By Kurtis Bright

How the authorities stoked racist fears and used marijuana legislation to attack minorities

The Racist, Infuriating, Ignorant History of Marijuana Law

 How the authorities stoked racist fears and used marijuana legislation to attack minorities

As state after state joins Colorado and Washington in considering loosening their marijuana laws, we keep hearing the same tired noises about its dangers. Nothing new here: it’s what the forces of restriction and control do whenever We, the People, attempt to take control of our lives into our own hands and bring a little sanity back into our legal system.

Some examples of the hoariest of clichés about marijuana include:

“It leads to harder drugs.”

“Legalization would lead to lower prices, therefore wider availability.”

“Think of the children; oh why won’t someone think of the children?”

All of which are easily refutable of course because they fall apart under the slightest scrutiny.

But as the grizzled drug warriors creakily put on their tarnished and dented armor once again for yet another hopeless battle against history and the forces of human liberation, it be time to take another look at the history of marijuana illegalization, and how this humble plant came to be so maligned.

By the time the federal Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 passed, 27 states had already passed their own anti-marijuana restrictions. It is instructive to examine the thought processes that led to these earlier state laws.

In the U.S. Southwest during the Great Depression, cheap Mexican labor was seen as a threat. But rather than demonize the notion of cheap labor itself and thus alienate the farmers and ranchers that profited from it, legislators seized upon the idea of demonizing Mexicans indirectly by going after their drug of choice, marijuana, which was largely unknown to the Anglo population at the time.

One Texas lawmaker is quoted during floor debate as saying “All Mexicans are crazy and this stuff is what makes them crazy.”

For anyone familiar with the accidentally hilarious anti-marijuana propaganda film “Reefer Madness,” this is certainly familiar territory. As is the name Henry Anslinger, the notorious Commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics who headed up the federal assault on the “scourge” of marijuana in the 1930s.

Anslinger attempted to sugarcoat the racist roots of the anti-marijuana movement by enlisting industry captains to testify before Congress, but the hemp, paint, and birdseed spokesmen’s economic arguments had little impact.

One of Anslinger’s expert witnesses, a Dr. William C. Woodward, representing the American Medical Association, testified that the AMA had “…no evidence that marijuana is a dangerous drug.” But another Anslinger ringer, a Dr. James C. Munch made outrageous claims for years afterward, stating that after two drags on a joint he hallucinated he turned into a bat and was trapped in a 200-foot deep inkwell. Whether he did or not is not documented.

All of this fits perfectly with the hysterical, reactionary and ignorant arguments against legalization today.

Whether THC, the psychoactive portion of hemp, or CBD, they same molecule that our bodies make to control inflammation, cancer and more, is under consideration, Big Pharma’s interests are directly attacked by hemp in our hands.

Rima E. Laibow, MD, Medical Director of the Natural Solutions Foundation,, calls CBD “The Holy Grail of Natural Health” because its use would eliminate the need for so many dangerous pharmaceuticals.

It’s time we demand an honest reckoning with our history, and face the truth about some of our bedrock beliefs about marijuana: they are little more than smoke and mirrors.

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