The Truth About The Madness: Reefer Unveiled
Cannabis was at one time the most widely spread and culturally accepted plant in the world and has a recorded history stretching as far back as 7000 – 8000 BCE, by which time some of the first hemp fabrics were woven. The Chinese adopted Hemp seeds as a popular part of their daily diet, and by 2727 BCE, the Chinese had documented multiple medical uses for Marijuana.
The Scythians began to cultivate Cannabis and used it namely for cloth and offerings at royal tombs. The plant eventually spread throughout much of Europe. Cannabis is found in historical texts and archaeological digs from nearly every culture around the globe, and was especially popular in the Middle East. In India, it is referred to as “Sacred Grass,” and it is also mentioned briefly in the Jewish Talmud.
In 1492, Christopher Columbus brought Cannibis Sativa to America, and in 1619, a law was passed in Jamestown that required farmers to grow the plant. George Washington, and Thomas Jefferson both grew Cannabis as their primary crop of choice. From 1,000 B.C.E. to 1883, Hemp was the planet’s largest agricultural crop.
The Many Uses for Hemp
Production & Varieties
Cannabis is a quick-growing and well adapted plant that can be cultivated nearly everywhere. It is highly disease resistant and requires little or no spraying for pests. The plants produce an average of 10% more fiber than cotton or flax grown under the same conditions.
There are two primary strains of Cannabis. Industrial strains have been used primarily for the manufacturing of products such as rope and paper. The recreational form of the plant (referred to as Marijuana) includes the female fruits, flowers, leaves and stems of the indica variety. The term “Hemp,” typically refers to the fibrous stalk of the industrial cannabis plant, and “Marijuana,” refers to recreational and medically useful indica varieties (which contain higher concentrations of THC).
Fibers & Materials
Hemp has been used to manufacture fibers and ropes, canvas for sails, clothing, paper, mulch, animal bedding and litter, and even as a composite to strengthen concrete structures. The fruits from Hemp make excellent oils that have been used in the manufacturing of oil based paints, moisturizing creams, cooking oils and plastics.
Foods & Supplements
The seeds from Hemp are full of essential amino acids, and are popularly used for Hemp milks, flour and cakes, baking, teas, salads, cereals, and even in bird seed and fish bait. Hemp was also used as a method for killing off tough weeds on farms. Because the crops grow so densely, they work to block nutrients from reaching the weeds.
One of the most notable uses for Hemp comes in the form of bio-fuels. Hemp has been used to produce both bio-diesel and alcohol fuels. Because of the low costs associated with growing the plant, these fuels are incredibly affordable to produce, and because Hemp is entirely natural, they are also clean-burning substances. Henry Ford used Hemp to produce cheap methanol, and to build his famous plastic “Hemp Car.”
Marijuana has been proven to positively treat AIDS, Alzheimer’s Disease, Arthritis, Asthma and Breathing Disorders, Crohn’s and Gastrointestinal Disorders, Epilepsy and Seizures, Glaucoma, Hepatitis C, Migraines, Multiple Sclerosis and Muscle Spasms, Nausea and Chemotherapy, Pain and Analgesia, Psychological Conditions, Tourette’s Syndrome and the Terminally Ill.
In addition to the above mentioned, there are hundreds of ailments that Marijuana has been shown to have positive effects on, and, because Marijuana is not a physically addictive substance, it is one of the safest drugs in existence (even more so than most addictive prescription drugs, and over-the-counter substances). The only known negative side effects of smoking or eating pot, are drowsiness and slowed reaction time.
When smoked, or eaten, the THC in Marijuana attaches to receptors in areas of the brain that control pain and nausea. Heightened resistance to pain and relaxation of the muscles are probably some of the main reasons for its effectiveness. Marijuana also stimulates the reward system in your brain, which is why pot is a notoriously “happy drug,” and has never been associated with repercussions of violence or aggression. This is also why it is effective for treating symptoms of depression and mental illness.
So, if Cannabis is so Great, Why is it Illegal?
Hemp has been legal up until very recently (during Reagan’s childhood), meaning it has only been criminalized for 1% of it’s known history of use. To understand why Marijuana and Hemp are illegal, one must first understand the influence that racism, fear, protection of corporate profits, ignorant or corrupt legislators and greed have played in the demonizing of the drug.
First Hemp Laws
Starting with Jamestown in 1619, some of the first laws regarding Hemp production were enforced. Between 1763 and 1767, NOT growing Hemp during shortages could land a farmer in jail. Hemp was even used as legal tender at these times. By 1850, the Census counted over 8,000 hemp plantations (of over 2,000 acres each).
Racism Drives First Weed Ban
In the early 1900s, the Western states began to experience tensions related to the influx of Mexican-American’s and farmers hiring cheaper Mexican labor became a focus of detest. During this time, the Mexican population had brought a culture of Marijuana smoking and medicinal plants into the states with them. California latched onto the Mexican use of “loco-weed,” as a way to pass the first law banning the growth and use of recreational Marijuana. This law would help the state find ways to criminalize the Mexican-American population.
Shortly thereafter, many other Western states followed, with similar laws, targeted directly toward the Mexican population. A legislator from Texas said this on the floor of the Senate: “All Mexicans are crazy, and this stuff [marijuana] is what makes them crazy.”
Latinos and Black Jazz in the East
At around the same period of time as the Western ban of Marijuana, the Eastern states began to target Latin-Americans and Black Jazz musicians. A 1934 editorial read, “Marijuana influences Negroes to look at white people in the eye, step on white men’s shadows and look at a white woman twice.”
In 1931, a Dr. Fossier wrote, “Under the influence of hashish those fanatics would madly rush at their enemies, and ruthlessly massacre every one within their grasp.”
This type of misleading information was common at the time and led the white population to believe that Marijuana was a violent and dangerous drug used by the supposedly crazed black and Latin-American populations, who were (because of the use of it) a danger to white society.
Alcohol Prohibition Takes Center Stage
During the same period of time (in the 30s), Alcohol prohibition had taken center stage. Most of the drug laws passed at this time gained very little public recognition. It was generally argued that the federal government did not have the constitutional power to outlaw any substances. This is why alcohol would require a constitutional amendment.
In order to get around not being able to federally ban drugs, the Treasury Department began to heavily tax them instead. This led to the inception of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, who’s job it was to manage drug related taxation and funds. Harry J. Anslinger was named director.
Anslinger immediately recognized that his new department had the opportunity to create immense revenue, but in order for that revenue to remain prolific, drugs would have to remain prevalent and laws against them would need to as well.
Anslinger encouraged ideas of racism and violence to bring national attention to the problem he wanted to create. He heavily promoted the “Gore Files,” a collection of tales involving reefer-madness and ax murderers caused by marijuana, sex and more specifically, “Negroes.”
William Randolf Hearst, was owner of a large chain of newspapers at the time and became a companion for Anslinger’s campaign against Marijuana. Hearst had his own reasons for wanting to see Hemp banned because he had just invested heavily in lumber. Because Hemp was more affordable to produce (and made stronger paper), the lumber business would be in serious jeopardy if Hemp was ever allowed to take precedence.
In the San Francisco Examiner, Hearst published the following:
“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…. Marijuana is a short cut to the insane asylum. Smoke marijuana 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….”
Dupont chemical company and various pharmaceutical companies in the effort to outlaw cannabis also joined Anslinger and Hearst. Dupont had just patented Nylon (for making rope and cord), and the pharmaceutical companies recognized that Marijuana was too easily grown at home by it’s users. Hemp would have easily put Dupont and the pharmaceutical companies out of business.
With false testimony from doctors in the Pharmaceutical industry and Hearst’s yellow journalism, Anslinger was able to pass the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937. At the time, most people did not realize the connection between Marijuana, and the industrial Hemp product that had been grown in the United States. Marijuana was specifically associated with “Mexicans smoking a drug,” and many did not realize that both Hemp and Marijuana were Cannabis plants.
On August 2, 1937, on the basis of false and racist-driven claims, Marijuana sale became officially illegal on a federal level and the first arrest was made. A black man purchasing Marijuana was sent for 18 months of hard labor for his crime.
The Sixties Roll In…
In 1962, Anslinger finally retired, but much of his attitude toward Marijuana remained through the late 60’s. However, with the developments of the war in Vietnam, the Baby Boom generation latched on to the use of pot again, and in 1972 Nixon started the official War on Drugs, saying “It’s all these Jews smoking pot.”
Much of the information surrounding growth and production of Marijuana in universities and texts was shredded during Nixon’s presidency. When medical research of Cannabis proved it was not a dangerous drug, Nixon chose to pursue the the war against it anyway.
Nixon soon passed the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act, lumping the use of Marijuana in with dangerous drugs like Heroine and Cocaine. Under Nixon’s guidance, Police were organized to target pot smokers (who suspiciously consisted mostly of war protesters).
When Reagan officially took over presidency in 1981, he further extended the war against Marijuana, announcing that marijuana kills brain cells, (an assumption based on research where monkeys were killed by being given 30 joints a day). After six years, information about the study was released, and showed that the monkeys had been given the Cannabis through gas masks and had passed away as a result of suffocation. New research shows that Marijuana actually acts to stimulate brain cells.
The Physical Costs
More than 7,000 people die from the use of over the counter pain killers such as Tylenol every year, and over 40% of the population are currently using and/or addicted to expensive prescription pain killers with countless dangerous side-effects. Alcohol is associated with thousands of violent and dangerous crimes yearly. Approx. 23% of the population drinks more than 5 drinks a day, and 22,073 deaths are associated with alcohol abuse every year. Tobacco related illnesses kill approx. 440,000 people a year, and it is estimated that 1 out of every 10 people in the United States, are heavily addicted smokers.
Marijuana has been proven to naturally treat over 200 or more medical problems. It has shown itself to provide more medical benefits than any pharmaceutical drug in existence. There are no recorded deaths in the history of any country that have been associated with Marijuana. Not only is Marijuana completely natural, but it is not a physically addictive substance, nor does it have any negative side effects (outside of drowsiness). Marijuana has also never been associated with a violent crime (unless it is a crime to be excessively happy).
The government recently approved the creation of synthetic THC used by pharmaceutical companies. This THC is the EXACT chemical make-up of the THC in Marijuana, but is legal only because it is synthetic and patented by a pharmaceutical company.
The government has been attempting to utilize the medical qualities of Marijuana, without admitting the beneficial properties of it. By using synthetic varieties of Marijuana (and labeling them otherwise) they have found ways to fool people into purchasing and using the same substances found in Marijuana at a much higher cost.
Doesn’t Pot Make You Lazy?
The creator of Apple was a heavy pot smoker, numerous presidents have admitted (at some point) to having used Marijuana in their lifetime, and millions of lawyers, judges, doctors and writers admit to regularly smoking pot.
Because pot it not physically addictive, the argument that you can abuse Marijuana holds no more stock than the argument that you can abuse fast food. People can abuse anything if done in excess.
Marijuana is a Stepping Stone to Harder Drugs, Isn’t It?
One of the main arguments about Marijuana is that it is the first step to using hard drugs. There are no physical properties of the drug that could encourage the desire for harder or more drugs. Only one out of every 140 Marijuana users has ever tried a harder drug, and over 50 million people currently smoke weed in America.
Doesn’t Marijuana Create Violence?
Many police officers have publicly come out in support of Marijuana legalization. Norm Stamper (PhD and Seattle chief of police) saw ample evidence of the harm caused by alcohol, but cannot recall a single case of Marijuana causing violence or crime. In fact, it has been shown that prohibition has acted to create a culture of money and drug laundering that would never have needed to exist in the first place.
Most pot growers are young people who find they can make more money in a few months growing weed, than they could make in an entire year working professionally. Most people in the drug business prefer that Marijuana stay illegal because if it were legalized, the value of the drug would decrease, competition increase and taxation would most likely become a reality.
The Financial Costs
The financial costs are perhaps the most detrimental impact of Marijuana’s criminalization. Richard Nixon’s first budget for the War on Drugs was $100 million, and president Obama has assigned a budget of $15 billion to drug prevention for 2011.
An estimated 7.7 billion of that budget goes directly to Marijuana related offenses every year, meaning only a fraction of the funds go to enforcing dangerous drugs like Heroine and Cocaine. 88% of the millions locked away for Marijuana every year are users, not growers or suppliers. In fact, 750,000 people are incarcerated every year for Marijuana (which is more than murder, rape and assault combined).
Why Would the U.S. Want Marijuana to be Illegal?
The answer not only lies in the threat Hemp and Marijuana poise to industries like pharmaceuticals (which brings in over 600 billion in revenue annually), but also in the threat to the prison industry. In the late 80s there were approx. 5 privately owned and operated prisons in the U.S. By 2005, there were over 260.
Because these prisons are privately owned by corporations, they bring in their own profits dependent on the number of prisoners housed. Meaning the more, the merrier. The war against pot helps to ensure these prisons maintain a large enough population to continue making profits. Correctional facilities are notorious lobbyists for extending prisoner sentencing, and there are currently twice as many drug company lobbyists than there are members of congress acting in the U.S.
Who’s money pays for all of this? Yours and mine. Our taxes fund the war against drugs, which in turn funds privately owned prisons. Anti-drug campaigns like “Just Say No,” have used $33 million of our tax money since 1970. $49 billion has been spent to prevent the flow of illegal drugs across the border and $121 billion has been spent on drug related arrests.
How Well Has Prohibition Worked?
Since the beginning of the drug war, the use of illegal substances has increased by over 400%. It has been proven, that prohibition acts to create more drug problems and crime because the growth and sale of it cannot be monitored. It is currently easier for children to purchase illegal drugs than both alcohol or cigarettes.
Prohibiting drugs removes our ability to control the use of them. A child entering a gas station to purchase cigarettes will be carded (thanks to enforcement), but a drug dealer on the street corner could care less who he sells to. The illegal sale of drugs is one of the most prolific industries in existence. In fact, 10% of Mexico’s economy is built on the illegal sale of Marijuana to the U.S.
Prohibition has also played a part in the creation of alternate, home-made drugs that are far more dangerous (but easily obtainable), such as Meth.
Many argue that the damage is already done, and legalizing Marijuana would only create more problems at this point. In in 1976, The Netherlands adopted a decriminalization of Marijuana act. Currently the prevalence of lifetime Marijuana use in the Netherlands is 17%, compared to 36.9% in the U.S., and the use of Heroine is 0.4% in the Netherlands, vs. 1.4% in the U.S.
If the U.S. legalized the sale of pot and taxed it, they could bring in an estimated 14 billion in revenue every year. That is nearly as much as the ENTIRE budget set aside for drug prevention in 2011. That number would not include the billions saved on reinforcement every year.
Where Does That Leave Us?
It is no small secret, that the prohibition of drugs has never, and will never be a success. It has proven to increase drug usage and crime. Even those who are addicted to heavy drugs are much less likely to be rehabilitated through prison time than through safe and careful management of their drug usage, or rehabilitation programs.
Billions of our tax payer dollars go to keeping Marijuana and other drug users in prison every year, and only a small fraction of that is reserved for drug-related crimes other than using. Much more dangerous drugs are readily available on the market (for a price), and millions of people see no crime in having their children consume addictive and devastating pharmaceutical drugs.
More importantly, millions of Americans are still living ignorantly by social standards that erupted as a result of racism, greed and government/corporate corruption.