Across the world, more and more people are asking: Why is marijuana banned? Why are people still sent to prison for using or selling it? Most of us assume it’s because someone, somewhere sat down with the scientific evidence, and figured out that cannabis is more harmful than other drugs we use all the time — like alcohol and cigarettes. Somebody worked it all out, in our best interest.
Not at all. Cannabis prohibition is a conspiracy and it is well documented. The definition of the word “conspiracy” goes as follows: A secret plan by two or more people that is either harmful or illegal. In the case of cannabis, many attribute the conspiracy to a handful of people namely; Hearst, Anslinger and DuPont who were the original fathers of prohibition. However, anti-cannabis laws pre-date this trio.
Some of the first anti-cannabis laws were established in South Africa in 1911. These laws were principally established due to racism. The white minorities in South Africa couldn’t handle the fact that locals and Indian immigrants were using the plant for medicine, spiritual motives and so forth. In fact, black mine workers, who easily spent 16 hours locked in mines, were using cannabis to be able to get through the workdays. It was their way of dealing with the hardships of the work environment, which were to say the least, “sub-human conditions”. In the United States, the first laws against cannabis were also mainly motivated by racism. Mexicans and African Americans were the primary users of this. Seen as a threat to the white majority, legislations against the plant popped up all over the country. However, it didn’t go national until the Trio of Destruction, Hearst, DuPont and Anslinger worked together to paint a negative picture about “marijuana” to the country.
In 1929, a man called Harry Anslinger was put in charge of the Department of Prohibition in Washington, D.C. But alcohol prohibition had been a disaster. Gangsters had taken over whole neighborhoods. Alcohol — controlled by criminals — had become even more poisonous.
So alcohol prohibition finally ended — and Harry Anslinger was afraid. He found himself in charge of a huge government department, with nothing for it to do. Up until then, he had said that cannabis was not a problem. It doesn’t harm people, he explained, and “there is no more absurd fallacy” than the idea it makes people violent. But then — suddenly, when his department needed a new purpose — he announced he had changed his mind.
He explained to the public what would happen if you smoked cannabis.
First, you will fall into “a delirious rage.” Then you will be gripped by “dreams… of an erotic character.” Then you will “lose the power of connected thought.” Finally, you will reach the inevitable end-point: “Insanity.” Marijuana turns man into a “wild beast.“ If marijuana bumped into Frankenstein’s monster on the stairs, Anslinger warned, the monster would drop dead of fright.
Harry Anslinger became obsessed with one case in particular. In Florida, a boy called Victor Licata hacked his family to death with an axe. Anslinger explained to America: This is what will happen when you smoke “the demon weed.” The case became notorious. The parents of the U.S. were terrified.
What evidence did Harry Anslinger have? It turns out at this time he wrote to the 30 leading scientists on this subject, asking if cannabis was dangerous, and if there should be a ban. Twenty-nine wrote back and said no. Anslinger picked out the one scientist who said yes, and presented him to the world. The press — obsessed with Victor Licata’s axe — cheered them on.
In a panic that gripped America, marijuana was banned. The U.S. told other countries they had to do the same. Many countries said it was a dumb idea, and refused to do it. For example, Mexico decided their drug policy should be run by doctors. Their medical advice was that cannabis didn’t cause these problems, and they refused to ban it. The U.S. was furious. Anslinger ordered them to fall into line. The Mexicans held out — until, in the end, the U.S. cut off the supply of all legal painkillers to Mexico. People started to die in agony in their hospitals. So with regret, Mexico sacked the doctor — and launched its own drug war.
Randolph Hearst owned land in Mexico. Pancho Villa would frequently raid his lands as part of their revolutionary acts. He in turn, began spinning stories about how “savage Mexicans” would destroy America under the influence of cannabis.
Harry Anslinger for years contributed racist, sensationalistic — and typically completely fabricated — articles to a variety of newspapers and magazines owned by his co-conspirator, William Randolph Hearst. He was also the author of the Marijuana Tax Act legislation passed by Congress in August of 1937. This law, although replaced by the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, was the genesis of the modern day drug war and has been responsible for the emergence of a healthy black market for cannabis and the prosecution and incarceration of millions of pot smokers. Hearst, according to one biography, “…hated minorities, and he used his chain of newspapers to aggravate racial tensions at every opportunity.” His motives were understandable: He lost 800,000 acres of timberland to Pancho Villa during the Mexican revolution. His means of institutionalizing his bigotry, however, were less deserving of empathy.
The term “marijuana”—derived from the Mexican slang “marihuana” (either purposefully or accidentally misspelled)—was first coined in the United States in the 1890s. It was popularized in the early 1930s by the Federal Bureau of Narcotics and in articles appearing in magazines and newspapers owned by Hearst. Hearst, via his publishing empire, continually attempted to taint public perception of the plant by leveraging popular prejudice against Mexican-Americans. The Mexican Spanish term “marihuana” was used to elude the public’s existing familiarity and comfort level with hemp and the medical application of cannabis tinctures (it was not a commonly smoked recreational drug at the time).
In fact, the terms “marihuana” and “marijuana” weren’t even included in official dictionaries at the time. If not for the efforts of Anslinger and Hearst, the herb would almost certainly be referred to as cannabis (the Latin name that’s most common in Europe, the United Kingdom, and Australia), not marijuana.
Lammot du Pont
Finally, the DuPont connection is the less clear connection to the Trio. Hemp was poised to become America’s greatest cash crop and was in direct competition with the petrochemical industry DuPont was banking on. By making “marijuana” illegal, he could effectively monopolize the marketplace and make billions over the coming years.
Hearst and Anslinger were supported by Lammot du Pont of the DuPont chemical company and a variety of pharmaceutical corporations, all of which had a financial interest in defeating hemp to promote their own products. For example, DuPont began selling rayon (the first man-made fiber) in 1924 and invented nylon, a synthetic competitor to hemp, in 1935. One reason pharmaceutical and petrochemical companies disliked cannabis was because people could grow it themselves.
In February 1938, Popular Mechanics Magazine reported that hemp was the new “billion dollar crop” in the United States, due entirely to the introduction of mass production harvesting equipment. The hemp decorticator, a farm machine that mechanically separated the fiber of the hemp stalk, threatened to make hemp a strong competitor to wood. The decorticator saved massive amounts of labor and made hemp production affordable and practical on a small scale. Capable of yielding up to three crops per year in southern climates, one acre of hemp produces about the same amount of cellulose (used to create paper, among other things) as four acres of trees. Amazingly, hemp can be made into about 5,000 different products—from paper, clothing, and food to fuel and construction timbers.
The promise of hemp-based products was so great that they threatened to replace those made from petroleum-based petrochemicals, such as synthetic fibers and even gasoline. If you think this was just slightly intimidating to the likes of corporate barons such as Hearst and DuPont, you’re right. Billions in profits were at risk for entrenched old-school businesses and their financial backers and cronies.
Each with their own motivation, conspired together to spread false information and influence the general public to eventually illegalize cannabis on a national scale. Together, they crafted a highly inflammatory anti-marijuana public relations crusade with the goal of making the euphoric herb and hemp illegal—effectively eliminating it as a competitor to a variety of petrochemical products (DuPont’s territory) and timber (Hearst’s goldmine). Using Anslinger’s position within the U.S. government and leveraging Hearst’s empire of newspapers and magazines as propaganda outlets, the two concocted outlandish stories, all of which depicted marijuana as being hyperbolically more destructive than what is perceived today as a mild euphoriant that gives its recreational users giggles and the munchies. Their dramatic and sensationalistic stories described pot as an evil drug that led to murder, rape, and insanity.
If you merely study the history of cannabis prohibition, you’ll clearly see that “forces” were at work to maintain the policy for personal gain at the expense of the public. If that’s not a well-documented conspiracy, then I don’t know what is.