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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51 Responses to “William Randolph Hearst and the Criminalization of Marijuana”

  1. #1 |  Evan McElravy | 

    The version of this story I’ve heard has the big cotton producers instead of Hearst and paper. Adds up to the same I guess. I’ve always sort of discounted these tales, since it seems to me that the native puritanical streak in the American character is more than adequate to explain the laws, and certainly a far more reasonable explanation for their perpetuation to this day than some latent pull by Wm. R. Hearst.

  2. #2 |  Michael | 

    My college professor told me that the reason WRH led a campaign against marijuana is because during the Spanish-American War the Spanish army captured a timberland wood belonging to Harst. He said he hated the Mexican’s and the Spanish because they were lazy potsmokers. Thus, Hearst and Anslinger both campaigned against marijuana, not for the people, but for personal reasons – they hated minorities and/or people of color.

  3. #3 |  Paul | 

    I live in Southern California, and last summer I went up to visit HEARST CASTLE in San Simeon. I went on three of the tours, and in one of them, the tour guide mentioned that WRH and some other big wig multi-billionaire made pot illegal because it was competing with his paper production, like Radley Balko said. He just wanted to make more money.

  4. #4 |  Hank | 

    So who gives a shit about Wm R Hearst? talk about some of todays problems and news, try talking about what man is doing, and has done, to the planet and what we might be able to do to reverse it ! H.

  5. #5 |  Wesley Reed | 

    Ask me any question as to the whole pot thing and i will find a way to support. Its not hard folks. The shit should be legal and everyone knows it goddammit.

  6. #6 |  K | 

    i’m actually doing a large argumentative paper on industrial hemp cultivation and a reversal of the legislation that has banned it. this guy has a point. most people are just far too apathetic to do their own research and see the facts, the connections and the legislation they led to. i’m not standing on a soapbox…but the facts are there

  7. #7 |  rick | 

    you are correct with the hearst conspircay, but hemp and marijuana are the same thing.

  8. #8 |  rick | 

    you are correct with the hearst conspircay, but hemp and marijuana are the same thing.

  9. #9 |  13 | 

    hank you are a cry baby bleeding heart liberal, take a xanax and call me. The earth is much more tough than you think.

  10. #10 |  g | 

    “cry baby bleeding heart liberal”?
    the earth is totally tough, man. it’ll survive no matter what we do. ‘course, it could be as a blasted barren wasteland supporting nothing but roaches (nothing against roaches).

  11. #11 |  ceebee | 

    Yeah save the earth man!! yeah whatever!

  12. #12 |  Sheppy | 

    damn people in the 30’s!
    Pot should be legal

  13. #13 |  Anonymous | 

    i’ve also heard that pharmaceutical companies at the time pumped soft money into the legislation… THC cannot be patented… no money there…

  14. #14 |  Seth | 

    Something worth noting: Columbia University recently released a paper outlining the many reasons why marijuana is so bad:
    http://www.casacolumbia.org/pdshopprov/files/Marijuana_Paper_on_Letterhead.pdf; check out the board of directors, among such respected folks as the former presedent of Coca Cola, and Bristol-Myers Squib, is Victor Ganzi who happens to be President and CEO of the Hearst Corportation, so apparently they are still up to it

  15. #15 |  sarah erwin | 

    Regardless why pot is illegal, hearst, cotton farmers, and whatever else is out there, it’s still illegal and nothing anyone says on this site or any other will change that. The only way it’ll become legal is if the U.S. folds. If there is no law, complete anarchy. We won’t see it in our lifetime that’s for sure.

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