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Marijuana: Yesterday Marked 70 Years of Federal Pot Prohibition

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #496)
Consequences of Prohibition
Politics & Advocacy

It was 70 years ago yesterday that Congress passed the first federal law outlawing marijuana. The law, the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937, effectively banned the weed by establishing onerous taxes on buyers, sellers, producers, and prescribers and creating draconian penalties for noncompliance.

1930's ''Reefer Madness''-style film poster
The subsequent seven-decades of marijuana prohibition have seen a vast increase in the drug's popularity and acceptance, even as it remains a lightning rod for conservative culture warriors determined to smite the hippies. Around 100 million or more adult Americans have smoked marijuana at least once, and some 16 to 20 million are regular consumers today.

According to researcher Jon Gettman, marijuana is now the nation's largest cash crop, accounting for more agricultural income than wheat, corn, and soybeans combined. It is also grist for the law enforcement mill, with some 800,000 marijuana arrests in 2005, nearly 90% of them for simple possession.

While about a dozen states have decriminalized marijuana possession, only one of them, Nevada, has done so in recent years. The others came in a wave of reform in the 1970s. Similarly, a dozen states have legalized the medicinal use of marijuana, but those measures are ignored by federal drug enforcers.

"It's hard to think of a more spectacularly bad, long-term policy failure than our government's 70-year war on marijuana users," said Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project. "Since the federal government banned marijuana in 1937, it's gone from being an obscure plant that few Americans had even heard of to the number-one cash crop in the United States. It's time to steer a new course and regulate marijuana like we do alcohol."

This week, we commemorate the beginning of federal marijuana prohibition. We would much rather be writing its obituary.

For a good laugh -- or cry -- read Prof. Charles Whitebread's recounting of the history of the marijuana laws, describing the incredibly shoddy way the debate on the issue was handled.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


Anonymous (not verified)

It is time to steer a new course and regulate marijuana like we do tomatoes.

Fri, 08/03/2007 - 3:12pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

The only action necessary for marijuana reform is to out and out decriminalize it in all forms and amounts. Period. No "legalization" no "regulation": that brings "government" involvement which brings control & taxation.

Just let it be...

Fri, 08/03/2007 - 9:35pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

We all know that the pharmacitical companies pay huge sums to lobby for thier industries.Marijuana has been proven time and time again to be useful in the medicinal field.In fact humans have been using mj for thousands of years for many different purposes.
Nobody has ever overdose on MJ,nor ever will,yet they sell items in these "head shops" that I'm sure could take a human life,and sell it under the guise of inscense.But all the kids know what it is.
This so called "War on Drugs" that was created so long ago is a failure today just as it has been a failure from the beginning and a good place to ,so called,"take the heat",for the millions that were stolen along the way,through the years,of this "Drug War".
Much rather would I have my loved ones smoke a joint or 2 rather than fall into the depths of booze eating the liver and mind,so very slowly.
A change is needed and now is the time,even if it's late,better late than never.Put the money towards better uses,programs and things that are needed to live life and have a good start at it.Help the many people who are HepC positive and can't afford the help.

Fri, 08/03/2007 - 6:13pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

Its time to grow up.
Government and school teachers are not our parents and have no right to control what we grow in our gardens or what we consume..God created Marijuana as a seed bearing herb. It gives us food, clothing and shelter.

Genesis 1:29
And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.

Matthew 15:11
What goes into a man's mouth does not make him 'unclean,' but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him 'unclean.' "

Forget all false opinions.

Show mercy. Repeal all state laws concerning Marijuana and grant amnesty for all who have been convicted.

Poor people can get food from its seed, clothing and shelter from its fiber and oil from its seed.
Much damage has been done under color of State Marijuana laws. Heal the damage, set our people free..

Sat, 08/04/2007 - 6:18pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

Oh, lets quit beating around the bush. The same elected and appointed officials who initiated and pursue the war on drugs, have us paying for bombs to drop on innocent men women in children in Iraq.
They don't need to be told how harmful the war on drugs is to the everybody but them. They already know, and they don't care, because what's harmful for the people is good for them. What they need is to be shown how harmful it is for them to continue to pursue the war on drugs, and I don't mean voting them out of office. That hasn't worked and won't work, because they control the voting booths. They should be shunned in private and in public by everyone who feels the drug war is an abomination. Oh, now there I go, beating around the bush. Nothing short of shooting them on sight is going to work.

Sat, 08/04/2007 - 7:11pm Permalink

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