INTRODUCTION OF MARIJUANA
INTO THE UNITED STATES
The use of marijuana has been an active past time for thousands of years, however, it did not reach the United States until around 1912. A wave of Mexican immigrants was entering the country in the effort to find work; with them came marijuana. The use of marijuana was a normal custom among the Mexican people, but the White Americans in towns bordering Mexico saw the use of this particular plant in a different light. Fueled with racism and frustration associated with the lack of work for the American people, whites proclaimed that the smoking of marijuana gave the Mexicans super-human strength and transformed those who smoked it into violent murderers. With the increase in rumors of bloodshed and mayhem brought about by Mexicans on marijuana-rampages, the city council of El, Paso, Texas passed a law, the El Paso Ordinance of 1914, banning the possession of marijuana (Grass: The History of Marijuana). As a result, the regulation not only provided a way to control marijuana, but Mexicans as well. THE FEDERAL BUREAU OF NARCOTICS AND
UNIFROM STATE NARCOTIC LAW
Meanwhile, those Americans who did not reside in states bordering Mexico were quite unfamiliar with the use of marijuana, and were much more concerned with the then current war on opium, morphine, cocaine, and heroin addiction plaguing society. In the early 1930’s the United States government decided that these public health issues of addiction could be handled by the United States Department of Treasury, who in turn established the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (R.J. Bonnie, 1970). Harry J. Anslinger was assigned as the Commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics. Anslinger was an alcohol prohibitionist who believed that “progress can only be achieved by controlling the deprived impulses of the masses”; he believed that if laws implemented in society were strict enough and if enough people were punished for partaking in prohibited acts, the public would steer away from wrongdoing. Anslinger believed this same philosophy would work in America’s war against dope. However, Anslinger found it hard to regulate drug use in all 48 states; he was only one man and during the Depression, it was difficult to find financial backing for such a feat. Anslinger sought the solution to his problem among the forty-eight states of America; he aimed to influence each state to individually control drug use and trafficking among its citizens. Anslinger planned to do this by getting each state to sign a joint agreement that would commit a portion of each state’s resources to the drug control, the Uniform State Narcotic Law. However, only nine states agreed (New York, New Jersey, Virginia, South Carolina, Louisiana, Florida, and Indiana), the other states believed that the agreement allowed the federal government to interfere with state affairs (Grass, 1999). Meanwhile, New Orleans was a major port city that trafficked marijuana into the United States by way of West Indian sailors. It was known as muggles, tea, or reefer on the streets of New Orleans, and grew extremely popular among the jazz crowd in the city due to the proclamation that music sounded notably better after a “reefer stick”. Musicians began to bring marijuana from New Orleans to cities farther north up the Mississippi River, increasing the drug’s popularity in larger cities of America. With this growing popularity and awareness, Anslinger saw targeting marijuana as the means to his end; he concluded that if he could convince white America that marijuana was an absolute menace, the frightened voters would push their state legislature to agree to his Uniform State Narcotic Law (R.J. Bonnie, 1970). The media was Anslinger’s primary weapon in leading all Americans to believe that marijuana was the most dangerous social issue that had ever faced the country; the use of marijuana was tied to the likes of murder, insanity and death; mothers...
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