Third Party & Independents Archives

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

Simply put lies are too often taken as truth. Millions of dollars are too often spent to regulate non-violent behavior by adults. Hundreds of thousands of Americans are arrested each year. Education and knowledge is the only answer, know the history.

The hysteria that pushed the Boggs Act of 1951 set the stage for the ultimate punitive legislation, the Narcotics Control Act of 1956. The Narcotics Control Act stood as the most punitive and repressive anti-cannabis legislation removing any and all judicial discretion to suspend sentences or permit probation (McWilliams 116). This legislation was sparked by Congressman Boggs subcommittee on Narcotics believing that harsher penalties were the only way to deal with cannabis, and that educational programs should not be implemented (Bonnie and Whitebread 218). The Narcotics Control Act prescribed penalties as follows:
Possession: Sale:
1st offense: 2 year minimum 1st offense: 5 year minimum
2nd offense: 5 year minimum 2nd offense: 10 year minimum
3rd offense: 10 year minimum Sale to Minor: 10 year minimum
$20000 fine for all offenses (Bonnie and Whitebread 218)

This legislation marks the crown of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, including nearly everything the bureau ever wanted regarding cannabis. This is because it maintains the illegal status of cannabis, produced by the Marihuana Tax Act, and the mandatory minimum sentencing requirement, produced by the Boggs Act, while granting numerous wishes of the FBN.

First this legislation removes all discretion a judge had regarding parole or suspension of sentence. This action clears the mind of Anslinger who believed that judges were often too soft on cannabis offenders. Secondly fines are raised considerably, in fact 10 times that of fines prescribed in the Boggs Act. This allows the FBN to raise money while being tough on offenders of cannabis laws. Finally and most importantly this legislation removes the ceiling on penalties. Previously under the Boggs Act mandatory minimums were set but maximum penalties were set as well. This is no longer the case after the passage of the Narcotics Control Act. This legislation represents the opportunity Anslinger had been waiting for, handing out life sentences to cannabis offenders.

By the 1930s the glorious history cannabis had enjoyed was dead and in its place was a witch hunt on cannabis. In 1962 when Harry J Anslinger retired cannabis had been linked to an increase in crime, sexual excess, insanity, use of opiates, and communism despite there being no credible evidence to secure any of these accusations. Outside of this cannabis also had been successfully used as a means of minority oppression.

The entire history of the period from 1937-1962 had been a manifest of lies and poor information perpetrated against cannabis. Yet this is also the period where nearly all of the attributes related to cannabis’s current legal status were founded. This era was the beginning of the federal ban on cannabis, cannabis being lumped together with other narcotics in legislation, mandatory minimum sentences for cannabis offenders, and the possibility of a life sentence for a cannabis offense.

This era birthed almost everything related to the legal status of cannabis today. Therefore we can conclude that today’s cannabis laws are based on legislation that was founded on racism and theories of lies (crime, sexual excess, insanity, and stepping stone theory, relation of cannabis to the communist threat). Laws that are based on such a founding are invalid because they are not based on an amount of truth that would be needed to pass the legislation today.

Despite this realization of what occurred during 1937-1962, regarding cannabis, the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) stands by a majority of the accusations made by Anslinger and the FBN. The ONDCP links cannabis use to sexual excess, as was done during the “Reefer Madness” of the 1930s, in its advertisements.

One ONDCP ad states at the top “Father” showing the picture of a smiling teenage boy with the bottom caption reading, “John and Karen were stoned and hooked up after they came down they realized that if they hadn’t smoked things never would have gone as far as they did the consequences will last a lifetime” (3). This ad by the ONDCP is a continuation of the propaganda screamed by Anslinger in the 1930s, merely altered slightly from the sexual excess propaganda of that era.

The ONDCP pushes the idea that cannabis is addictive as well. Despite being proven to not be addictive early and many recent studies reaffirming this. Finally the ONDCP links cannabis use to crime in a section entitled “Here’s what the experts say about marijuana and teens”. The ONDCP quotes The National Crime Prevention Council stating, “Recent research has indicated that for some people there is a correlation between frequent marijuana use and aggressive or violent behavior. This should be a concern to parents, community leaders, and to all Americans” (3). Furthermore this statement also shows that the federal government is still making cannabis out to be a national evil. The ONDCP’s current stance shows that although the years have passed little has truly changed since the “reefer madness” years of the FBN under Harry Anslinger.

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

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

3. (Note: This was originally written four years ago and the original links for the ONDCP are no longer alive thus the generic ONDCP website is given as a reference)

Past parts in this series can be found at:
1. Part One:
2. Part Two:
3. Part Three:
4. Part Four:
5.Part Five:
6. Part Six:
7. Part Seven:
8 Part Eight:

Posted by Richard Rhodes at July 17, 2006 4:05 AM
Comment #168164

I suppose by legaiising it. The government would be putting their stamp of approval on it.

I’m sorry but given that a joint can have five times the tar content of a cigarette it’s a public health issue.

Tobacco kills millions. It’s sold with higher tobacco content in the third world, a caramel ingredient is used to make the product more attractive to kids. There’s little good that comes of it…excepting tobacco company profits.

Well if cannabis was legal, think of the public health ramifications.

Should cigarettes have been banned long ago?

Even passive smoking kills.

I know there will be many responses about the right to do something even if it’s bad for your health and inappropriate comparisons to alcohol.

Alcohol does not damage your health in the same way that a cigarette does…a glass of wine or a bottle of beer is not per se bad for you at all (in fact wine is good for your heart) a cigarette is.

Same for cannabis…it damages the brain and can cause scizophrenia…another complicated public health area (it’s not yet curable), the inhalation of the drug is not good for your lungs either.

So it is prima facie bad for you to smoke at all.

Drinking can be consistent with a healthy lifestyle…red wine is recommended for men over 40, it has a significant impact on the risk of heart disease.

OK, I know (in the case of tobacco) baning something which many are addicted to is likely to fuel illegal smuggling. Perhaps a better solution would be for the cigarette manufacturers to phase our the inclusion of addictive and toxic ingredients (inc. a type of cyanide), over time so that people would slowly become free of their addiction.

Posted by: abhcoide at July 17, 2006 6:16 AM
Comment #168165

Of course, I am well aware that prosecutions for cannabis possession can have a race or class bent (i.e. only those from a particular class (in Ireland) or race/class in the US are likely to be searched in the first place. Middle class college students with a joint in their pockets are less likely to be caught.

I’m not in favour of a criminal sentence or record attaching to cannabis use.

I think perhaps a malum prohibita approach (a regulatory offence) is better, accompanied by a small (means tested) fine and no criminal record of the offence would be more appropriate.

Posted by: abhcoide at July 17, 2006 6:19 AM
Comment #168168

The issue of the police only targeting those from a particular class/race “driving while black” etc. is a much broader one, unrelated to any specific offence but is a phenomena witnessed across all offences.

The racism/classism behind it must be targeted and eradicated.

Personally, white collar crimes (fraud etc) and tax evasion need to get the sentences they deserve.

Many of the minor offences which people are arrested for should come with no jail sentence…a fine, payable in installments (and means tested) is preferable.

In Ireland the criminal justice system has become a revolving door for petty offenders who need to sort their lives out and probably don’t belong in prison. At the same time, big criminals (inc. white collar criminals) either don’t get caught (they’re harder to catch in the case of big crime - and hard to prosecute in the case of both big crime and white colar crime - in the case of the latter there is also a lack of political will.

This is a broad political/social and justice issue. It’s not unique to cannabis possession and so does not necessarily auger for the legalisation of the drug.

However, it is certainly a valid point that particular groups are targeted for incarceration and that this may be one crime where such targeting is used with tragic results. I read in the NY Times yesterday that 70% of inmates in New York were minorities - obviously minorities don’t commit crimes in greater numbers than the “majority” (whatever that means - I suspect it is intended to denote “white”).

Once again groups are targeted, white collar crimes and tax evasion is ignored, and you will only be searched (or are more likely to be) if you are “non-white” (whatever that means).

Posted by: abhcoide at July 17, 2006 6:28 AM
Comment #168172


You are aware that there are other ways of ingesting the drug than just smoking it, right? One can cook it, eat it, even ‘vaporize’ it to eliminate all the harmful effects that smoking carries with it.

The problem, however, is that most of these methods require using more of the plant, and with the current illegal status sending prices into the stratosphere (higher than gold in some areas), this is simply not an economical choice for most people.

Hell, I’d probably even do it occasionally if it was legal, cheap, and I was able to use one of these other methods (I have severe asthma so smoking would not be an option for me). For those of you out there who don’t know, the high is actually mellower than what can be achieved with alcohol. People on the drug are also much less prone to violent tendencies.

Yes, the tar content is an issue, but many recent studies have found that it does not lead to an increase in cancer rates among even heavy, long term smokers. This is due in part (they believe) to other chemicals in the smoke which actually seem to prevent tumor growth.

The schizophrenia and mental-health link is tenuous at best. Cause and effect are difficult to determine in this case, as people who are predisposed to certain mental health problems also have a higher rate of drug abuse. Many people ‘self-medicate’ their conditions. Therefore, did the drug ‘cause’ their problems, did it merely exacerbate a pre-existing disposition toward certain traits or would they have developed this condition anyway regardless of drug use, or were they already ill and using the drug to mask their problems? Most studies on this issue, unfortunately, fail to take into account all of these variables, due to the fact that the outcome is often largely targetted beforehand to find negative aspects of the drug (thereby confirming previous biases and its legal status).

Your ‘solution’ as well seems flawed. What you are proposing is that, rather than jail people for offenses, we merely steal their money from them. What purpose does this serve? While more humane than current approaches, I fail to see why, if something is so innocuous as to warrant only a small fine with no record of it, then why should our police officers be spending their time on it? I want my police force catching criminals; getting Tommy Chong off of the streets did not make me feel any safer.

But the simple fact is that none of the issues you have brought up justifies the spending of hundreds of billions of dollars, the complete ruining of millions of lives, and the enormous, violent black market that prohibition has created around the world.

Posted by: Liberal Demon at July 17, 2006 6:49 AM
Comment #168187


Your argument is a perfect example of someone wanting to keep some behavior legal and others illegal without any real rhyme or reason, inventing ‘science’ to support your supposition.

Alcohol isn’t damaging to the body? Are you seriously going to say that all of those people with liver disease are sick for some other reason?

Yes (1) glass of wine a day is not bad for you. And there is a health benefit from the grapes usesd, though that benefit could come from unfermented grape juice as well.

Of course, 1 cigarette each day is not bad for you either. It’s when the usage goes beyond that where our bodies start to break down and fail. I can see the evidence in people I know who now have less than 5 years to live because their liver is completely useless to them.

And getting ‘drunk’ kills brain cells and damages your whole body. Being drunk is basically forcing your body to go through a severe dehydration event. Done over and over again it WILL cause body cells to die off.

You’re concern over the health benefits of cannabis and cigarettes but support of alcohol really just seem hypocritical at that point, and you don’t even mention fatty foods at all. It’s almost as if you want to ‘pick and choose’ which behaviors to outlaw and which to ‘approve’.

Posted by: Rhinehold at July 17, 2006 9:24 AM
Comment #168189
obviously minorities don’t commit crimes in greater numbers than the “majority”

What evidence can you provide to support your comment? Should be easy since it is ‘obvious’?

Posted by: Rhinehold at July 17, 2006 9:25 AM
Comment #168225

I’m sure noone will believe me but dont you think its interesting that people complain about getting in trouble for a controlled substance. I believe people saying they are singled out due to race or culture are trying to find a reason they where pulled over. I wonder could it be the billowing cloud of smoke coming from the car. I am a minority but I dont feel I’m singled out by law enforcement. Beyond that I dont do anything illegal to get in trouble. I wouldnt even be mad if I was stopped by police. If they have a reason to stop me or a reason to suspect me of doing wrong go ahead. Becuase once they search my car they will find nothing out of place. Now on to the topic at hand. The legalization of cannibus. Cannibus after one “hit” causes your reflexes to be as bad as your drunk. Also if you are near someone who is smoking you run the risk of getting high. This effectivly defeats the whole designated driver. Now the “cool down” time for this drug is also much longer than alchool. I love how people are always like well alchool is legal. It can kill your liver (if you use it improperly). But a gun can kill you if you use it improperly too. You can also die from drinking to much water. The key component in this is alchool does not inhibit your motor functions after one drink.

Posted by: Anthony at July 17, 2006 12:42 PM
Comment #168228
The key component in this is alchool does not inhibit your motor functions after one drink.


Posted by: Rhinehold at July 17, 2006 12:55 PM
Comment #168229

So Anthony, you’re saying that since alcohol is made in doses (by law since it is legal and can be regulated) that do not impair you as quickly as the unregulated, un-watered down cannabis, that it should be legal even though it can, even after that one watered down drink, cause your motor systems to function at

I wonder, do you see the problem in that logic at all?

Posted by: Rhinehold at July 17, 2006 12:57 PM
Comment #168259

Education is the cure for ignorance. I don’t find it amazing or surprising that people here or anywhere still let other people make up their minds for them. Concerning drugs and alchohol; just do a little research before you spout “facts”. Learn what you don’t know, and speak only of that which you do.

There are some harmful mental effects caused by marijuana, but only from heavy use over an extended period of time. Now look at cheese. Cheese will make you fat (and being fat is very, very bad), but only by heavy consumption over a long period of time. Know anyone in jail because they were damaging their body with cheese? Me neither.

And if you wanted to jest, you could say that if marijuana were legal, cheese consumption would skyrocket, and people would be burning the candle at both ends.

But I don’t find it funny that people sit in jail for years because they happen to like getting high. I don’t find it funny that people who aren’t even born yet are already in debt in part because of this ridiculous prohibition. And I’m not joking when I say that IT SHOULD BE LEGALIZED.

Even if it were legal, the fallout of prohibition would still drag on. Companies would still drug test, even though there is no proven test to ascertain one’s level of marijuana intoxification. All that the current tests can prove is that you have been exposed to it within the past 3 to 4 weeks. And people would still complain that they know someone who is ruining their life with it.

However, the advantages of legalizing marijuana should be obvious. Such as the following:

*More room in prisons for REAL criminals like theives, murderers, and sexual predators.

*Freeing up resources for border patrol agents, police officers, the coast guard, the judicial system, ect.

*The rebirth of an ancient industry in hemp products, which with today’s technology, can be enhanced greatly. Possibly providing an alternative fuel.

*Jobs for said industry.

*An alternative for alchoholics.

*The possibility for new medications and cures.

*A decrease in funding for drug smuggling/people smuggling cartels.

The list could go on.

But the important thing to remember here is that this is supposed to be a free country, with the right to the pursuit of happiness. Just because you think I’m hurting myself does not give you the right to “rescue” me with your prohibitive love. Leave me the hell alone, so I can enjoy my stupid little joint that I’m going to smoke right before I chug this beer and chomp this triple cheeseburger. I can laugh, burp, and fart my way to happiness just fine all by myself. Go pursue your own happiness - and I honestly don’t care what it is you choose to do, so long as you don’t hurt anyone besides yourself.

Posted by: Bill C. at July 17, 2006 2:39 PM
Comment #168313

The physical effects of the plant is not an issue for me, it is the renewable aspects of cannibas that is being ignored to the point of negligence. The oil (fuel) and fiber (cloth and lumber) derived from cannibas could be the answer to the decimated economies in the South (textiles) and Northwest (lumber). Gasoline at 12.00 a gal. anyone? Did I mention its 5 times more recyclable than cotton?

Posted by: ATron at July 17, 2006 8:01 PM
Comment #168549

Decimated economies? What decimated economies?

As for living in a “free country” you are mistaken. We do not live in a free country we have laws and regulations. These laws are the fabric of our society. Your ability to voice your opinion on how you do not agree with those laws is your freedom. Your right end where mine begin. If you are to get into a car and drive after getting stoned you could potentially kill me. I dont want that. You have to wear a seatbelt becuase it has been determined that they will increase you chance at staying alive in a car crash. You cannot yell FIRE in a movie theater. Now I agree the government should have a minimalist role. I believe the government ought to go back to way it was during the foundation. But it wont due to past presidence. (If you are unaware of this I will enlighten you).
Now the governments only job is to regulate trade treaties and to protect its borders and people. I believe this could fall into the trade and people category. So technically they can tell you what to do. And use your FREEDOM to run for office and try to change the laws.

Posted by: Anthony at July 18, 2006 1:25 PM
Comment #168552

Gasoline is only going up in price becuase we do not have refineries to turn it into gasoline. We have a proper oil supply but due to regulations we have not created a refinery in some 20 years. Atron you should check the facts on the economy before spouting headlines. Most lumber in the us for domestic use comes from tree farms. Now noone ever outlawed hemp and it can be imported for use as clothing if you would like.

Posted by: Anthony at July 18, 2006 1:28 PM
Comment #168572

The real reason pot won’t be legalized(unfortunately) is because it would be too hard to control. It is just way too easy to grow. As far as the damaging aspects of weed and alcohol, alcohol is much more damaging and this comes from someone who has witnessed the damage first hand.

Posted by: BAWDYSCOT at July 18, 2006 2:19 PM
Comment #168580

Anthony, I can take this arguement anywhere you wanna go. For starters, you said “As for living in a “free country” you are mistaken.”

Excuse me? Maybe you are mistaken, or perhaps you assume that I don’t live in the U.S.A., well I do, and it IS a free country.

Then you opened your mouth and this fell out: “Your right end where mine begin. If you are to get into a car and drive after getting stoned you could potentially kill me. I dont want that. You have to wear a seatbelt becuase it has been determined that they will increase you chance at staying alive in a car crash. You cannot yell FIRE in a movie theater.”

Sir, do you take me for an idiot? Let me direct you to the end of my post, which you may have misunderstood. I said “Go pursue your own happiness - and I honestly don’t care what it is you choose to do, so long as you don’t hurt anyone besides yourself.” Now, does that sound like the logic of a person who yells fire in a crowded theatre? Of course it doesn’t.

I will, however, submit that I do not wear a seat belt when I drive my car. Got a problem with that? I don’t try to convince you not to go skydiving, skiing, or hunting, so would you mind allowing me to be an irresponsible dumbshit in my own little rebellious way? Probably so, and in that case, I suppose the question was rhetorical.

I think I have time for one more. You said the following: “Now the governments only job is to regulate trade treaties and to protect its borders and people. I believe this could fall into the trade and people category. So technically they can tell you what to do. And use your FREEDOM to run for office and try to change the laws.”

You are omitting a crucial function of our government, which is the representation of its people. There is nothing technical about the FACT that the government can tell you what to do, as we are a nation of enforceable laws. For instance, we must pay taxes, or go to jail. I’m down with that. And no, we don’t run for office in order to change our laws. We run for office in order to serve our country. In effect, we vote for our laws, and sometimes directly. The problem is that we are inundated with an army of career dunderheads in our congress that think, maybe like you do, that they are royal rulers, and everyone else are simple-minded consumers who sit mindlessly in carpeted cubicles - never paying any attention to how much power they gain from capitalist globalist plantation owners. Then again, they might be right.

Maybe I’M wrong for thinking that this country should return to its basic principles of prosperity through peace. Maybe I’m way off when I assume that the Bill of Rights was meant to protect me from tyrannical oppression. Maybe I don’t know what liberty means.

Or maybe I’m just another old fashioned American. Hmmm …

Posted by: Bill C. at July 18, 2006 2:36 PM
Comment #168588

Bawdyscot, you’re pretty much on target. No one has ever, not ever, died of an overdose of marijuana. A majority of a pot smokers’ problems stem from the act of smoking, which produces carcinogens. Before that though is law enforcement officials. Breaking the law can ruin your life in ways that you’d rather not imagine. Then there are the chronic potheads. These are the dummies that make prohibitionists proud of their oppressive aspirations. They want everyone to belive that if you smoke any weed at all, you’ll end up like these guys. But you know what? They still aren’t harming anyone other than theirselves.

Now, when they fire up and get in a car for a munchie run, they ARE risking other peoples’ lives. They join the ranks of other assholes who drive while on a cell phone, or drunk, or screaming at their kids, or joyriders, or speeders. The very act of steering a 2000 pound machine down the interstate at 65mph is risking the lives of both the driver, and other motorists and pedestrians. Doing it stoned doesn’t help, but it’s really no worse than compounding your driving session with phone calls and radio station hunts.

It all comes down to personal responsibility, and the responsibility you have with the lives of the people you interact with. The first one is all up to you, the second one is a matter of public concern. What I’ve just said is probably the most obvious thing an adult should be aware of.

Posted by: Bill C. at July 18, 2006 3:02 PM
Comment #168870

I dont presume your an idiot by any means. I am just stating we live in a more minimalist government than others. This is not to say we have no freedom but we do not have absolute freedom. Now I must admit our views are not far from each others. I am a constitutional fundamentalist. I have gone to school to this degree. And becuase of past precidence we will never go back to the good ol minimalist government. My simple fact is that you are more free here in the US than anywhere else. But you must still abide by the laws even if you feel that they are unfair. If you truly believe that the laws are a gross misrepresentation then get the government involved. Perhaps you could change something.

Posted by: Anthony at July 19, 2006 2:41 PM
Comment #168951

I’ve been told since I was young that drugs was bad for me. My mom and dad would lecture me as they poured their martinis and smoked their cigarettes. “Son, marijuana is bad for you. Them hippies smoke marijuana. Them hippies is crazy. They don’t know simple facts.” So I believe that marijuana is bad. Don’t try to show me “facts” from a “book” or a “scientific paper”. Those are created by liberal university professors and we all know they are trying to destroy the fabric of America. If we closed down colleges and universities, everything would get better. Plus global warming doesn’t exist, because I read it in a blog.

Posted by: Mental Wimp at July 19, 2006 6:43 PM
Comment #168952


Some states have tried to put some sense into this issue and passed medical marijuana laws. But darned if that federal government didn’t overstep their constitutional jurisdiction and stomp all over the citizen’s wishes. The federal government was mandated by our beloved Founding Fathers in the beginning to protect the union and more importantly protect our civil rights. When they involve thmeselves in every single aspect of our lives it is inherently UNCONSTITUTIONAL, and hence against the law they were to uphold. The most trampled upon amendment to our founding document is the 10th Amendment. And boy do I have a problem with the federal government.

Posted by: BAWDYSCOT at July 19, 2006 7:04 PM
Comment #198951

I must admit , for the most part,, that both sides have an = argument. As for me,, i am a user,( when i can), but i think what peeps are failing to see, is that these laws arent here to rescue u,, they are here to do what they entended,, if u use,, u will pay,, and normally its not a jail sentence,, its financually..And just where does all that money go anyway??,, being that,, they wont legalize it due to the fact that it would put so many feds outta job,(state also) would have to release those that they DO have in prison, and finally,, admit they were wrong?? Do u think the goverment, let alone the state is gonna admit to that?? Last but not least,, 1, ive never heard of the vaporize theory,, someone explain,, 2 i like the 1’s comment about the joint, the beer, the cheeseburger, and leave me the hell alone,, i aint botherin nobody
luv that 1

Posted by: jeff hemp at December 12, 2006 8:22 PM
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