The Rise and Fall of Hemp: The 1937 Marijuana Tax Act

As the political climate changed, Federal Narcotics Office Commissioner Harry Anslinger became a powerful voice against marijuana. Regulations and restrictions on the sale of cannabis sativa as a drug began as early as 1906 (see Legal History of Cannabis in the United States). The head of the Federal Narcotics Office (FBN), Harry J. Anslinger argued that, in the 1930s, the FBN saw an increase in complaints of people who used marijuana. In 1935, it also had the support of President Franklin D.

Roosevelt, for the adoption of the Uniform State Narcotics Act, state laws included regulations on cannabis. Total hemp fiber production in the United States in 1933 declined to about 500 tons per year. Hemp cultivation began to increase in 1934 and 1935, but production remained low compared to other fibers. Stakeholders point out that the purpose of the law was to reduce the hemp industry through excessive taxation, largely as an effort by entrepreneurs Andrew Mellon, Randolph Hearst and the Du Pont family. The same parties argue that, with the invention of the decorticator, hemp was an economic substitute for paper pulp in the newspaper industry. Mellon, Secretary of the Treasury and the richest man in the United States, invested heavily in the DuPont family's new synthetic fiber, nylon, to compete with hemp.

Dewey created an article, Newsletter No. Dewey and Merrill believed that hemp leaves were a sustainable source for paper production. The cellulose concentration in hemp stalks is generally around 35%. The manufacture of paper (on equipment designed to use wood pulp) with hemp as a raw material demonstrates that hemp lacks the qualities necessary to become an important competitor to the traditional paper industry. Spokespeople for DuPont and many fiber manufacturers discuss the relationship between their promotion of nylon instead of hemp.

They explain that the purpose of the development of nylon was to produce a fiber that was competitive with silk and rayon. Shortly after the 1937 Marijuana Tax Act took effect on October 1, 1937, the Federal Bureau of Narcotics and Denver City Police arrested Moses Baca for possession and Samuel Caldwell for traffic. The arrest of Baca and Caldwell made them the first marijuana convictions in the U. S.Federal law for not paying the tax on marijuana.

Judge Foster Symes sentenced Baca to 18 months and Caldwell to four years in the Leavenworth Penitentiary for violating the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937. Although the spelling marijuana is common in current usage, the spelling used in the Marijuana Tax Act is marijuana. Marijuana was the spelling used in federal documents at the time. In short, hemp was declared illegal because it was guilty by association, a victim of a war against its identical twin. And while the War on Drugs may seem like a world away from advances being made through federal hemp policy and state marijuana laws, federal marijuana prohibition continues. He was the first commissioner of the Federal Office of Narcotic Drugs, which laid down foundations for modern DEA and first architect of war on drugs. Anslinger was appointed in 1930 just as prohibition on alcohol was beginning to crumble (it was finally repealed in 1993) and remained in power for 32 years. At first he went on record saying that consumption of cannabis was no big deal.

He called idea that it caused people to go crazy or violent an “absurd fallacy”. But when Anslinger was put in charge of FBN he changed his position completely. Driven by handful of newspaper articles from 1920s about episodes of insanity or violence following use of marijuana Anslinger affirmed for first time that drug could cause psychosis and eventually insanity. In radio address he stated that young people are “slaves to this narcotic” and continue their addiction until they deteriorate mentally, go crazy, resort to violent crime and murder. In particular he clung to story of young man named Victor Licata who had hacked his family to death with axe supposedly while high on cannabis however many years later it was discovered that Licata had history of mental illness in his family and there was no evidence he had ever used drug. Problem was there was little scientific evidence to support Anslinger's claims.

He contacted 30 scientists according Hari and 29 told him that cannabis was not dangerous drug but theory only expert agreed with him he presented cannabis to public as evil that should be banned and press spread this sensationalist version. Second component of Anslinger's strategy was racial. He stated that blacks and Latinos were main users of marijuana which made them forget their place in structure American society. He even argued that jazz musicians were creating “satanic” music thanks to influence of marijuana. This obsession eventually led to kind witch hunt against legendary singer Billie Holiday who was struggling with heroin addiction; she lost her license to perform cabarets New York and continued be persecuted by law enforcement until her death. Word “marijuana” itself part this approach what was commonly known as cannabis until beginning 20th century called marijuana Spanish word that probably associated with Mexicans. All these years later many threads Anslinger's arguments still present American conversation about legalization marijuana law passed 1937 rest they say history. Cydney Adams senior social media manager CBS News also digital production company focuses cultural social issues. Hemp rapidly becoming much cheaper substitute paper pulp especially during Great Depression Matt Rens Hemp Company eventually became largest country which he led until his death in...

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