Why was Marijuana Made Illegal in the US?

Believe it or not, pot was actually a common medical remedy in the United States in the early 1900s and prior in addition to hemp (which even George Washington apparently grew too), but after the Mexican Revolution, the United States saw an influx of immigrants from Mexico, and as one source reports the history, the Mexicans entering parts of the US South (and former Mexico) like Texas and Louisiana brought with them their customs. One of those customs was using medical and recreational marijuana. Ethnocentric and racist media reports framed what would become the argument against “marihuana” (the term used by immigrants). This led to state laws in places like California, a state that passed the first law prohibiting use of weed in 1913. Ironically, the pharmaceutical industry was leading the fight against narcotics (now look where we are today). The law received nearly nothing in terms of press or legal notice attention aimed at the general public.

Utah and other states began passing laws throughout the next couple of decades leading up to the first national act passed in 1937, The Marihuana Tax Act of 1937. Utah outlawed it in 1914. Mormons who fled to Mexico when polygamy was banned there in 1910 brought back a taste for bud when they came back to Utah. Many Mormons advocated to prohibit the substance as part of a religious belief in eliminating vices.

The federal law was also fueled by many myths, misconceptions and outright lies in the form of policy and propaganda about marijuana. Many outrageous claims made it to the floors of legislatures, committees, hearings and so forth over the years. This timetable illustrates a complicated history with marijuana starting in the 20th century. From the 1600s through the 1890s, the cultivation of hemp was certainly encouraged. In 1906, a law was enacted to ensure that cannabis was properly labeled for over the counter use. No prescription was even required at that time. Just as is the case in today’s economic climate (the “Great Recession”), there was fear of Mexican immigrants during the Great Depression era. Because some of the immigrants introduced smoking the leaf plant to the US, fingers were pointed and policies were drafted, along with much propaganda.

The Federal Beureu of Narcotics (FBN) was established in 1930. Then came the Uniform State Narcotic Act and Reefer Madness, the famous film from 1936 that depicts deviant behavior supposedly from smoking pot.

US farmers were encouraged to grow hemp during the WWII war effort and 375,000 acres were harvested to make all kinds of products intended for use by the military overseas. In the 1960s, marijuana became popular with hippies. President Nixon created the Schaeffer Commission in the late 1960s. Several more efforts sprung up, mostly in the conservative (but many liberals as well) camps, to get tougher on pot. California pioneered the effort to decriminalize and treat marijuana as a medical treatment in the 1990s. Several states have since passed similar laws and some even for recreational use. Now there are dispensaries like the Delta 9 Collective and others all across parts of the country.

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