History of Cannabis

What is Prohibition?

Prohibition is the action of forbidding something, especially by law. Now, what is Cannabis Prohibition? We are living through it. It is the complete ban on cannabis and cannabis derived products. Although in many states, cannabis use is legal, federally, cannabis is a scheduled I drug. This means that in the eyes of the US government, cannabis has zero health benefits and is a federally banned substance.

Why is Cannabis a banned substance?

We have to go back to the early 1900s and look at what was happening in the U.S. Around the 1920s, after the Mexican Revolution, southern states like Louisiana and Texas had an increase of migrants from Mexico, these migrants brought their culture, traditions, language and "Marijuana". Marijuana or cannabis, played a different role in Mexican culture, the use of cannabis was for medicinal and relaxant purposes.

American's were very familiar with cannabis because it was commonly found in pharmaceuticals, oral tinctures, ointments and creams. The one thing Americans weren't familiar with was the word “Marijuana." As time went on, the media started to highlight "Disruptive Mexicans" and their threatening habits, which included smoking ‘marihuana’. Marijuana began to be targeted more and more, which was a result from the demonization of migrant Mexicans. Shortly after, marijuana bans started to appear more and more in Spanish speaking and low-income areas.

 Louis "Satchmo" Armstrong, a famous Jazz musician, vocalized his relationship with marijuana, he is quoted, "It really puzzles me to see Marijuana connected with Narcotics -- Dope and all that . . . it's a thousand times better than whiskey…it’s an Assistant and a friend.’'

Mexicans were not the only population who were targeted, members of the jazz/music community and people of color and poverty were also heavily attacked. Jazz musician Louis Armstrong was a long time consumer and advocate of cannabis, praising cannabis for its stimulating, creative effects and publicly voiced the foolishness of bans on marijuana.

Harry Anslinger

Harry J. Anslinger, commonly referred to as the "Godfather of the cannabis prohibition,” commissioned of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics from 1930-1962. For three decades, Ansliger fed propaganda to the media which all labeled “marijuana” as the cause. He proceeded to use the same stories and headlines to justify cannabis prohibition. His propaganda often focused on racist themes and misinformation. He was often quoted in newspapers, “Reefer makes darkies think they're as good as white men…Marijuana is an addictive drug which produces in its users insanity, criminality, and death.” On August 27, 1937 Harry Anslinger declared cannabis more dangerous than opium. This statement, along with other factors including the making of the propaganda film Reefer Madness, led to the 1937 Marijuana Tax Act.

“I think the traffic has increased in marihuana, and unfortunately particularly among the young people. We have been running into a lot of traffic among these jazz musicians, and I am not speaking about the good musicians, but the jazz type.”- Harry Anslinger

"Because the chief effect [of marijuana] as far as [jazz musicians] were concerned was that it lengthens the sense of time, and therefore they could get more grace beats into their music than they could if they simply followed the written copy… In other words, if you’re a musician, you’re going to play the thing the way it’s printed on a sheet. But if you’re using marijuana, you’re going to work in about twice as much music between the first note and the second note. That’s what made jazz musicians. The idea that they could jazz things up, liven them up, you see." -Harry Anslinger

1936 Reefer Madness

In 1936, one of the most infamous cannabis movies hit the big screen, Reefer Madness. The film claims that by trying marijuana, the average citizen becomes instantly addicted and more likely to commit crimes like manslaughter, suicide, attempted rape, and descent into total madness. Funded by then media mogul, William Randolph Hearst. Most likely, Hearst supported cannabis prohibition because of his paper-producing companies were starting to be replaced by hemp. The 1937 Marijuana Tax Act included all cannabis plants even hemp which has only trace amounts of THC. DuPont’s investment in nylon was also threatened by hemp products and in turn, DuPont also supported cannabis prohibition and propaganda such as Reefer Madness.

1937 Marihuana Tax Act

The 1937 Marihuana Tax Act was drafted by Harry Anslinger and introduced to congress by Robert Lee Doughton, who was a wealthy banker and North Carolina congressman. It went into effect on October 1, 1937 and imposed an occupation tax on dealers of cannabis and imposed a transfer tax on cannabis. If this tax was not paid, it was a criminal offense. Yet, it also banned or prohibited the use, cultivation, and sale of any cannabis plant, which renders the tax portion defunct.

 

1944 La Guardia Report

The 1944 La Guardia Committee was formed by New York Mayor Fiorella LaGuardia and the New York Academy of Medicine, to research the effects of smoking marijuana and impact on communities. It was the first U.S. report on marijuana and contradicted every claim from Harry Anslinger and the US Treasury Department. Anslinger used his politic pull to discredit the report, resulting in claims that the committee was unscientific and all cannabis research came to an end.

 

1952 Boggs Act

In 1952, Mr. Hale Boggs, a representative from Louisiana, carried the Boggs act into congress. This established the first mandatory minimums for drug offenders and minimum jail sentences for narcotic crimes. First offense marijuana charges came with a minimum sentence of 2-10 years and up to $20,000 fines. The Boggs Act lead to the drastic increase of imprisonment amongst people of color and poverty.

1969 Timothy Leary vs. Marihuana Tax Act

In 1965, Professor Tim Leary driving from New York through Texas and was arrested for cannabis possession. He took the Marihuana Tax Act to the supreme court claiming that the act required self-incrimination and violated the fifth amendment. Leary won the ruling and it overturned Leary's conviction and the Marihuana Tax Act itself, but led to the Nixon administration’s Controlled Substance Act of 1970.

1970 Controlled Substance Act

After the Marihuna Tax being ruled unconstitutional, Nixon put into place the 1970 Controlled Substance Act. The federal U.S. drug policy regulates the manufacture, importation, possession, use and distribution of certain narcotics, stimulants, depressants and hallucinogens. The act classifies cannabis along side heroin as a Schedule 1 Drug, defining cannabis as highly addictive and having no health benefits. The United States abides by these classifications today.

Advocacy

In 1972, Pennsylvania Governor Raymond P. Schafer, commissioned a report calling for the decriminalization of Marihuana. The research was supported by the Nixon Administration. Similar to the 1944 La Guardia report, the Schafer report declared that cannabis should not be a Schedule I Drug and be decriminalized. The Nixon Administration ignored the findings and proceeded to have the report discredited as unscientific.

 

Dennis Peron

Commonly referred to as, the father of Medical Marijuana, Dennis Peron was a cannabis activist that drafted compassion care cannabis policies Prop P in San Francisco and Prop 215 for California. During the AIDs epidemic in 1990, Dennis Peron pursued Prop P, a local ordinance in San Fransisco, to legalize medical marijuana for AIDs patients. Prop 215, which ultimately started the end of the war on drugs, was the first ever state medical marijuana ballot initiative passed.

 

1996 Prop 215 In California

In 1996, California became the first state to pass legal medical marijuana law by passing Prop 215. The Compassionate Use Act of Prop 215 exempts patients and defined caregivers who possess or cultivate marijuana for medical treatment from criminal charges.

2010

March 23, 2010 The Long Beach city council adopted an ordinance which added Chapter 5.87 started to meet in response to city ordinance. City of Long Beach passes 5.87, allowing medical cannabis in the City of Long Beach. This was the first ordinance allowing cultivation and dispensing of medical cannabis within the city. Shortly after, in 2011, the Long Beach Collective Association became an established organization to help city council with cannabis regulations.

 

2012

On Nov 6, 2012, Colorado passed amendment 64 which legalizes recreational cannabis consumption for recreational us for adults 21 and older. Amendment 64 allowed the commercial cultivation, manufacture, and sale of recreational cannabis. Shortly after, Washington state legalized cannabis possession with Initiative 502. Both states passed initiatives with over 55% approval.

Long Beach

In 2012, The Pack Vs City of Long Beach case resulted in the city wide ban on cannabis. Once the ban was set in place, dispensaries were allowed 6 months of operations and on August 12, 2012 the dispensaries shut down operations and turned to campaign efforts to work on a voter led ballot initiative ordinance.

2016

In 2016, California voters approved Proposition 64, the Adult use of Marijuana Act (AUMA). Although, it is up to local governments to vote on implementation into cities or continue prohibition. Prop 64 also introduced the largest retro-active reclassification that reduces criminal penalties for most remaining marijuana offenses from felonies to misdemeanors and some misdemeanors to infractions.Prop 64 Passed with 63% California voters approval.

Long Beach

Ballot initiative MM, with more than enough signatures, reached the Long Beach November 2016 ballot and passed with 60% of Long Beach votes.

2017

In 2017, California state law was signed for integration of MCRSA with AUMA to create the Medicinal & Adult-Use Cannabis Regulations & Safety Act (MAUCRSA). This is the single regulatory system that governs the medicinal and adult-use cannabis Industry.

2018

Long Beach adopts adult-use cannabis ordinance and announces reclassification (expungement)  clinic efforts.

 


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  • Steven Contreras