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Racism & The Legal Status of Cannabis
In the spirit of 4/20, I would like to remind everyone that #BlackLivesMatter. Marijuana’s illegality comes from a very ugly place. While the notion that Hearst paper manufacturers funded cannabis criminalization remains contested, a candid look at the history of anti-marijuana laws reveals that they are founded upon a racist smear campaign.
William Randolph Hearst had an enormous investment in newsprint and Dupont had just "[patented] a new sulfuric acid process for producing wood-pulp paper." This corporation funded the criminalization of marijuana so that it could not be used as paper. At least 80% of Dupont's profits over the next 50 years were on the line with hemp in the picture. An abundance of industrial hemp brings food, rope, cloth, and just about anything else that you can make with paper. Despite the credibility of the Hearst-Dupont conspiracy, some people still argue that these corporations did not have a hand in marijuana's criminalization. Here's the low-down on what these guys were keeping on the down-low:
The usual claim, most often repeated, is that four conspirators cooperated to kill the hemp industry with something called the Marihuana Tax Act (spelled with an H) of 1937. These conspirators are identified as newspaperman William Randolph Hearst, whom the legend describes as being heavily invested in the timber industry to support his papers; the DuPont family, whose chemical company had just invented nylon and was allegedly afraid of competition from hemp fiber; Andrew Mellon, Secretary of the Treasury and the nation's richest man, who had significant investments in DuPont; and Harry Anslinger, commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, who drafted the legislation. To protect their industrial interests, these parties are said to have conspired to make hemp illegal.
This corporation funded the criminalization of hemp so that it could not be used as paper. At least 80% of Dupont's profits over the next 50 years were on the line with hemp in the picture. An abundance of industrial hemp brings food, rope, cloth, and just about anything else that you can make with paper. Despite the credibility of the Hearst-Dupont conspiracy, some people still argue that these corporations did not have a hand in marijuana's criminalization. After you read this article, you might feel the same way. It's a sketchy situation.
It's hard to criminalize a plant with over 25,000 uses that isn't as harmful as tobacco or alcohol. In order to make the hemp plant illegal, they played on the racist sentiments that were so prevalent in society. Criminalizing weed gave the police and government the ability to further marginalize, profile, and arrest minorities. Racism proved to be an excellent fear-mongering tactic.
The term marijuana has racist origins. Hearst, a well-known racist, was the first person to use the term for the sake of spreading negative propaganda about hemp. The racially-charged nature of the term is "based on a longstanding theory that narcotics agents in the 1930s chose that word over the more scientific cannabis when crafting drug laws; the word is of Mexican-Spanish origin and thus, the belief is, sounded more exotic and sinister." The anti-pot campaign was a reflection of the racist attitudes held against the Mexican immigrants who used the herb medicinally and recreationally. For these reasons, some dispensaries refuse to use the "M-word" entirely.
Weed wasn't popular among white people when it was criminalized. Black people and Mexican people, however, smoked it often. Cannabis was the herb of choice among jazz musicians. Jazz came to Harlem after spreading from Chicago to New Orleans. According to newspapers (that were definitely printed on Hearst-brand paper), cannabis's subsequent popularity concerned Aslinger (and, therefore, white America) because supposedly, "[cannabis] influences Negroes to look at white people in the eye, step on white men’s shadows and look at a white woman twice.”
Henry Anslinger was the first commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics in 1930. He was very open about his racist attitudes and often used them to persuade people into agreeing with him. He went as far as telling outright lies in order to monger racist fear in the public. Anslinger claimed that “[the herb] makes darkies think they're as good as white men.” Of course, he kept it classist and threw in some good old-fashioned slut-shaming for effect. Anslinger claimed that reefer "causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers and any others."
As though Anslinger's numerous racist remarks aren't enough, he stated flat-out that "the primary reason to outlaw marijuana is its effect on the degenerate races." Be sure to read his "Gore Files" for more racist nonsense, medical untruths, and blatant yellow "journalism" (if you count lying as journalism, that is).
Some people don’t believe the conspiracy. Upon reading a site that attempts to debunk the hemp conspiracy, I found a piece of information that I hadn’t known previously:
“Twentieth-century cannabis prohibition first reared its head in countries where white minorities ruled black majorities: South Africa, where it's known as dagga, banned it in 1911, and Jamaica, then a British colony, outlawed ganja in 1913. They were followed by Canada, Britain and New Zealand, which added cannabis to their lists of illegal narcotics in the 1920s. Canada's pot law was enacted in 1923, several years before there were any reports of people actually smoking it there. It was largely the brainchild of Emily F. Murphy, a feminist but racist judge who wrote anti-Asian, anti-marijuana rants under the pseudonym 'Janey Canuck.' In the United States, marijuana prohibition began partly as a throw-in on laws restricting opiates and cocaine to prescription-only use, and partly in Southern and Western states and cities where blacks and Mexican immigrants were smoking it.”
In other words, racial profiling played a huge role in criminalizing marijuana. Apparently, not much has changed. Both groups of people have equivalent rates of cannabis usage. If not for racial profiling, then why else are African American people 4 times more likely than white people to get arrested for cannabis possession? Cannabis always was a civil rights issue and will remain a civil rights issue until this is no longer the case.
To think there was once a time in colonial America when it was illegal to not grow hemp on your farm. Yes, the female plants had the same properties that they do now. Feel free to ask George Washington. The next time you find yourself contemplating the history of cannabis, please remember that racism played a tremendous a role of the determination of its legal status. It's been a while, but so far, nothing has changed.
#Real #420 #BlackLivesMatter #Racism #RacialProfilingIsReal #CorporateGreed #ReeferMadness #GoreFiles
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