American Hippie culture has long been associated with the use of drugs such as marijuana, peyote, and LSD.
However, new research has shown that hippie culture had more positive influences than just introducing America to recreational drug use. One example is the usage of medical marijuana.
The therapeutic effects of cannabis
Americans have recognized the therapeutic effects of cannabis for thousands of years. Ancient Chinese texts detail the use of hemp to relieve pain and treat a variety of medical conditions. In the United States, it was legal for doctors to prescribe cannabis as medication until 1937. Partly because hemp can be used to make rope and clothing, Americans at first associated the drug with Chinese railroad workers and other immigrants. By the 1890s, however, marijuana had made its way into western mainstream America.
Press reports in the early 1900s focused on the drug’s “threat” to society, including lurid accounts of marijuana inducing criminal behavior. A few states outlawed marijuana or its components in 1913, but most legal prohibitions against the plant only came after Harry J. Anslinger began directing the newly created Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN) in 1930. Anslinger favored harsh penalties for drug users, which often translated into minorities and the poor.
Propaganda campaign in Mexican Revolution
Following the Mexican Revolution of 1910-1920, the country experienced an influx of Mexican immigrants seeking refuge from their home country’s civil war. They quickly became scapegoats for struggling white farmers and factory workers who feared their jobs were being taken by foreigners. To control the influx of Mexicans into the United States, Commissioner Anslinger began a propaganda campaign that tied marijuana with Mexican immigrants and crime. For example, “The Murderers: The Story of the Narcotic Gangs” showed images of young Latinos smoking marijuana and wielding guns as they murdered other Americans. This campaign would continue for decades.
The FBN’s campaign against marijuana
The FBN’s campaign against marijuana culminated in the “La Guardia Report” released in 1944. The report stated that marijuana had no provable connection with violent crime. It called for the end of state and federal penalties for the possession or sale of small amounts of cannabis, which was thought to be less harmful than alcohol or tobacco. The report also called for the release of individuals imprisoned on charges related to cannabis. However, Harry Anslinger began one last campaign against marijuana before the FBN could act upon the suggestions in the report.
The anti-drug propaganda
The anti-drug propaganda that followed is now infamous. Popular films depicted depraved addicts committing acts of violence that most Americans could not relate to. Films such as “Reefer Madness” and “Marihuana” were recognized through film festivals around the world for being so ridiculous that they served to discredit the anti-marijuana campaign.
Why are people still scared of weed?
Today, many Americans have forgotten about the propaganda campaigns carried out by Harry Anslinger and the FBN. If they do remember, it is because of how ridiculous and unsubstantiated the claims made in those campaigns were. Even though there is no scientific evidence that links cannabis with violence, many people still fear its usage.
The main reason why people still fear cannabis has to do with money. People are afraid of weed because it threatens the alcohol industry, which is subsidized by big banks and corporations. Pharmaceutical companies grow rich off of selling drugs for mental health issues that cannabis has been proven to help with. Marijuana may also threaten the prison-industrial complex since many people are imprisoned for drug crimes.