Brief History of Cannabis in America, Part 2

1937 and Reefer Madness or How Radical Racism and Corporate Greed started the War on Drugs.

In his book, The Emperor Wears No Clothes, author Jack Herer tells us how this happened. I suggest anyone with doubts that our government is to blame, and who doesn’t want to believe me, to read his book. I’m going to be really brief in my posts and will just cover the high points from my perspective and investigations. Money, greed, racism and politics got us where we are right now with cannabis prohibition.

The Emperor Wears No Clothes

This book really started a revolution, and encouraged Hemp Activism. You can buy it online used, because it’s out of print, or you can go to Jack’s website, where he has conveniently left it free for all to read.

Up until the late 1930s hemp was a thriving industry providing us with oil, paper, rope, cloth and many other useful everyday items, including medicine. With infinite wisdom and concern for the environment, (not) American industrialists found that making paper from trees instead of renewable crops, such as hemp, was much more profitable now that America was consuming huge amounts of paper goods. The milling of trees for paper is by far much harsher on the environment than hemp paper production, but a way to process hemp into paper on the large scale that it was needed had yet to be developed. By the time the U.S. Department of Agriculture did find a way to do it, the stock had already been thrown in to using our seemingly unlimited source of trees. (Look at all them trees we’ve got! We’ll never use up all them trees!)

A very wealthy and powerful American really put the nail in the coffin of hemp use in America. He virtually controlled the media through his newspapers in cities all over America, and was able to create enough pulp fiction to instill fear in the American public by manipulating the image of hemp or “Marihuana” as a demon inducing threat to anyone who came near it it. He used marijuana to create the image of lazy Mexicans high on smoking the demon marihuana. We can still see this stereotypical image today. It persists as the image of a sleepy-eyed Mexican, speaking slow and seemingly high. I see it in cartoons and in commercials, and it has become so accepted we should all be ashamed. He did the same with Blacks, ie the pot smoking, slow talking jazz man who will lure your women and children into a life of lurid sex and drugs. This one man, William Randolph Hearst, was doing everything he could to make hemp illegal in the US using fear, loathing and racism. But why?

Hearst controlled the newspapers, and being an enterprising individual was acquiring vast forests he needed to supply paper needs for his publications. He even looked abroad to neighboring Mexico for more forested land, had made an agreement with the Mexican Government to buy land in Mexico and had already sunk money into paper production there when his plan was thwarted by the revolutionist, Pancho Villa. Hearst hated Mexico and Mexicans. He also hated the idea of hemp paper since he would not be profiting from it. He went to war with Mexico, Mexicans and hemp in his newspapers. He helped to push politicians into two wars that could have been avoided.; the Spanish-American War and the War on Drugs.  He had the money and the power of the press to do it.

Anti Marijuana posterMeanwhile in Washington, a new department of the government had been created and a madman was put at the helm. Henry Anslinger was head of the newly formed Federal Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, and would hold this position until Kennedy became president. Who is this guy? Well, he was the future in-law of Andrew Mellon, then Secretary of the Treasury under Hoover. Mellon’s Bank, (no conflict of interest there, eh?), the Mellon Bank of Pittsburgh, was a huge financial backer of DuPont Corporation’s newly patented plastics as well as a new process to make paper more effectively from wood. They didn’t want paper making to revert back to the more environmentally safe hemp as a source. Henry Anslinger was the perfect man for the job. Being mean, racist, power hungry, and backed by powerful men with deep pockets, he found a friend in Hearst, who was happy to give him a bully pulpit, his newspaper empire. Anslinger was aptly put in place to make sure that hemp would no longer be an obstacle to anyone’s vision for the future. Using fear and totally unfounded propaganda, Anslinger’s campaign against “marihuana” grew and thrived in newspapers all over America. Soon hemp and cannabis products would be wiped out of the commercial and industrial markets of America. He did his in-laws proud, and here we are, still, over 70 years later, with no federally legal cannabis medicine and hemp being imported from China, Canada, and other sensible hemp-growing countries that like to take in American dollars.

The War on Drugs was officially on and cannabis medicine and the hemp industry were like a deer in the headlights. Next, find out how they pulled the wool over the eyes of the American Medical Association. Sneaky bastards!


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