Third Party & Independents Archives

The History of Cannabis Prohibition, 1937 - 1962, Part Two

If an issue is ignored, no matter what importance it may hold, it will continue to be ignored. The history of how cannabis became illegal has been ignored. It has been ignored because the plant was made illegal through racism and lies. It is time that we ask our government to look into this issue, and reevaluate the current laws. What follows is Part 2 in a series.

The Congress that passed this turning point legislation in the legal status of cannabis sativa had little information or knowledge on the plant at the time of the act’s passage. These hearings were characterized by a lack of information and authoritarian hold by the FBN. The only witness to testify at the hearings outside of the FBN was Dr. William C Woodward, legislative council for the American Medical Association (AMA).

Dr Woodward showed his anger with the Ways and Means Committee openly for not inviting credible witnesses to speak, persons whom could use their expertise to convey to members of Congress information that would confirm or deny the “facts” put forth by the FBN (McWilliams 72). Mr. Woodward chastised the committee members for knowing so little on pending legislation, many knowing nothing but what they read in the newspapers and having zero knowledge on the habitat or physical appearance of cannabis (McWilliams 69).

Dr. Woodward questioned the committee members to think about why they were consistently being referred to newspapers that ranted about the ills of cannabis addiction and its connection to crime rather than being shown reliable factual evidence. Woodward went on to counter the argument set forth by the FBN asking why no official from the Bureau of Prisons was invited to display the number of prisoners who were addicted to cannabis, arguing that if such a large number of crimes were committed under the drugs influence, as was stated by the FBN, then surely cannabis addiction would be prevalent in the prison population.

In fact the Bureau of Prisons had no such evidence that would indicate how many prisoners were addicted to cannabis, as the Bureau had no opportunity to conduct such research (Grinspoon 24). This testimony is critical in displaying the blatant arrogance of the FBN and Congress in passing this act. The FBN repeatedly stated that crime was caused by cannabis, and if this were so we would see a great number of prisoners that were addicted to cannabis yet the Bureau of Prisons had no such data. Dr. Woodward further stated that neither of the federal narcotics farms, which at that time treated addicts, had ever had any record of any individual being placed at their facilities with merely a cannabis addiction.

The committee members were told by the FBN that cannabis had become a great problem among young persons, and that an increasing number of young persons were using cannabis. Indeed in questioning Dr. Woodward committee member Dingell stated, “We know that it is a habit that is spreading, particularly among youngsters. We learn that from the newspaper” (Grinspoon 25). Thus despite the information Woodward was to put forth to convince the committee, many had preconceived opinions that were based off information from newspapers, such as the Los Angeles Examiner, when in November 5, 1933 they displayed this headline: “Murder Weed Found Up and Down Coast – Deadly Marihuana Dope Plant Ready For Harvest That Means Enslavement of California Children” (Sloman 44).

As is evident this newspaper account is nearly identical to the views put forth by the FBN stated above, and thus these accounts were taken as truths by Congress without any other consideration. Dr. Woodward again attempted to persuade the legislature that they were being fed poor information. Woodward asked why no officials from the Children’s Bureau or the Office of Education had been invited to the proceedings; if cannabis use was prevalent in children surely someone from either of these offices would be aware of it. Woodward showed that neither office had any evidence to show the prevalence of cannabis use in children and had never conducted an investigation (Grinspoon 24). Certainly if the allegations made by the FBN were truthful than members of the Children’s Bureau and Office of Education would have been invited to support these allegations yet since no such persons were invited, and no such evidence existed, it can be assumed that the FBN had no reason to make such allegations.

In the end Woodward’s testimony was ignored and the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 passed without any serious dissent. After appearing Woodward was accused of many offenses including misrepresentation, evasiveness, giving inaccurate testimony, and impending important legislation (McWilliams 74). Furthermore the legislature dismissed Dr. Woodward in a less than discreet manner stating, “You are not cooperative in this. If you want to advise us on legislation you ought to come up with some constructive proposals rather than criticisms, rather than trying to throw obstacles in the way of something that the federal government is trying to do” (Grinspoon 26).

This statement by the legislature displays that any dissent to this legislation would not be tolerated and that facts outside of what the members of Congress wanted to believe would not be heard. This is devastating to the integrity of the Marihuana Tax Act, as without an open-minded legislature an authoritarian piece of legislation is the result. Indeed one must question if the Marihuana Tax Act was passed in a democratic fashion, which is to be the manner of legislation in the United States. Indeed it was passed by Congress that is to stand for the will of the people and was signed by the President as well. Yet one must realize that these hearings were started by the FBN, an organization that was manned by persons who were either appointed politically (often through patronage at this time) or merely hired through the standards put forth by the federal government. Because this legislation was begun by an organization of bureaucrats and the hearings were controlled by these same persons one can come to the conclusion that it was indeed these bureaucrats who truly passed this legislation and not any form of Congress.

Works Cited:

Mcwilliams, John C. The Protectors: Harry J Anslinger and theFederal Bureau of
Narcotics 1930-1962. Newark, NJ: University of Deleware Press, 1990.

Grinspoon, Lester. Marihuana Reconsidered. Oakland, CA: Quick American Archives, 1972.

Sloman, Larry. Reefer Madness: Marijuana in America. NYC, NY: Grove Press Inc, 1979.

Posted by Richard Rhodes at May 29, 2006 6:31 PM
Comment #152492

While this focuses on the prohibition of cannabis in this country, I would like to note that this piece is also meant to display what can happen when the Congress is put into hysteria (like when the PATRIOT ACT was passed).

Posted by: Richard Rhodes at May 29, 2006 6:58 PM
Comment #152502

Thanks for these posts Richard,

Besides the ancient hystrionic history of the Reefer Madness generation, there is the more recent histoy of drug testing and DUI laws. There are several states now that will convict you of DUI with any level of illegal narcotics in your blood. As anyone knows Marijuana stays in your system for as long as thirty days even though there is no narcotic effect. The whole drug testing issue has circumvented the unreasonable search and seizure provisions of the Constitution in the support of supposed safety issues.

Science nor fairness seems to have much sway with these lunatic fanatics.

Posted by: gergle at May 29, 2006 7:40 PM
Comment #152517


“As anyone knows Marijuana stays in your system for as long as thirty days even though there is no narcotic effect.”

Actually, pot can be detected in the system up to 6 weeks.

(Sarcasm Alert) Was “Reefer Madness” meant to be a comedy?

Posted by: Rocky at May 29, 2006 9:34 PM
Comment #152525

Rocky I have always heard thirty days is the period which the main psychoactive ingredient THC stays in the system, where did you hear 6 weeks?

Posted by: Richard Rhodes at May 29, 2006 9:54 PM
Comment #152534

I took some Scientology courses in the seventies and that was their assertion.

Posted by: Rocky at May 29, 2006 10:12 PM
Comment #152550


The 6 weeks clean were required before they would allow me to take the courses.

Posted by: Rocky at May 29, 2006 11:51 PM
Comment #152565

Rocky, did any of your assessors jump up and down on the couch?

Posted by: gergle at May 30, 2006 3:13 AM
Comment #152568

Burn one for me, Richard!!

Posted by: Duano at May 30, 2006 4:23 AM
Comment #152569

Believe it or not the place where I work is less than a block away from a Church of Scientology. All I can say is the people there who stand on the street and ask me everytime I walk by if I want a free stress test, well they, they are funny.

Posted by: Richard Rhodes at May 30, 2006 4:42 AM
Comment #152589


The problem wasn’t/isn’t the data or techniques that Scientology uses.
The problem is the manner that the Scientologists use it.

Sounds familiar?

The courses I took, and I only took what I was interested in, and wasn’t required to join, helped me immensely.
Also the Scientologists that I was exposed to were to a man/woman some of the most dedicated folks I have ever met.
Two of my best friends in the seventies joined Scientology. Both married Scientologists, both were Meth users. Both got off the meth and turned their lives around, though one fell back years later.

I didn’t join because it wasn’t something I was interested in.

“I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member.”
Groucho Marx

Posted by: Rocky at May 30, 2006 9:38 AM
Comment #152600

Let the Feds use their all powerful commerce clause to control the importation and transportation of the stuff. That’s it!

Local jurisdiction should be allowed to decide if it is legal to grow and possess. My vote would be yes to both, however personally I would do neither…..

Posted by: George in SC at May 30, 2006 10:38 AM
Comment #152651

As to scientology, well, at least they don’t call it science.

Even if Tom Cruise seems a bit confused about that.

Posted by: gergle at May 30, 2006 1:51 PM
Comment #152797

Willie: My paper only goes to 1962 so won’t encapsule Nixon. However (although I dont like Nixon) Nixon had a very important study done which ended up being very pro decriminilizing marijuana, but after its publication he denied it.

Posted by: Richard Rhodes at May 30, 2006 8:22 PM
Comment #152808


Is there anything to the William Randolph Hearst thing?

It was my understanding that he had huge investments in pulp paper for newsprint, and was a huge backer in the making of hemp illegal because of it.

Posted by: Rocky at May 30, 2006 8:56 PM
Comment #152842

Willie here you go:
Special Release 30 Years After Nixon’s Marijuana Commission Advocated Decriminalization, Report Findings Are Still Valid Nixon Never Read His Own Report, President Bush Should

This report was one of the most importants ever regarding marijuana, although Nixon rejected the Commission’s report.

Rocky: I have only heard about the William Randolph Hearst connection sparingly, personally from what I’ve read I think if he played a role it was rather small.

Posted by: Richard Rhodes at May 30, 2006 10:49 PM
Comment #154181

What about the role of the paper companies in Rocky’s link?
I remember learning that while listening to NORML on the university quad (years ago).
I always thought that reason/motivation an interesting theory for why it happened.


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Comment #434847

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