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The Conspiracy Behind Cannabis Prohibition
by Marc Gromis
The Conspiracy Behind Cannabis Prohibition
Why is the United States the only industrial country in the world that prohibits its farmers from growing hemp? And, why, in a nation that permits adults to use tobacco, alcohol and deadly pain medications like OxyContin and Xanax, is it unlawful to use marijuana for medicinal and other purposes?
To answers these questions one must examine the history of cannabis prohibition from the 1930s till today.
The origins of reefer madness
In 1930, Harry Anslinger was appointed the first commissioner of the newly created Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN). The Narcotics Bureau, like the Bureau of Prohibition, was under the U.S. Treasury Department.
Anslinger had been appointed by the Secretary of the Treasury, banker/businessman Andrew W. Mellon of Pennsylvania, the wealthiest man in America and his wife’s uncle. The Federal Bureau of Narcotics was given a budget of $100,000 (about $1.5 million today). Anslinger did not consider marijuana to be a serious threat to American society. He changed his mind in 1934, the fourth year of his tenure (Prohibition ended in 1933), at which point he spearheaded an anti-marijuana campaign aimed at scaring the public and outlawing cannabis in all forms. Receiving heavy support from the famous newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst, Anslinger propelled the anti-marijuana sentiment to a national movement.
Many historians have concluded that Anslinger and the campaign against marijuana had a hidden agenda: The E. I. DuPont De Nemours company had strong business interests in suppressing hemp, the common name used for cannabis. “Uncle Andrew” W. Mellon had invested heavily in the Du Pont family’s new synthetic fiber, nylon, a fiber that was competing with hemp. Dupont had been making major breakthroughs at the time in synthetics like nylons, polymers and plastics, but almost all of their synthetic products could be competitively matched in quality and produced cheaper using industrial hemp.
Hemp was also threatening to become a cheap substitute for wood pulp made paper used in the newspaper industry; that was a threat to the enormous timber holdings of William Randolph Hearst. The conclusion is that Dupont working together with William Randolph Hearst, conspired to create the highly sensational anti-marijuana campaign to eliminate hemp as an industrial competitor.
As owner of the largest coast-to-coast newspaper chain in America and the creator of sensationalist news, dubbed “Yellow Journalism,” William Randolph Hearst was a master at manipulating public opinion. He is largely credited with pushing the country into the Spanish-American War of 1898 by publishing fabricated stories of gruesome murders, rapes and slaughter committed by the Spanish against the people of Cuba—it was a turning point in the history and the power of propaganda.
Between 1934 and 1937, Anslinger, in conjunction with the Hearst/DuPont empires, had convinced several states to outlaw marijuana possession. As time went on, more states that had been swamped with anti-marijuana propaganda, outlawed the harmless herb. But to truly preserve the DuPont interest in keeping hemp and its derivatives from becoming a commercially viable product, Anslinger needed federal legislation. He pursued such legislation and was successful.
Hearst also knew that telling lurid lies about Mexicans and the devil weed marijuana causing violence, rapes and murders had an added bonus, it sold newspapers.
Some samples from Hearst’s San Francisco Examiner:
“Marihuana makes fiends of boys in thirty days—Hashish goads users to bloodlust.”
“By the tons it is coming into this country—the deadly, dreadful poison that racks and tears not only the body, but the very heart and soul of every human being who once becomes a slave to it in any of its cruel and devastating forms…Marihuana is a short cut to the insane asylum. Smoke marihuana cigarettes for a month and what was once your brain will be nothing but a storehouse of horrid specters. Hasheesh makes a murderer who kills for the love of killing out of the mildest mannered man who ever laughed at the idea that any habit could ever get him…”
As a result of this smear campaign, and in particular Anslinger’s lies before a naive Congress, the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937, was passed, the effect of which was to ban the sale of all forms of cannabis. The Act was drafted by Anslinger and introduced by Rep. Robert L. Doughton of North Carolina, on April 14, 1937.
The seventy-fifth Congress held hearings in April 1937. Anslinger testified before the Ways and Means Committee. Included in his testimony were these statements:
“Some people will fly into a delirious rage, and they are temporarily irresponsible and may commit violent crimes. Other people will laugh uncontrollably. It is impossible to say what the effect will be on any individual.”
“It is dangerous to the mind and body, and particularly dangerous to the criminal type, because it releases all of the inhibitions.”
“I will give you gentleman just a few outstanding evidences of crimes that have been committed as a result of the use of marihuana.”
“A gang of seven young men, all seven of them, young men under 21 years of age. They terrorized central Ohio for more than two months, and they were responsible for 38 stick-ups. They all boast they did those crimes while under the influence of marihuana.”
“There was one town in Ohio where a young man went into a hotel and held up the clerk and killed him, and his defense was that he had been affected by the use of marihuana.”
“In Florida a 21-year-old boy under the influence of this drug killed his parents and his brothers and sisters. The evidence showed that he had smoked marihuana.”
“In Chicago recently two boys murdered a policeman while under the influence of marihuana. Not long ago we found a 15-year-old boy going insane because, the doctor told the enforcement officers, he thought the boy was smoking marihuana cigarettes. They traced the sale to some man who had been growing marihuana and selling it to these boys all under 15 years of age, on a playground there.”
“In Alamosa County, and in Huerfano County the sheriff was killed as the result of the action of a man under the influence of marihuana. Recently in Baltimore a young man was sent to the electric chair for having raped a girl while under the influence of marihuana.”
In addition to Anslinger’s efforts, during the early decades of the 20th century, as modern pharmaceutical products began to replace herbal formularies, cannabis medicines came up against severe opposition in the form of an international prohibition.
Additional misinformation was presented in lurid anti-marijuana movies with titles like Marijuana: the Weed With Roots in Hell, released 1936; Marijuana Assassin of Youth, released 1937; The Burning Question, released 1936.
The most well known film Reefer Madness, released in 1936, was a typical propaganda exploitation drama film that presented as truth certain melodramatic events that occurred when high school students were lured by pushers to try marijuana—from a hit and run accident, to manslaughter, suicide, attempted rape, hallucinations, and descent into madness due to marijuana addiction. The film can be viewed on YouTube.
The end result of the anti-cannabis campaign, the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937, not only effectively banned the sale of marijuana but also killed off industrial hemp; the real enemy of Hearst and those with petroleum interests.
Hemp for Victory
In 1942, during World War II, hemp prohibition was momentarily lifted due to the needs of the U.S. military for this valuable fiber. The government had a film made, called Hemp for Victory, urged farmers to grow 36,000 acres of hemp to support the war effort.
After the war ended, prohibition continued as cannabis reverted to its “evil” status.
The Nixon/Reagan/Bush years
President Nixon officially started the “War on Drugs.” Historical documents show that his hatred of protesters against the Vietnam War, and hippies in general, motivated his actions.
Nixon made it clear several times that he wanted studies that supported his views and “tough on crime” policies, no matter what the facts might be.
“At a critical juncture when the United States decided how it would handle marijuana, President Nixon’s prejudices did more to dominate policy that the thoughtful and extensive review of his own Blue Ribbon Commission, observed Kevin Zeese, President of Common Sense for Drug Policy. “If we had followed the advice of the experts rather than Nixon’s prejudices we would have less marijuana use, be spending less money on marijuana enforcement and many million less people would have been arrested.”
Highlights of Nixon comments on marijuana:
■ Jews and marijuana: “I see another thing in the news summary this morning about it. That’s a funny thing, every one of the bastards that are out for legalizing marijuana is Jewish. What the Christ is the matter with the Jews, Bob, what is the matter with them? I suppose it’s because most of them are psychiatrists…”
■ Marijuana and the culture wars: “You see, homosexuality, dope, immorality in general. These are the enemies of strong societies. That’s why the Communists and the left-wingers are pushing the stuff, they’re trying to destroy us.”
■ Marijuana compared to alcohol: marijuana consumers smoke “to get high” while “a person drinks to have fun.” Nixon also saw marijuana leading to loss of motivation and discipline but claimed: “At least with liquor I don’t lose motivation.”
■ Marijuana and political dissent: “…radical demonstrators that were here…two weeks ago …They’re all on drugs, virtually all.”
■ Drug education: “Enforce the law, you’ve got to scare them.”
The Reagan/Bush years
The policies started by Nixon continued during the Reagan and Bush administrations under the leadership of “Drug Czar” Carlton Turner. At conventions of pharmaceutical companies from 1981 to 1986, Turner vowed to continue research bans on cannabis. He also was a proponent of the government’s spraying of paraquat on marijuana, contending that this poison would dissuade kids from smoking pot.
Karma sometimes is noticeable, and Turner was forced to resign in 1986 after he stated in public addresses that marijuana smoking caused homosexuality and AIDS.
A complete history of hemp prohibition, including an appendix of historical documents, is contained in The Emperor Wears No Clothes, first published in 1985 by Jack Herer who was born in Buffalo, in 1939. This book is referred to as “The Hemp Bible,” and is required reading for anyone seriously interested in cannabis history and usages.
The Conspiracy Continues
In the post-Turner years, and up to today, the federal government’s policies have continued to hamper research into the medical benefits of cannabis. Some observers have opined that the pharmaceutical industry is behind these policies, while others have contended that the real goal of these policies is to keep industrial hemp illegal and protect the interests of the petroleum and other industries threatened by the myriad uses for hemp.
In support of these policies, the DEA has maintained that cannabis has no medicinal value and has thwarted legitimate research studies. Interestingly, the federal government has filed applications to patent cannabis that are supported by government-funded studies that concluded that cannabis is safe and has medicinal value for treating inflammation and other conditions.
In its patent (#6,630,507) titled CANNABINOIDS AS ANTIOXIDANTS AND NEUROPROTECTANTS, the government makes many impressive claims about cannabis stating that: “Cannabinoids are potent antioxidants...they easily penetrate tissues giving them the ability to enter the central nervous system and brain. Cannabinoids such as CBD (cannabidiol) are particularly advantageous as they are non-toxic...and exhibit unique antioxidant properties.” This hypocritical position of the government is unknown to most members of the public.
The tide is turning
Almost every day, research studies are published showing new medicinal uses for cannabis. Cannabis has been found to improve the lives of Alzheimer’s patients, individuals in chronic pain, and even to help broken bones heal quicker and stronger.
The National Cancer Institute has recognized that marijuana may kill cancer cells. Children with severe seizure disorders are obtaining relief from medical marijuana. Recently, New York State has approved medical cannabis for patients suffering from Parkinson’s, Huntington’s and a number of other serious illnesses.
Industrial hemp, which also is cannabis sativa like marijuana, is being used as an environmentally friendly product to build homes, parts for cars, and for fuel and fiber. Hemp seeds are considered a superfood, and hemp oil is used in cosmetics and hundreds of other products.
There is consensus among observers of the cannabis movement that the days of prohibition are coming to an end. More than 80 percent of Americans support medical cannabis, and more than 50 percent support legalization of marijuana. A number of universities now have projects wherein hemp is being grown and researched. Studies regarding the medicinal use of cannabis are now going forward in states where cannabis has been legalized and at universities and research centers in the United States and around the world.
In the words of Victor Hugo, “No army can withstand the power of an idea whose time has come.” George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, who were hemp farmers, may finally stop spinning in their graves.
Marc Gromis is a lawyer whose practice is limited to medical marijuana law. He also is an adjunct professor of law at SUNY/Buffalo School of Law, teaching White Collar Crime. Previously, he was a federal prosecutor in Buffalo for more than 15 years, and an owner of Buffalo Hemp Outfitters on Elmwood Avenue from 2005-2009. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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