America's Love-Hate History with Pot

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  America's Love-Hate History with Pot

Posted by CN Staff on July 13, 2009 at 07:21:33 PT
By Charles Cooper and Declan McCullagh 
Source: CBS News 

CBS --  Norm Stamper still remembers the day, nearly six decades ago, when a police detective visited his elementary school class to warn of the dangers of smoking the "devil weed.""That was the term he used -- and he even brought along a bag of marijuana to show us," said Stamper, 65, who would later become Seattle's police chief. "I remember him saying something to the effect that, 'If you smoke this, it will rot the membrane in your nose.' He was an authority figure, and so I figured he could tell me something about the dangers of this drug. That was my early education about marijuana."
By today's standards, such a warning might sound as dated as the bug-eyed, morally-depraved pot fiends portrayed in the 1936 movie Reefer Madness.But it was in line with the prevailing view of the 1950s, which considered marijuana to be not just a dangerous drug, but a stepping stone to the use of heroin or even more dangerous controlled substances. In 1979, 27 percent of Americans favored legalization, according to a CBS News/New York Times poll at the time.A new CBS News poll released today finds that more Americans now support legalization. Forty-one percent said they think marijuana should be made legal and 52 percent are opposed. That's even more than in a CBS News poll in March when 31 percent said they were in favor of legalization in all cases with another seven percent saying they would favor legalization if marijuana were taxed and the money went to projects. Read more from the poll --"They told us that marijuana was a gateway drug," said Stamper, who these days is a speaker for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. "It was not."The story of how a child of the post-war era came to doubt, and then reject, conventional wisdom about the horrors of the "devil weed" parallels the story about how the rest of America has gradually rethought its views of marijuana. The transformation has been intertwined with the rise of the Baby Boom generation and its successors, the societal upheaval of the 1960s and 1970s, and a generational shift that chipped away at long-held assumptions about trust and authority.Today the potent smell of marijuana legalization is in the air. States including California and New Mexico -- and, as of mid-June, Rhode Island -- already permit marijuana's use for medicinal purposes. The success of those initiatives, coupled with an economic downturn, a president who did inhale and governors who are willing to discuss complete legalization, make it seem possible that legal bans on recreational use of marijuana will, in the not-so-distant future, go up in smoke. Smoke or Fire: How Pot Got Banned By historical standards, today's federal ban on possession of marijuana may eventually be viewed as something of an aberration. There's evidence that the intoxicating properties of cannabis were known to Chinese physicians about 2,000 years ago. And for the first few hundred years after colonies were established on Jamestown and Plymouth Rock, the possession of intoxicants was not forbidden.That began to change about 100 years ago. In response to worries about opium addicts, the International Opium Convention was held in 1909, which led to a drug-control treaty signed three years later by the major nations at the time, including the United States.The domestic political debate over opiates had unmistakable racist overtones. A 1914 headline in the New York Times said "Negro Cocaine 'Fiends' Are A New Southern Menace; Murder And Insanity Increasing Among Lower Class Blacks Because They Have Taken To 'Sniffing' Since Deprived Of Whisky By Prohibition." Another article about a black man who was lynched refers to him as a "cocaine fiend"; another says that "opium, the most pernicious drug known to humanity, is surrounded, in this country, with far fewer safeguards than any nation in all Europe fences it with."Congress enacted a law known as the Harrison Narcotics Tax Act of 1914, which regulated cocaine and opiates. Because that era coincided with a robust view of states' rights, the federal law did not seek to prohibit the private possession of pot directly. Such a measure probably would have experienced a swift demise at the hands of the judicial system at the time. So the Harrison Act's drafters took a more circuitous approach: they imposed stiff taxes.Cannabis was believed to be a narcotic having practically the same effect as morphine and cocaine, and state restrictions began sprouting like weeds.Some western states seem to have restricted it out of hostility to Mexican immigrants; a Chicago Tribune article from 1919 called cannabis "a weed of the Mexican desert." During the debate on Texas' first marijuana law, noted Charles Whitebread, a professor at the University of Southern California Law School, one legislator in the Texas Senate declared in session that "all Mexicans are crazy and this stuff is what makes them crazy."That was not an isolated sentiment. In a letter to the Bureau of Narcotics, Floyd Baskette, then the city editor of The Alamosa Daily Courier in Colorado, complained in 1936 about felons arrested while under the influence of marijuana."I wish I could show you what a small marijuana cigarette can do to one of our degenerate Spanish-speaking residents," he wrote. "That's why our problem is so great; the greatest percentage of our population is composed of Spanish-speaking persons, most of who are low mentally, because of social and racial conditions..."Other states and cities -- including New York City in 1914 -- outlawed pot for fear it was, or would become, a gateway drug leading to the use of opium or cocaine. The Legal War Over the Weed One year after the filming of "Reefer Madness," Congress enacted a law restricting the use of marijuana, cannabis or hemp. While it was a tax bill that did not officially ban pot, the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 was the first step toward a complete federal prohibition.The net effect of this Prohibition-era provision was to deter -- and stigmatize --recreational use of these substances for more than the next couple of generations. The Marihuana Tax Act is perhaps most remembered for the controversial testimony supporting its passage.One of its chief proponents, Harry J. Anslinger, then the Commissioner of Narcotics for the Treasury Department, offered testimony depicting marijuana in stark terms."Some individuals have a complete loss of sense of time or a sense of value," Anslinger said. "They lose their sense of place. They have an increased feeling of physical strength and power. Some people will fly into a delirious rage and they are temporarily irresponsible and may commit violent crimes... It is dangerous to the mind and body, and particularly dangerous to the criminal type, because it releases all of the inhibitions."At the time, there were more than two dozen medicinal products on the market which contained marijuana. In the new political climate, replete with warnings from the federal government, they didn't last long.The anti-marijuana laws toughened up with the passage of the Boggs Act in 1951, enacted with the same justification that New York City invoked a generation earlier -- that while marijuana was not addictive, it could invite users to switch to heroin. First time offenders could receive up to five years in jail. For second-timers, the range was between five and ten years, while third-time offenders could wind up sitting in prison between ten to twenty years.This federal act increased penalties for drug violators -- marijuana newly included -- and the individual states followed Uncle Sam's lead. But it was the return of the stepping stone thesis which made headlines. Once again, testimony surfaced linking marijuana with harder narcotics, and Anslinger returned to the microphone to sound more alarm bells."The danger is this," Anslinger said. "Over 50 percent of these young addicts started on marijuana smoking. They started there and graduated to heroin. They took the needle when the thrill of marijuana was gone."As the Beat Generation discovered its voice after World War II, it nonetheless remained a dangerous time to be caught with a joint. The hipsters remained a distinctly small minority, and movies like "High School Confidential" (1958) depicted marijuana infiltrating a small town high school. Marijuana possession was considered a felony in all 50 states punishable by punitive prison terms.But social upheaval loomed. When the youth counterculture emerged in the 1960s, its embrace of drugs forced lawmakers and police to deal with a sudden demographic change: Marijuana was no longer a problem confined to Hispanics and blacks. The sons and daughters of the white middle class were also toking up, and in significant numbers.Although public opinion was slow to catch up to the shift -- only 15 percent of the American people polled in a Gallup poll at the time favored marijuana legalization -- by the end of the decade, the laws recognized the difference between marijuana and more dangerous narcotics.Taking stock of the chronology of events in February 1970, the New York Times noted: "The problem has begun to come home to roost -- in all strata of society... suddenly, the punitive, vindictive approach was touching all classes of society. And now the most exciting thing that's really happening is the change in attitude by the people. Now we have a willingness to examine the problem as to whether it's an experimentation, or an illness rather than an 'evil.'"In subsequent years, the push behind marijuana legalization began to receive broader support. It was even supported by conservative icon William F. Buckley, who argued that the war against pot was wasting time and money."Most transgressors caught using marijuana aren't packed away to jail, but some are, and in Alabama, if you are convicted three times of marijuana possession, they'll lock you up for 15 years to life," he warned in 2004.Gradually, but consistently, social acceptance of marijuana continued to climb. By the 1980s, over 80 percent of high school students said they had easy access to marijuana. By 1988, no less an authority than the Drug Enforcement Administration's administrative law judge, Francis Young, concluded that "marijuana may well be the safest psychoactive substance commonly used in human history."As they do each April 20, when pot enthusiasts gather for so-called "smoke-out" events around the nation, the pro-legalization movement points to the greater acceptance of marijuana use as a harbinger of legal changes. Keith Stroup, founder of the marijuana legalization organization NORML, earlier this year earlier this year told CBS that "within 5 years we're going to stop arresting responsible marijuana smokers in this country."Meanwhile, medical marijuana initiatives have carried the day in several states, including California, Washington, Hawaii, Oregon, Alaska, Colorado, Nevada and Maine. And even though federal law continues to prohibit smoking marijuana even for medicinal purposes, the Obama administration has said it would no longer send federal police to conduct armed raids against dispensaries in states where voters have legalized medical marijuana.As for the legalization of marijuana for recreational use: So far, most politicians seem wary of the topic, and are being more conservative in their public statements than polls would suggest.When Mr. Obama, who has admitted to smoking pot, held a virtual town hall meeting in March, tens of thousands of Americans voted via the Internet on questions that he should be asked. Marijuana legalization was by far the most popular topic, with questions such as this one: "What are your plans for the failing, 'War on Drugs', that's sucking money from tax payers and putting non-violent people in prison longer than the violent criminals?"The president's answer: "No, I don't think this is a good strategy to grow our economy.""If (politicians) weren't congenital cowards, they would do it. But nobody wants to be the first to jump into the pool," said Jack Woehr, who ran unsuccessfully for Congress three times in Jefferson County, Colorado, where he argued that marijuana decriminalization is a civil rights question. "I think it will happen in the next six years. Somebody's going to do it, and the politicians will discover that the other side simply doesn't care that much."Another impetus that has been prompting calls for legalization is the lingering disparities in the legal treatment of affluent users who have tried marijuana -- and poorer Americans arrested on drug possession charges who are unable to navigate the legal system.Nationwide, police arrested over 820,000 people for marijuana possession as of 2006, according to FBI statistics, or one arrest every 38 seconds. Even in famously liberal San Francisco, possession of greater than 28.5 grams of cannabis is punishable by up to six months in jail, and racial and wealth disparities remains an issue.Carol Ruth Silver, a former Freedom Rider who served on San Francisco's Board of Supervisors for more than a decade, had worked with the local sheriff's department as director of prisoner legal services until earlier this year. But in February, she resigned her post over frustration that prisoners are still being incarcerated on charges of felony possession of marijuana.Silver said: "I had never seen or fully understood how totally wrong and unjust laws are that are keeping vast numbers of people in jail for exactly the same behavior that our presidents, law students and judges have engaged in -- which is the recreational use of drugs. Some people get caught and wind up in jail. Some people wind up in the White House. It became very difficult for me to have to look at somebody and say, 'You're in jail for something that I did and my friends did and the president did -- but you have to stay here when I walk out the door.'"Note: This story was written by Charles Cooper and Declan McCullagh as part of a new special report on the evolving debate over marijuana legalization in the U.S.Special Report: Marijuana Nation: The New War Over Weed: CBS News (US Web)Author: Charles Cooper and Declan McCullaghPublished: July 13, 2009Copyright: 2009 CBS Broadcasting Inc.Website: -- Cannabis Archives

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Comment #17 posted by RevRayGreen on July 13, 2009 at 20:39:00 PT
HOLY SMOKE- 1979 60 Minutes
-Ethiopian Zion Coptic Church history - Praise JAH Brother Louv and Brother Carlpassing this along from Carl.......Reverend Baker sent me a link to the original video. 
One louv,Brother Carl
60 Minutes - 1979 - Holy Smoke
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Comment #16 posted by ezrydn on July 13, 2009 at 19:03:22 PT:
They're afraid to promote the idea of taxation because if it worked, which we know it would, would blow a big hole in one of their primary main arguements. And if it worked in California, then it must be able to be workable in other states facing the same crisis.Forget federal law as the President has directed the Director of Justice to stay out of states that enact their own laws, even if in conflict with the federal law. This, my friends, is how federal law gets changed. This is "from the ground up."The hounds have been muzzled. Now, the legislators of the several states need to listen to the people they represent, not just the organizations that popped for the biggest party. "WE, THE PEOPLE" will prevail. The US Constitution says so. In the military, we have to memorize several things and be ready to respond to each one correctly. Maybe any member of Congress should be forced to completely memorize the US Constitution and be ready to recite on request, correctly and in order.Prohibitionists are the Drug Cartels best friends!
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Comment #15 posted by GeoChemist on July 13, 2009 at 16:28:08 PT
"Some individuals have a complete loss of sense of time or a sense of value," Anslinger said. "They lose their sense of place. They have an increased feeling of physical strength and power. Some people will fly into a delirious rage and they are temporarily irresponsible and may commit violent crimes... It is dangerous to the mind and body, and particularly dangerous to the criminal type, because it releases all of the inhibitions." I honestly thought he was talking about alcohol........End of line
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Comment #14 posted by HempWorld on July 13, 2009 at 15:28:00 PT
The police was just making sure this guy didn't die from something he tried to swallow. (at all cost I guess)
Police Is Here To Help You!
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Comment #13 posted by josephlacerenza on July 13, 2009 at 14:32:45 PT
O.T. Some News from the Huff Po
When will they stop killing in this "War on Drugs"? It was not the drugs that killed this man, it was the LEO's who did it!!!!
Scuffle With Police Ends In Death For Man Trying To Swallow Drugs
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Comment #12 posted by Sam Adams on July 13, 2009 at 13:50:38 PT
many interesting thoughts here. I think cultural propaganda is a fascinating issue.One excellent thing that is helping us now is of course internet & broader telecommunications. In the dark days of the 40's and 50's nearly everyone in the US was watching the same TV show, there were only a few channels. Today the federal govt. and corporate elite tighten their chokehold over traditional media and entertainment sources, but at the same time those are becoming obsolete.For instance, putting TV news aside (CNN is the mouthpiece of the federal govt), look at the networks. CBS, ABC, NBC and Fox are dominated by crime shows - nearly half of their prime-time programming in some cases. Clearly, the sheep-like masses still sit every night, transfixed by the endless stream of gruesome murders and "perpetrators" that must be brought to justice! (prison, of course). Saved by the kindly and noble prosecutor!  These idiotic people actually believe that police detectives look and talk like fashion super-models. The slender blond bombshell will bust all the evil criminals, which have really become more of caste society in this make-believe world of network garbage. Yet if you flip over to the cable channels - whoa! We've got normal, productive people smoking pot all over the place - suburban moms selling weed, lesbians, gay men, tattoos, parents taking MDMA, etc, etc. Same with internet news sources and entertainment. It's getting interesting though, I think the overall effect is that we're winning the propaganda battle. The mainstream media outlets just don't have enough market share to dominate the national consciousness.Reality is starting to break through the facade, like when the Governator proposed legalization. Or Al Roker blows the lid off the usual network propaganda. These seem like surprised to the Sheeple, because the mainstream media never reported on the medical MJ issue in California.The decrim vote here in Mass. was great - all the normal authority figures and media outlets were totally against it - police and prosecutors were shocked when it passed by 30 points - the propaganda mind-lock had worn off many years ago, yet those relying on mainstream media and the uniform speech of authority figures never had a clue until the votes came in.It's sort of like realizing you don't believe in Santa anymore. At first, fear and anxiety, then, a happy empowerment as you realize you don't need Santa anymore, you're growing up.I think in Mass. having all the uniformed police chiefs on TV opposing Question 2 actually helped, people in this state view unformed police as crooks. They don't have time to watch "Law and Order" re-runs and get brainwashed.
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Comment #11 posted by rchandar on July 13, 2009 at 11:31:50 PT:
We Will Never Forgive Them...
Taking drugs is a sin.A sin?Yes, a sin. Both the Roman Catholic Church and the Islamic clergy have written this into their dogma: drugs are now, a "sin."This can NEVER, EVER be forgiven--not in a million years can it be allowed to stand. When clergy adopt the role given to governments and apply themselves punitively as governments, resistance and protest are a must. This move by both faiths is a completely anti-historical moment of sensationalism--it is grossly unfair and condemns millions of otherwise devout human beings. The world of religion should acknowledge plainly that the past 40 years has been an achievement of herculean proportions--we grew the planet by 3 billion people without destroying vast regions of the planet, sustained vegetation and food production, and avoided for the most part planet-threatening acts of genocide (Darfur, Rwanda, and Kosovo excepted). Instead, our clerics have taken up the act of condemning us instead of lifting us up.--rchandar
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Comment #10 posted by rchandar on July 13, 2009 at 11:12:24 PT:
Sam Adams
& the only solution to their "culture war" is to fight our own "culture war"--breaking down and re-interpreting judgments and moral platforms that have obscured truth and morality."Drugs just aren't cool anymore"--sticker, 1984."Who taught you to do these things?"
"You did, alright? I learned it by watching you." (If parents don't take drugs, kids won't start) ONDCP commercial, 1987.Criticism of film and prime time did have some impact--the number of serials and shows that showed violent criminals and psychopaths who were not drug users increased after 1990. A number of things came out of the Reagan WoD that were disturbing: one, kids, turn in your parents for smoking pot? Don't like 'em? Resent being scolded or grounded by 'em. Then bust 'em! That's bad, in any society--Orwell wrote half of 1984 on the strength of the concept.Another--all drug users are immoral. Morality, as defined by whom? What constitutes right and wrong? Right and wrong can only be defined by scrupulous allegiance to law enforcement and the current political order. Dissidents and protesters aren't moral, they're self-centered and stupid. Many people will argue that the post-Bush world means de-militarizing our people, teaching them to contribute to the world rather than pan its seeming external irrelevance. What must be done, though, is remove this psychology of "wrong" from people, and that the vast majority of our citizens do not pose a threat to society's functioning. Plus, our tendency to over-judge people--borrowed also extensively from Reagan-era medias--"People's Court," "Judge Judy," etc etc. If people spend all their time wondering if they are all right or not, they will have very little time to perform the work they need to. Then they will be nothing, like drones...or so, Orwell did think...--rchandar
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Comment #9 posted by FoM on July 13, 2009 at 10:43:26 PT

No Visa wasn't around back then. LOL!Forget the Visa part and keep the music and the visuals and I'll be happy!
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Comment #8 posted by museman on July 13, 2009 at 10:35:11 PT

this article
 might be informative for the 40-50 something percent that are still hiding behind the nonsense, rhetoric, lies and propoganda of the 'war'.I actually thought these guys did a good job with this one.Sam points out the fact that there is still a lot of status quo residuals in the tone and delivery, but this line right here made me feel kinda good;" ....a generational shift that chipped away at long-held assumptions about trust and authority."The recognition that the roots of the entire problem extend further than just cannabis prohibition itself, and the hint that changing the root causes - false power and authority, supported by false values, attitudes and intentions held by the general population that were brought up, and in many cases forced to be in compliance, is the actual
 impetus behind whatever progress towards sanity we've managed to this point.One of the slogans of the more serious and dedicated folks who have struggled most of their lives on the frontlines of this evil, unconstitutional (should anyone care to actually put the constitutional pieces together -outside of legaleze), illegal, unethical, immoral, unfair, and corrupt prohition of one of lifes great gifts...."Question Authority!"I know a few people who had that bumper sticker on their car, and it was a cop magnet. Cops surely didn't/don't like the idea that we should question their motives and behavior.In fact, it is the undermining of power on street level that has worried the elect and their paid-for poitical lackies since Anslinger told them the one true thing about cannabis; it makes you think.Because the "..long-held assumptions about trust and authority." are being 'chipped away at' even more these days, and one by one people are beginning to wake up from eons of subservient compliance to undeserving humans who teach their children to believe in the 'specialness' of 'high social/economic strata,' and who created wars, prisons, laws, and police forces to uphold, and serve and protect their 'power and authority,' the light can be seen at the end of a ten thousand year old tunnel up from the depths of ignorance and slavery.The voices of the old ways are still loud, and their thugs are still running around like little tin gods, but if we just keep chipping away.....FREE CANNABIS FOREVER
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Comment #7 posted by Sam Adams on July 13, 2009 at 10:32:57 PT

wow, I thought the ad was FROM the 60's, for a second I was like whoa, I didn't know Visa was even around back then.Of course you could take your kid snorkeling for free and see cool stuff without going into hock. But making baby boomers feel guilty if they don't spoil the kids is Visa's bread and butter these days
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Comment #6 posted by FoM on July 13, 2009 at 10:16:25 PT

To tell you how it was for me it was an experience of searching. I think many people were searching for something different, something better and something that would make the world a better place.We watched adults use alcohol and we wanted to do it better somehow. Drugs were mostly Cannabis and LSD and most definitely have the best memories for me. Meth, Heroin, Amphetamines and Seconal were used but not like Cannabis and LSD.Slowly people gave up on most of the substances because of side effects except for Cannabis. Cocaine wasn't around or was very rare. When Cocaine entered the picture most people decided against it. This commercial reminds me of that time in history.Visa Aquarium :60 TV Commercial

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Comment #5 posted by Sam Adams on July 13, 2009 at 09:51:50 PT

This is article remains somewhat within the propaganda framework, but hey, it's excellent - anytime you have an article that delves in the history of prohibition and how the original laws were started we win! The rascist truth cannot be hidden.However, the statement that in the 60's people started getting more into drugs is what really bothers me. The people of the 40's and 50's were some of the biggest alcoholics ever. They also treated women badly. Many women and kids were trapped in homes where Daddy hit the hard liquor and beat everyone up, and they're weren't any abuse hotlines to call, no divorce for the woman.Instead of counseling for PTSD, returning WWII veterans were handed a bottle of whiskey, told not to talk about it, and sent to live with their families who would bear the brunt of the pain and the 60's people transitioned from alcohol and tobacco to cannabis, shrooms and LSD. It's not fair to say drug use increased - alcohol is a drug.The "culture wars" type articles always point to the 60's as bunch of druggie people, when in fact almost all us today are VERY happy with the changes brought by the social revolution.
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Comment #4 posted by FoM on July 13, 2009 at 09:49:32 PT

ABC Video: California Marijuana Tax Proposal
Monday, July 13, 2009URL:
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Comment #3 posted by Hope on July 13, 2009 at 08:47:24 PT

Comment 1
Funny thought.Can cannabis consumers save California? :0)Maybe...Come on, guys. Maybe they could help.
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Comment #2 posted by anunlikelyally on July 13, 2009 at 08:22:42 PT:

Seems to me all these laws were passed under Democratic administrations. I wonder when Dems went from being raving drug warriors to pseudo drug reformers...
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Comment #1 posted by FoM on July 13, 2009 at 07:32:50 PT

Marijuana To The Rescue
Marijuana To The Rescue: 'World News' Touts Pot as California's Magic Fix***Segment ignores market dynamics in saying legal weed would be a revenue stream for state coffers. By Jeff Poor, Business & Media InstituteJuly 13, 2009URL:
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