Third Party & Independents Archives

The History of Cannabis Prohibition, 1937 - 1962, Part Seven, Communist Hysteria Addition

In the 1950’s every issue had an anti-communist slant to it. The Cold War affected every issue, and cannabis legislation was no different.

What follows is part seven in a series, links to previous parts can be found at the bottom of the page.

One possible explanation for the popularity of the stepping stone theory is that it was introduced during an era of hysteria towards anything communist. At this time heroin was portrayed by many as a means of communist China to degenerate Americans. Because such a great number of Americans were afraid of the communist threat, the linking of heroin to communist China was widely accepted. Thus because the stepping stone theory linked cannabis to heroin, which was being portrayed as a threat from the communist, cannabis could than be linked to the communist threat.

This threat of the communist using drugs to control Americans may seem irrational today but during this period it was played up by both the FBN and the mass media. Indeed major news organizations drafted headlines that stirred the hysteria of drugs being used by communist to hurt Americans. The Los Angeles Times screamed, “Dope’s Flow said to Have Red Backing”, in which the article quoted the chief of the Los Angeles police department as saying, “Communists in Europe and Asia are directing, in part, the flow of narcotics into the United States”. During this time newspapers also often contained political cartoons that attributed the drug traffic to the plans of communist in China to dominate and demoralize the youth of America (Bonnie and Whitebread 209). Although these publications contained no rational evidence that could link communist efforts to the international drug traffic these tales were still told.

Anslinger and the bureau used similar tactics to tie the use of drugs to efforts by communists. Anslinger continuously argued that communist China was using heroin, and other forms of opiates, as a means of subverting free countries (McWilliams 111). Consistently using this argument to convince others in the United Nations (UN). As a delegate to the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs in 1952 Anslinger stated that communist from the east were organizing the narcotics traffic ring, and because no one at this time wanted to be labeled a communist sympathizer few challenged this claim (McWilliams 150).

Again at a UN meeting in 1954 Anslinger accused communist China of being the primary source for illegal substances for the entire world (McWilliams 151). These accusations made by Mr. Anslinger followed his trademark, being based more on myth than on actual factual information. Indeed outside of making accusations against the communist Anslinger did little else to convince the rest of the world that the statements he made were true. British customs and police officials stationed in Hong Kong were one of the few to dismiss Anslinger’s accusations stating they were “ridiculous and unfounded” (McWilliams 153).

In looking at evidence of the flow of opium from China it indicates that the Nationalists promoted the cultivation of opium and not the Communists. In fact the Nationalists forces did aggressively promote the growing of opium because it was a source of finance for their guerilla campaigns in Burma and Thailand. Furthermore evidence indicates that the cultivation of opium was encouraged openly by the United States military. Evidence also shows that the CIA worked with both the Corsican and Marseilles crime syndicates during the latter part of the 1940’s (McWilliams 152). This evidence shows again that the ideas put forth by Anslinger and the bureau were not grounded in facts but instead based on bold face lies.

The use of hysteria against cannabis is not over. Think back to shortly after September 11th. In a pathetic attempt to fight cannabis the Office of National Drug Control Policy ran ads that claimed that cannabis users support terrorism. The ads went something like this: Billy bought marijuana from a drug dealer the drug dealer got the marijuana from someone else who got it from someone else who got it from someone else in Afghanistan. This linkage to September 11th mimics the hysteria in the 1950s that cannabis was linked to communism.

If anyone can find the videos of these ads please link them, I looked and could not find them.

Works Cited:
Bonnie, Richard J and Charles H Whitebread. The Marihuana Conviction.
Charlottesville, VA: University of Virginia Press, 1974.

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

Previous parts in this series can be found at:
Part One:
Part Two:
Part Three:
Part Four:
Part Five:
Part Six:

If you will be in the DC area for the 4th of July check out the 4th of July Hempfest, information on it can be found here:

Posted by Richard Rhodes at July 3, 2006 9:20 PM
Comment #164620

Good job on trying to bring these insanities to light here Richard.

The war on drugs is not; it is a war on people. And a failed one at that. It wouldn’t be so bad I guess if we weren’t wasting over $18 billion dollars a year, millions of lives and overburdening our legal system, all in order to fail. There was a good opinion piece on the Huffington post about this issue today, it can be found here.

It always amazes me that nearly everyone can look back on the prohibition on alcohol, see the results of that and admit that prohibition was the cause of those problems (increase in organized crime, creation of a dangerous black market, etc…). But yet now, still refuse to use apply the same logic to prohibitions of today.

The only people benefitting from this war are politicians and drug lords. The act of duping average Americans into thinking that this was in their best interests is one of the greatest injustices we’ll likely ever see in our lifetimes.

Posted by: Liberal Demon at July 3, 2006 10:51 PM
Comment #164696

The state of Alaska has just repealed the right of it’s citizens to posess up to four ounces of marijuana for consumption in their own homes. One of the reasons given for this action was that children are exposed to it. This is hypocracy taken to a higher level. There was not one mention of second hand smoke from tobacco or homes where children are exposed to the abuses of alcohol. Should the state remove children from their parents and take over the raising of them for their protection.

Posted by: jlw at July 4, 2006 9:44 AM
Comment #164741


After reading your above post and the ones on the last thread on this topic I can only say that I think trying to debate with you is hopeless. I sincerely hope you are never in a position of power in this country.

Posted by: Tom D. at July 4, 2006 12:23 PM
Comment #164768

What did jlw post that was wrong? If we are going to violate personal liberties in this country in order to protect children, we are doing a woeful job of it. Tobacco, alcohol and McDonald’s should all be outlawed.

However, if we are going to re-establish the foundation of personal liberty, we should get out of the business of telling people what they can and can’t do with their bodies. Especially with a substance that is less harmful to a person than the three things I mentioned.

Posted by: Rhinehold at July 4, 2006 3:14 PM
Comment #164789


“What did jlw post that was wrong? If we are going to violate personal liberties in this country in order to protect children, we are doing a woeful job of it. Tobacco, alcohol and McDonald’s should all be outlawed.”

jlw seems to want to keep things illegal that HE don’t like as in tobacco, marijuana, and alcohol for the sake of “the children”, but it seems like things like fatty fast foods and talking on cell phones while driving and probably things that could hurt children that he likes, he won’t comment on.

I try to use logic and reason to form opinions. I see no logic in his posts.

jlw is entitled to his opinion. I just can’t debate with him.

Posted by: Tom D. at July 4, 2006 5:27 PM
Comment #165030

Tom D

OPen your eyes and read. jwl is not the same as jlw. We ain’t the same. I’ll be getting back with you soon.

Posted by: jwl at July 5, 2006 6:03 PM
Comment #165048

If I got the two names jwl and jlw mixed up please forgive me. It was an honest mistake

Posted by: Tom D. at July 5, 2006 7:00 PM
Comment #165049

I checked and did infact confuse jwl and jlw. It makes a little sense now why the posts didn’t seem very logical. Again, to both of you I apologize.

Posted by: Tom D. at July 5, 2006 7:09 PM
Comment #165142

Tom D.: This is J L W. If you read my post that starts with the state of Alaska, you will see that I wasn’t advocating for or against anything except hypocracy. In the state of Alaska, the law was that a person could possess up to four ounces of marjuana for personal consumption in the privacy of their own homes. The state legislature just repealed that law. One reason given for the repeal was for the protection of children who could be exposed to marijuana if their parents were allowed to use the drug. I said that this is pure hypocracy on the part of the legislature because that legislature doesn’t seem to care if children are exposed to tobacco smoke if their parents smoke tobacco in the home or alcohol and all the abuses caused by alcohol. Alcohol is a drug which has caused far more spousal and child abuse than any other drug that I know of. Tobacco is a drug that has caused more deaths than all the illegal drugs combined. If we are going to make some drugs legal and some drugs illegal, shouldn’t it be based on how harmful a drug is to society rather than on politics or hysteria.

I don’t know about your police force but mine has been corrupted by the war on drugs. My home has been broken into and burglarized twice by a man who is a professional thief/drug user. He has been caught at least a dozen times. He gives up the names of a couple drug dealers and in no time at all he is back on the street robbing again. The police don’t get paid by the federal government for getting thiefs off the streets but they do get it for catching drug dealers. The police also get to confiscate the dealers posessions which garners the police dept. even more money. A very corrupt system the war on drugs is.

Posted by: jlw at July 6, 2006 3:04 AM
Comment #165143


I got the names right this time.

I agree. I can’t argue with anything you said.

I do think the thief who breaks into your home should be charged and punished for the crime of breaking into your house. It makes no difference if he was after money to buy drugs or money to go to disneyland.

Posted by: Tom D. at July 6, 2006 3:20 AM
Comment #165176

Tom D. The person that robbed me is in prison again for unrelated charges. He locked his wife and three kids in their basement for three days without food or water. By the grace of God, a neighbor heard their cries for help and called the police. The judge gave him 12 to 20 years.

Posted by: jlw at July 6, 2006 9:40 AM
Comment #165262


great I hope he goes to the upper limit for those crimes. My basic point is that breaking into your house was the crime no matter what the reason.

Posted by: Tom D. at July 6, 2006 4:17 PM
Comment #204012

Can some people deal with alcohol and other drugs better than others? WBR LeoP

Posted by: Leo at January 19, 2007 4:05 PM
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