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81 Years of Destructive Cannabis Prohibition in the U.S.

Back in the 1920’s and 30’s the prohibition of alcohol in the United States lasted for about a decade. Time and time and again, alcohol has been proven to be more harmful and destructive than that of cannabis – the latter having a myriad of healing properties ranging anywhere from cannabis medicine’s ability to shrink cancer cells to greatly reducing seizures, even to helping treat those who suffer from PTSD. Despite its proven benefits, and many states legalizing the drug for medicinal use, cannabis medicine remains illegal at the federal level in the United States. During alcohol prohibition, outlaws selling illegal alcohol made thousands, if not millions of dollars on the black market. The same is true for illegal cannabis. Why is cannabis prohibition, such a deeply entrenched plague on U.S. citizens, simply allowed to continue for 81 years, when it was quickly realized within about a decade that alcohol prohibition did not work?

The Beginning of Cannabis Prohibition

Cannabis was first outlawed in the United States in 1937. The law was called the Marihuana Tax Act. Watching propaganda films of the 1930’s such as  nowadays, even the staunchest supporter of prohibition will laugh at its ridiculous portrayal of cannabis users being vile, destructive criminals who will attack at any moment just to feed their ‘addiction’. The narrative of ‘the devil’s weed with its roots in hell’ was actually accepted and believed by most people in the U.S.

Because of all this shameful propaganda, the American people accepted the new cannabis ban with little to no backlash. The man in charge, leading the way for cannabis prohibition was named Harry Anslinger.

He was the first ever commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN). The FBN eventually became the DEA, as more drugs were added to the list of being illegal, and more tax dollars wasted on what eventually became a failed war on drugs that is 19 years away from hitting the century mark. Hopefully outright legalization happens before then, but people were saying that way back in the free love era of the 1960’s. Despite his destructive actions of being largely responsible for creating the drug war we know today, Anslinger remained in office for 32 years.

Up until Anslinger’s got his law passed against cannabis, most people referred to the plant medicine as either cannabis or hemp. Marijuana (spelled marihuana back then) was a term essentially created by the U.S. government to stir up feelings of racism and demonize the medicine and try to make people think that hemp and cannabis are two different plants.

Hemp as a Cash Crop

In addition to all of the healing properties of the cannabis plant, the non-psychoactive has been known to have many uses historically – from rope, to paper, to the seeds being consumed for high quality nutrition. Thankfully, states have wised up when it comes to the growing of hemp as well, with the production of industrial hemp now legal as long as it stays at less than 0.3% THC.

Hemp was grown by some of the founding fathers of the U.S. such as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. Before prohibition really got its stranglehold on the minds of the American people, the magazine Popular Mechanics said that hemp was a ‘billion dollar cash crop.’

Cannabis Prohibition Hurts the People

The ACLU has reported that from 2001 to 2010, arrests for cannabis were more than half of every single arrest made in America, which were about 8.2 million arrests. A whopping 88 percent were for merely possessing the plant medicine – not with an intend to deliver, or for being violent or destructive in any way – simply for having a bit of vegetation on their person that the government outlawed decades ago.

The War on Drugs as we know it today has wasted billions upon billions of tax dollars, with the majority of the American people opposing prohibition. President Richard Nixon is responsible for the creation of the drug war in the 60’s and 70’s, as we know it today. Ronald Reagan and his first lady Nancy made the failed war on drugs even worse with the endless propaganda that came along with the “Just Say No” messages that came along in the 1980’s.

Nancy Reagan Just Say No

Nowadays, about sixty percent of all U.S. citizens think cannabis prohibition should finally meet its demise, after 81 senseless years of outlawing the plant medicine. Unfortunately, the elected officials in power continue to not reflect the will of the American people, with President Trump’s Attorney General Jeff Sessions remaining either willfully ignorant to the facts on cannabis medicine or outright refusing to accept them.

Despite all of the negative parts about the war on drugs and the war on cannabis medicine, individual states have made some great strides when it comes to legalization of medical and/ or recreational cannabis. Of course, until the federal government’s band on cannabis finally comes to an end, though, cannabis professionals in legal states will always have to worry about the illegality of the plant medicine, with the potential for their business to be raided or shut down at any time agencies like the DEA decide to do so.

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Historical Reference:

The Emperor Wears No Clothes by Jack Herer


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