Before prohibition in America
Prior to prohibition, cannabis was used medically throughout the United States and was originally listed in the U.S. Pharmacopoeia in 1850 as a cure for many ailments. It wasn’t until 1941 when the drug was removed from the text. During the pre-prohibition era not as many people in the U.S knew of the plant’s psychoactive effects. In fact, it was mostly distributed in the form of liquid tinctures and sold in pharmacies across the country. Pharmaceutical companies Eli Lilly and Parke-Davis even collaborated on the development of a strain called: Cannabis Americana which was created to help improve the inefficient export from India.
Cannabis prohibition began in the early 1900’s when individual states-imposed laws and ordinances making it more difficult to obtain and expensive to purchase. It’s argued that prohibition was largely a result of the influx of Mexican immigrants who migrated to the United States carrying marijuana with them during the Mexican Revolution of 1910-11.
The head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, Harry Anslinger, began demonizing the plant by associating racial stereotypes, violent crimes, dangerous sexual activity, and insanity with cannabis-users. He said things like, “you could easily get stoned and go out and kill a person, and it would all be over before you realized you had left your room, because marijuana turns man into a wild beast.” Leading people to fear the plant out of false information.
Anslinger had help from the media as newspapers published by William Randolph Hearst used tactics such as yellow journalism to create more fear among American people. It’s been stated Hearst had “financial interests in lumber and paper industries, motivating him to eliminate competition from hemp,” as hemp was the main source of paper for much of history.
It’s also interesting to note the Great Depression and the ending of Alcohol prohibition and how they both played a role in the formation of cannabis prohibition. The Federal Bureau of Narcotics was founded in 1930 shortly after the Great Depression began, which left Anslinger worried about funding for his newly created agency. Prior to this era Anslinger had little interest in criminalizing cannabis as he thought it was more of a distraction, rather than something truly harmful that needed to be stopped. When alcohol prohibition was repealed in 1933 there was an increased amount of people trying the plant and marijuana soon became the target of government control with the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937. By criminalizing cannabis Anslinger was able to increase funding for the newly created government agency, marginalize immigrants, and virtually end cannabis research for decades to come.
Below is a timeline of relevant dates in U.S. cannabis history:
- 1937: The Marijuana Tax Act – effectively banned any further use of the drug as a medicine and outlawed cannabis as a dangerous narcotic
- 1970: The Controlled Substances Act – prohibited cannabis for any use at the Federal level
- 1973: Oregon became the first state to decriminalize cannabis, reducing the penalty up to 1 oz to a $100 fine
- 1996: Proposition 215 made California the 1st state to legalize medical cannabis
- 2012: Colorado and Washington became the 1st two states to legalize the recreational use of cannabis
- 2018: Recreational use takes effect in California
Today's Cannabis movement and where its headed
The momentum cannabis is gaining in 2018 is giving us as a company excitement for a brighter future. Our vision of the future is one where stigma is a thing of the past and people can access and afford it from wherever they live. Federally cannabis is still considered a “schedule 1” drug, but as a country there are now 30 states with some form of legalization, which even includes the Republican state of Oklahoma. Nine states including the District of Columbia have decriminalized the drug and both Michigan and Utah have different forms of legalization included on their November ballots. Canada also recently legalized marijuana as a nation so there is a lot of forward momentum both Politically and Economically, but it’s up to us to keep it going.
We have the ability as a community to impact real change, but it requires each of us to show support in whatever way possible. The best way to show support and make the greatest difference is through showing up at community events and voicing your opinion, but if that’s not your style we’d also invite you to join our efforts on social media where we’re promoting an active and adventurous way to explore cannabis, as a way to end stigma and share educational information. Join our campaign by using hashtag #niceguysadventures to share your cannabis fueled adventure pictures.
Read part 1 of the history of cannabis by clicking here