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  History of the Marijuana Gateway Myth

    Clifford A. Schaffer

Hemp was George Washington's primary crop, and a secondary crop for Thomas Jefferson, so hemp has been around in America for a long time, without apparently causing much destruction in society. Each sailing ship carried several tons of hemp in its rope and sails, so cultivation of hemp was a major industry. Even though cannabis was widely grown, there were no allegations that it led to harder drugs.(2,3,5,10)

In 1910, they believed that the certain steppingstone to opiate addiction was "eating Mexicanized food". The fundamental idea comes from America's puritanical history. It is the idea that pleasure is sinful, and small pleasures lead to cravings for larger pleasures. In this example, those who crave spicy food will inevitably crave larger pleasures, such as opium.(1)

In the 1920s, some states outlawed marijuana because of the belief that heroin addiction would lead to the use of marijuana - just the opposite of the modern myth. (2,3)

Cannabis had been widely known and used in many medicinal compounds for hundreds of years, so there was ample evidence in the 1930s to know whether there was a connection between marijuana and harder drugs. (7,8)

In 1937, Harry Anslinger, head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, testified before Congress that there was no connection at all between marijuana and heroin. The reason marijuana had to be outlawed, he said, was because it caused insanity, criminality, and death. One example he gave was of two young lovers who became so crazed after smoking a joint that they eloped and got married. The other reasons he gave were no more sensible. The hemp industry representatives who testified were uniformly surprised and mystified to hear that a dangerous drug could be made from this widespread and common crop. The American Medical Association testified that they knew of no evidence that marijuana was a dangerous drug. (2,3,4)

The US Government encouraged farmers to grow hemp during World War II, because it was vital to the country's war effort. (2,3,10)

In 1944, the La Guardia Committee Report on Marihuana confirmed Mr. Anslinger's statement—there was no connection at all between marijuana and heroin.(6)

In 1951, Harry Anslinger was testifying about why we needed tougher drug laws. Just before he testified, the head of the Federal addiction research program testified that they knew for certain that all of the reasons that had been given for outlawing marijuana in 1937 were entirely bogus. They knew for certain that marijuana did not cause insanity, criminality and death. Anslinger was left with no reason for tougher laws so he made up—on the spot, with not a shred of evidence—the assertion that marijuana is the certain stepping stone to heroin addiction. He directly contradicted his own testimony from 1937. It has been the basis of US marijuana policy ever since. (2,3)

Since that time, the Federal drug enforcement officials have tried to support this myth with the idea that most heroin addicts started with marijuana, and statistics which seem to show that marijuana users are more likely to have used cocaine. The first assertion would get a failing grade in any freshman Logic class. The second can be explained by the fact that people who engage in one risk-taking behavior are likely to engage in other risk-taking behaviors. It, too, would earn a failing grade in freshman Logic.

In 1970, the Canadian Government did their largest study ever of the subject, and found no connection between marijuana and heroin.(9)

In 1972, the US Government did their largest study ever of the subject, and found no connection between marijuana and heroin. (8) This was also the conclusion of the largest study ever done by Consumers Union, published the same year.(5)

The real reason that hemp is illegal is nothing less than lunacy. Marijuana (including industrial hemp) was originally outlawed because "All Mexicans are crazy and marijuana is what makes them crazy." Dr. James C. Munch, the US Official Expert on Marihuana from 1938 to 1962 testified in court, under oath, that marijuana had turned him into a bat. Dr. Munch also supported the testimony of one murder defendant who claimed insanity because he had been in the same room with a bag of marijuana. The defendant was acquitted by reason of marijuana-induced insanity.(2,3)

Every major study of marijuana policy in the last one hundred years has found that marijuana prohibition is a mistake which does more harm than good. (11)


All of these references can be found on the Internet at /../schaffer/history/history.htm

(1) Themes in Chemical Prohibition, NIDA Conference Report, 1979

(2) History of the Marijuana Laws, speech to the 1995 California Judges Conference, by Professor Charles Whitebread, USC Law School.

(3) Forbidden Fruit and the Tree of Knowledge: The Legal History of American Marijuana Prohibition, Professors Richard Bonnie, and Charles Whitebread.

(4) Transcripts of the Congressional Hearings for the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937, see transcripts of Harry Anslinger's testimony.

(5) Marijuana in the New World, from The Consumers Union Report on Licit and Illicit Drugs, 1972. Also found under Major Studies of Drugs and Drug Policy.

(6) LaGuardia Committee Report on Marihuana - Also found under Major Studies of Drugs and Drug Policy.

(7) Cannabis Fluid Extract, From the Parke, Davis & Company 1929-1930 physicians' catalog.

(8) History of the Medical Use—From Marihuana, A Signal of Misunderstanding, by the US National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse, 1972—Also found under Major Studies of Drugs and Drug Policy.

(9) Canadian Government Commission of Inquiry into the Non-Medical Use of Drugs, (The Le Dain Report) - Also found under Major Studies of Drugs and Drug Policy.

(10) Transcript of Hemp for Victory, US Dept of Agriculture Film, 1942.

(11) Major Studies of Drugs and Drug Policy /../schaffer/

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