Have you ever wondered why marijuana is banned in the U.S. and most countries? Or why CBD Oil was banned up until 2018? With so many medicinal and renewable properties, it seems strange for the government to so heavily regulate such a beneficial plant. It turns out the ban on marijuana was fueled by rampant racism in the early 1900s, and not by concern for how it affected Americans.
Back in the 1800s there were no restrictions on cannabis—the plant commonly referred to as marijuana. In fact, the botanical was used for many different products including clothes, paper, and rope. It was occasionally used as a medicine and cited as a possible cure for a swelling disease known as dropsy. Cannabis was also a renewable resource for people prior to the 20th century.
It began with a change in agricultural processes in Mexico, and not the ones producing cannabis. For centuries Mexico was based on a system of serfs and large farming estates. Serfs were bound to the farms of rich men where they worked the land in exchange for their clothes, housing, and food. However, in the early 1900s, commercial agriculture took over and altered the way farmers managed their estates. Laborers were no longer needed in mass quantities which led to an increase in Mexican workers who had no way to make a living.
At this same time, immigration to the U.S. seemed favorable because of the growth of the economy and the passing of anti-immigration laws that limited Asian migrants who had previously been engaged in mining, agriculture, and railroad work. Mexicans began moving to the U.S. en masse, and this was further intensified by the violence of the 1910 Mexican Revolution.
And when they came to the U.S. they brought the practice of smoking the cannabis plant with them, and the Spanish word for it—marijuana (previously spelled with an h).
Decades later, in the 30s, anti-marijuana propaganda started when the film Reefer Madness came out in 1936. It portrayed teenagers who experience terrible consequences as a result of smoking the plant, even including murder. The media started portraying it as a gateway drug and reported that it was an unpredictable excitant that could cause users to do many things they may not otherwise do.
The next year, the Marihuana Tax Act passed in the U.S. Congress and was signed into law. It allowed for the legal taxation of cannabis sales. The bill was promoted by Harry Anslinger, the Commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics who turned his focus to marijuana once prohibition was lifted. He achieved his goals through a racism-fueled plan of attack on the newly arrived immigrants and the black community in three ways.
First, he pushed the idea that cannabis was a violence-inducing drug, despite no evidence or scientific support for the claim. Then, he used the Mexican word “marihuana” for the plant instead of cannabis which created an association between the plant and the Mexican population. Finally, Anslinger told white America that marijuana caused black people to forget their place, and that evil jazz music was a result of marijuana users.
The scare tactics worked and the numbers for arrests proved it. In the year following the Marihuana Tax Act, black people were three times and Mexican people nine times as likely to be arrested for violating the law than white people. When the Boggs Act was passed in 1952, more and more people of color were mandatorily sent to prison than ever before.
Cannabis’s unfair demonization continued, even as white Americans smoke marijuana at the same rate. And in the 60s, the era of peace and love made it even more popular among the younger generation. As rates of smoking increased, and a disproportionate number of people of color were imprisoned for smoking, so did the scrutiny by the government grow.
In 1970, Nixon reclassified cannabis as a schedule I drug which means it has a high potential for abuse and addiction despite having no evidence to support his claims. To further frustrate matters, two unique strains of the cannabis plant were confused as one, leading to a stigma surrounding the hemp plant and all of its benefits.
Even today, after years of research and study, cannabis is a controversial topic. While many states in the U.S. are relaxing laws for cannabis products, the federal government has yet to tear down the laws that began because of one man’s racist marketing that pushed his own agenda.
CBD oil is one of those products whose stigmatization has prevented it from treating illnesses and disease for decades. First founded in the 1940s, CBD oil was verified to help epilepsy in the 1980s. But it wasn’t acceptable for use, and the FDA refused to approve it for years. In 2018, they finally released a CBD oil product to treat epilepsy, but there is still forward motion needed for approval of CBD oil as a natural alternative for prescription drugs.
Luckily, the oil extracted from the cannabis plant is THC-free so it has no psychoactive properties. That means it isn’t an illegal substance and can be distributed to those in need freely.
More work is still required to roll back the laws that were founded on unsubstantiated claims and propaganda. For more information on CBD oil and its history, check out CBD Oil: The Guide.
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