cash crop. With our economy depressed and our great nation trillions of dollars in debt why don’t we utilize the crop that 100 million Americans have reportedly used, 15 million of who have used in the past thirty days. If we look at California that grosses roughly $100 million a year in taxes off of medical marijuana, it surprises me that alone doesn’t have all other states jumping on the bandwagon. With a tax California proposed similar to alcohol if all states got on board would gross over 7.4 billion dollars per year. Still the ban stays in affect.

With a government that once created a law in 1619 at Jamestown Colony, Virginia “ordering” all farmers to grow Indian Hempseed, as marijuana was known until the 1940s, and passing several other “must grow” laws over the next 200 years. Even going as far as creating jail sentences for not growing hemp during times when there was a shortened supply of this crop in Virginia between 1763 and 1767. During that time you could even pay your taxes in hemp and hemp product. What happened to change the government’s outlook so drastically on this critical crop that had so many essential purposes in the early life of America?

The many uses of hemp
The many uses of hemp

Most people assume that marijuana was made illegal through research both medical and scientific. We’ve all seen the propaganda videos where people smoke a joint think they can fly and jump out a window. They wanted us to believe that it was to protect citizens from what was determined to be a dangerous drug. So who determined that it was dangerous if it wasn’t scientists or doctors?

The actual reasons for the ban on our number 1 cash crop.

• Racism

• Fear

• Protection of Corporate Profits

• Yellow Journalism

• Ignorant, Incompetent, and/or Corrupt Legislators

• Personal Career Advancement and Greed

Dare to tell the truth about hemp
Dare to tell the truth about hemp

In the 1900’s when the depression came people needed a scapegoat so it had to be the Mexicans and their wacky tabacky. Small farmers were mad at the larger farmer’s for using cheaper Mexican labor. Other than them working for lower costs one of the differences was they smoked marijuana and brought the plant with them. California was one of the first states to pass a marijuana law banning “preparations of hemp, or loco weed”. By 1927 8 more states followed suit. Most of these laws targeted specifically Mexican-Americans. In 1927 when Montana outlawed marijuana, the Butte Montana Standard reported a legislators comment: “When some beet field peon takes a few traces of this stuff… he thinks he has just been elected president of Mexico, so he starts out to execute all his political enemies.” A senator of Texas said on the state floor said, “All Mexicans are crazy, and this stuff [marijuana] is what makes them crazy.”

As Mexican-Americans were deemed culprits and marijuana fiends in the western states, the eastern states blamed African-Americans, Latinos and jazz. Local and federal policing agencies had grown fat through the prohibition of alcohol and a repeal would put many of them out of work including Harry J Anslinger who had been the commissioner of the prohibition. Seeing the possible end of his career Anslinger transitioned to the commissioner of the federal bureau of narcotics.

At the same time, William Randolph Hearst, the most powerful newspaper owner in the United States, began printing falsified and exaggerated stories about the “evils of marijuana”. Hearst, a blatant racist that hated blacks and Hispanics, had strong ties to the wealthy DuPont family, with large investments in the timber industry that he used to print the pages of his newspaper. The DuPont family also held many lucrative patents on chemicals used in manufacturing plastics, paper, and paints that could become valueless if hemp products and hemp oil derivatives became widely available. Hearst used his vast newspaper empire to create hysteria amongst white parents, alleging that “pushers” whom were from a lowly ethnic minority class wouldbe dealing marijuana to high school kids, turning them into addicts who would quit school, commit violent crimes like murder and rape as depicted in the laughable film "Reefer Madness", produced in 1936.

Anti-marijuana propaganda
Anti-marijuana propaganda

The Hearst/DuPont Empires needed federal legislation to keep the harmless herb and its derivatives from becoming a commercially viable product. Harry J Anslinger led the anti-marijuana campaign, which some critics’ claim was merely for personal advancement to his career and financial standing. Anslinger, in conjunction with the Hearst/DuPont Empires, had convinced several more states to outlaw marijuana possession. As time went on, more and more states, filled with fear from the anti-marijuana propaganda that became more and more hysterical with each pamphlet publication went on to ban the herb as well. And so Congress passed The Anslinger Act -formally known as the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 -. It imposed a prohibitive tax on the cultivation and importation of hemp and hemp products. In conjunction with existing state laws criminalizing marijuana use, the Anslinger Act effectively criminalized marijuana use at both the state and federal levels.

Reefer Madness


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    • mcrawford76 profile image

      Matthew I Crawford 

      8 years ago from Greeley, Colorado

      I smoked for 17 years, until the consiquences became too great to risk it. I have 4 children, and it just wasn't worth possibly loosing them over some marijuana. If it were legal, that I would smoke again.

      I never bought into the whole gateway drug thing either. The only think it was a gateway to (for myself and my friends anyway) was potato chips and candy.

    • profile image


      8 years ago from Beliot, Wisconsin

      I've been telling that same story for decades now but people just won't buy into it. They still believe the govt bull that it's a gateway drug. The Marijuana Tax Act was instituted as a form of immigration control to rid the country from Mexican workers left in the country during the depression. From there, Anslinger and his cohort J. Edgar took their views global. We've been getting lied to and screwed since. One would think that with the economic situation, the 22,000 uses could very well end it by putting hunderds of thousands back to work! However big business and govt are just plain STUPID!!!


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