Most folks probably haven’t put much time and effort into thinking about how we got where we are today in “The War on Drugs”.
I find when discussing the potential benefits of decriminalization that people often have some vague and generalized idea that “there must be some sort of reason the stuff is illegal”. Sometimes it’s unstated; but you can tell that idea is there.
Well, there is definitely a reason. Or, perhaps multiple reasons, but that doesn’t automatically make them good ones.
Early in the 1900s, Mexico’s political conflicts sparked a surge of Mexican immigrants into America’s southwest region. Although marijuana already existed in various forms in the U.S., the new immigrants are credited with being the first segment of the population known for marijuana use. The practice also became popular in African American culture around the same time.
The popularity of marijuana among minorities made racism a powerful tool for the opponents of marijuana. Racist politicians used hate to push anti-marijuana legislation through.
One Texas senator claimed that "all Mexicans are crazy and this stuff is what makes them crazy." A 1934 newspaper complained that "marijuana influences Negroes to look at white people in the eye, step on white men’s shadows and look at white women twice."
Media sensationalism put forward blatant lies and misrepresentations of marijuana that misinformed the public and stigmatized the harmless herb.
The San Francisco Examiner went so far as to claim that "three-fourths of the crimes of violence today are committed by (marijuana users)." As a result of the pandemonium worked up by politicians and biased media about the marijuana "epidemic," marijuana was made illegal at the federal level in 1937.
Yes, there are indeed reasons that marijuana was criminalized. And the more you find out about marijuana prohibition, the more you realize it has a shameful history.