Why Is Marijuana Banned? 
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Why Is Marijuana Banned? 
Posted by CN Staff on February 11, 2016 at 13:38:03 PT
By Johann Hari
Source: Huffington Post
USA -- Across the world, more and more people are asking: Why is marijuana banned? Why are people still sent to prison for using or selling it?Most of us assume it's because someone, somewhere sat down with the scientific evidence, and figured out that cannabis is more harmful than other drugs we use all the time -- like alcohol and cigarettes. Somebody worked it all out, in our best interest.
But when I started to go through the official archives -- researching my book Chasing The Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs -- to find out why cannabis was banned back in the 1930s, I discovered that's not what happened.Not at all.In 1929, a man called Harry Anslinger was put in charge of the Department of Prohibition in Washington, D.C. But alcohol prohibition had been a disaster. Gangsters had taken over whole neighborhoods. Alcohol -- controlled by criminals -- had become even more poisonous.So alcohol prohibition finally ended -- and Harry Anslinger was afraid. He found himself in charge of a huge government department, with nothing for it to do. Up until then, he had said that cannabis was not a problem. It doesn't harm people, he explained, and "there is no more absurd fallacy" than the idea it makes people violent.But then -- suddenly, when his department needed a new purpose -- he announced he had changed his mind.He explained to the public what would happen if you smoked cannabis.First, you will fall into "a delirious rage." Then you will be gripped by "dreams... of an erotic character." Then you will "lose the power of connected thought." Finally, you will reach the inevitable end-point: "Insanity."Marijuana turns man into a "wild beast." If marijuana bumped into Frankenstein's monster on the stairs, Anslinger warned, the monster would drop dead of fright.Harry Anslinger became obsessed with one case in particular. In Florida, a boy called Victor Licata hacked his family to death with an axe. Anslinger explained to America: This is what will happen when you smoke "the demon weed." The case became notorious. The parents of the U.S. were terrified.What evidence did Harry Anslinger have? It turns out at this time he wrote to the 30 leading scientists on this subject, asking if cannabis was dangerous, and if there should be a ban.Twenty-nine wrote back and said no.Anslinger picked out the one scientist who said yes, and presented him to the world. The press -- obsessed with Victor Licata's axe -- cheered them on.In a panic that gripped America, marijuana was banned. The U.S. told other countries they had to do the same. Many countries said it was a dumb idea, and refused to do it. For example, Mexico decided their drug policy should be run by doctors. Their medical advice was that cannabis didn't cause these problems, and they refused to ban it. The U.S. was furious. Anslinger ordered them to fall into line. The Mexicans held out -- until, in the end, the U.S. cut off the supply of all legal painkillers to Mexico. People started to die in agony in their hospitals. So with regret, Mexico sacked the doctor -- and launched its own drug war.“"The scientific evidence suggests cannabis is safer than alcohol. Alcohol kills 40,000 people every year in the U.S. Cannabis kills nobody."But at home, questions were being asked. A leading American doctor called Michael Ball wrote to Harry Anslinger, puzzled. He explained he had used cannabis as a medical student, and it had only made him sleepy. Maybe cannabis does drive a small number of people crazy, he said -- but we need to fund some scientific studies to find out.Anslinger wrote back firmly. "The marihuana evil can no longer be temporized with," he explained, and he would fund no independent science. Then, or ever.For years, doctors kept approaching him with evidence he was wrong, and he began to snap, telling them they were "treading on dangerous ground" and should watch their mouths.Today, most of the world is still living with the ban on cannabis that Harry Anslinger introduced, in the nation-wide panic that followed Victor Licata's killing spree.But here's the catch. Years later, somebody went and looked at the psychiatric files for Victor Licata.It turns out there's no evidence he ever used cannabis.He had a lot of mental illness in his family. They had been told a year before he needed to be institutionalized -- but they refused. His psychiatrists never even mentioned marijuana in connection to him.So, does cannabis make people mad?The former chief advisor on drugs to the British government, David Nutt, explains -- if cannabis causes psychosis in a straightforward way, then it would show in a straightforward way.When cannabis use goes up, psychosis will go up. And when cannabis use goes down psychosis will go down.So does that happen? We have a lot of data from a lot of countries. And it turns out it doesn't. For example, in Britain, cannabis use has increased by a factor of about 40 since the 1960s. And rates of psychosis? They have remained steady.In fact, the scientific evidence suggests cannabis is safer than alcohol. Alcohol kills 40,000 people every year in the U.S. Cannabis kills nobody -- although Willie Nelson says a friend of his did once die when a bale of cannabis fell on his head.This is why, in 2006, a young man in Colorado called Mason Tvert issued a challenge to the governor of his state, John Hickenlooper. Hickenlooper owned brew-pubs selling alcohol across the state, and it made him rich. But he said cannabis was harmful and had to be banned. So Mason issued him a challenge -- to a duel. You bring a crate of booze. I'll bring a pack of joints. For every hit of booze you take, I'll take a hit of cannabis. We'll see who dies first.It was the ultimate High Noon.Mason went on to lead the campaign to legalize cannabis in his state. His fellow citizens voted to do it -- by 55 percent. Now adults can buy cannabis legally, in licensed stores, where they are taxed--and the money is used to build schools. After a year and a half of seeing this system in practice, support for legalization has risen to 69 percent. And even Governor Hickenlooper has started calling it "common sense."Oh -- and Colorado hasn't been filled with people hacking their families to death yet.Isn't it time we listened to the science -- and finally put away Victor Licata's axe?Cross-posted from The Influence.Johann Hari is a British journalist and author. This article is adapted from his New York Times best-sellling book Chasing The Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs. To find out why Glenn Greenwald, Noam Chomsky, Bill Maher, Naomi Klein and Elton John have all praised it, click here: Huffington Post (NY)Author: Johann HariPublished: February 11, 2016Copyright: 2016, LLC Contact: scoop huffingtonpost.comWebsite:  -- Cannabis Archives 
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Comment #4 posted by John Tyler on February 16, 2016 at 09:00:04 PT
why banned, money and racism
I would like to add a few more comments as to why cannabis was banned. Harry Anslinger wanted to keep his job, of course, but there was more. One of the DuPonts was an in-law by marriage and he had a Cabinet level position in the Federal government. The DuPont chemical company had recently developed Nylon, a synthetic fiber derived from petroleum. It needed a market, but it was in direct competition with hemp fiber. Hemp fiber had to be eliminated if Nylon was to succeed. William Randolph Hearst had a newspaper empire. He had a big investment in pulp wood, the prime component in making paper. Hemp fibers could also be used in making paper. Hemp fiber had to be eliminated or he would lose a lot of money. The general public had no interest in Hearst or DuPont, but most people at that time were very racist. (Sad to say, but true.) They played the race hatred angle. The Hurst newspapers started a huge fear mongering campaign about a new menace taking over the country. They called it Marijuana, the Spanish word for hemp. There were lots and lots of lurid, horrible stories (lies) about blacks and Mexicans getting high on Marijuana and committing all sorts of horrible acts. It was a huge success. The public and Congress panicked and quickly banned Marijuana, not realizing that it was hemp. The damage was done. These lies fomented for a few peoples’ narrow economic gain has caused pain and suffering for untold millions of people around the world. It is past time to correct this monstrous error. 
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Comment #3 posted by FoM on February 11, 2016 at 20:15:37 PT
Elizabeth Warren
What a great lady! 
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Comment #2 posted by Sam Adams on February 11, 2016 at 16:41:23 PT
sick culture
it's like the US follows these inherent themes of oppression, a culture of tyranny. The US govt. used denial of painkillers as a poltical weapon against Mexico 100 years ago, and today they sadistically use withholding of pain-relievers as a way to oppress and de-stabilize our entire society. Most "pain management" treatement center won't let you have opiate pain relievers without a blood test - if cannabis shows up, you're cut off from opiate pain relievers. It's absolutely sadistic and cruel to restrict opiate painkillers - just as ruthless and restricting cannabis for pain relief. 
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Comment #1 posted by The GCW on February 11, 2016 at 15:02:37 PT
From Sen. Elizabeth Warren,
Sen. Elizabeth Warren urges CDC to consider marijuana to combat prescription opioid epidemic've been writing that cannabis is helpful for citizens trying to escape opioids. And cannabis legalization can help lower hard drug addiction rates. Those are not original concepts. I'm pleased Warren is going there.
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