Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Marihuana, Racism, Hatred and Fear

You might wonder how these all go together.

I can also tell you why Marihuana is not just a misspelled word.
It all started in our history.

When colonists first arrived in America they brought hemp seeds with them and they grew hemp. Presidents grew hemp and actively encouraged and helped other farmers to do so.

For 162 years, marijuana was legal and was a common crop that was grown in the US. People could pay their taxes with hemp- it was considered legal tender.

“Make the most of Indian Hemp seed and sow it everywhere.”
-George Washington, 1794

So how did it change?

It all started in the early 1900's. Migrant workers from Mexico brought with them marijuana cigarettes, one of the first times that marijuana was used recreationally in the US.
Then alcohol prohibition came into effect, causing marijuana to become a replacement for alcohol and hundreds of hash bars opened in New York City alone.

This caused some states to make a few efforts to ban recreational use.

At this time, hemp was an enormous industry in the States, where new extraction technology was being developed that made hemp products, such as paper and fabric, cheaper than ever before.

Hemp seed oil was being used to manufacture paints and varnishes. The first plastics had been manufactured from cellulose, and hemp, with its huge cellulose content, was at the forefront of the nascent plastics industry.

In 1937 this all changed. The Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 was created and enacted. I will talk about this act in another post, but I will tell you this paved the way for marijuana to become illegal in the US.

Before this there were several people who were involved in preparing the way for this tax to be created and passed.

One of them is Harry J. Anslinger ,who in 1930 was appointed by Treasury Secretary Andrew W. Mellon, his wife's uncle, to the fledgling Federal Bureau of Narcotics.

One of Mellon's chief financial interests was Mellon Bank, which was a principal backer of the chemical company DuPont.

The reason why DuPont is important is because at this time DuPont was switching from munitions to creating plastics and synthetic fibers, which would have to compete with hemp products.

"Synthetic plastics (made from mineral, chemical, petroleum, and fossil fuel deposits) find application in fabricating a wide variety of articles, many of which in the past were made from natural products."  A statement made by DuPont's president.

And another statement found in their archives from that time:
"The revenue raising power of government may be converted into an instrument for forcing acceptance of of sudden new ideas of industrial and social reorganization."

                        A 1936 American Propaganda Film targeted at high schoolers

Harry Anslinger began condemning the "Killer Drug". At this time the majority of the people who used it recreationally were African-Americans and Mexicans and he used racism to fuel a public outcry against marijuana.
He was joined in this by William Randolf Hearst, a.k.a. Citizen Kane, who was a media magnate.

William Hearst owned newspapers, paper mills and forests, and he had an ax to grind with Mexicans.
In 1898,  about 800,000 acres of prime Mexican timber land were seized from him by Pancho Villa, and this is besides the fact that he was already a racist. He also had a lot of paper pulp to sell and use in his newspapers and hemp was a far cheaper substitute for paper pulp at the time.

Hearst had already been campaigning against Marihuana in his newspapers as early as 1916, giving people misinformation and using the name Marihuana, not hemp or cannabis which people were long familiar with.

People at the time did not know that what he called Marihuana, was actually hemp or cannabis, which had been commonly used in medicinal tinctures as early as the mid 1800's.

Between these two men, the newspapers reported that Marihuana was a  "powerful narcotic in which lurks MURDER! INSANITY! DEATH!"


All of this leads up to the 1937 Tax, which I will post about soon.

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