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Marijuana Issues Author: Staff Editor Last Updated: Sep 7, 2017 - 10:06:33 PM

How Marijuana Really Became Illegal in the United States

By Staff Editor
Sep 15, 2015 - 11:33:23 AM

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Why and how did Marijuana become illegal?

( - Dr. David Bearman, author of a newly published comprehensive two volume history of the fascinating origins of the US drug laws, says that it had very little to do with marijuana's medicinal and stress-relieving properties.

"History," he shows, "indicates it was economics and greed."

Marijuana, which until the 1930s was known as cannabis, comes from the hemp plant.  Hemp is easy to grow almost anywhere and can be used for making a myriad of things from paper to rope to lubricating oil to medicine.  One of Henry Ford's first cars ran entirely on hemp ethanol.  And during World War II, he built a complete car out of hemp to demonstrate its versatility.

I n 1916, the U. S. Department of Agriculture published Bulletin 404 which stated:

"Every tract of 10,000 acres which is devoted to hemp raising year by year is equivalent to a sustained pulp production capacity of 40,500 acres of average wood-pulp lands."

Since the middle of the 19th century, cannabis was in almost every pharmacy in the US.  It was widely considered the best medicine for relieving migraines.  So hemp and cannabis were very much accepted for their many benefits to American society.

The Demonization of Marijuana

Bearman's historical chronology details the events of the post-depression twenties and thirties leading up to the development of the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937.  The legislation, which prohibited the consumption of cannabis and put heavy taxes on the sale of hemp, was driven by business interests, and it was promoted by prejudice-fueled rhetoric.

"The laws were clearly aimed at demonizing and controlling minorities and other ‘undesirables'."

DuPont wanted hemp outlawed so his petro-chemical products would not have to face competition from hemp.

William Randolph Hearst conducted a yellow journalism campaign against Hispanics and Mexicans for decades.  Hearst-papers lambasted Mexican immigrants for laziness and contributing to crime. His anger is believed to have been aimed at Pancho Villa, who had appropriated over 1,000,000 acres of his land in northern Mexico during the Mexican Revolution in 1910.

Henry J. Anslinger, was appointed to be the Director of the newly formed Federal Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drug Agency in 1930. The FBN was responsible for enforcing federal drug laws against heroin, opium, and cocaine...but not cannabis because it was not considered a dangerous drug.

Anslinger, married the daughter of Andrew Mellon, the wealthy financier and, not so coincidentally, the du Pont family's banker.  Mellon was also secretary of the U.S. Treasury.  It was in this capacity that he appointed his niece's husband, Anslinger, to be the first director of  the FBN.  Interestingly, he held this post until President John F. Kennedy accepted his resignation in 1962

In 1933, Anslinger launched a national propaganda campaign, speaking across the country and writing many commentaries in newspapers and magazines - with assistance from the Hearst syndicate - against what he called the evils of "marihuana" or marijuana.  Most people did not know "marijuana" was cannabis.

Anslinger asserted a bogus relationship between marijuana (never using the word cannabis) with murder, mayhem, Mexicans, Negroes, jazz. Anslinger worked hard to associate the word "marijuana" with depraved behavior and heinous acts.  He was a great publicist.

These alleged drug-crazed acts were trumpeted in lurid magazine articles he authored, including "Youth Gone Loco" and "Sex Crazing Drug Menace".

His most well-known article was probably "Marijuana, Assassin of Youth", which appeared in the America Magazine in 1937.  In it Anslinger wrote:

"No one knows when he places a marijuana cigarette to his lips, whether he will become a joyous reveler in a musical heaven, a mad insensate, a calm philosopher or a crazed killer."

This racist assault culminated in the 1937 Marijuana Tax Act.

From the Marijuana Tax Act in 1937 to Nixon's War on Drugs  to the present, those behind the promotion and passage of U.S. drug laws often had a vested interest, usually financial or political or both.

Drugs Are Not the Devil's Tools

Dr. David Bearman

Two Volumes

Color $45 each  BW $30 each

For more information contact Blue Point Books

Drugs are NOT the Devil's Tools is an engaging, thoughtful, beautifully illustrated and well-researched examination into the origin of United States drug laws.  Dr. David Bearman shows how , through intertwining motives of discrimination and greed, often under the guise of morality , the government has created a drug policy that is completely dysfunctional. As he points out, our drug laws have been very effective in further marginalizing already discriminated-against groups and a total failure in every other respect.

In Drugs Are Not the Devil s Tools, Dr. Bearman shows that there has rarely been a civilization in the history of mankind that has not used some form of mind-altering substance. He also demonstrates that the very real medical properties of cannabis were recognized thousands of years ago and describes the useful medical properties of opium, coca, alcohol and spices.

Dr. Bearman offers numerous suggestions about how to fix the U.S. drug policy.

About the Author

David Bearman received his M.D. from the University of Washington School of Medicine. He has served at all levels of government including the U.S. Public Health Service, Director of Health Services at San Diego State University, Health Officer and Director Sutter County Health Department and Medical Director/Director of Medical Services for the Santa Barbara Regional Health Authority (now CenCal). Dr. Bearman has a long career in the field of drug abuse treatment and prevention. He was prominent in the community clinic movement, having started the third Free Clinic in the country in Seattle, then directing the Haight Ashbury Drug Treatment Program, and  founded the Isla Vista Medical Clinic. He was Medical Director of Santa Barbara County Methadone Maintenance Clinic, Ventura County Opiate Detox Program, and Zona Seca, an outpatient drug treatment program.

He is a leader in the field of cannabinoid medicine, a co-founder of the American Academy of Cannabinoid Medicine and on the board of Americans for Safe Access. The Wall Street Journal Health Blog named him "Doctor of the Day ." He has taught courses on the physiology and history of substance use and abuse at UCSF , UCSB, and SDSU, been a consultant to Hoffman La Roche, NIDA and the National PT A, made numerous professional presentations, consulted widely and has been an expert witness in over 400 civil, criminal, and family court cases. Currently he is Zona Seca's Medical Consultant and maintains a private practice in Santa Barbara, California.


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