Given that federal marijuana prohibition was based on the lies of Harry Anslinger and the corruption of William Randolph Hearst, how is it that it has taken so long for sensible marijuana legislation to prevail?
Beyond the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937
The Marihuana Tax Act was just the beginning of a wave of rampant anti-drug legislation. In 1938, Harry Anslinger encouraged officials to downplay the impact of marijuana in crime, saying that because press reports had become so exaggerated, the public had become nearly hysterical and the officials needed to guide public opinion toward more conservative, saner lines of thinking (sounds like the monster he created was getting out of hand). Meanwhile, his Federal Bureau of Narcotics directed an educational initiative to convince lawmakers to make drug sentences more severe.
After World War 2, narcotic drug abuse became a large issue, especially among the young (not surprising). Marijuana began to be seen as a gateway drug, leading to harsher drugs like heroin. As such, Congress passed two acts in the 1950s: the Boggs Act, which increased penalties for drug charges, and the Narcotic Control Act, which turned the the Boggs Act penalties up to 11. This is when mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses became a thing.
In the 70s, President Richard Nixon declared the War on Drugs, and the Controlled Substance Act of 1970 created the schedule of drug severity, where marijuana remains a schedule I drug – the most severe ranking, on par with heroin, LSD and peyote, among others. Federal drug control agencies ballooned. Despite the unanimous recommendation of a Republican-led commission to decriminalize possession and distribution of marijuana for personal use, Nixon doubled down on drug control.
What did Nixon have against marijuana? If one of his top advisors, John Ehrlichman, is to be believed, it was really a political ploy to marginalize minorities to ensure his hold on the presidency. And while Nixon never sold children’s organs to zoos for meat or went into people’s houses at night to wreck up the place (that we know of – there was that whole Watergate business), it’s still kind of messed up to dramatically inflate the Drug War – in spite of the evidence and recommendations – solely to persecute minorities for political gain.
Next week, we’ll wrap up this series with a look at lobbying and how it might be the last great barrier to legalization.
If you are pulled over for drugged driving in Colorado, speak to a marijuana DUI attorney.
Our attorneys continue our series on marijuana prohibition with a look at the post-WW2 climate for marijuana.