“Hey kid, you want to take some dope rips of some Mary Jane?”
This question, or something like it, is something many kids will be likely asked at least once during their high school years. And since elementary school, we have been taught that drugs of any kind, if not specifically designated for medical purposes, are bad. However, while marijuana is usually painted in a negative light to the public, its legality has become more and more of a pressing issue in recent years. While programs like D.A.R.E. are constantly trying to portray weed as the worst possible drug you can take, mostly people don’t know that marijuana used to be legal as an over-the-counter drug. It wasn’t until the Marijuana Tax Act in 1937 that the substance became illegal. For the majority of America’s history, weed was legal and it was as accessible and popular as girl scout cookies, so why are we saying that it is such a terrible drug now?
The start of the anti-weed campaign began when the head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, Harry Anslinger, got upset that Prohibition didn’t work out as he wanted; rather than lessening alcoholic consumption, outlawing alcohol only caused more drunkards on the streets at night. Thus, in a sort of temper tantrum, he found a new drug to criminalize: marijuana. However, Anslinger had no evidence when he said that weed drove people mentally insane. His ideas were disputed by many doctors who told him that weed was completely harmless. But alas, it only went downhill from there.
Enter Richard Nixon, and along with him, his wacky political views. Nixon and his campaign came out with many more unbacked, assumptious arguments that were disproved by doctors. Additionally, Nixon’s reasons for targeting weed were totally unrelated to its health effects, but rather for his own political pursuits. As Nixon’s Domestic Policy Chief, John Ehrlichman, said, “By getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin . . . we could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”
There you have it; when the War on Drugs began, the “dangers” marijuana caused were never at the forefront of Nixon’s argument. Nixon’s chronic racial prejudice and corrupt political views were prioritized over conveying the truth. Thus, when kids are told that marijuana is a ‘Schedule One’ drug because of its dangerous nature, the only thing being ingested that day is lies. Not THC. The Nixon Administration did not outlaw weed because it was hazardous to humanity. They outlawed it only to promote Nixon’s absurd political views.
So kids, when some gangster offers you this “ganja,” be blunt with them and say no. Maybe have some tea instead. However, when you’re at a voting booth, and you’re thinking about if you should vote for the legalization of weed, remember why it was outlawed in the first place. You will see that marijuana isn’t the horrible monster people see it as.
JT Cambria and Danny Guinan
Graphic: Amelia Chen