Read pt. 1 here.
Part 2: Criminalization (2 of 4 parts)
Soon came waves of anti-marijuana media and legislation. In 1937 the Marijuana Tax Act was passed to curb the usage of the plant. Movies such as Reefer Madness made white middle classes fear for their children’s health, painting a picture of marijuana as addictive and its users dangerous and promiscuous people of color.
Cannabis smokers were ‘known’ to throw ‘weird orgies and wild parties with their drug that had roots in hell.”
The rising popularity of jazz made African Americans targets too. It was believed that jazz in all its wonder and complexities was simply created by blacks high off cannabis. West Indian sailors introduced smoking of cannabis to communities along the Gulf of Mexico.
Harry Anslinger, the first commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics believed that cannabis made “black peoples forget their place in society.” He also claimed it was used by black men to seduce white men, encouraging Satanic racial mixing.
When you stop to think about it, why wouldn’t black people want to forget centuries of slavery, social prejudice, and economic inequality? Cannabis is medicine for the mind, body, and soul. The hope and euphoria most felt when consuming marijuana was a threat to the very order of American society.
By the 1940s, Mexican and Latin American immigrants were 9 times as likely than white counterparts to be arrested for marijuana usage while African Americans were 3-5 times more likely.