Why is Marijuana Illegal?
The war on drugs has been a highly publicized, politicized, and racially motivated war on the American streets. It hasn’t always been illegal. In fact, in the plants 5,000 year history, it was only illegalized by the United States as recently as 1929. What happened less than a century ago that started this war, though? Why is everyone so concerned about the use and distribution of this plant by-product in particular? Why is cannabis important enough to cause a countrywide movement for legalization? Below, we’ve attempted to answer a few of the concerns and queries that have arisen since the battle to legalize it began.
The hemp plant is one that has been used over the millennia for a variety of purposes. It has bee used to make rope, to make cloth, and for food. It was also used for incense and, most famously, for medicinal purposes. In fact, at the start of the 17th century, there was actually a law ordering farmers to grow hempseed in the Jamestown colony in Virginia. During the following century, sometimes it was also illegal not to grow hempseed. It was also frequently used as legal tender, and you could pay your taxes with it. In 1850, the United States Census had a registration of 8,327 hemp plantations, each of which was a farm of a minimum of 2,000 acres.
The early 20th century was characterized by war and prohibition in the United States. After the legalization of alcohol again, the Department of Prohibition in Washington, D.C. was in danger of becoming redundant. In 1929, a man named Harry Anslinger was given power over the huge government department. Up until then, it was agreed worldwide that cannabis wasn’t harmful, nor did it make people violent. However, he suddenly decided that the prohibition of cannabis would be the department’s next important job, and so started the war on drugs. At the time, he corresponded with 30 of the best scientists on this subject and asked them if the plant was dangerous. Out of the thirty, 29 said no. Anslinger then proceeded to present the one scientist who had said yes to the world and used an unrelated homicide case to further drive fear into the country of the frenzied, dangerous state marijuana caused. In reality, the murderer had had a family history of mental illnesses and had never used cannabis.
Once the US had banned the distribution and use of marijuana, it pressured the rest of the world into doing so. Supplies of painkillers were cut off to Mexico until they banned the plant as well. Anslinger lead the worldwide band on cannabis and the drug on wars, all based on false facts to make his department useful. In fact, alcohol kills more people in the US annually than marijuana use: 40,000 as compared to 0.
Over the millennia, marijuana has largely been used commercially, privately, and medically. In its millennia of history, it has only been banned for a relatively minuscule period of time, due largely to politics, as well as other factors.