80 Years Ago Today: President Signs First Federal Anti-Marijuana Law

norml_remember_prohibition2Eighty years ago today, on August 2, 1937, President Franklin Roosevelt signed House Bill 6385: the Marihuana Tax Act into law. The Act for the first time imposed federal criminal penalties on activities specific to the possession, production, and sale of cannabis.

Congress’ decision followed the actions of 29 states, beginning with Massachusetts in 1914, that had previously passed laws criminalizing the plant over the prior decades. It also followed years of ‘Reefer Madness,’ during which time politicians, bureaucrats (led primarily by Federal Bureau of Narcotics Director Harry Anslinger), reporters, and science editors continually proclaimed that marijuana use irreparably damaged the brain. A 1933 editorial in the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology largely summarized the sentiment of the time, “If continued, the inevitable result is insanity, which those familiar with it describe as absolutely incurable, and, without exception ending in death.”

On April 14, 1937, Rep. Robert L. Doughton of North Carolina introduced HR 6385, which sought to stamp out the recreational use of marijuana by imposing a prohibitive federal tax on all cannabis-related activities. Members of Congress held only two hearings to debate the merits of the bill, which largely relied on the sensational testimony of Anslinger — who opined, ”This drug is entirely the monster Hyde, the harmful effect of which cannot be measured.” Over objections from the American Medical Association, whose representatives opposed the proposed federal ban, members of the House and Senate overwhelmingly approved the measure by voice votes.

President Franklin Roosevelt promptly signed the legislation into law and on October 1, 1937, the Marihuana Tax Act officially took effect — thus setting in motion the federal prohibition that continues to this day.

0 years of failure. Click here to urge federal leadership to support The Marijuana Justice Act of 2017 in the US Senate and click here to support The Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2017 in the US House of Representatives.

Newark Mayor Cory Booker: Medical Marijuana? Heck Yes..But I Want To Go Beyond That

During an interview with HuffPo Live yesterday, Newark Mayor and potential gubernatorial candidate Cory Booker made some very strong statements in favor of drug law reform. When asked about medical marijuana, a program that was approved in his state, but has been slow in implementation, Mayor Booker spoke strongly in favor of allowing patients access to cannabis, but thought we could do even more:

Medical marijuana, heck yes. I do not understand that there are drugs that are more toxic, more dangerous and more challenging, in drugs stores around my state, yet we single out this one drug and we say you can’t even have it in a medical fashion, at a time when I see prescription drugs from Adderall to you name it being used widely across our nation…

The reason I said I want to go beyond that…is because of the drug war.

We have seen so much of our national treasure being spent in the national drug war and in my opinion have turned human life into incarceration, trapping into poverty…

What I’ve seen in Newark is a massive trap in this drug war, and its not just a trap for the individuals being arrested, it’s a trap for taxpayers, communities and towns. We’re not making our nation safer with this assault on this drug war, we are not making our state less addicted to substances. We need to change, radically change, the conversation and begin to talk about drugs, especially drugs like pot, in a different way.

This is a conversation that no matter what I do, Mayor, Governor, Senator, I want to be one of the people, hopefully, trying to lead the national conversation away from this insanity that we have now.

View the full interview here.

Mayor Booker isn’t the only prominent Democrat with higher political aspirations embracing the idea of marijuana law reform. This year, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo came out strongly in favor of fully decriminalizing marijuana possession in his state and Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin voiced his desire to be a national leader pushing to change our country’s draconic marijuana policies. Even former presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton have recently criticized the War on Drugs as a failed effort, with President Carter going as far as endorsing full legalization.

So, President Obama, do you want to be on the right or wrong side of history? Your party, and the nation, are moving towards regulated marijuana whether you aid in its implementation or not. It is becoming more and more obvious that the Democratic presidential candidate in 2016, and possibly even the Republican, will not only be critical of the war on drugs, but will likely support progressive reforms such as decriminalization or legalization. There are still four years left in your second term, Mr. President, don’t let them pass you by and have to look back and think what you could’ve done.

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