In 1930 Harry J. Anslinger recognized the Bureau of Narcotics as an amazing career oppurtunity. After quickly realizing that opiates and cocaine wouldn’t be enough to build his agency he latched on to pushing for marijuana prohibition. Harry immediately drew upon themes of racism and violence to draw national attention to this herb. He also promoted and frequently read from “gore Files” wild reefer-madness-style exploitation tales of ax murderers on marijuana, sex, and Negroes. Here are some quotes that are recognized from anslinger’s “gore files.”
“There are 100,000 total marijuana smokers in the US, and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos, and entertainers. Their Satanic music, jazz, and swing, result from marijuana use. This marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers, and any others.”
“…the primary reason to outlaw marijuana is its effect on the degenerate races.”
“Marijuana is an addictive drug which produces in its users insanity, criminality, and death.”
“Reefer makes darkies think they’re as good as white men.”
“Marihuana leads to pacifism and communist brainwashing”
“You smoke a joint and you’re likely to kill your brother.”
“Marijuana is the most violence-causing drug in the history of mankind”
Going back to the quote on pacifism; Isn’t criminality and murder complete opposites of pacifism?
Harry loved to pull out his own version of the “assassin” definition: “In the year 1090, there was founded in Persia the religious and military order of the Assassins, whose history is one of cruelty, barbarity, and murder, and for good reason: the members were confirmed users of hashish, or marihuana, and it is from the Arabs’ ‘hashashin’ that we have the English word ‘assassin.’”
Anslinger got some additional help from William Randolf Hearst owner of a huge chain of newspapers. Hearst had lots of reasons to help. First, he hated Mexicans. Second, he had invested heavily in the timber industry to support his newspaper chain and didn’t want to see the development of hemp paper in competition. Third, he had lost 800,000 acres of timberland to Pancho Villa, so he hated Mexicans. Fourth, telling lurid lies about Mexicans (and the devil marijuana weed causing violence) sold newspapers, making him rich.
Here’s a few samples from the San Francisco Examiner:
“Marihuana makes fiends of boys in thirty days — Hashish goads users to bloodlust.”
“By the tons it is coming into this country — the deadly, dreadful poison that racks and tears not only the body, but the very heart and soul of every human being who once becomes a slave to it in any of its cruel and devastating forms…. Marihuana is a short cut to the insane asylum. Smoke marihuana cigarettes for a month and what was once your brain will be nothing but a storehouse of horrid specters. Hasheesh makes a murderer who kills for the love of killing out of the mildest mannered man who ever laughed at the idea that any habit could ever get him….”
These are from other nationwide columns:
“Users of marijuana become STIMULATED as they inhale the drug and are LIKELY TO DO ANYTHING. Most crimes of violence in this section, especially in country districts are laid to users of that drug.”
“Was it marijuana, the new Mexican drug, that nerved the murderous arm of Clara Phillips when she hammered out her victim’s life in Los Angeles?… THREE-FOURTHS OF THE CRIMES of violence in this country today are committed by DOPE SLAVES — that is a matter of cold record.”
Hearst and Anslinger were then supported by Dupont chemical company and various pharmaceutical companies in the effort to outlaw cannabis. Dupont had patented nylon, and wanted hemp removed as competition. The pharmaceutical companies could neither identify nor standardize cannabis dosages, and besides, with cannabis, folks could grow their own medicine and not have to purchase it from large companies. This set forth the stage for the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937, and the future prohibition of marijuana.
After two years of secret planning, Anslinger brought his plan to Congress, complete with a scrapbook full of sensational Hearst editorials, stories of ax murderers who had supposedly smoked marijuana, and racial slurs. It was a remarkably short set of hearings. The one fly in Anslinger’s ointment was the appearance by Dr. William C. Woodward, Legislative Council of the American Medical Association. Woodward started by slamming Harry Anslinger and the Bureau of Narcotics for distorting earlier AMA statements that had nothing to do with marijuana and making them appear to be AMA endorsement for Anslinger’s view.vHe also reproached the legislature and the Bureau for using the term marijuana in the legislation and not publicizing it as a bill about cannabis or hemp. At this point, marijuana (or marihuana) was a sensationalist word used to refer to Mexicans smoking a drug and had not been connected in most people’s minds to the existing cannabis/hemp plant. Thus, many who had legitimate reasons to oppose the bill weren’t even aware of it. Woodward went on to state that the AMA was opposed to the legislation and further questioned the approach of the hearings, coming close to outright accusation of misconduct by Anslinger and the committee:
“That there is a certain amount of narcotic addiction of an objectionable character no one will deny. The newspapers have called attention to it so prominently that there must be some grounds for [their] statements [even Woodward was partially taken in by Hearst's propaganda]. It has surprised me, however, that the facts on which these statements have been based have not been brought before this committee by competent primary evidence. We are referred to newspaper publications concerning the prevalence of marihuana addiction. We are told that the use of marihuana causes crime.
But yet no one has been produced from the Bureau of Prisons to show the number of prisoners who have been found addicted to the marihuana habit. An informed inquiry shows that the Bureau of Prisons has no evidence on that point.
You have been told that school children are great users of marihuana cigarettes. No one has been summoned from the Children’s Bureau to show the nature and extent of the habit, among children.
Inquiry of the Children’s Bureau shows that they have had no occasion to investigate it and know nothing particularly of it.
Inquiry of the Office of Education— and they certainly should know something of the prevalence of the habit among the school children of the country, if there is a prevalent habit— indicates that they have had no occasion to investigate and know nothing of it.
Moreover, there is in the Treasury Department itself, the Public Health Service, with its Division of Mental Hygiene. The Division of Mental Hygiene was, in the first place, the Division of Narcotics. It was converted into the Division of Mental Hygiene, I think, about 1930. That particular Bureau has control at the present time of the narcotics farms that were created about 1929 or 1930 and came into operation a few years later. No one has been summoned from that Bureau to give evidence on that point.
Informal inquiry by me indicates that they have had no record of any marihuana of Cannabis addicts who have ever been committed to those farms.
The bureau of Public Health Service has also a division of pharmacology. If you desire evidence as to the pharmacology of Cannabis, that obviously is the place where you can get direct and primary evidence, rather than the indirect hearsay evidence.”
Committee members then proceeded to attack Dr. Woodward, questioning his motives in opposing the legislation. Even the Chairman joined in:
The Chairman: If you want to advise us on legislation, you ought to come here with some constructive proposals, rather than criticism, rather than trying to throw obstacles in the way of something that the Federal Government is trying to do. It has not only an unselfish motive in this, but they have a serious responsibility.
Dr. Woodward: We cannot understand yet, Mr. Chairman, why this bill should have been prepared in secret for 2 years without any intimation, even, to the profession, that it was being prepared.
After some further bantering…
The Chairman: I would like to read a quotation from a recent editorial in the Washington Times:
The marihuana cigarette is one of the most insidious of all forms of dope, largely because of the failure of the public to understand its fatal qualities. The Nation is almost defenseless against it, having no Federal laws to cope with it and virtually no organized campaign for combating it. The result is tragic. School children are the prey of peddlers who infest school neighborhoods. High school boys and girls buy the destructive weed without knowledge of its capacity of harm, and conscienceless dealers sell it with impunity. This is a national problem, and it must have national attention. The fatal marihuana cigarette must be recognized as a deadly drug, and American children must be protected against it.
That is a pretty severe indictment. They say it is a national question and that it requires effective legislation. Of course, in a general way, you have responded to all of these statements; but that indicates very clearly that it is an evil of such magnitude that it is recognized by the press of the country as such.
And that was basically it. Yellow journalism won over medical science. The committee passed the legislation on. And on the floor of the house, the entire discussion was:
Member from upstate New York: “Mr. Speaker, what is this bill about?”
Speaker Rayburn: “I don’t know. It has something to do with a thing called marihuana. I think it’s a narcotic of some kind.”
“Mr. Speaker, does the American Medical Association support this bill?”
Member on the committee jumps up and says: “Their Doctor Wentworth[sic] came down here. They support this bill 100 percent.”
And on the basis of that lie, on August 2, 1937, marijuana became illegal at the federal level.
The entire coverage in the New York Times: “President Roosevelt signed today a bill to curb traffic in the narcotic, marihuana, through heavy taxes on transactions.”