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A Century of Losing Battles: The Costly and Ill-Advised War on Drugs
Unformatted Document Text:  (McWilliams, 1990). Although Commissioner Anslinger’s legal jurisdiction did not extend to marijuana, he invested a considerable amount of time and attention to curtailing its use. For example, the FBN’s First Annual Report (1931) warned that marijuana had "come into wide and increasing abuse in many states, and the Bureau of Narcotics has therefore been endeavoring to impress on the various States the urgent need for vigorous enforcement of the local cannabis laws" (Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 1932, p. 64). Throughout the 1930s, anti-marijuana sentiment swept the nation; jazz musicians were vilified for their purported use of the drug and young people were warned about the drug’s potent effects on mood and behavior. In 1936, an exploitation movie, Reefer Madness, depicted the dissipation of young adults under marijuana’s putative transforming influence; it became a cult film in the 1970s. Early antidrug pundits argued that marijuana produced insanity and drove otherwise wholesome youth to commit violence, rape, and suicide. In the ever-racially charged war on drugs, newspapers published comic strips that showed Latinos smoking marijuana and raping white women. Some current experts characterize marijuana as a “stepping stone” or “gateway” to more serious drug use, although no research has supported such claims (Tarter, Vanyukov, Kirisci, Reynolds, & Clark, 2006). Between 1915 and 1937, nearly 30 states passed legislation prohibiting the use of marijuana (Whitehead, 1995). The Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 regulated marijuana in the same manner as opiates and cocaine, ordering physicians who prescribed and druggists who sold marijuana to register with the Internal Revenue Service and pay annual fees or taxes. Despite the objections of the American Medical Association, which regarded marijuana as a relatively innocuous drug, the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 passed without a recorded vote. In fact, Congress held only one hearing on the Marijuana Tax Act in a calculated effort to silence any opposition to the bill. The following are excerpts from Commission Anslinger’s Testimony at the hearing (druglibrary.org/schaffer/hemp/taxact): There are 100,000 total marijuana smokers in the U.S., and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos, and entertainers. Their Satanic music, jazz, and swing, result from marijuana use. This marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers, and any others. The primary reason to outlaw marijuana is its effect on the degenerate races. Marijuana is an addictive drug which produces in its users insanity, criminality, and death. You smoke a joint and you're likely to kill your brother. Marijuana is the most violence-causing drug in the history of mankind. 5

Authors: Rabinowitz, Mikaela. and Lurigio, Arthur.
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(McWilliams, 1990). Although Commissioner Anslinger’s legal jurisdiction did not extend to marijuana, 
he invested a considerable amount of time and attention to curtailing its use. For example, the FBN’s First 
Annual Report (1931) warned that marijuana had "come into wide and increasing abuse in many states, 
and the Bureau of Narcotics has therefore been endeavoring to impress on the various States the urgent 
need for vigorous enforcement of the local cannabis laws" (Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 1932, p. 64). 
Throughout the 1930s, anti-marijuana sentiment swept the nation; jazz musicians were vilified for 
their purported use of the drug and young people were warned about the drug’s potent effects on mood 
and behavior. In 1936, an exploitation movie, Reefer Madness, depicted the dissipation of young adults 
under marijuana’s putative transforming influence; it became a cult film in the 1970s. Early antidrug 
pundits argued that marijuana produced insanity and drove otherwise wholesome youth to commit 
violence, rape, and suicide. In the ever-racially charged war on drugs, newspapers published comic strips 
that showed Latinos smoking marijuana and raping white women.  Some current experts characterize 
marijuana as a “stepping stone” or “gateway” to more serious drug use, although no research has 
supported such claims (Tarter, Vanyukov, Kirisci, Reynolds, & Clark, 2006). 
Between 1915 and 1937, nearly 30 states passed legislation prohibiting the use of marijuana 
(Whitehead, 1995). The Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 regulated marijuana in the same manner as opiates 
and cocaine, ordering physicians who prescribed and druggists who sold marijuana to register with the 
Internal Revenue Service and pay annual fees or taxes. Despite the objections of the American Medical 
Association, which regarded marijuana as a relatively innocuous drug, the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 
passed without a recorded vote. In fact, Congress held only one hearing on the Marijuana Tax Act in a 
calculated effort to silence any opposition to the bill. The following are excerpts from Commission 
Anslinger’s Testimony at the hearing (druglibrary.org/schaffer/hemp/taxact): 
There are 100,000 total marijuana smokers in the U.S., and most are Negroes, Hispanics, 
Filipinos, and entertainers. Their Satanic music, jazz, and swing, result from marijuana use. This 
marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers, and any 
others. The primary reason to outlaw marijuana is its effect on the degenerate races. Marijuana is 
an addictive drug which produces in its users insanity, criminality, and death. You smoke a joint 
and you're likely to kill your brother. Marijuana is the most violence-causing drug in the history 
of mankind. 
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