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Why Does Cannabis Have Such a Bad Reputation?

In 2016, Florida legalized the medical use of cannabis for those who suffer from a variety of different qualifying conditions, making it –at the time—the 27th state to do so. [1] Since then, there have been six more states to follow. If you are curious to see if medical cannabis might be right for you, take the first step by taking our quick and easy free online eligibility survey. This will tell you if you are a candidate to be approved by one of our Florida Marijuana Doctors.

But with how rapidly cannabis legislation is transforming nowadays, it’s hard to think that there was a time when it was not tolerated across the nation; however, cannabis has not always been viewed in the best light.


Early Anti-Cannabis Legislation

Before the early 1900s, cannabis was available in pharmacies across the United States to treat a variety of medical ailments. The first legal attack on cannabis did not happen until 1911 when there was a failed attempt to limit its use as a medicine by means of a federal mandate. Around this time, the opium crisis was occurring around the world and countries started to crack down on anti-drug measures. Although it did not get passed at the federal level, in 1913, California became the first state to pass a cannabis prohibition law.

During this time, there was a spike in immigration from the Mexican Revolution in states like Louisiana and Texas. These immigrants brought along with them their culture and customs, which also included a plant they used called “marihuana.” [2] Although Americans were already familiar with the use of cannabis as medicine, they were unfamiliar with the term “marihuana.” This lack of knowledge, mixed with their prejudice and fears of the new immigrants, made them easy targets for propaganda.

Crime rates within the communities that had a lot of immigrants began to rise. Local governments and police forces needed something to blame, so they began racist attacks against immigrants, claiming that “marihuana” influenced them to participate in illegal activity. In Texas, rumors began to spread that Mexicans were starting to distribute this “killer weed” to children in order to corrupt their behavior. A few states over in New Orleans, newspapers were associating the substance with African Americans, jazz, and prostitutes.

As a result, the Harrison Narcotics Tax Act was passed in 1914, which is considered to be the beginning of the drug war in the US


Anslinger and Reefer Madness

The Prohibition of alcohol led to many Americans turning to cannabis as an alternative to drinking. At least, that was until Prohibition was repealed. Once repealed, the government had a new target on its agenda – cannabis. Then in 1930, the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN) was founded. The FBN, which was the precursor to the DEA, was created to enforce the provisions of the Harrisons Narcotics Act.

During the Great Depression in the 1930s, there was widespread poverty and unemployment throughout the country. Scared and confused, Americans began looking for something to put the blame. That’s when Harry J. Anslinger, the first commissioner of the FBN, vowed that cannabis led to “insanity, criminality, and death.” [3] By 1931, 29 states outlawed it.

From the beginning, Anslinger set his attacks on drug, race, and music. He was quoted saying “There are 100,000 total marijuana smokers in the U.S., and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos, and entertainers. Their satanic music, jazz, and swing result from marijuana use. This marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negros, entertainers, and any others.” His words helped jumpstart a racially-targeted nationwide hatred towards the plant.

Then, in 1936, the anti-cannabis propaganda film “Reefer Madness” debuted. In this film, teenagers smoke cannabis for the first time which then leads to a series of unfortunate events. It depicted cannabis to be a dangerous gateway drug that was used to lure teens into jazz parties and get them hooked on a lucrative lifestyle – similar to Anslingers views.

A year later, the 1937 Marijuana Tax Act was passed. Up until then, cannabis products were legal to sell in pharmacies as long as they were properly labeled and regulated. This was the first federal law to criminalize cannabis by implementing an excise tax on the sale, possession, and transfer on all hemp products. [4]

The Controlled Substance Act

Fast forward a few years later, and in 1969 the Marijuana Tax Act was ruled unconstitutional since it violated the 5th amendment. In response, the Controlled Substance Act was passed. This Act established rankings, or schedules, for substances based off of their dangerousness and their potential for addiction. Cannabis specifically was deemed as a Schedule I substance—the most restrictive category

Rumor has it, however, that it was placed in that schedule only as a placeholder, but President Nixon ignored the recommendations that it be put into a less severe category. [2]

It was not until years that the tables began to turn. In 1996, California became the first state to legalize cannabis for medical use. Slowly but surely, more and more states began passing their own versions of MMJ laws


Breaking the Stigma

In 2013, the public perception of cannabis reached a turning point. For the first time in America, over half of those who were polled voted in favor of the legalization of cannabis. But what accounted for that?

On August 8th, 2013, the chief medical correspondent for CNN made an announcement that was a critical moment in changing Americans views of MMJ. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, a very well-known physician who in the past was very outspoken about his opposing views of cannabis as medicine, publicly apologized.

“We have been terribly and systematically misled for 70 years in the United States, and I apologize for my own role in that,” he wrote on CNN’s website. He further wrote that cannabis has “very legitimate medical applications. In fact, sometimes [cannabis] is the only thing that works.”

Now in 2019, not only are there 33 states that have legalized medical cannabis, but there are now 10 which have legalized it for recreational use. As a result of this, there is a lot more research being done, helping fuel the fire to finally break the negative stigma attached to this beautiful plant!

If you are interested in taking the first step towards getting the natural relief you deserve, schedule an in-person exam with one of our Florida MMJ Doctors to get started.

[1] https://medicalmarijuana.procon.org/view.timeline.php?timelineID=000026#2000-2004

[2] http://www.drugpolicy.org/blog/how-did-marijuana-become-illegal-first-place

[3] https://www.kqed.org/lowdown/24153/reefer-madness-the-twisted-history-of-americas-weed-laws

[4] https://www.history.com/topics/crime/history-of-marijuana