On Jan. 3, Rhode Island became the 11th state, along with Maine, Vermont, Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Montana, Nevada, Oregon and Washington to legalize the use of marijuana for medical purposes. This decision comes on the heels of Denver, Co.’s decision to legalize adult use of marijuana, both recreational and medical, for those residents over 21 years of age. The Denver initiative was started by SAFER (Safer Alternative For Enjoyable Recreation), a Colorado-based non-profit organization whose mission is “to educate the public about the harmful consequences associated with alcohol, as compared to the safer – yet illegal – substance: marijuana”
This is great news for users of marijuana, who understand that the substance is relatively harmless and has been demonized for over a century by the United States, all due not to scientific research, but for personal gain by administrators and the oppression of foreigners and minorities.
Mexican immigrants brought the plant to America during the Mexican revolution of 1910, and by the mid-thirties it had spread from New Orleans to Chicago to Harlem, much because of its popularity among jazz musicians. Up until now, drugs could not be outlawed at the federal level because our government wasn’t near as centralized as it is now. Sounds crazy I know, but the Constitution actually words the United States as the “United States.” Such specific capitalization, or lack thereof, alludes to the fact that the states were the most important element, not the unity, or control, of all of them from one central location.
During this time, 1920’s to 30’s, America was smack dab in the middle of one of the most famous blunders pulled off by an administration (Whaaaaaa? Our government can make mistakes?)-prohibition. During this war on fun things, the Unites States Treasury Department picked up the Federal Bureau of Narcotics.
Why, you ask, would the Treasury Department need an enforcement agency? Because drugs could not be outlawed at the federal level at this time (a novel idea in our day and age). The decision was made to use federal taxes as a way around the restriction.
With this new bureau came a new crazy mastermind as well, Harry J. Anslinger. He was an ambitious man who saw the Bureau of Narcotics as an amazing career opportunity — a new government agency with the opportunity to define both the problem and the solution. He immediately realized that opiates and cocaine wouldn’t be enough to help build his agency, so he latched on to marijuana and used racism and violence as a means of making it illegal at the federal level.
Here are a few excerpts of Anslinger’s prograganda:
“Marijuana is an addictive drug which produces in its users insanity, criminality and death.”
“Reefer makes darkies think they’re as good as white men.”
“You smoke a joint and you’re likely to kill your brother.”
“Marijuana is the most violence-causing drug in the history of mankind.”
As outrageous and infuriating as these claims are, sadly, they worked. And those are a drop in the bucket of all he claimed. 1937 brought The Marijuana Tax Act of 1937, appropriately enough, and after a short set of hearings that included false stories of an axe murderer who committed his crimes after smoking “a marijuana cigarette,” marijuana is illegal to this day. It has stayed so due to politicians wanting to appear tough on crime and passing tougher penalties, constant increases in spending on law enforcement and prisons and racist application of drug laws. In 1944, when New York Mayor Fiorella LaGuardia responded to his constituents’ cries that marijuana laws were unjust, he organized a study that found “no link between cannabis and violence,” instead citing beneficial effects of marijuana. Anslinger went berserk, denouncing Mayor LaGuardia and threatening doctors with prison terms should they dare to carry out independent research on cannabis.
With such evidence, marijuana laws can only be viewed as outlandish and out of touch. What is even more alarming is the loss of the ability for citizens to do anything about it in our present democracy. Even though states have legalized usage through open voting, on June 6, 2006, the US Supreme Court ruled that people who smoke marijuana can still be prosecuted under federal drug laws, even if their states allow it. This is just another example of the expansion of Big Government and a reminder that education can, and should, always overcome fear mongering.