(My source for the first half of this blog is from the History channel's series of documentaries on drugs called "Hooked: Illegal Drugs and How They Got That Way". This is from the Marijuana episode, which I have taken direct quotes from. This video series is available online and covers all major illegal drugs and I highly recommend them to anyone interested.)
Disclaimer: I am going to go deep into the history of marijuana laws, how they came to be and why because I'm sure most people have no idea. Ultimately, this thread will call into question the legal status of marijuana and whether it should remain illegal or be treated like alcohol from a legality standpoint. This will be a VERY long read, just a warning. This article is not meant to condone the use of illegal substances, I only wish to address this issue. More than half the population (56%) are in favor of it according to this year's polls and that number rises every year. This is for educational purposes, both for the reader and hopefully, the intelligent discussion that follows. Once again, this is NOT intended as an endorsement of any kind to do illegal drugs. I want that made perfectly clear!
Next to Opium, Marijuana is one of the world's oldest medicines. Ancient Chinese herbalists applied it to stomach pains, menstrual cramps and malaria. Cannabis grows everywhere except the arctic circle. The earliest record of it's use began in ancient China and India. From the east, Cannabis migrated to the rest of the world. Arab traders brought it to North Africa and Spain, and from there, the Conquistadors carried it to the Americas. It was a prized source of fiber for rope and canvas, a necessity for ships. In fact, the word "canvas" comes from the latin "cannabis." However, it was another conquerer who introduced the plant to Europe. In 1804, Napoleon Bonaparte triumphed in Egypt. During his conquest, his army was introduced to an intoxicant unseen in Europe and unlike in France where intoxicants are drunk, this one is smoked. They prefered it over brandy because it didn't cause hangovers and took it back to France as a spoil of war. In Paris, it finds favor with the people there. From Paris, it travels to London as a smoking substance and an extract in medicine. Women in high society ate hashish confections to lower fevers, ease stomach pains or any ache at all. Even Queen Victoria used it to ease the pain of menstrual cramps. It was used for insomnia and TB patients who had lost their appetite, but it was also used recreationally.
The next stop is New York, where the drug becomes an ingredient in America's unpatented medical industry. It was sometimes used to relieve toothache pain as well. In the 19th century, marijuana was far from the recreational drug of a future time. By and large, it's only use came from patent medicines. Americans knew little of smoking it as an intoxicant.. that is, until the Sultan of Turkey, Abdul Hamid II gave a very special birthday gift to the American people. In 1876, a world's exposition is held in Philadelphia to celebrate the 100th aniversary of the Declaration of Independence. On display are the wonders of the modern world such as the typewriter and telephone. At the Turkish pavilion, the Sultan introduced the crowd to smoking marijuana which was perhaps the first pot party ever in the US and perhaps the biggest until Woodstock, 93 years later. This ignited a wave of Turkish smoking parlors in the north where people would either smoke hashish or eat hashish confections.
At a time when the temperance movement was trying to ban alcohol and close saloons, smoking parlors could have been the alternative to getting high, but the parlors closed and alcohol remained the "drug of choice" for the country... until a Constitutional amendment bans alcohol and the country then rediscovered marijuana.
New Orleans, 1920: America's second largest port is America's #1 party city. A place where people of all races and ethnicities live, work and play. Out of all this, Jazz music was born. It was said that marijuana and Jazz go together like melody and lyrics, where one went, the other followed, but there was another reason for it's widespread use: it was the only legal drug in town even here, where any desire of the flesh could be had while prohibition kept the flow of liquor out of sight. The choice of the new intoxicant becomes the perfectly legal "weed" shipped in from the Carribean, Mexico and South America and sold like cigarettes in jazz clubs, markets and pharmacies. It was cheap and popular.
However, New Orleans was in the middle of a crime wave where murder dominated the headlines and gets the attention of William Randolph Hurst, who blamed marijuana for all the crime. Headlines in papers now read things like "Drug Monster has tenticles in every state" and "Marijuana makes fiends of boys in 30 days: Hashish goads users to blood lust!" and US laws are criticized for being too lenient. The false link between marijuana and violent crime, rape and murder began in New Orleans, the birth of the marijuana propoganda machine. Just like Cocaine was made illegal due to reports of crazed, coked up "negros" led to the prohibition of Cocaine, headlines and stories of the "Marijuana Menace" were having the same effect on Cannabis. At this time, lawmakers were quick to ban a substance linked to black violence, and thus in 1924, Louisiana joined 14 other states banning it's distribution for non-medical purposes. Marijuana became the scapegoat and would be banned slowly, state by state.
In the southwest, the reasons were economics and prejudice against Mexicans. Mexicans living along the Texas border were a source of cheap labor which was valuble in the middle of the depression, but as things got better, they weren't needed anymore and we needed a way to get rid of them. According to the San Antonio Gazette, "the men who smoke this herb become so excited that they go into a frenzy and worse. It is always aggressive as what was committed in parts of Mexico. In 1931, Mexican repatriation becomes law and those who don't go quietly are subject to various degrees of harrassment. Many are arrested under new state marijuana laws, an excuse to drive Mexicans out of the country. At this time in Texas for example, if you were caught with a joint, you could be sent to jail for life. In fact, there were campaigns in some states for the death penalty and there are cases of people serving many, many decades of time in jail for possession.
Except for a handful of states in the southwest, marijuana was still legal in the US. That soon changed after Harry Anslinger, the nation's top drug enforcement agent, takes office at the federal bureau of narcotics. First, however, he must convince congress to do something it had never done before: outlaw a weed. He must convince congress and the public that this weed was the cause of sex, violence and murder, a message that scares an already frightened depression era America.
Since 1920, alcohol had been under prohibition, but after 14 years, the law is repealed and all attention was turned towards narcotics. The Federal Bureau of Narcotics went into full effect which was essentially the birth of the DEA. The new biggest enemy of America was changed from heroin and cocaine to marijuana, born out of the trouble in the southwest with the mexican migrant workers. Anslinger initially did not want any federal laws against the drug and leave the states to control it, not the federal government. He tried to get all the states to agree on marijuana laws, but little success was made with that approach and pressure mounted on the federal government to do something about all the mexican migrant workers who all grew and smoked marijuana and supposedly went into towns on the weekends and created havok. Pressure was being put on the Anslinger to do something. Texas, Arizona, Colorado and California insist that it's the federal government's responsibility to do something about it, but Anslinger had no interest in staking his career on combating a "weed". He had only a staff of 300 and a $1.5 million budget to combat drugs the world over.
He wanted to avoid making a law that would be difficult to enforce and offers a different approach. That approach was kicking up the propoganda machine to full power. Anything said about the drug was bad and exaggerated. Anslinger could do nothing to stop the push from the southwest for a federal law against marijuana, which was born completely out of racism towards mexicans. All of this had little to do with the dangers of the drug and more about politics and it was entangled in immigration problems. Anslinger himself, when interviewed, said he didn't believe marijuana was a problem and even talked about how you could get it in Harlem, no problem, but the pressure from the southwest and the west where the mexican immigrants were seen as an unnecessary and dangerous surplus population and so there was a tremendous campaign to push these mexicans back to Mexico and marijuana got mixed up in all of this because all these mexicans grew and smoked it. For Anslinger, the pressure is on and becomes the leading warrior against marijuana and thus, the war on marijuana is born.
His chief weapon are movies that express exaggerated dangers of the drug such as "the truth is that every reefer is loaded with immorality and beastial perversions, brutality, murder, sex crimes, insanity or suicide" and was labeled the "Assassin of Youth", all of course were blatent lies to scare the public into going along with making marijuana illegal. Aslinger now began drafting a law, but the Constitution stood in his way, but he found a way around it using a law that was passed to ban machine guns.
A law was passed called the "National Firearms Act" which stated that you could not give, borrow or transfer a machine gun to someone without a machine gun transfer stamp. The thing was, the government never produced any of these stamps. It was simply a way to stop the distribution of machine guns. The supreme court ruled that the Act was legal and that the use of stamps, even though no stamps would be produced, was legitimate. Anslinger now has a model for a national ban against marijuana.
The law was simple. Anyone involved with it's use, sale or transfer would be required to get from the government a marijuana tax stamp, but the catch is that the government would only produce a token number of these stamps, but could he convince congress that weed was as dangerous as a machine gun?
On April 27th, 1937, hearings begin before congress on the first federal law to control marijuana. Anslinger hopes to convince congress that marijuana is dangerous and hopes to enact a law like the one that banned machine guns. His attitude towards marijuana was that it was not as serious as heroin or cocaine, but you wouldn't know that publically because the strategy was to describe it in a very horrible and disgusting way so as to discourage anyone from trying it even a single time. Things were seen on TV of people smoking pot and jumping out of windows, falling to their death or young kids beating their mothers to death with frying pans. Anslinger tells congress that using the drug makes the user insane, basically. Aslinger also tells congress that it is the stepping stone, or "gateway" to harder drugs like heroin and cocaine and adds that it is the "Assassin of Youth."
One of the cases that kept coming up in these hearings was the case of Victor Locatta (spelling might be wrong), who was a young boy in Florida who cut up his family with an axe allegedly after smoking a joint, but what he omitted in his testimony, published days later, was that Locatta was schizophrenic and that the probability was very low that marijuana had anything to do with the crime. Anslinger also testified that marijuana was being used by school children, but from this was born the only testimony against the law. Dr. William Woodward of the American Medical Association testified that for all the complaints about marijuana's danger to school children, there was no evidence to back it up. Congress disregarded his testimony. He was attacked viciously for his stance, then congress lied about what he said!
All across America, independent movies bombard the public with propoganda of the non-existant dangers of marijuana, basically the same scare tactics that were used by D.A.R.E programs for years. Anslinger had won and congress passed the Marijuana Tax Act, the first federal law against the drug. The law was passed weeks later and signed into law by Roosevelt on August 2nd and took effect on October 1st, 1937. This, my friends, is the birth of the marijuana laws; propoganda, lies, and racism.
The law requires that anyone wanting to buy, sell, distribute or transfer marijuana must pay a tax and obtain a stamp. The penalty for doing such things without a stamp was five years in jail, a $2,000 fine or both. However, like the machine gun stamp act, the government would not make these stamps available. This presented a big problem. In order to get the license, you had to have the weed in hand, but if you did, you had already violated the law and would be arrested.
One year later, Anslinger's law runs into a powerful critic, Mayor LaGuardia of New York. He commissions a group of medical professionals from the New York Academy of Medicine to study his city's "marijuana problem." This blue ribbon panel visits school yards, interviews principals and even studies the effects on adults. After a four year study, the following conclusions are drawn:
- Smoking Marijuana does not lead to addiction
- Marijuana smoking is not widespread among school children
- Marijuana is not a determining factor in major crimes
- Publicity concerning the catastrophic effects of weed use in NY city is unfounded
Ironically, Laguardia obtained the pot used in the study from Anslinger. Once this study came out, Anslinger felt betrayed and that was the end of marijuana research as far as he was concerned. Despite the findings, marijuana in NY remained an illegal drug and to this day, remains an illegal drug.
Over the years following this, benny's and speed become huge drugs of abuse. Doctors would prescribe people speed for just about anything. At the time, there were 39 reasons to prescribe speed to someone ranging from hiccups to schizophrenia. Speed was and remains to this day the most widely prescribed drug in American history. In the 60's, amphetamine use was a hidden epidemic while marijuana, on the other hand, was used openly. Unlike amphetamines, which were legal, marijuana was outlawed under the marijuana stamp act of 1937. Users face fines and jail sentences, but it is the latest drug fads, the favorite of baby boomers despite these penalties. It goes on to say that marijuana generally appeals to people who are smart and are interested in going beyond the conventional boundaries of their behaviour.
So, 33 years after the marijuana tax act, it's constitutionality was questioned in the supreme court to change the law led by Timothy Leary. He argued that in order to get the license, one had to break the law. Therefore, getting the license was simply self incrimination and the supreme court agreed. The law against marijuana was gone and it was once again, legal.
Until 1914, most people believed the Constitution upheld the right to ingest any substance one wanted. However, by 1970, recreational drug use was considered bad and congress did not consider the right to use drugs as a right protected by the Constitution. Marijuana was once again made illegal under the Controlled Substance Act of 1970, which stood on firm Constitutional ground unlike the self incriminating marijuana stamp act. However, marijuana use does not end, it just becomes illegal and finds a place in a subculture of it's own and includes a comedy troop and a magazine.
Unlike pot, methamphetamine is still not completely illegal and is still prescribed by doctors, but recreational use and abuse was at an all time high. It is estimated that by 1971, so many amphetamine pills were produced that if you gave each man, woman and child in the country an equal amount, each person would get 50 each. Modern Medicine effectively created the amphetamine addiction that has persisted to this day. Methamphetamines are associated with violence, but it's use was also widespread in professional sports. Recreational use ruins thousands of lives and while recreational use was now illegal, it became a growing problem and remains one to this day. Modern medicine effectively introduced the world to heroin, cocaine and methamphetamines. Kind of ironic, they created all the addicts we have now. That's where it all began.
Medicinal marijuana only gained acceptance in the 90's to stimulate appetite in cancer and AIDS patients and to reduce nausea from chemotherapy. It is also used to treat glaucoma. The attitude of the American public towards marijuana is very fickle. Once, the federal government was opposed to a federal marijuana law only to enact one in 1937, only to see it overturned by the supreme court 30 years later. In 1970, federal law banned marijuana again citing that it had no medicinal use, but now, marijuana is used legally for that very reason. At the turn of the 21st century, 11 states have decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana judging the legal side effects to be more harmful than the drug itself."
(End of quoting from History Channel special)
On this page, there are several videos, some long, but much to read under them. Some quotes:
"The term medical marijuana took on dramatic new meaning in February 2000 when researchers in Madrid announced they had destroyed incurable brain cancer tumors in rats by injecting them with THC, the active ingredient in cannabis.
The Madrid study marks only the second time that THC has been administered to tumor-bearing animals; the first was a Virginia investigation 26 years ago. In both studies, the THC shrank or destroyed tumors in a majority of the test subjects."
"The ominous part is that this isn’t the first time scientists have discovered that THC shrinks tumors. In 1974 researchers at the Medical College of Virginia, who had been funded by the National Institute of Health to find evidence that marijuana damages the immune system, found instead that THC slowed the growth of three kinds of cancer in mice — lung and breast cancer, and a virus-induced leukemia."
"The DEA quickly shut down the Virginia study and all further cannabis/tumor research, according to Jack Herer, who reports on the events in his book, “The Emperor Wears No Clothes“. In 1976 President Gerald Ford put an end to all public cannabis research and granted exclusive research rights to major pharmaceutical companies, who set out — unsuccessfully — to develop synthetic forms of THC that would deliver all the medical benefits without the “high.”
"“All the rats left untreated uniformly died 12-18 days after glioma (brain cancer) cell inoculation … Cannabinoid (THC)-treated rats survived significantly longer than control rats. THC administration was ineffective in three rats, which died by days 16-18. Nine of the THC-treated rats surpassed the time of death of untreated rats, and survived up to 19-35 days. Moreover, the tumor was completely eradicated in three of the treated rats.” The rats treated with Win-55,212-2 showed similar results.
The Spanish researchers, led by Dr. Manuel Guzman of Complutense University, also irrigated healthy rats’ brains with large doses of THC for seven days, to test for harmful biochemical or neurological effects. They found none."
"“The active chemical agent in marijuana curbs the growth of three kinds of cancer in mice and may also suppress the immunity reaction that causes rejection of organ transplants, a Medical College of Virginia team has discovered.” The researchers “found that THC slowed the growth of lung cancers, breast cancers and a virus-induced leukemia in laboratory mice, and prolonged their lives by as much as 36 percent.”"
"In 1983 the Reagan/Bush Administration tried to persuade American universities and researchers to destroy all 1966-76 cannabis research work, including compendiums in libraries, reports Jack Herer, who states, “We know that large amounts of information have since disappeared.”
As you can see, we've known for a long time that marijuana is not nearly as dangerous as it's made out to be if at all. All Cannabis research that proved this was destroyed during the Reagan/Bush administrations because it went against their reasoning for keeping it illegal due to it being dangerous when all studies done on it showed the opposite. We've known it has a positive effect on cancerous tumors as well since the 70's.
An article from last year where a desperate father cured his two year old son of a life threatening brain tumor by administering medical marijuana to him. Seems to go right along with all those destroyed studies and data.
"Wait, doesn't marijuana *cause* cancer? No, says many sources including cancer.gov and in fact, it has been shown to have protective effects instead particularly on brain cells.
Only one quote stands out to me on this page:
"Cannabis has been shown to kill cancer cells in the laboratory and to affect the immune system. However, there is no evidence that Cannabis' effects on the immune system help the body fight cancer."
Cannabis? Shown to.. kill cancer cells in lab tests? Once again, we see why all that research was destroyed.
In 2006, an article posted in the Washington Post concluded that marijuana smoking, even regularly or heavily, does not cause lung cancer. It seems that THC does not allow cancer to form and kills any such cells before they become cancerous. So, I think it's been established that marijuana use, heavy or light, does not cause lung cancer.
Just to really bang this nail home, here is part two of a conversation (I couldn't find part one) about this very topic with Dr. Donald Tashkin of UCLA Geffen School of Medicine, a famous research doctor and has done much research on the topic. In the video description, it says "Pulmonary research on use of marijuana and interaction with the lungs was funded by the Federal Government to prove that lung cancer is caused by smoking marijuana, however the results proved cannabis does not cause lung cancer."
Government just wants so badly for studies to show pot is this dangerous, deadly drug that causes lung cancer and does all these nasty things, but there's just no evidence for any of it.
This article from webmd.com shows a study done showing marijuana use, even long term, does not cause brain damage and has a "very small" impairment on memory and learning among long term users. It is important to note that all participants in this study were adults.
However, there is a bad side which I will get into right now since there is risk with everything. With heavy, long term use, it seems pretty definitive that marijuana can cause emphysema and chronic bronchitis, but for emphysema, you have to smoke a LOT of it for a LONG time.
Also, there is a time when marijuana does cause permanent brain damage.
In Adolecents and young adults who are users of marijuana, it has been shown and proven in my mind to interfere with brain development which is not reversible. It changes how the brain develops and the changes are permanent which is why I say it should be treated the same as alcohol.
Despite all the "rage" against marijuana, it is not known as a deadly drug, so Emphysema cases must be rare. The CDC does not even have a category for "deaths" from marijuana use.
Alcohol linked to 75,000 deaths a year, but totally legal, no problems there, apparently. Drink all you want and be merry.
According to the CDC, tobacco kills over five million people a year, but again, perfectly legal. Smoke as much as you want. It doesn't help that you are literally smoking radioactive chemicals with your cigarettes.
"How does radioactive material get into a cigarette?
The tobacco leaves used in making cigarettes contain radioactive material, particularly lead-210 and polonium-210. The radionuclide content of tobacco leaves depends heavily on soil conditions and fertilizer use.
Soils that contain elevated radium lead to high radon gas emanations rising into the growing tobacco crop. Radon rapidly decays into a series of solid, highly radioactive metals (radon decay products). These metals cling to dust particles which in turn are collected by the sticky tobacco leaves. The sticky compound that seeps from the trichomes is not water soluble, so the particles do not wash off in the rain. There they stay, through curing process, cutting, and manufacture into cigarettes.Lead-210 and Polonium-210 can be absorbed into tobacco leaves directly from the soil. But more importantly, fine, sticky hairs (called trichomes) on both sides of tobacco leaves grab airborne radioactive particles.
For example, phosphate fertilizers, favored by the tobacco industry, contain radium and its decay products (including lead-210 and polonium-210). When phosphate fertilizer is spread on tobacco fields year after year, the concentration of lead-210 and polonium-210 in the soil rises."
So, then tobacco alone kills more than all illegal drugs, alcohol, modern medicine and maybe even fluoride combined, but it's legal. So, it's then reasonable to assume that health has nothing to do with marijuana being illegal nor does it have any bearing on the availability of tobacco or the hundreds of additives tobacco companies add to their products to keep people hooked.
SO, the real question is, why is marijuana illegal? It was made illegal in the first place mostly due to racism, propoganda and lies, things we are all very familiar with these days. Studies showing marijuana was not dangerous were destroyed by Reagan and Bush so they could keep telling people it was. We are just catching back up again on all that lost research.
How can tobacco, a substance that kills over five million people a year be legal, but marijuana, a non-lethal alternative to alcohol which kills 75,000 people a year, be illegal? How does that make sense? Marijuana was made illegal for all the wrong reasons and it remains illegal for no real reason.
I know this is a touchy subject for most people and please, save the slippery slope argument for someone else. I am not suggesting all drugs should be legal, only that legalization has proved successful in Portugal, where all drugs are legal and instead of throwing addicts in prison, they receive treatment which is how it should be. Know what else? Portugal doesn't have any drug problems nor did they see an increase in drug use from legalization. It just makes sense, but as for the US, let's start with marijuana by decriminalizing it in Maryland. Alcohol is tons more dangerous, fact.
Personally, I think it's time we started treating marijuana more like alcohol or tobacco and making it legal. If the other two, considering how deadly they are, are perfectly legal and one, alcohol, is an intoxicant often linked to violence, then there's no reason marijuana shouldn't be legal as well considering it is not linked to crime at all. People shouldn't be thrown in jail for this any more than they should be thrown in jail for getting drunk in the privacy of their own home. Alcohol IS neurotoxic, pot is not (unless you're an adolescent), alcohol is deadly and is linked to violence, pot is not and is linked to, I don't know, relaxing and being creative with food.
Besides, it doesn't take a scientist to see that the war on drugs isn't working and prohibition, in general, doesn't work when it comes to things like drugs. People have enjoyed altering their minds since we first learned we could, it will never go away. It's time for Maryland to, at the very least, decriminalize small amounts of marijuana. Ya know what though, with such a change in law, I also propose SEVERE penalties for people who drive while intoxicated on MJ and cause an accident. First offense, loss of license for six months and one year probation. I much prefer that as opposed to punishing everyone else.
Not only that, save the money and free up the cops to go after the harder drugs until we reach a point where we can be more like Portugal and get addicts treatment instead of throwing them in jail. The war on drugs is a failure and there is not a single, legitimate reason, not now or in our history to indicate marijuana is a dangerous drug worthy of being capable of putting people into prison. It's not a health issue because if it was, tobacco would have been outlawed a long time ago, but we should have learned with alcohol that prohibition doesn't work.
The reason I wanted to post the history of pot's travels through legalization and prohibition was to show that we have denied the scientific evidence showing it is NOT dangerous and SHOULDNT be illegal, there is just no reason for it. Propoganda, lies and racism was the birth of anti-marijuana laws and two of them still drive it today. Science is on the side of it being legal, but people seem to be split down the middle on this topic.
What say you? Is it time to move out of the past and stop throwing people in jail for using marijuana and start to realize that this war on drugs is a failure and a huge waste of money, especially since marijuana is the main drug people get arrested for?
That article shows that currently, 56% of Americans support marijuana legalization and this number has increased every year while only 34% oppose it. Which side are you on?