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News (Media Awareness Project) - US CA: OPED: Anti-Marijuana Hysteria Never Made Sense
Title:US CA: OPED: Anti-Marijuana Hysteria Never Made Sense
Published On:2011-12-11
Source:Record Searchlight (Redding, CA)
Fetched On:2011-12-13 06:04:16

Your editorial last Sunday about trying to come to grips with the
federal versus the state law regarding marijuana made a great deal of
sense. What does not make sense is the anti-marijuana sentiment that
pervades Washington, D.C., specifically and law enforcement in
general. Many people seem to think that because marijuana was illegal
for so long, it must be bad. What they do not understand is that
marijuana was made illegal due to a combination of ignorance, racial
prejudice, government-created hysteria and corporate greed.

Primarily at the hands of a man named Harry Anslinger (with a lot of
help from the Rupert Murdoch of the time, William Randolph Hearst).

Anslinger had been heavily involved in the anti-alcohol movement
during Prohibition. He became the Assistant Commissioner of
Prohibition in 1929. However, by that time, it was clear that
Prohibition's days were numbered.

In 1930, he managed to get himself named the head of the newly
organized Federal Bureau of Narcotics. Initially, he told Congress
that he did not believe that marijuana should be prohibited as was the
case with opium and heroin.

However, that position did not last long. Soon, he advocated classing
opium derivatives and marijuana together as wildly dangerous drugs
that had to be eradicated for the good of the country.

There was, of course, no scientific evidence for these claims
regarding marijuana, a fact that did not seem to bother Anslinger at
all. He was building his empire.

Marijuana made a perfect target because it was perceived as being used
primarily by Mexicans and African-Americans. Considering the racial
stereotypes of the 1930s, this was a powerful sales pitch. Stories of
black men using marijuana to control and seduce white women frequently
appeared any place Hearst could get them published. Other stories,
such as young men murdering their entire families while high on
marijuana, were also favorites

In law school, I wrote a paper on the Marijuana Tax Act, which
prohibited marijuana at the federal level.

I read the entire Congressional Record regarding that

What follows is my recollection, since I cannot find the paper and do
not have access to the Congressional Record for the early 1930s.

Suffice it to say, the entire process would have been funny if it were
not so tragic.

The federal law required you to have a federal tax stamp to import or
possess marijuana.

If you applied for such a stamp, the feds would rat you out to the
local cops because most states had made possession of marijuana a
serious crime.

There was no scientific evidence presented to anyone that marijuana
presented any kind of hazard.

The only group that sought an exemption from the law was an
organization of manufacturers of bird seed. It turns out that
marijuana seed gives at least some birds brighter plumage.

There was some hilarious discussion by Congress that they could not
countenance all of these stoned birds flying around.

The exemption was granted, but only with the caveat that the seeds had
to be heated to a sufficient temperature so that the active ingredient
would burn or boil off so we would not have out of control birds
flying all over the country.

I am not making this up.

The only witness who testified in favor of marijuana was Mayor
Fiorello LaGuardia of New York. He testified that New York had bars,
where people would drink, and tea houses where they would smoke
marijuana. He told Congress that the primary difference between the
two was that the tea houses required very little police intervention,
whereas the cops were called to the bars all of the time. That
testimony did not impress Congress at all. The act passed

Over the next 40 years or so, the attitude about marijuana got uglier
and uglier.

We were told that use of marijuana would inevitably lead to the use of
other drugs like heroin.

In school we were shown all sorts of propaganda about

I especially remember one grainy, black and white short movie that
showed a bunch of teens/young adults staggering around, appearing to
be high on something, opening bottles by breaking off the necks,
gouging their mouths horribly as they tried to drink from the bottles
and laughing hysterically about injuring themselves. All due to the
effects of marijuana.

If you get behind the wheel of a car when you are impaired, whether
from alcohol, prescription drugs, meth, cocaine, marijuana, or just
plain fatigue, you are a hazard to everyone on the road, including
yourself. But if there is a single case of someone dying from an
overdose of marijuana, I can't find a reference to it. Further, as
Mayor LaGuardia implied, there is a lot of fighting whiskey out there,
but not much fighting marijuana.

It appears to me that we are spending a lot of time, effort and money
addressing a non-problem.

Dugan Barr, an attorney, lives in Redding
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