The “war on marijuana” has been waged for close to one hundred years, cost trillions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of lives, made criminals out of millions of otherwise law-abiding persons, denied life-saving medicine to millions more, without making the smallest dent in its availability.
Three men orchestrated the war: William Randolph Hearst (newspaper magnate), Andrew Mellon (former Treasury Secretary and one of America's wealthiest bankers and industrialists) and Harry Anslinger (appointed by his uncle-in-law Mellon to be the first Commissioner of the Treasury Department's newly reorganised Federal Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, forerunner to the Drug Enforcement Agency). Throw in the DuPont Chemical Company, whose main financier was Mellon Bank, and you have the prime players.
Hearst owned newspapers all across America. He also owned the paper mills and forests. In the late nineteenth/early twentieth century, Hearst had portrayed Mexicans (and Negroes) as lazy, pot-smoking beasts that would rape white women under the influence of marijuana. His newspapers ran sensational marijuana horror stories almost non-stop for over 30 years. Based on what they read in Hearst's newspapers, many Americans “knew” marijuana as a dangerous narcotic that drove its users to murder, blood-lust, and insanity. Hearst's dislike of Mexicans got a boost when Pancho Villa, the Mexican Revolutionary General, seized 800,000 acres of Hearst's prime Mexican timberland in 1898.
The US Declaration of Independence was drafted on hemp paper. 10,000 acres devoted to hemp can produce as much paper as 40,000 acres of trees. Hearst's enormous timber and paper businesses stood to lose billions, even go bankrupt, if hemp hurds replaced trees as a primary source material for paper.
In 1937, DuPont had just patented a sulfate/sulfite process for making paper from wood pulp, and a process for making plastics from oil and coal tar. Until 1937, almost all rope, cordage and twine was made from natural hemp fibre. Then it was replaced by patented toxic petrochemical fibres (such as nylon) from DuPont. For thousands of years, all good quality paints and varnishes were made from hempseed/linseed oil. After 1937, they were replaced with synthetic petrochemical oils made mainly by DuPont.
Between 1935 and 1937, strategies for the “prohibition of hemp through taxation” were plotted in secret Treasury Department meetings. The first deceptive strategy was to call the proposed legislation The Marihuana Tax Act of 1937, knowing that the Mexican slang word “marihuana” would play on anti-Mexican sentiments. They carefully avoided the words “hemp” or “cannabis” since the real reason for making “marihuana” illegal was to make hemp illegal, without having to face a backlash from importers, manufacturers, sellers and distributors of hemp products. You see, many people knew how versatile hemp was but not many knew or realised that the “demonised marihuana” and “useful hemp” were closely related. Outlaw one, you outlaw the other.
Anslinger was the US government's “expert witness” advocating the Tax Act. In his testimonies, he stated the following, among others, as fact: “Marijuana is the most violence-causing drug in the history of mankind.” “Marijuana is an addictive drug which produces in its users insanity, criminality, and death.” “This marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers, and any others.” “I believe in some cases one cigarette might develop a homicidal mania, probably to kill his brother.” His “evidence” consisted mainly of articles published in Hearst's newspapers.
Dr William C. Woodward was an MD and attorney for the American Medical Association (AMA). He testified on behalf of the AMA. It was only two days before the hearings began that the AMA realised that the “marihuana” Congress intended to outlaw was in fact “cannabis.” The AMA had used cannabis tinctures as medicine for over 100 years, with a perfect safety record and not a single recorded overdose. The Committee became annoyed with Dr Woodward for not agreeing to ban this “deadly” drug and he was excused.
When the matter came up before a Senate Subcommittee for final approval, someone asked, “Did anyone consult with the AMA and get their opinion?” US Congressman Vinson responded with an outrageous lie, one that would forever change the course of history: “Our committee heard testimony of Dr. William Wharton (sic) who not only gave this measure his full support, but also the approval from the American Medical Association which he represented as legislative counsel.” Dr Woodward had made it very clear that the AMA did not support the bill. Based on this lie, the Act became law.
It's impossible in this short article to detail the intrigue and lies that went into marijuana prohibition, for which society and individuals continue to pay a heavy price. Interested persons can read Jack Herer's 548 Page tome The Emperor Wears No Clothes (jackherer.com) or a 64 Page summary The Gospel of Hemp by Alan Archuleta (thegospelofhemp.com). The YouTube video Hemp For Victory (1942) is especially instructive.
Produced by the US Department of Agriculture five years after the US government made hemp illegal, it extols the virtues of hemp. It acknowledged, “For centuries prior to about 1850 all the ships that sailed the western seas were rigged with hempen rope and sails. For the sailor, no less than the hangman, hemp was indispensable.” It implored, “American hemp must meet the needs of our Army and Navy as well as of our Industry.”
Just a few years later, in 1948, hemp would become illegal again.