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How Did Cannabis Prohibition Happen?

Welcome to our new Gooey Rabinski Series, where we showcase a collection of new articles from the veteran cannabis writer of the same name. For a rundown of what this is all about, see our article Higher Learning LV Launches Gooey Rabinski Series.

 

The culture and industry that has emerged around the botanical species Cannabis sativa L. and her offspring hemp and marijuana is quite surprising and sometimes even inspiring. I know, that's not a very business-like perspective (and Higher Learning LV is all about business—they remind me continually). But surprising it is.

Nevada's famous "Don't Gamble with Marijuana" freeway scare sign
Nevada's famous "Don't Gamble with Marijuana" scare sign

How Did Cannabis Prohibition Happen?

To fully understand the cannabis community and culture requires also understanding its core values and war-torn past. The mechanics of cannabis prohibition that emerged more than 120 years ago are important to understand. It behooves the modern legal corporations and regulatory agencies, including the ancillaries that surround them, to understand the nuanced history of cannabis prohibition in America.


How did cannabis prohibition happen? What conservative forces plotted at the turn of the previous century came to fruition. The opponents of hemp and marijuana successfully rallied and lobbied and pushed and got what they wanted: Cannabis prohibition. At the federal level.


"The opponents of hemp and marijuana successfully rallied and lobbied and pushed and got what they wanted: Cannabis prohibition."

The machine of drug enforcement and the judiciary took over from there. With cannabis cultivation, possession, or consumption a serious crime, the mechanics of society did what they were already doing. Suddenly, cannabis consumers were going to jail. Sometimes for life. Racism got woven in. The hate of white supremacists morphed into a disdain for those who consume cannabis. During the 1960s, phrases such as "dirty hippie" emerged as a manifestation of the stigma, stereotype, and misinformation campaign that emerged from the organized effort to outlaw weed in the 1920s and '30s.


Brief History of Cannabis Prohibition

Nearly a century of prohibition of what some militant activists consider to be the "sacred herb" has resulted in some angry mofos. And--for the record--I don't blame them. Lives have been destroyed by the "war on drugs" that has included cannabis. Since the nineteen teens (1911, actually), states in the U.S. have been banning cannabis and hemp. The nice folks in Canada decided to outlaw marijuana at the federal level in 1924, while the U.S. Congress did the same in 1937.

A vintage photo of a small Texas town in 1914
A Texas town in 1914

Here's an excerpt from the exclusive Higher Learning LV article "How Cannabis Became Illegal":


"The first state law in the U.S. banning cannabis was possibly based on religious intolerance. In 1910, a group of Mormons from Utah supposedly traveled to Mexico, returning to Salt Lake City with cannabis. The leaders of the church, not pleased with the adoption of cannabis by some of its members, banned it (although no official documentation of this exists within the Mormon church). The influence of the Mormons was significant enough that some historians believe church policies sometimes became state laws. Thus, cannabis was outlawed in Utah as part of the sweeping "Poisons and Narcotic Drugs" legislation of 1915.


In the following years, several other states banned cannabis. Massachusetts (1911), Maine (1913), Utah, Vermont, Wyoming (1915), Texas (1919), Arkansas, Iowa, Nevada, Oregon, Washington (1923), and Montana (1927).

"In the following years, several other states banned cannabis. Massachusetts (1911), Maine (1913), Utah, Vermont, Wyoming (1915), Texas (1919), Arkansas, Iowa, Nevada, Oregon, Washington (1923), and Montana (1927) all enacted laws prohibiting the possession of cannabis that intended, in large part, to discriminate against Mexican-Americans.


"In 1913, California banned a variety of narcotics, including opium, but excluded cannabis. Ironically, paraphernalia (such as pipes) for smoking "extracts, tinctures, or other narcotic preparations of hemp, or loco weed" were outlawed in the same legislation. (Yes, you read that correctly: A state law referred to cannabis as loco weed.)"


Join me as I explore this topic and drop new articles every week.


Gooey Rabinski

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