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Once upon a time when the US was a marijuana friendly country
June 12, 2014 10:44 AM   Subscribe

There was a time when the US was a marijuana friendly country but the Roosevelt administration thought it was killing America's youth and future so in 1937 pot was banned. By an ironic twist of fate, five years later the Department of Agriculture encouraged farmers to grow hemp to help the country defeat the nazis. Of course, the mirage didn't last long. Cannabis was banned and rebanned. The US pushed forward the 1961 United Nations Single Convention on Drugs and 9 years later President Nixon signed the Controlled Substance Act. War on Drugs was at full throttle. Now, after six months of Colorado's green experiment, money is flowing and crime is decreasing. Please, let me try to predict the future: Ironically, curiosly and logically, the US will be marijuana friendly again and a bunch of countries will follow its path... again.
posted by LetsKa (24 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'm amazed the US is leading the rest of the world on this issue.
posted by rocket88 at 10:54 AM on June 12


I'm amazed the US is leading the rest of the world on this issue.

We're not leading the world. Colorado and other states with varying degrees of legalization of marijuana are acting in opposition to the federal laws of the United States.

That doesn't mean that if we change, others may follow. But not only are we not the first, we aren't even there yet. If there is a leader, it's probably Portugal.
posted by jsturgill at 10:58 AM on June 12 [5 favorites]


Eh, not the entire rest of the world. There are a bunch of places where marijuana is decriminalized, a couple more where it's formally illegal but the law is not really enforced or is widely ignored, and one (Uruguay) where it's apparently legal now, full-stop. But yeah, a positive development nonetheless.
posted by 1adam12 at 10:59 AM on June 12


It's really only Colorado and a small handful of states, the DEA is targeting doctors in Massachusetts, where medical marijuana is legal, and threatening to pull federal permits unless they cease prescribing marijuana.

The federal drug-war machine is not going away any time soon.
posted by T.D. Strange at 11:02 AM on June 12


Washington state has a delivery service!

Time to invest in some (penny) stocks for grower companies that will skyrocket some day soon...

Up in NorCal, lots of folks are doing the "home grown" thing as the raid stuff has pretty much ceases. Just stay off public, state, or federal land and you are left alone.

With product going for $200-$400 an ounce, there's lots of profit...though I imagine the sale is still pretty much the illegal part?
posted by CrowGoat at 11:09 AM on June 12


The House passed legislation two weeks ago, with 49 Republican votes, that would prevent the DEA from taking enforcement action against MMJ providers that are legal under state law. Not clear it will make it through the Senate this time, but not even its supporters thought it would pass in the House either. Change is coming at the Federal level, too.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 11:17 AM on June 12 [7 favorites]


for all the things that the states rights advocates get wrong, this is one major significant change that states rights has brought about.

Colorado has some seriously messed up politics at the state and local level and legalization got into some pretty deep ideological infighting prior to being passed, but without getting into that derail, one of the biggest advocates for legalization has been Colorado law enforcement. Cops got really, really tired of having to bust people for possession when their time and resources could be better spent on actual, you know, crime.
posted by lonefrontranger at 11:38 AM on June 12 [7 favorites]


The decision of the United States Congress to pass the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 was based on poorly attended hearings and reports based on questionable studies. In 1936 the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN) noticed an increase of reports of people smoking marijuana, which further increased in 1937. The Bureau drafted a legislative plan for Congress seeking a new law, and the head of the FBN, Harry J. Anslinger, ran a campaign against marijuana. Newspaper mogul William Randolph Hearst's empire of newspapers used the "yellow journalism" pioneered by Hearst to demonize the cannabis plant and spread a public perception that there were connections between cannabis and violent crime. Several scholars argue that the goal was to destroy the hemp industry, largely as an effort of Hearst, Andrew Mellon and the Du Pont family.
[...]
One source of tensions in the western and southwestern states was the influx of Mexicans to the US. Many Mexicans also smoked marijuana to relax after working in the fields. Later in the 1920s, negative tensions grew between the small farms and the large farms that used cheaper Mexican labor. Shortly afterwards, the Great Depression came which increased tensions as jobs and resources became more scarce. Because of that, the passage of the initial laws is often described as a product of racism, yet use of hashish by near eastern immigrants were also cited, as well as the misuse of pharmaceutical hemp, and the laws conformed with other legislation that was being passed around the country.
[--Disreuptable source]

Other than that, yeah, youth, hella. At the same time there's something comforting about it being "monkey business as usual": racism, industrial influence, all the good things of American Politics.
posted by Ogre Lawless at 11:59 AM on June 12 [1 favorite]


Please, let me try to predict the future: Ironically, curiosly and logically, the US will be marijuana friendly again and a bunch of countries will follow its path... again.

You must be high

posted by mmrtnt at 12:00 PM on June 12


Colorado and other states with varying degrees of legalization of marijuana are acting in opposition to the federal laws of the United States

So as a Denverite -- if a Republican president is elected after Obama, could the legalization in Colorado be "overturned" or reversed?
posted by Clustercuss at 12:21 PM on June 12


Clustercuss: the feds have effectively two options for dealing with states which choose to legalize marijuana. They can spend a lot of money and bring on a lot of bad press by hiring lots of new federal agents and sending them in to take over enforcement which is no longer handled by state & local cops, and they can use the legal system to disrupt the state's regulation apparatus, pushing marijuana sales back into a sort of grey market.

But they cannot force a state to pass a law making something illegal if that state doesn't want to make it illegal.
posted by Mars Saxman at 12:34 PM on June 12 [2 favorites]


Three of the six Republican presidential candidates in 2012 were in favor of letting states decide.

And really, the most promising development is coming from Congress as pointed out above. If you think the current President has effectively translated his promises into material support, you Denverites must be ... er, smoking something.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 12:57 PM on June 12


also: One additional screw the Feds have is their ability to deny the marijuana industry access to the financial system (which, to their credit, the current administration is easing up on)
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 1:13 PM on June 12


I'm amazed the US is leading the rest of the world on this issue.

After about 70+ years of retarding a large part of the rest of the world on this issue. Big chunks of US foreign policy entailed strong arming central, south and north American countries on drug issues. The United States has interfered in Canada's domestic drug policy extensively. Then there is the CIA....

So you're amazed that US is making baby steps in fixing problems it largely created.
posted by srboisvert at 1:41 PM on June 12 [4 favorites]


So you're amazed that US is making baby steps in fixing problems it largely created.

I'm a strong proponent of death therapy. It's a guaranteed cure.
posted by Redfield at 2:11 PM on June 12


The chart of generational attitudes in the last link was part-confirmation, part-revelation. The line for my own generation, "Boomers" was especially disheartening - dropping from 48% to 18% during the "Reagan years"? That must have included half the USERS of marijuana at the time opposing legalization. Or a lot of that had to do with people my age learning to self-medicate with alcohol, just like our parents...
posted by oneswellfoop at 2:42 PM on June 12


could the legalization in Colorado be "overturned" or reversed?

A future Republican president would not have to do either. Marijuana possession and use is already illegal at the federal level. Every single person - grower, seller, user - involved in the pot industry anywhere in the United States is a criminal.

If he or she really wanted to be vindictive, the DEA could dig through news stories and prosecute anyone mentioned in them as having purchased pot now or in the next couple of years.

I've said it before, Colorado can not make Marijuana legal any more than Mississippi could make slavery legal.
posted by Hatashran at 3:16 PM on June 12 [2 favorites]


The feds don't have the manpower to do anything beyond harassing dispensaries and the occasional big bust. There are only like 5,000 DEA agents and 14,000 sworn FBI agents in the country. How many federal judges are there in Colorado to hear the cases? A couple dozen maybe?
posted by ryanrs at 3:43 PM on June 12


Violating an unenforceable law may technically be a crime, but worrying about that puts us pretty far off into the philosophical weeds. The worst the feds can actually do is to leave us stuck with the good ol' black market we've known and loved for years, with one totally awesome improvement: nobody goes to jail anymore. There just aren't that many DEA agents, and they rely heavily on support from local law enforcement; with local cops no longer on board, and the state government feeling resentful about federal interference in their sweet, sweet marijuana sales tax revenue, it's hard to see how the DEA is going to get very far.
posted by Mars Saxman at 5:22 PM on June 12


pretty sure this may have been covered but I hear a side effect of legalization has already reaped some major benefits in seriously undermining the profit margins of the big cartels. Not sure if this is viewed as a good or bad thing by the DEA as it can be said the Mexican cartels have kept much of the force in jobs over recent decades, but still.
posted by lonefrontranger at 5:34 PM on June 12


Violating an unenforceable law may technically be a crime, but worrying about that puts us pretty far off into the philosophical weeds.

Or it makes you black, which makes the law pretty damn enforceable...
posted by oneswellfoop at 5:54 PM on June 12 [2 favorites]


But they cannot force a state to pass a law making something illegal if that state doesn't want to make it illegal.

You're right; they can't explicitly force states to criminalize cannabis sale. However, there's a gimmick that Congress has used before to pressure states to adopt absurd, paternalistic legislation, and it seems like a trick the Republicans might consider employing against cannabis users if they were in a position to.

The National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984 withholds 10% of federal highway construction funds from states which do not outlaw the purchase of alcoholic drinks by those under the age of 21:
The Secretary shall withhold 10 per centum of the
amount required to be apportioned to any State under each of
sections 104(b)(1), 104(b)(3), and 104(b)(4) of this title on the
first day of each fiscal year after the second fiscal year beginning
after September 30, 1985, in which the purchase or public
possession in such State of any alcoholic beverage by a person
who is less than twenty-one years of age is lawful.
The statute was challenged in the Supreme Court in South Dakota v. Dole (1987), and its constitutionality was upheld 7-2.
posted by polychora at 12:12 AM on June 13


Tangent: One of my favorite exhibits at the National Postal Museum in DC were the taxation stamps, like this one for the Marijuana Tax Act of '37
posted by msbutah at 10:43 AM on June 13


The prohibition of drugs was the direct result of the repeal of alcohol prohibition. Some powerful people were out of jobs and needed new ones.
posted by Mental Wimp at 1:38 PM on June 13


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