Do you recognize that mug in the photo? If you don’t, allow me to introduce you to the Godfather of Cannabis prohibition, Harry J. Anslinger. 1937 is perhaps the worst year of the great depression. The events surrounding the criminalization of cannabis / hemp occur at this particularly harsh time in American History. Happening more-or-less simultaneously:
The DuPont company is promoting chemical/oil based synthetic fibers, the patents for which were obtained as war reparations from Germany after WWI;helping DuPont is his lifelong friend, Andrew J. Mellon, who happens to be the Secretary of the Treasury [both men are remembered by history as Robber Barons]. In Southern California the white political establishment is trying to gain control
of a “lawless” [no it wasn’t] community, the Mexicans. One way to control a people is to make something specific to those people a
crime. The only unique thing about the Mexicans in southern California in the 1920’s is that they smoke hemp, which they call by the slang term marihuana. Very few Americans have ever heard of marihuana. Mexican’s use it, black jazz musicians use it [Chicago and New Orleans], and that’s pretty much it. Inconveniently there is no evidence that smoking hemp/marihuana is dangerous.
But IF marihuana were a menace, and IF hemp were revealed to be marihuana, then marihuana/hemp could be made illegal which would (1) create a control mechanism sending the police into the Mexican community, while also (2) removing a natural source competitor to DuPont’s new oil-based products [which, at the time, were advertised as environmentally friendly]. Everybody wins? But how do you make
the hemp plant, mankind’s ancient friend and provider, into a monster? Easy, you lie.
Two people now become important to our story: Harry J. Anslinger, the newly crowned head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics [and, incidentally, the nephew-in-law of the previously mentioned Sec. of the Treasury, Mellon]; and newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst. Hearst lives in southern California and hates Mexicans. Anslinger is a whore for publicity just like J. Edgar Hoover, with whom
Anslinger feels he is in direct competition – for funding and praise.
In America first we demonize, then we criminalize. Hearst starts running questionable [i.e. fabricated] stories about the dangers of marihuana. Hearst’s purpose in running these stories is to sell newspapers, which is what Mr. Hearst is all about. This nationwide fabricated-fear-campaign is cited by Anslinger as hard evidence of a problem. Something must be done about marihuana! Hearst then
runs legitimate stories about Anslinger’s campaign, citing Anslinger’s use of Hearsts’ fabricated stories as proof that Hesrst’s stories are true.
The tale of Victor Licata is typical. With a history of mental illness and earlier, failed attempts to institutionalize Victor, the young man kiled his family with an ax. According to Anslinger, the reason for this homicidal act was, yes, marihuana!
Hollywood, always ready to make a buck, begins producing movies about the dangers of marihuana. Assassin of Youth is a personal favorite and available on DVD if you are curious. There was some great weed, back in the day, if these films can be trusted. The first time most Americans ever hear about marihuana is in this dishonest campaign. A tax mechanism, modeled on the machine gun tax law, is crafted to remove the offending plant from society. To possess either a (1) machine gun or (2) marijuana you must first obtain a tax stamp for the (1) machine gun or (2) marijuana. No tax stamps are made available for either (1) machine guns or (2) marijuana and machine
guns and our plant are taxed out of existence. Governmental bureaucracy (1) enforces the tax law and thus (2) keeps both machine guns and marihuana suppressed. Hemp is now an outlaw.
This is the root of our challenge in re- legalizing the plant. Fear, built on a foundation of lies, then reinforced by the action of the law for seventy-plus years is proving a tough foe. But when you tell this story no one is ever surprised to learn the government told yet another lie. We should not be afraid of what challenges lie ahead. We are the ones telling the truth.
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