The History of Marijuana Prohibition

Marijuana. Stinking filthy disgusting marijuana. Your church says it’s the Devil’s tool. Your government says it directly accounts for almost all crime and skumbags on the streets. Your teachers said “just say no.” Your grandmother says it’s a “dirty Mexican drug.” But the question is: what do you think about it? Did you ever actually have a chance, or the educated means, to make an informed decision and personal policy on marijuana? Or did you just follow the judicial trend? You pick up this article and furrow your brow; maybe this article could really help you out. Afterall, you’re smart enough to look past the stigmas and stereotypes for a moment to see the bigger picture.

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From the federal government’s point of view, marijuana use is a big problem. The Office of National Drug Control Policy fears “Decriminalization may lead to addiction and costs society $110 billion annually in health and social costs.” Yet, ironically they already spend billions of dollars trying to combat the perceived problem.

This year, President Bush said, “Drug use is doing the most damage to the poor.” But historically, the principle concerns of the Republican Party has never been for the poor; it has been geared more towards the Industries and elitist groups.

A teacher from LA elaborates on the inherent dangers, “One day the campesino [Latin American] will wake up and discover that he lives in a narcodemocracy where the skum have risen to the top…. He’ll discover he lives in a society rotten at the core and he can do absolutely nothing about it.” But wait, isn’t that what motivates people to use drugs in the first place – the lack of government support, the poverty, the feelings of oppression and helplessness?

And finally, here’s a quote that needs no explanation but merely demonstrates the cold,vicious relentlessness of the War on Drugs. Newt Gingrich says, “If you sell it, we’re going to kill you.”

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On the flipside, consider the 734,498 arrested for marijuana possession last year. Consider the 3.5 million arrests during Clinton’s term as President. Consider the 59,300 prisoners and the 1.2 billion dollars it’s costing you every year to keep these recreational drug users incarcerated.

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Also consider the historical context behind this war against marijuana. When the first laws against marijuana use were enacted in 1915, it was a reaction against the Mexican immigrants, the Mormons, and the African American jazz musicians. At a congressional hearing, Texas legislator Harry Anslinger testified, “All Mexicans are crazy, and this stuff [marijuana] is what makes them crazy!” The whole congregation just nodded their heads. If that isn’t blatant racism, then what is?

In Utah, half of the Mormons left to Mexico once polygamy was publicly denounced by the head of the church; when these Mormon missionaries came back with their new drug and Mexicans, they were met with harsh criticism and new laws.

In 1947, Anslinger wrote in a letter to another legislator, “Jazz musicians aren’t good musicians; we’re going to round the up, but we need more agents.”

At this time, doctors tested marijuana on dogs (for reasons they couldn’t even explain); congressional hearings lasted twenty minutes at most; women on death row were latching onto the drug as a plea bargain; and after the Korean and Cold Wars, fighting drugs became a campaign to unite the country against a common evil.

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Today, marijuana prohibition symbolizes many things. It’s a way for the US Government to shirk responsibility for social problems like unemployment, poverty, teen pregnancy,crime, traffic violations, gang violence, mental illness, high school drop-out rates, homelessness, and even poverty. Instead of dealing with them in their own contexts, it’s
much more convenient to lump them all together under one collective scapegoat: weed,drugs.

Everyone here has been socially conditioned to view marijuana as the epitome of everything that is evil and destructive in this country; yet the people who do drugs do them in reaction to the society at large – to escape the pain of poverty, the problems with education, the feelings of isolation and inferiority.

Today the War Against Drugs isn’t really a war against drugs; it’s a war against the ideology of the 60s and 70s, when sex, drugs, and rock n roll abounded, true freedom prevailed, challenges were made against the Government, and even professors at universities smoked reefer. The motto “Obey,Consume, and Produce” was discarded, while “Peace, Love, and Happiness” flourished. The 60s and 70s were the Dark Ages for the US Government, a time of powerlessness and weakness, a time that the Government will do anything to prevent from happening again.
And so they hide behind this Drug Crusade facade.

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One positive concept the Government has concocted is the idea to stop the problem before it starts with preventative measures. However, they’re going about it all the wrong way. Programs like DARE increase the likelihood of marijuana consumption if anything. It works when you’re seven or eight years old and you still look up to the cops; you still want to BE them. But what happens when you’re thirteen and begin to see what the world is really like? You can’t think of any science-based logical arguments against marijuana; all you can remember is that it “makes Billy stupid, a drop-out, and a loser.” DARE doesn’t give us choices; it gives us consequences, stigmas, and stereotypes, which do nothing to aid us in intelligence-based decision making. Instead of DARE programs there should be more socially based help programs – better healthcare, better education, less scape-goating. Programs about drugs should offer motives for drug use and safety measures, not just tell the consequences and hide behind the “Just Say No” motto.

As an American you have the right to be upset; you have the right to say, “Hey Leaders of America, own up to the social ills, own up to your prejudices, your fears, own up to your defiance against the power of the people, the 60s, and admit that you’ve been wrong.”

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