For the first 162 years of America's existence, marijuana was totally legal and hemp was a common crop. But during the 1930s, the U.S. government and the media began spreading outrageous lies about marijuana, which led to its prohibition. Some headlines made about marijuana in the 1930s were: "Marijuana: The assassin of youth." "Marijuana: The devil's weed with roots in hell." "Marijuana makes fiends of boys in 30 days." "If the hideous monster Frankenstein came face to face with the monster marijuana, he would drop dead of fright." In 1936, the liquor industry funded the infamous movie titled Reefer Madness. This movie depicts a man going insane from smoking marijuana, and then killing his entire family with an ax. This campaign of lies, as well as other evidence, have led many to believe there may have been a hidden agenda behind Marijuana Prohibition.
Shortly before marijuana was banned by The Marijuana Tax Act of 1937, new technologies were developed that made hemp a potential competitor with the newly-founded synthetic fiber and plastics industries. Hemp's potential for producing paper also posed a threat to the timber industry (see New Billion-Dollar Crop). Evidence suggests that commercial interests having much to lose from hemp competition helped propagate reefer madness hysteria, and used their influence to lobby for Marijuana Prohibition. It is not known for certain if special interests conspired to destroy the hemp industry via Marijuana Prohibition, but enough evidence exists to raise the possibility.
After Alcohol Prohibition ended in 1933, funding for the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (now the Drug Enforcement Administration) was reduced. The FBN's own director, Harry J. Anslinger, then became a leading advocate of Marijuana Prohibition. In 1937 Anslinger testified before Congress in favor of Marijuana Prohibition by saying: "Marijuana is the most violence causing drug in the history of mankind." "Most marijuana smokers 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." Marijuana Prohibition is founded on lies and rooted in racism, prejudice, and ignorance. Just as politicians believed Harry J. Anslinger to be a marijuana expert in 1937, many people still believe law enforcement officials are marijuana experts. In reality, law enforcement officials have no expert knowledge of marijuana's medical or health effects, but they do represent an industry that receives billions of tax dollars to enforce Marijuana Prohibition.
Before the government began promoting reefer madness hysteria during the 1930s, the word marijuana was a Mexican word that was totally absent from the American vocabulary. In the 1930s, Americans knew that hemp was a common, useful, and harmless crop. It is extremely unlikely anyone would have believed hemp was dangerous, or would have believed stories of hemp madness. Thus, the words marijuana and reefer were substituted for the word hemp in order to frighten the public into supporting Hemp Prohibition. Very few people realized that marijuana and hemp came from the same plant species; thus, virtually nobody knew that Marijuana Prohibition would destroy the hemp industry.
Bolstering the theory that marijuana was banned to destroy the hemp industry, two articles were written on the eve of Marijuana Prohibition that claim hemp was on the verge of becoming a super crop. These articles appeared in two well-respected magazines that are still published today. The articles are:
Flax and Hemp (Mechanical Engineering, Feb. 1937)
New Billion-Dollar Crop (Popular Mechanics, Feb. 1938)
This was the first time that billion dollar was used to describe the value of a crop. These articles praise the usefulness and potential of hemp by stating "hemp can be used to produce more than 25,000 products" and "hemp will prove, for both farmer and public, the most profitable and desirable crop that can be grown." Marijuana Prohibition took effect within one year after both these articles were written.
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