Today marks the 80th anniversary of marijuana prohibition. As of this date, the United States has federally prohibited the sale, cultivation and consumption of the cannabis plant. And since then, the country has been in a downward spiral.
A Brief History of Prohibition
Contrary to popular belief, cannabis prohibition did not start with the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937. Prohibition started in 1911 in Massachusetts, when state officials began to require that people have a prescription for cannabis to purchase it. Over the next 20 years, states began to individually criminalize weed.
The Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 was the first piece of federal legislation against cannabis. Some people claim that the Marijuana Tax Act was meant to attack and quell the hemp industry. Because hemp is such a durable and cheap natural fiber, it threated other industries. Namely, the paper and cotton industries.
From the 1930s onward, the federal government has waged what can only be called a smear campaign against cannabis.
They painted cannabis as a dangerous narcotic which led to chaos, destruction of mental ability and the downfall of society and American values. Officials released films like Reefer Madness to warn children, teens and their parents about the so-called dangers of consuming cannabis. These dangers included promiscuity, using harder drugs and being a general burden on society.
Additionally, it should come as a surprise to absolutely no one that most of the anti-cannabis sentiment had an all-American undercurrent of racism.
Despite the federal government’s marijuana prohibition, they could not suppress cultivation and consumption. Turns out, people really like weed. And weed really likes people, if the myriad health benefits of cannabis are anything to go by.
In 1970, Congress “honored” cannabis by categorizing it as a Schedule I narcotic. Other substances on the list include heroin and GHB. Also that year, Keith Stroup founded NORML using funds donated by the Playboy Foundation.
How Far We’ve Come
Thanks to the diligent and tireless work of activists, scientists, and politicians, we’ve come a long way since the first years of prohibition. At the present time, there are 29 states, plus the District of Columbia, with medical marijuana programs. In addition to this, eight states (and the District of Columbia) have passed legislation allowing for the recreational use of cannabis. There are lawmakers constantly amending and creating laws to make cannabis more accessible and reliable.
The cannabis industry is a booming one.
Every day, more and more jobs are created in every aspect of the field, from growing, to opening dispensaries, to education and innovation. There are now dozens of ways to consume weed and literally thousands of recipes for cannabis-infused foods for those who are averse to smoking or vaping.
There’s even a term for the ever-growing world of weed: The Green Rush.
Where We’re Going
Despite the great strides we’ve made, there are still leaps and bounds ahead of us. Every state does not yet have a medical marijuana program. More to the point, cannabis is still federally illegal and the government still categorizes it as a Schedule I drug.
In 2008, there were officially 20 million arrests due to cannabis-related crimes. By the next year, annual weed-related arrests were up to 850,000. Marijuana prohibition didn’t save any lives—it ruined millions.
Final Hit: Marijuana Prohibition Turns 80
Now that marijuana prohibition turns 80 years old, we need to take the day to reflect. As a country, we need to look back on our history regarding cannabis. We need to study it, analyze it and, most importantly, learn from it. Marijuana prohibition is an absolute, objective failure that led to clogged up legal systems and overcrowded prisons. It’s the cause of patients not being able to access the medicine they need. It’s ultimately a blight on the legal, economic and social history of our country. And it needs to end now.
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