Marijuana Laws Based On Discriminatory Past

Marijuana Laws Based On Discriminatory Past
Posted by CN Staff on February 19, 2008 at 06:16:05 PT
By Greg Pivarnik
Source: Daily Campus
Connecticut -- Marijuana has been illegal for a long time. However, unlike with most drugs there has always been a rather distinguished movement to have it legalized. In the American psyche, it lies somewhere between alcohol and everything else. It recent years, doctors and patients touting its medical benefits have brought it back to the forefront, causing some states and cities to either decriminalize it or to allow doctors to prescribe it for medical uses. It is time that the history and reasons for marijuana prohibition be reexamined and hopefully significant and serious debate can be reopened among politicians.
Any intelligent debate, especially in Congress, has been stifled by the knee-jerk reaction to say that it is illegal and it should stay that way. There is some fear marijuana will open a can of worms and "corrupt our youth." However this argument has no firm ground to stand on, especially when upon further examination - marijuana was made illegal without any scientific basis. The passages of the first prohibitive pieces of legislation regarding marijuana, the Uniform Narcotic Drug Act (1932) and the Marihuana Tax Act (1937), were passed based only on racist agendas against minority classes - especially Mexicans - and by overly exaggerated tales of murder and mayhem caused by the drug. Marijuana legislation began primarily as a regional phenomenon based in southern and western states. For the most part, the legislation was racially motivated. Despite what people may think, Mexican immigration is not a new issue. Today it may be based on nationalism and fairness to the working class, though some may argue otherwise, but in the 1920s and 30s anti-Mexican sentiment was based on blatant racism.It was generally known that marijuana use in these states was limited to Mexican immigrants. During this time, with the Mexican population growing in Southern and Western states, legislators saw their use of marijuana as a way to stem this tide. There are two reasons that state legislatures made marijuana illegal. The first is that during this time the Temperance Movement was in full swing. This was at the height of alcohol prohibition in the United States. Legislators wanted to ensure with the influx of Mexican immigrants, there was no rise in use of marijuana among the white middle- and upper-classes. Second, the onset of the Great Depression, created an enormous of resentment among the white populations competing for jobs with Mexican immigrants. Marijuana prohibition was the perfect to tool to prevent the loss of jobs among the white populations, because it only affected Mexicans workers. The second leg of marijuana prohibition involved yellow journalism, mainly under the leadership of William Randolph Hearst, the owner of one of the largest newspaper chains in the United States. In many stories, writers often tied marijuana to violent crimes, including rapes and murders, earning its reputation as the "killer weed." Often these reports were unsubstantiated. There was never any scientific proof cited that marijuana caused the violence. Many of the culprits tried to pin their behavior on their marijuana use, claiming it made them crazy. This was good enough for many reporters despite the lack of scientific evidence. This could allow states to rationalize the deportation, imprisonment, and immigration quotas of Mexican workers.The stories of minority perpetrators often added to the marijuana hostility by whites. In 1935, a Sacramento, Calif. reader wrote to The New York Times stating "Marijuana, perhaps the most insidious of narcotics, is a direct by-product of unrestricted Mexican immigration ... Mexican peddlers have been caught distributing marijuana cigarettes to school children." The racist sentiments even reached the floor of Congress. Harry J. Anslinger, the commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, the organization in charge of instituting marijuana prohibition, presented a letter he received from the editor of a Colorado newspaper as part of his testimony in favor of the Marihuana Tax Act. The letter described an attack by a Mexican-American under the influence of marijuana on a girl in the region and went on to state, "I wish I could show you what a small marijuana cigarette can do to one of our degenerate Spanish-speaking residents. That's why our problem is so great; the greatest percentage of our population is composed of Spanish-speaking persons, most of whom are low mentally, because of social and racial conditions."Eventually, the Marihuana Tax Act was overturned by the Supreme Court. According to the law it was illegal to possess marijuana, but in order to obtain the necessary tax stamp, one had to have the marijuana present. This meant a person trying to obtain the stamp was in direct violation of the law while trying to do so.Despite the racial motivations for the first marijuana legislative measures, this not did not stop Congress from passing the Controlled Substances Act in 1970, making marijuana a Schedule I drug (along with heroin, while cocaine is a Schedule II). This is not to say Congress was motivated by racial intolerance. However, the previous laws which had their basis in racial prejudice contributed unconsciously to the mindset that marijuana is evil. This mindset has unfortunately lasted in the psyches of people to this day, who refuse to look at marijuana legislation with an open mind. However, since marijuana is illegal, it will be very hard to overturn such a law. Alcohol prohibition lasted 13 years, and was repealed after an exhausting fight. Despite this pitfall, any laws that have a historical basis in racial prejudice need to be reexamined and reevaluated.Weekly columnist Greg Pivarnik is an 8th-semester molecullar and cell biology major. His columns run on Tuesdays. Source: Daily Campus, The (UConn, CT Edu)Author: Greg PivarnikPublished: February 19, 2008Copyright: 2008 The Daily CampusContact: opinion dailycampus.comWebsite: -- Cannabis Archives
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Comment #8 posted by Sinsemilla Jones on February 21, 2008 at 03:09:32 PT
Then again, Alternnet says no conspiracy....
Debunking the Hemp Conspiracy TheoryPot isn't illegal because the paper industry is afraid of competing with hemp -- it's because of racism and the culture wars. -According to W.A. Swanberg's extensive biography Citizen Hearst, the Hearst chain was actually the nation's largest purchaser of newsprint -- and when the price rose from $40 a ton to over $50 in the late 1930s, he fell so deep in debt to Canadian paper producers and banks that he had to sell his prized art collection to avert foreclosure. "It therefore seems that it would have been in Hearst's interest to promote cheap hemp paper substitutes, had that been a viable alternative," Dale Gieringer wrote in his article, calling the hemp-conspiracy theory "fanciful" and a "myth."
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Comment #7 posted by Paint with light on February 20, 2008 at 01:08:59 PT
Closing time
Anyone who has ever been in a bar much at closing time will know why it only took 13 years to repeal alcohol prohibition.A lot of people become irate when you try to separate them from their alcohol.
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Comment #6 posted by JohnO on February 19, 2008 at 20:58:49 PT:
Who is this Hearst fellow anyway? 
The following is approximately one half of the Popular Mechanics article which stirred so much fear in the heart of William Randolph Hearst who had invested his entire future on vast timber lands for pulpwood paper production. He knew hemp would bankrupt him if allowed to continue, his reaction to this was clearly selfish yellow journalism. Hearst must surely have known this was looming in the distance, the Popular Mechanics article was about a year too late for American farmers weary of the great depression. Had they known his true intent, they would have had an old fashioned bonfire using Hearst papers as fuel, instead they lost everything.**Popular Mechanics, February 1938, p. 238 ff. New Billion-Dollar Crop
AMERICAN farmers are promised a new cash crop with an annual value of several hundred million dollars, all because a machine has been invented which solves a problem more than 6,000 years old. It is hemp, a crop that will not compete with other American products. Instead, it will displace imports of raw material and manufactured products produced by underpaid coolie and peasant labor and it will provide thousands of jobs for American workers throughout the land. 
The machine which makes this possible is designed for removing the fiber-bearing cortex from the rest of the stalk, making hemp fiber available for use without a prohibitive amount of human labor. Hemp is the standard fiber of the world. It has great tensile strength and durability. It is used to produce more than 5,000 textile products, ranging from rope to fine laces, and the woody "hurds" remaining after the fiber has been removed contain more than seventy-seven per cent cellulose, and can be used to produce more than 25,000 products, ranging from dynamite to Cellophane.** Hearst sold newspapers made from his own wood pulp rather than from much cheaper hemp fiber which would have been produced by those who eventually lost their lands to the depression and the dust bowl, the rest of us read his insane rhetoric and not a few actually believed it. The following is a list of current Hearst Company holdings for those of you who think his legacy deserves a national boycott. Albany Times Union Beaumont Enterprise Edwardsville Intelligencer Houston Chronicle Huron Daily Tribune Laredo Morning Times Midland Daily News Midland Reporter Plainview Daily Herald San Antonio Express- News San Francisco Chronicle Seattle Post- Intelligencer White Directory Publishers, Inc. (The Talking Phone BookŪ) Associated Publishing Co. Hearst News 
 God help us. 
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Comment #5 posted by FoM on February 19, 2008 at 17:43:29 PT
I agree. It put things in order. 
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Comment #4 posted by Dankhank on February 19, 2008 at 17:07:28 PT
yes .....
A very large collection of related facts that really put things in a perspective.. a good one I have needed to hear for a long time ...
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Comment #3 posted by FoM on February 19, 2008 at 12:49:15 PT
That was one of the most interesting articles I have read in a long time.
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Comment #2 posted by Dankhank on February 19, 2008 at 12:21:46 PT
this 08 election observation on alternet
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Comment #1 posted by Sinsemilla Jones on February 19, 2008 at 10:42:56 PT
Someone else read the Emperor!
Or read something by someone else who's read Herer's great book. No credit to Jack, but I'm sure he'll forgive them as long as they get the facts straight, which this molecular (one "l" Greg and/or his editor) and cell biology major pretty much does."This was good enough for many reporters despite the lack of scientific evidence." According to an Anslinger biographer on The History Channel, Hearst was the reporter much of the time. Hearst went to D.C. and met personally with Anslinger about the need for a federal marijuana law. Anslinger told his biographer that Hearst said he wrote all his paper's marijuana articles himself, because he thought it was such an important problem. Of course, reporters today, while they probably aren't worried about the value of their vast timberlands, still don't pay much attention to real scientific evidence, or the invalidity of junk science, nor do they seem to have read Herer, Grinspoon, CN (all available for free on the web), or done any research whatsoever."This is not to say Congress was motivated by racial intolerance." Well, not just racial intolerance, more of a general intolerance to all things foreign to old white men - long hair, jeans, peace, etc. Of course, to be fair to the Congress of 1970, they were busy ignoring the fact that Nixon's secret plan for peace was to expand the Vietnam War into Cambodia and Laos.
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