Schaffer Library of Drug Policy

The Origins of Cannabis Prohibition in California

by Dale H. Gieringer
Early History Of Cannabis In California
The First Stirrings Of Cannabis Prohibition
The Advent of Marijuana
Conclusion: Prohibition a Bureaucratic Initiative
State & Local Marijuana Laws, Pre-1933
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Page 15

However, hashish was reputed by medical journals to be a common cause of insanity in the Middle East, where it was sometimes linked to homicide and death.58

Still, nothing could compare with the frightful, though scientifically unjustified, reputation of Mexican “marihuana” for producing madness, violence and death. The explanation lies in the fact that marijuana was widely considered to be a lower-class drug in Mexico. By the turn of the century, it had come to be associated chiefly with delinquents and freelance soldiers, which naturally enhanced its reputation for promoting violence. 59 According to a report from the Mexican Herald published in the LA Times: 60

Marihuana is a weed used only by people of the lower class and sometimes by soldiers, but those who make larger use of it are prisoners sentenced in long terms…

The drug leaves of marihuana, alone or mixed with tobacco, make the smoker wilder than a wild beast…Everything, the smokers say, takes the shape of a monster, and men look like devils. They begin to fight, and of course, everything smashed is a "monster" killed…

People who smoke marihuana finally lose their mind and never recover it, but their brains dry up and they die, most of the time suddenly.

Marihuana was used by troops in the Mexican revolution of 1910-20, whence it is said to have infected American troops along the border. 61 Popular legend would have it that it was especially popular with the notorious raiders of Pancho Villa, whose anthem, La Cucaracha, contained a celebrated verse about marihuana.62 Villa himself did not drink, smoke, or use drugs, and was praised for closing down liquor stores, but his views on marihuana have not been recorded. 63 No doubt, marihuana was used by Mexican soldiers of all stripes, although contemporary journalistic evidence is scanty.64

58 Dr. A.W. Hoisholt, of the State Asylum for the Insane in Stockton, noted a British report on “Insanity from the Abuse of Indian Hemp,” in Occidental Medical Times 8:197 (1894). Hasheesh was said to be the “most frequent cause of lunacy in Egypt”: F.W. Sandwith, “Insanity from the Abuse of Indian Hemp,” Occidental Medical Times 3:142 (1889).

59 Ricardo Pérez Montfort, “Fragmentos de historia de las ‘drogas’ en México 1870-1920,” in Montfort, ed. Hábitos, normas y escándalo (CIESAS-Plaza y Valdés, Mexico, 1997), pp. 187 ff.

60 "Delirium or Death: Terrible Effects Produced by Certain Plants and Weeds Grown in Mexico", Los Angeles Times, Mar. 12, 1905, p. V20.

61 "One of the things to be avoided by American soldiers in Mexico is the seductive marihuana weed, which grows around Vera Cruz": "Weeds Cause Insanity," Los Angeles Times, July 1, 1914, p.18. Bonnie and Whitebread, The Marihuana Conviction, pp. 32-8; Robert P Walton, Marihuana, America's New Drug Problem (J.B. Lippincott, Philadelphia, 1938), p. 25.

62 “La cucaracha/ ya no puede caminar/ porque no tiene/ marihuana que fumar.” This verse about the "cockroach" who can't go on without marihuana has often been interpreted as a celebration of marihuana. More likely, it was a derisive satire against the reviled Mexican dictator Victoriano Huerta, the "cockroach," who was said to abuse drugs and alcohol: Isaac Campos, op.cit., pp. 161-3. For the Villista marijuana legend, see Walton, op. cit. p. 25; Ernest Abel, op. cit., p. 201; Daniel Skye, “Riding High With Pancho Villa,” High Times, April 1998, pp. 52ff.

63 Friedrich Katz, The Life and Times of Pancho Villa (Stanford University Press, CA, 1998), pp.76, 477; Ernest Otto Schuster, Pancho Villa’s Shadow (Exposition Press, NY, 1947), introduction; Louis Stevens, Here Comes Pancho Villa (Fred Stokes Co. NY, 1930), pp. 109, 111-112. Evidence of Villa's

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