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and now a man who needs an introduction

December 14, 2012

I’m in a much better holiday spirit since I learned that President Obama, in an ABC

News interview this evening, will say that the Justice Department has “bigger fish to

fry” than going after recreational pot smokers in Washington and Colorado.  The two

states just legalized weed.

 

This could be a huge step in the normalizing of this phenomenally versatile plant.

So how did such a boon to humankind become the Devil’s Favourite Smoke?  Thank

you for asking.  No one is more responsible than Harry Anslinger, one of America’s

greatest unsung villains.

 

Anslinger was the first commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, a predecessor

of the Drug Enforcement Agency. He served from 1930 to 1962. For the first three years

of his reign, he didn’t consider marijuana particularly menacing.

 

But in ’34 his focus changed.  A few years earlier, advancements in the harvesting of

hemp made it more competitive as a crop.  The chemical giant DuPont and William

Randolph Hearst, who held vast stands of timber, decided to tilt the playing field.

Using his massive publishing empire, Hearst gave Anslinger ample chance to mis-

inform a naïve public.

 

Anslinger relied on juicy, largly unsubstantiated reports to alarm the electorate.  A

lad in Florida, for instance, murdered his family with an axe because “hasheesh makes

a murderer who kills for the love of killing out of the mildest mannered man who ever

laughed at the idea that any habit could ever get him”.

 

Other examples Anslinger used are almost endearing in their ignorance:

“Colored students at the Univ. of Minn. partying with (white) female students,

smoking [marijuana] and getting their sympathy with stories of racial persecu-

tion.  Result: pregnancy.”

 

“Two Negroes took a girl fourteen years old and held her for two days under

the influence of hemp.  Upon recovery she was found to be suffering from

syphilis.”

 

“There are 100,000 total marijuana smokers in the U.S., and most are

Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos and entertainers.  Their Satanic music,

jazz and swing, result from marijuana usage.  This marijuana causes

white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers and

any others.”

 

You likely picked up on Harry’s slightly racist, paternalistic tone.

 

Anslinger was central to the passage of the Uniform State Narcotic Drug Act of 1934

and the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937, both of which regulated pot usage.  The Tax Act

was declared unconstitutional in 1969 and replaced the next year with the Controlled

Substance Act.

 

The CSA classifies marijuana as a Schedule I drug, meaning that it has a high potential

for abuse and no currently accepted medical use. As evidence to the contrary continues

to pile up, let’s hope Obama is setting  the tone to rationally evaluate the hysteria that

Anslinger, Hearst and many others have exploited to negatively affect millions.

 

UPDATE: Due to the horrific Connecticut school shootings, the Obama interview may

not air tonight.  Please let’s all take a deep breath, think about the grieving families and

community, and not rush to any judgements.  Violence like this is a deeply complex

problem that calls for — screams for — much thought and soul searching.

 

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2 Comments
  1. Anonymous permalink
    December 14, 2012 7:28 pm

    What you dug up on the measures to criminalize pot reflects well on a conversation I once had with a old retired politician who told me ” the southern shipyards , manufacturing, and agriculture industries complained that it made the niggers lazy”. Can’t have that! I like the picture of the snow covered netting over your garden. We are well, wet, and wish you two the best of the season. Michael

    • December 15, 2012 12:12 pm

      We, too, are wet, well and wishing you two the best.

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