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Racism = Bad. Ganja = Good.


Racism = Bad. Ganja = Good.

Anyone remember the days when ganja grew freely in the United States? How about Brooklyn, specifically? You don’t have to, because the Huffington Post published an article this weekend with photos! It also hints at the reasons marijuana was prohibited in the first place – a renegade against the plant with massive racist, classist undertones and a lot of exaggerated warnings.

Brooklyn Public Library

Which brings us to a little history lesson.

In the 1700’s in early America, the beloved founding fathers grew a ton of hemp. They loved it. By the 1800’s, cannabis was sold in drugstores and praised for relieving migraines and menstrual cramps. In 1854, A New York Times article referred to it as one of “our fashionable narcotics.” So chic.

Then, the dream ended. Harry Anslinger launched an anti-marijuana media campaign in the 1930’s that created a frenzy of fear throughout the nation. His campaign claimed marijuana would turn teenagers into sociopaths, homicidal maniacs that would murder their own families.

Not only did Anslinger spout outright lies to incite fear into the public, but he also fully embraced racism as a tool to demonize marijuana. The following statements…yeah, he actually said these words in his out loud voice:

“There are 100,000 total marijuana smokers in the U.S., and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos and entertainers. Their Satanic music, jazz and swing result from marijuana use. This marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers and any others…Reefer makes darkies think they’re as good as white men.”

It wasn’t long until the American church picked up the anti-marijuana cause, producing the 1936 film “Tell Your Children,” which depicted teenagers using the drug and descending into madness. Of course, by the 1960’s and 1970’s while half a million people were getting stoned at Woodstock, the film had become a cult classic entitled “Reefer Madness.”

The public doesn’t respond well to fear-mongering. The media can scare people out of almost anything. Thanks to Harry Anslinger’s lies, marijuana became federally illegal on August 2, 1937 under the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937.

In 1970, Congress passed the Controlled Substances Act classifying marijuana as a drug with a “high potential for abuse” and “no currently accepted medical use.”

Moral of the story? Fear-mongering goes a long way. Racism should be dead, but we’re still living under laws created under its influence. This is wrong on many levels, and it’s something that should be a much more prominent part of the legalization dialogue.


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