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The Marihuana Tax Act of 1937

The Marihuana Tax Act of 1937

Transcripts of Congressional Hearings


(The following statements were submitted by Mr. Anslinger)


(By Eugene Stanley, district attorney, parish of Orleans, New Orleans, La.)

Many prosecuting attorneys in the South and Southwest have been confronted with the defense that, at the time of the commission of the criminal act, the defendant was irresponsible, because he was under the influence of marihuana to such a degree he was unable to appreciate the difference between right and wrong, and was legally insane. A great deal of difficulty has been experienced in rebutting this defense by the testimony of psychiatrists, for, while some of these experts are conversant with the nature and effect of this drug, it has been the experience of the author that many psychiatrists know nothing whatsoever of the effect of the drug.

This may be due to the fact that this drug has come into wide use in certain parts of the South only within the last 10 years.

It is the purpose of this article to give a brief outline of the nature and origin of this drug, the legislation enacted which prohibits its sale and use, to recommend that this drug be placed within the provisions of the Harrison Anti-Narcotic Act, and to give a list of some of the works which may be consulted by any persons interested in making a thorough study of the drug.


The plant or drug known as Cannabis indica, or marihuana, has as its parent the plant known as Cannabis Sativa.

It is popularly known in India as Cannabis Indica,; in America, as Cannabis americana; in Mexico as Cannabis mexicana, or marihuana.

It is all the same drug, and is known in different countries by different names. It is scientifically known as Cannabis sativa, and is popularly called Cannabis americana, Cannabis indica, or Cannabis mexicana, in accordance with the geographical origin of the particular plant.

In the East it is known as charras, as gunga, as hasheesh, as bhang, or siddi, and it is known by a variety of names in the countries of continental Europe.

Cannabis sativa is an annual herb from the "hemp" plant; it has angular, rough stems and deeply lobed leaves.

It is derived from the flowering tops of the female plant of hemp grown in semi-tropical and temperate countries. It was once thought that only the plant grown in India was active, but it has been scientifically determined that the American specimen termed "marihuana" or "muggles" is equal in potency to the best weed of India. The plant is a moraceous herb.

In the South, amongst the Negroes, it is termed "mooter".

In India, where the plant is scientifically cultivated on a wide scale for the drug obtained from it, the plants, when small, are separated, the female plant being used exclusively for the purpose of obtaining the drug.

In Mexico and in America, the plants are permitted to grow together indiscriminately, without separating the male and female plants, so that the potency of the female plant is lessened by the admixture of the male element.

In semitropical climates, because of the fertility of the soil and the ease with which hemp seed may be procured, the plant can be easily cultivated, and prohibition of the actual cultivation is rendered practically impossible. It resembles a weed, and has been found growing in some of the back yards and lots of the cities. the traffic in the plant , and the drug derived therefrom, has been found to be considerable, particularly in the South and Southwestern States.


Hemp is cultivated all over the world; its culture probably originated in China, from whence it spread. It is cultivated for three purposes; For the fiber, out of which rope, twine, cloth, and hats are made; for the seed, from which a rapidly drying oil is obtained that is used in the arts and as a commercial substitute for linseed oil; and for the narcotic contained in the resin of the dried, flowering tops of the pistillate plant. The seed is also sold as a constituent of commercial bird seed.

Hemp is grown in the New England Colonies for fiber used in the making of homespun. It was also grown in the Virginia and Pennsylvania Colonies and cultivated at an early date in the settlements of Kentucky, from whence the industry spread to Missouri. Hemp has been grown at various times in Illinois, near Champagne; in the Kankakee River Valley, in Indiana;; in southeastern Pennsylvania, and in Nebraska, Iowa, and California. It is now abundant as a wild plant in many localities in Western Missouri, Iowa, Southern Minnesota, and in the southwestern and western states, where it is often found as a roadside weed. It is not known when the plant was introduced into Mexico, and the southwest, but probably along with the early Spanish settlements. It was introduced into Chile in the 16th Century.

The early cultivation of hemp in the United States was of the small European variety, but this has been replaced since 1857 by the larger Chinese hemp. Practically all the seed for present-day American hemp culture is grown in the Kentucky River Valley.


Cannabis Sativa is designated as a "narcotic" in a number of State laws. It is sometimes mentioned in the laws as "loco weed" because of its inebriate effect upon men and cattle; in others a "marihuana", "hemp", or "hashish"; in fact, the drug is known by a wide variety of names.

It is one of the several drugs included under the antinarcotic laws of 17 States, namely Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Nevada, California, Oregon, Idaho, Washington, Utah, Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts, New York, Indiana, Wisconsin, and Iowa. It is also prohibited under the laws of Mexico and England.

In a great many of the states where this legislation was enacted, so widespread was the use of marihuana, and so terrific the result, that grave emergencies were declared to exist which justified the legislation taking effect immediately.

The restrictions respecting the smoking of "hemp" are mentioned along with those restricting opium smoking.

Although the different forms of the plant have been described under different botanical names, there are no essential differences in any of the specific characteristics, and all cultivated or wild hemp is now recognized as belonging to one species - Cannabis sativa.


The origin of the drug is very ancient.

In the year 1090 A.D. the religious and military order or sect of the Assassins was founded in Persia, and the numerous acts of cruelty of this sect was known not only in Asia, but in Europe as well. This branch of the Shiite sect, known as Ismalites, was called Hashishan, derived from Hashish, or the confection of the hemp leaves (Cannabis indica).

In fact, from the Arabic "Hashishan" we have the English word "Assassin". It is mentioned in the Arabian Knights, and was known at the time of the Crusaders. It is known to the Greeks as "Nepenthe", and was lauded in the immortal Odyssey of Homer as a drug to lull all pain and anger, and to bring forgetfulness of all sorrow.

It was known in ancient times to the Egyptians, and its use in Egypt, at the present time is widespread.

In fact, it is presently as widely used amongst the Egyptians, and in the East, as opium is used by the Chinese, and alcohol by the Americans and Europeans. Its effect upon the Malays has been terrific, and the natives of the Malayan Peninsula have been known, while under its influence, to rush out and engage in violent or bloody deeds, with complete disregard for their personal safety, or the odds arrayed against them. To run "amok" in the Malayan Peninsula is synonymous with saying one is under the influence of this drug.

In America, particularly in the South and Southwestern portions of the United States, it is called marihuana. It is popularly known amongst the criminal element as "muggles", or "mooter" and addicts are commonly termed "muggle heads."


The flowering tops of the female plant are the source from which the drug is obtained, and in American these flowering tops are gathered and rolled into cigarettes and smoked, the smoke being inhaled.

A favorite method of smoking these cigarettes is for a person to draw into the mouth the smoke from one of these cigarettes and to blow the smoke from the mouth against the cupped hands, and then inhale the smoke.

In India, marihuana or "muggles" is mostly used in "ganja" form, which is the Indian name for a mixture of the stems, leaves, and flowering tops of the cultivate female plants. It is smoked, as in America, in the form of cigarettes, or in the pipe; its smell is typically offensive, and is easily recognized by the initiated.

In Inida, Bhang, or siddi, are the Indian names for the mixture of these dry leaves and capsules without stems, whether male or female, cultivated, or in its wild state. It is the cheapest and the weakest of all the preparations of hashish, and is taken as tea.

In India, the resinous substance which exudes from the flowering head of the female plant is called "chearris", and is either smoked or taken in pills or in confections, or mixed with sugar or honey, and is commonly sold amongst the bazaars of Egypt and the Far East.

In many respects, the action of cannabis sativa is similar to that of alcohol or morphine. Its toxic effects are ecstasy, merriment, uncontrollable laughter, self-satisfaction, bizarre ideas lacking in continuity, and its results are extreme hyperacidity, with occasional attacks of nausea and vomiting. It has also been described as producing, in moderate doses, from a mild intoxication to a dead drunk, a drowsy and semicomatose condition, lapsing into a dreamy state, with a rapid flow of ideas of a sexual nature and ending in a deep sleep, interrupted by dreams. On awakening, there is a feeling of great dejection and prostration.

Large doses produce excitement, delusions hallucinations, rapid flow of ideas, a high state of ecstasy, psychomotor activity with a tendency to willful damage and violence, and a temporary amnesia of all that has transpired. In cases of prolonged addiction, especially in the Malays, the somnolent action of Cannabis indica is replaced with complete loss of judgment and restraint, the same effects so frequently observed in alcohol intoxication.

It is commonly used as an aphrodisiac, and its continued use leads to impotency. This has been observed among the natives of India.

It is an ideal drug to quickly cut off inhibitions.

At the time of the founding of the religious sect of the "Assassins" in Persia, by Hassan Ben Sabbat, young men whom the sheik desired to subjugate were given this drug, and when under its influence, were taken, blindfolded, into the garden of the sheik, where every pleasure which appealed to the sense awaited them.

When complete indulgence in these pleasures were had, they were taken from this garden, and so eager were they for a further opportunity to use this drug and a repetition of these pleasures, that they were under the complete domination of the sheik, who alone knew the secret of this drug, and gladly followed his will, even to the extent of sacrificing their lives is he commanded them to do so, in order to further experience the pleasures to which they had been initiated.

At the present time, the underworld has been quick to realize the value of this drug in subjugating the will of human derelicts to that of the master mind. Its use sweeps away all restraint, and to its influence may be attributed many of our present day crimes.

It has been the experience of the police and prosecuting officials in the South that immediately before the commission of many crimes the use of marihuana cigarettes has been indulged in by many criminals, so as to relieve themselves from a sense of natural restraint which might deter them from the commission of these criminal acts, and to give them the false courage necessary to commit the contemplated crime.


Indian hemp (marihuana) addicts were made eligible for treatment in recent legislation enacted by the Seventieth Congress, approved January 19, 1929, establishing narcotic farms for the confinement and treatment of persons addicted to the use of habit-forming narcotic drugs.

This legislation is somewhat unique in congressional legislation, since Indian hemp is not classified as a habit-forming drug or narcotic in other Federal narcotic laws.

Inasmuch as the harmful effects of the use of the drug is becoming more widely known each day, and it has been classed as a narcotic by the statutory laws of 17 American states, England, and Mexico, and persons addicted to its use have been made eligible for treatment in the United States narcotics farms, the United States Government, unquestionably, will be compelled to adopt a consistent attitude toward this drug, and include it in the Harrison antinarcotic law, so as to give Federal aid to the States in their effort to suppress a traffic as deadly and as destructive to society as the traffic in the other forms of narcotics now prohibited by the Harrison Act.


See American Illustrated Medical Dictionary (Dorland, 1927) "Marihuana."

Arny, Henry V. Principles of Pharmacy (3rd Ed.) Philadelphia and London, W. B. Saunders Co. (1926, 1978pp. Cannabis, pp 767-768, Reference p. 779)

(Bethea) Materia Medica and Prescription Writing (1926 pp. 114-15)

Boyce, Sidney S. Hemp (Cannabis Sativa), a practical treatise on the culture of hemp for seed and fiber, with a sketch of the history and nature of the hemp plant. New York, Orange Judd Co. (1900, 112 pp)

Briosi, Giovanni, Interno alla anatomia canapa (Cannabis sativa) Milano, Tip. Bernardoni di C. Rebeschini (cc. 1894-96, 2 v., bibliografia; ff. 1 pp. 2-28; v. 2, pp. 14-38)

Century Dictionary and Encyclopedia (vol. 12, pp. 771, 1909).

Daggett, Charles H. Theory of Pharmaceutical Chemistry. Philadelphia and New York, Lea & Febiger, 1910 (539 pp. Cannabis Indica; p. 480).

Edmunds, C. W. and J. A. Gunn. A textbook of pharmacology and therapeutics (9th ed.) , Philadelphia, Lea & Febiger, 1928 (743 pp. Cannabis; pp. 280-282)

Evers, Norman and G. D. Elsdon. The analysis of drugs and chemicals. London C.Griffin & Co. (1929, 372 pp. Cannabis Indica; p. 190)

India. Department of Finance and Commerce. Indian Hemp Drugs Commission (No. 1369 ex. Government of India, Calcutta, 1925 23 pp.)

-- Memorandum on excise administration in India, so far as it is concerned with hemp drugs * * * (3d, 1. e. 2d ed.; Simla, Printed at the government central printing office 1902, 22 pp.)

-- Hemp Drugs Commission. Report, Simla, printed at the government central printing office (1894 7 v.)

--- Supplementary Volume. Answers received to selected questions for the native army. * * * Calcutta, 1895 (186 pp)

-- Supplementary Volume. Evidence of witnesses from nattive states. Calcutta, office of the superintendent of government printing, India, 1895 (218 pp.)

Marshall C. R. The active principle of Indian hemp; a preliminary communication. Lancet (London), Jan.23 1897 (pt. 1, pp. 235-238)

Marihuana (Mex) In Mexico, any one of several plants having narcotic properties; in many localities; Cannabis indica and in the State of Sonora, Nicotiana glauca.

Medical -- Jurisprudence & Technology, Prof. Jno. Glaister and Hon. Jno. Glaister, Jr. (5th Ed. 1931) Wm. Wood & Co., New York, E & S Livingstone, Edinburgh (p. 849)

Merck's Index; an encyclopedia for the chemist, pharmacist, and physician (4th ed.), Rahway, NJ Merck & co., Inc. (19330, 585 pp), Cannabis (p. 147)

Moreau Jacques J. Du hachich et de l'alienation mentale. Etudes psychologiques. Paris, Fortin Masson et cie, 1845 (431 pp).

Munch, James Clyde. "Bioassays; a handbook of quantitative pharmacology", Baltimore, the William & Wilkins Co., 1931 (pp. 190-197) An article on the subject, including a few references in the text (covers, pp. 67 -88)

Orleans Parish Medical Society. the Marihuana Menace, by Dr. A. E. Fossier.

Perez, Genaro. La Marihuana. Breve estudio sobre esta planta. Mexico, 1886. Noted in Nicolas, Leon. "Biblioteca botanico - mexicana." Mexico, Officina tip. de la secretaria de fomento, 1895 (p. 207)

Pharmacopiea of U.S.A. 1925 (pp. 95-96)

Poulsson, E. A textbook on Pharmacology and therapuetics (Eng. ed.) London, W. Heinemann, 1923 (519 pp.). Cannabis indica; (pp. 90-91)

Prain, Sir David. on the morphology, teratology, and diclinism of the flowers of Cannabis, * * * Calcutta, office of the superintendent of government printing, India (9104, 32 pp.) Scientific memoirs of officers of th medical and sanitary departments of the government off India (new ser. no. 12)

Robinson, Victor. An essay on hasheesh, historical and experimental (2d ed.), New York. E. H. Ringer (1925, 91 pp.)

Rusby, Bliss & Ballard. The Properties and Uses of Drugs (1930 ed., p. 415)

Solis Cohen Githens. Pharmaceotherapeutus (192 ed., pp. 1702-3)

Sollman, Torald. A manual of pharmacology, and its applications to therapeutics and toxicology (3d ed.) Philadelphia and London, W. b. Saunders Co. (1926, 1184 pp.) (Marihuana (Cannabis) (pp. 323-324)

United States Departemtn of Publich Health, See Report of Surgeon-General, Hugh S. Cummings, to the Seventieth Congress. See Index Catalogue of the Surgeon General's Office, as follows:

Series 3 (Cannabis indica), 3:836-37, 1922

Series 2 (Cannabis indica) 3:341-45, 1898

Series 2 (Haschisch) 6:784, 1901

Series 1 (Cananbis indica) 2:690-91, 1881.

U.S. Dispensatory, 1918 (p. 276)

Wood, George B., The dispensatory of the United States of America (21st ed.) Philadelphia and London, J. b. Lippinscott Co. 1926, 1892. Cannabis indica (Marihuana in Mexican) p. 277-281 A few references are given in the text.


See (Bragman) Toxic effects: Weed of insanity (M. J. & Rec. 122; pp. 416-18, 1925)

(Del Favero) mental effect o hashish on Central African Negroes. Pensiero med. 17;270-277, 1928

(Dontas and Zis) Narcotic action of potassium chlorate added to smoking tobacco; comparison with hasheesh Wien. Klin. Wehnsehr. 41:161-163, 1928

(Dawner) Cannabis indica in smoking tobacco. Brit. M. J. 2:521, 1923

(Fantchenko) Case history of intoxication psychosis from poisoning with tinct. cannabis indicae. Klin. Med. 6: 770-773, 1927

(Gayer) Pharmacologic standardization of oriental hashish and cannabis indica.

Hasheesh Insanity (by Dr. Warnock, superintendent Cairo Lunatic Asylum), British Medical Journal, vol. 2, p. 2 or 8, 1903

(Huher) History of hashish and opium. Deut. Med. Wehnschr., 53: 1145, 1927

(Joel) Cultivation of cannabis indica; reply to Sabaltschka, Klin. Wehhenschr., 5: 364-365, 1926 Abst J.A.N.A. 86: 1490

(Djunjibhoy) Role of Indian hemp in causation of insanity in India. Far East Assn. Trop. Med. Trans. 7th Cong. 1927, V. 1: 400, 1928

(Joel and Frankel) Hashish intoxication; contribution to experimental psychopathology. Klin. Wehnschr.5: 1707-1709, 1926.

(Kant and Krapf) Psychic phenomena by ingestion of Hashish Archiv. f. exper. Path. u. Pharmakol. 129: 319-338, 1928

(Kant and Krapf) Question off intact function in hashish intoxication, Ztschr. f. d. ges. Neurol u. Psychiat. 112: 302-305, 1928

(Kingman) Gren Goddess, study in dreams, drugs and dementia. M. J. & Rec. 126-470-475, 1927

(Sabalitschka) Cultivation of cannabis indica; comment on Joel's article, Klin. Wehnschr. 5: 1279-1280, 1926

(Straub) Bavarian hashish, experiments. Munch. Med. Nehnschrr. 75: 49-51.

(Kent) Forms of reaction of psychotic indivisuals to hashish intoxication; study of problem of hallucination. Arch. f. Psychiat. 91: 694-721, 1930.

(Dhunjiohoy) "Indian Hemp Insanity" peculiar to India, J. Ment. Sc. 76; 254-264, 1930


England -- George V (1925), Statutes 15 and 16 amending.

California - Code of California, statutes and amendments (1929), page 381, chapter 216

Indiana -- A. Burns' Annotated Indiana Statutes, volume 1, section 2494, page 1228, act 1911, page 45

Iowa -- 1924 acts of Iowa, chapter 156, page 427

Louisiana -- Act 41 of 1924

Maine -- Revised statues of Maine (1930, sec. 25, ch. 23, p. 477).

Nevada -- Compiled laws of Nevada (1929)

New Mexico -- The laws of New Mexico (1923), chapter 42, page 58.

Oregon -- General Laws of Oregon (1923) Chapter 27

Texas -- Vernon's Annotated Criminal Statutes of the State of Texas (Penal Code) volume 2, 1926, chapter 3, article 720.

Utah. -- Compiled laws of Utah, section 4432 (1917 edition), page 902.

Vermont -- General Laws of Vermont (1919), section 6285, page 1081

Washington -- Remington's Compiled Statutes of Washington (1923), supplementing chapter 7, sections 2509-2511, 2509-2512.

Wisconsin -- Wisconsin Statutes (1929), tenth edition, section 146.02, formerly sectioon 1419 of the Old Wisconsin Statutes, paragraph 16.

Wyoming.-- Wyoming's Compiled Statutes(1920), section 3570, page 693

(see descriptive word index and tables of cases affirmed. Revised or modified, covering "Current Digest". vols, 1 to 5 (1926030) (West Publishing Co. "Marijuana", p. 327.)

Criminal law: 507 (1), 730 (2) 569, 338 (7) 1170 1-2 (2), 1153 (6) 814 (8,9), 459, 741 (1)

Poisons. 9.

(Thereupon the committee adjourned to meet tomorrow, Wednesday, Apr. 28, 1937, at 10:30 a.m.)

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