We want to start by warning readers that the many statements noted below are disturbing and not for the faint of heart. The blunt racism towards minority groups and their association with marijuana have all stemmed from a lack of knowledge which led to horrible propaganda and utter madness.
Before the federal Marihuana Tax Act in 1937, 27 states had active laws that opposed marijuana. In terms of Southwestern states and their legislation, laws were set in place as a way to control the unwanted Mexican population. In fact, the law wasn’t fighting to ward off marijuana, but those who used it, which was often associated with Mexicans.
The Free Thought Project reported that Congressmen had noted disturbing statements like “All Mexicans are crazy, and this stuff (marijuana) is what makes them crazy. Give one of these Mexican beet field workers a couple of puffs on a marijuana cigarette, and he thinks he is in the bullring at Barcelona.”
Photo by SYLVESTER L. SALCEDO
Regarding the Northeastern states, they had a few different reasons to criminalize cannabis. According to a 1919 New York Times editorial reported by The Free Thought Project, “No one here in New York uses this drug marijuana. We have only just heard about it from down in the Southwest, but we had better prohibit its use before it gets here. Otherwise, all the heroin and hard narcotics addicts and the alcohol drinkers will substitute this new and unknown drug marijuana.”
Fast forward to June 18, 1971, President Richard Nixon stated in a press conference that he was declaring a “war on drugs” and that substance abuse in America was “public enemy number one.” It seemed as though this was a way for the Nixon administration to take action on the country’s health, but sadly, this was far from the truth.
Twenty-odd years later, Nixon’s chief advisor admitted that this was the government’s way of targetting Black people and hippies. In 1994, an interview conducted by journalist Dan Baum spoke with Nixon’s advisor John Daniel Ehrlichman, who stated the following startling quote.
Photo by Lex Villena
“You want to know what this was really all about? The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. Do you understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course, we did.”
So, it’s safe to say that the former UN Secretary-General was right when stating that “The war on drugs is a war on people.” And unfortunately, these stigmas and false misconceptions are still heavily relevant in our modern-day.
But with information like this, we hope that our cannabis community will take action and make its best effort to be aware of the toll the war on drugs took on Black people, Mexicans, and other minority groups demonized and associated with the plant that does wonders.