– Mosiah 25:11 (Book of Mormon)
Why was marijuana made illegal in the first place? Despite over 12,000 years of cannabis cultivation on the North American continent, marijuana and hemp was suddenly outlawed in the early 1900s. The first state to outlaw marijuana in the U.S. – was Utah. This occurred after a sect of Mormons returned home from a mission in Mexico with marijuana. The Mormon Church which forbids things like alcohol, tobacco, coffee and even tea; outlawed the use of marijuana, as might be expected. Eventually after the entire state adopted the ban, other states began joining in. Often linking the lifestyle of marijuana users to the loose and liberal jazz musicians and other certain marginalized ethnic groups that would occasionally smoke pot, such as immigrant farm-working Mexicans.
Despite the demonization of this plant, during that time period; there was little scientific proof to back up any of the outlandish accusations that led to the prohibition of marijuana. Former president Richard ‘Milhouse’ Nixon who made drugs a major priority of his administration, went as far as to reject the findings of the commission that he set up to establish the detrimental effect marijuana had on society. The commission’s findings were that “marijuana wasn’t particularly harmful and that it should be legalized, taxed and regulated.”
Marijuana is the drug of choice, used by the vast Americans that choose to use recreational drugs at all. Last year, less than 2 million people used or experimented with cocaine, less than 400,000 people tried heroin, but more than 28 million people smoked a joint or otherwise consumed marijuana last year alone. By virtue of these numbers, it is the federal government’s position that unless they’ve stopped recreational marijuana smokers from smoking pot — then they’ve lost the war on drugs.
The federal government is not one to get caught up in the subtle nuance of words, as such, pays no attention to the fact that alcohol is a drug, and the federal government has managed to incorporate them into the corporate system. How about tobacco? That’s a drug with no medicinal use, why isn’t that a schedule 1 drug? Ever since prohibition, the United States government has had a series of committees that was charged with making decisions about the use of alcohol, tobacco and narcotics. The Bureau of Prohibition, the federal Bureau of narcotics and subsequent incarnations are now combined into the US national office of drug control policy; a cabinet component level within the executive branch, which is directed by a figurehead known as the drug czar. In essence the first drug czar was Harry Anslinger, who was also the first Commissioner of the Federal Bureau of narcotics back in the early 1930’s and served for 32 years.
As most old white men of that era were flaming bigots, Mr. Anslinger was no different. Here’s a quick sample of some of his less memorable quotes during his time in the public arena.
“… Most marijuana smokers are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos and entertainers.”
“Their Satanic music, jazz and swing – results from marijuana usage.”
This one’s sweet…
“This marijuana causes white women do seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers and any others.”
…So back to the initial question, why was marijuana made illegal in the first place? The answer unfortunately is greed, bigotry and fear of the unknown. Our first drug czar back in the 1930s set the tone of this nation; with his hate filled slander against the very groups which were the backbone of our country, during the Industrial Revolution. Henry Ford and other forward thinking American industrialists wanted to turn to the hemp plant for textiles, paper, plastics and even as a fuel for the newest nightmare to befall our planet’s environment – the car. We saw leaders of other industries who viewed the hemp plant and its cousin marijuana, as a threat to their bottom line, and as a direct result began to lobby and flex their political power… encouraging the federal government to put an end to this devil’s harvest.