Marijuana or cannabis, depending on what you want to call it, has had a long, difficult history in this country. If you’re over the age of thirteen you are probably aware that marijuana is illegal in most states in the United States. What most people don’t know is was it always illegal and how did it get that way? The answer to both is no and strategically. In order to know where you’re going it’s important to understand where you’ve been so that you don’t repeat the same mistakes.
Marijuana In The Early 1900s
The time was the early 1900s just after the Mexican Revolution and Mexicans had begun to flock to places like Texas and Louisiana, bringing their customs, languages, and culture. One of the many customs they brought was the use of cannabis for medicinal as well as recreational purposes. Americans during that time knew the plant as cannabis while the Mexicans called it “marihuana”. Mind you cannabis was already in use in the states in almost every medicine produced. Nevertheless the media portrayed the Mexicans as “disorderly and dangerous” and that their “marihuana” use made them even more so. What Americans at the time didn’t know is that their beloved cannabis and this new marihuana drug they were being told to be so afraid was were, in fact, the same thing. Sound familiar? Because marijuana was criminalized it gave reason to do the same to the Mexican immigrants, since they were the ones using and abusing the drug. In doing so keeping a constant watchful eye on this new population was justified, just as it was in San Francisco where opium was outlawed in order to keep an eye on and control on their Chinese immigrants. If caught with marijuana Mexicans could be detained or even deported. Monitoring people by demonizing their customs has been a popular and successful means of controlling them for centuries and is still a strategy used today to keep certain populations under the governments control.The Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 was passed based on the idea that marijuana use made men of color more violent and prone to lure sex from white women. It was decided that the Act was unconstitutional.However, it was replaced in the 1970s with the Controlled Substances Act, which established how dangerous and/or addictive certain drugs would be considered by assigning them ranking. At that point Cannabis was considered a Schedule I drug making it one of the most restrictive drugs, which means it would carry a pretty hefty sentence if caught with it. Richard Nixon was president at the time and the Schafer Commission decided that marijuana shouldn’t be a Schedule I drug and probably shouldn’t be considered an illicit drug at all. Nixon disagreed with their assessment and it remains a Schedule I drug even until today. The tables are turning and people are beginning to question the proclivities of the government.
The War On Drugs
The supposed “War on Drugs” and its trumped up purpose wanes more each day as more people either partake of marijuana or know someone who does. Sankofa is an African word that teaches that we must reflect on the past in order to move forward. We have come so far and yet still have so much further to go in the battle for our right to heal ourselves as we see fit. Look at the past and learn from it so that we may move forward together into a world where marijuana can once again be consumed freely the way it was in the beginning.