80 Years Ago This Week, Marijuana Prohibition Began With These Arrests

Drugs should be a state level issue. Legal in one state, perhaps illegal in others. This is how our Constitution is supposed to work. Unfortunately the FDR era control freaks in Washington didn’t much care for the Constitution.

My grandmother used to say that FDR was as close to a dictator as this country had ever seen. Over the years I’ve come to agree with her. Drug prohibition is just one example of FDR’s sad legacy. (Of course Grandma would have probably agreed with FDR on this one. She didn’t like hippies.)

(From Leafly)

The 1937 Marihuana Stamp Tax Act was a solution in search of a problem. The repeal of alcohol Prohibition in 1933 led to an urgent search for new moral ground to exploit. Marijuana made an excellent target, since a number of Western state politicians were raising a ruckus in Washington D.C. about its use. In the New York Times on Sept 16, 1934, a headline warned “Use of Marijuana Spreading in West: Children said to Buy It,” with this dog-whistle admonition: “Although as appalling as its effects on the human mind and body as narcotics, the use of marihuana appears to be proceeding unchecked in Colorado and other Western States with a large Spanish-American population. The drug is particularly popular with Latin Americans and its use is spreading to all classes.” …

The approach began with Anslinger and continued for decades. In the early 1970s, President Richard Nixon used drug laws to target his political enemies, which included Jews, liberals, and hippies. In an interview with Nixon advisor John Ehrlichman that appeared in a Harpers article this past April, author Dan Baum quoted the Watergate co-conspirator and convicted felon: 

“You want to know what this [the War on Drugs] was really all about?” [Ehrlichman] asked with the bluntness of a man who, after public disgrace and a stretch in federal prison, had little left to protect. “The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. 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.”

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