DEC 20, 2018 2:51 PM PST

Marijuana and Racism: A History

WRITTEN BY: Amy Loriaux

Various drugs have had various stereotypes over the years. Cocaine may be linked with highly-paid, white-collar workers while crack is linked to poor, disenfranchised black people. Ecstasy is used by young people for raves and parties. But marijuana, one of the oldest drug's on that list, has had a long sordid history with racism and the development of racist drug policies.

Photo Source: UnSplash.com

Marijuana was actually used among the social elite as far back as the 1840s, Even the word "marijuana" hadn't been coined yet. It was referred to as cannabis at the time. However, during the1900s the social status of the drug dropped, a lot. It was used as a way to further harass Mexican and African Americans as a wave of Mexican immigrants headed north following the Mexican Revolution. With this change also came the word "marijuana" to mean cannabis to white America. Marijuana is simply the word for the plant in Spanish.  Yet changing its name from the Latin "cannabis" to the Spanish "marijuana" helped make the connection stick.

Using this racist fuel to pump up support for marijuana prohibition, Harry Anslinger, the first commissioner of the U.S. Treasury Department's Federal Bureau of Narcotics, used this connection, and the perception that crime was linked to people of color, spearheaded an anti-marijuana campaign, which included using mass media to condemn marijuana. In 1936 the anti-marijuana movie "Reefer Madness" had come out. The Marijuana Tax Act came one year later and taxed the sale of the drug.

Other people of color targeted by the anti-marijuana campaign were African Americans. Harry Anslinger targetted them as well. He said of cannabis that it made black people "forget their place in society". Jazz music was created while high off reefer. These racist policies did not only influence perception but behavior as well. Within the first year after passing the Tax Act black people were about three times more likely to be arrested for violating narcotic drug laws than whites. And Mexicans were nearly nine times more likely to be arrested for the same charge.

Photo Source: UnSplash.com

It is interesting to reflect now, where many U.S. States are loosening the harsh policies of marijuana (or cannabis) use. While not as overt, the racism is still there. Within white elite society, it is trendy to smoke weed, especially in a recreational state. Unfortunately, according to the ACLU, in 2010, black people were four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana than white people. So the divergence still exists. With many celebrating the recreation of pot in various states, we should take time to think about how its reputation has been toyed with throughout the years.

 

Sources: YouTube, www.npr.org, www.Wikipedia.com - Harry J. Anslinger, www.buinessinsider.com

About the Author
  • I currently work at a small CRO involved in clinical trial management.
You May Also Like
AUG 09, 2019
Health & Medicine
AUG 09, 2019
Is Cannabis Use Safe While Breastfeeding?
According to the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada (SOGC), there are over 400 active chemicals found in cannabis that could be passed o...
SEP 20, 2019
Cannabis Sciences
SEP 20, 2019
Will Cannabis Facilities Pollute the Air?
The strong smell of cannabis comes from chemicals that could potentially cause indoor or outdoor air pollution, if not properly managed, a new study finds....
OCT 23, 2019
Cannabis Sciences
OCT 23, 2019
Why the Michael J. Fox Foundation Advocates for Cannabis Research
The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research (MJFF), which was established by and is named after the actor who has the disease, continues t...
NOV 22, 2019
Health & Medicine
NOV 22, 2019
Federal Government Weighs in on Marijuana and Opioid Addiction
The U.S. government is weighing in on the hot topic of whether or not medical marijuana is a successful tool in treating opioid addiction by barring the us...
DEC 17, 2019
Cannabis Sciences
DEC 17, 2019
Overhauling the Endocannabinoid System with High-fat, High-sugar Diet
If both the endocannabinoid system and the intestinal microbiome are affected by dietary consumption habits, wouldn’t it be reasonable to suggest tha...
JAN 22, 2020
Cannabis Sciences
JAN 22, 2020
People Struggling with Pain Also Struggle with Cannabis Use Disorder
The hype in the media that surrounds cannabis and health benefits supposedly associated with its use may be detrimental to individuals with certain conditi...
Loading Comments...