William Randolph Hearst and the Criminalization of Marijuana

Sunday, September 29th, 2002

Can’t vouch for this history lesson from reader Mike Cheel, but it’s damned provocative.

The one thing they don’t talk about anywhere (at least in government circles) is why pot is illegal in the first place.

The main reason it is illegal is because back in the 30’s William Randolph Hearst owned a lot of newspapers and owned the paper mills that printed the paper. Hemp (which of course is not exactly the same thing as marijuana but is commonly associated and lumped together with it) was competing with his paper production so he rallied his friends in power (government) and finally made it illegal in 1937. I don’t think a lot of people know this.

The interesting part is that when the case was originally brought before congress the prosecutor (Anslinger) claimed that it caused violence, attacks, delerium, death and was only used by poor black people (jazz musicians I believe). When the topic came back up in the 50’s the same guy (Anslinger) told congress a totally different story. Now his tale said that it should be illegal because it caused mellowness and apathy. He said the communists would try to use it against our youth in a bid to corrupt America.

I have read a little about the “reefer madness” propaganda campaign that led to the 1937 prohibition of marijuana. It was fueled in large part by racism, and the uneasiness lots of white people felt about what might be going on in those dens-of-sin jazz clubs and hot houses.

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