The prohibition of cannabis is widely accepted to have started in 1937, however, there were several events in the two decades prior that influenced many worldwide law changes. In our previous History of Cannabis article, the “Industrial Era”, we examined the overlap between this era and the “Prohibition of Cannabis Era”.
One can argue that 1910 is when the prohibition era began, but since there was also an expanding amount of cannabis companies around the world, we can classify 1910 as the first seeds being planted for the upcoming “Prohibition Era” of cannabis. The State of California was actually the first to make cannabis illegal in 1915, with Texas following in 1919.
From this point in time, cannabis was looked down upon by some in society and the belief that cannabis was detrimental began to spread. Many will argue the start of prohibition is due to the ingrained racism of ex-slave owners and the newly acquired freedoms of ex-slaves in the United States coming together to create a conflicting mix of societal values both new and old.
Also, at this time, the United States was welcoming many migrants from a variety of nations, and many who had outdated beliefs of racial superiority felt threatened in some way. One way to ‘control’ the races who were not white, was to ban cannabis, as well as to start calling it marijuana, as a scare tactic, due to the foreign nature of the word. The anti-cannabis movie Reefer Madness was also released in 1936, which is an incredibly interesting film to check out if you haven’t already.
As we mentioned in part two, “The Industrial Era of Cannabis History”, the “Prohibition Era” overlaps this previous time period, as well as being an ongoing reality in some parts of the world to this day.
Furthermore, one could argue that the “Prohibition Era” of cannabis will not end until cannabis is legalized in every country across the world.
This could take time, but, this era of cannabis prohibition will certainly be looked upon with disdain by many in the future who will wonder why such a beneficial medicine was made illegal in the first place.
Due to the sheer amount of information available about this era of cannabis history, this article will be focused on the United States with other countries sprinkled in. This is due to the global political influence, like it not, of the United States and the fact that many countries have followed suit with regards to cannabis prohibition and law. With that being said, learn more about the prohibition of cannabis below.
The Prohibition of Cannabis From 1937 Onward
Harry J. Anslinger (Federal Bureau of Narcotics ) testifies his false claim that “marijuana is the most violence-causing drug known to man”, in front of the U.S Congress. The fact that marijuana was being used as the common terminology of the time to demonize cannabis lead to confusion within the American Medical Association and National Oil Seed Institue. Both of these institutions did not realize that marijuana is, in fact, cannabis!
A prohibitive hemp tax was also implemented across the United States, effectively killing the hemp industry overnight. This tax was heavily lobbied for by powerful politicians who had forestry and paper interests.
Awkwardly, the February 1938 issue of Popular Mechanics Magazine claims that cannabis is the new billion-dollar crop. This article was written before the previous year’s prohibitory laws and taxes had been passed.
An interesting turn of events. Both American and German (Nazi) governments urge local farmers to grow hemp during World War II in order to help the war effort. Subsequently, an American film is produced entitled Hemp For Victory. Later, the U.S Government would deny this film ever existed. The editor of the Military Journal Magazine claims that some individuals in the military do smoke cannabis, but he does not see it as a problem.
Doctors are threatened with prison time if they conduct their own independent research on cannabis.
Newsweek reports that 100,000 American citizens use cannabis on a regular basis.
Aislinger, the degenerate who claimed that marijuana was “the most violence-causing” drug known to man, changes his tune and now, claims that cannabis is used by the Communists to pacify American citizens. This truly shows how idiotic cannabis prohibitionists were at this time.
The United Nations releases a report on worldwide drug use. There are an estimated 200 million cannabis users in the world at this point in time.
New international restrictions are placed on cannabis during the United Nations Drug Convention of this year. These restrictions aim to eliminate worldwide cannabis use within 25 years (lol)! Aislinger is the head of the United States’ delegation to this conference.
Finally, Aislinger is fired by U.S President John F. Kennedy, who may or may not have, smoked cannabis in the White House.
The very first “Head Store” is opened on the West Coast of the United States; The Psychedelic Store of San Francisco sells smoking accessories and other counter-culture merchandise and is run by cannabis activists Ron and Jay Thelin.
One of the first pop culture figures to be arrested for cannabis, folk singer Donovan, becomes the first British Pop Star to be arrested for possession. This arrest was the first of many involving pop culture icons such as The Beatles, Rolling Stones, and more.
On Valentine’s Day, Abbie Hoffman and the Yippies, mail out 3,000 cannabis joints to random people they selected from the phonebook. These cannabis joints were accompanied with a note that stated “You are now a criminal for possessing cannabis”, as well as other information surrounding cannabis law and prohibition. Jimi Hendrix personally funded this operation, which gained a massive amount of publicity in the U.S.
1971 marks the beginning of public awareness surrounding the War on Drugs. The term reached the mainstream consciousness of America in 1971 after United States President Richard Nixon mentioned the term in a speech and the media picked up on it. Two years prior to this speech, Nixon had formally declared a “war on drugs” with a focus on incarceration and eradication. This earlier declaration was due to Nixon’s concerns about drug use during the Vietnam War and the prevalence of illegal drugs on the streets of the United States.
President of the United States at the time, Richard Nixon, declares “America’s public enemy number one”, is drugs.
A $1 billion anti-drug bill is passed in the United States’ Government. Between 1969-1973, spending on the anti-drug effort rose over 1000%, an no that is not a typo, it really increased by over one thousand percent.
President of the U.S Richard Nixon outrageously claims that the War on Drugs has decreased addiction rates in the country. Oregon takes steps towards legalization and becomes the first U.S State to begin the process of making medicinal cannabis legal once again.
The Supreme Court of Alaska makes a ruling that the “Right to Privacy” (alluded to in the Fourth Amendment of the U.S Constitution), includes cannabis use within the home. Alaska sets a limit of decriminalized possession of 28 grams (one ounce). In addition, there are hundreds of doctors in the country calling upon the U.S Government to conduct further research into medical cannabis.
The new U.S President, Gerald Ford, bans any government funding of cannabis research while allowing pharmaceutical companies to conduct research on synthetic cannabis. This can clearly be seen as an attempt to control cannabis production in a way that normal people could not replicate and would, therefore, have to buy cannabis instead of growing it themselves. Robert Dupont, Gerald Ford’s Chief Drug Advisor, publicly states that cannabis is less harmful than alcohol or tobacco and recommends decriminalization.
New Mexico becomes the first U.S State to make medical cannabis available to its citizens!
DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) Judge Francis Young releases a report stating, “(cannabis) in its natural form is the safest therapeutic substance known to man”, and recommends medical cannabis use for some ailments. The DEA outright rejects these findings and pumps a further $2.6 billion into anti-drug efforts across the world.
U.S President Ronald Reagan declares a laughable ‘victory’ on the “War on Drugs”. In contrast, the Secretary of State, James Baker, reports that the War on Drugs is, “clearly not being won”.
This year saw the 10 millionth person in the United States being arrested for cannabis possession since 1965. This means an average of 333,333 people from 1965-1995 were arrested per year for possessing cannabis in the United States alone.
Proposition 215 passes in California! This new law permits doctors to prescribe cannabis as a medicine and also allows caregivers to cultivate their own small supply of cannabis (locally and at the state level).
The ineffective political drug policies of the United States, including propping up corrupt governments, have certainly failed. There is no question that drug-use, trafficking, and related criminal activity has increased monumentally since the 1970s. This is due to the policies surrounding the War on Drugs focusing on non-violent offenders (users and individuals) rather than violent drug-dealers.
The War on Drugs has also been criticized for the over-criminalization of individuals. An example of this is the number of arrests for personal drug possession. 82% of all drug-related arrests in the United States are for possession, mainly marijuana possession. The War on Drugs has directly contributed to the United States’ incredibly high incarceration rate.
Lastly, many critics are concerned that the United States War on Drugs is fuelling current drug wars and ruthless violence in Mexico, Afghanistan, and the Philippines. These countries have experienced some of the most ruthless drug-related violence ever seen on this planet.
Our Fourth Part (The “Smart Era of Cannabis”) Will Be Coming Soon, In The Meantime, Check Out
and the “Industrial Era of Cannabis ” (1611-1937)
The next era in the history of cannabis can be called, the “Smart Era of Cannabis”. This is due to the fact that growing techniques, cannabis knowledge, medical studies, and cannabis technology began expanding and spreading worldwide at an incredibly rapid rate.
Many cannabis growers of the strains we know and love today perfected their strains during the 1990s, either in The Netherlands, where the negative stigmas surrounding cannabis barely exist, or underground in illegal countries.
Check out the legal status of cannabis in your country by clicking HERE. This will take you to our friends at Strain Insider Cannabis Magazine and their awesome Legal Status data.
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