production of hemp encouraged
American production of hemp was encouraged by the government in the 17th
century for the production of rope, sails, and clothing. (Marijuana is the
mixture of dried, shredded flowers and leaves that comes from the hemp
In 1619 the Virginia Assembly passed legislation requiring every farmer to
grow hemp. Hemp was allowed to be exchanged as legal tender in Pennsylvania,
Virginia, and Maryland.
Domestic production flourished until after the Civil War, when imports and
other domestic materials replaced hemp for many purposes. In the late
nineteenth century, marijuana became a popular ingredient in many medicinal
products and was sold openly in public pharmacies.
During the 19th century, hashish use became a fad in France and also, to some
extent, in the U.S.
Food and Drug Act
Required labeling of any cannabis contained in over-the-counter remedies.
immigrants introduce recreational use of marijuana leaf
After the Mexican Revolution of 1910, Mexican immigrants flooded into the U.S.,
introducing to American culture the recreational use of marijuana. The drug
became associated with the immigrants, and the fear and prejudice about the
Spanish-speaking newcomers became associated with marijuana. Anti-drug
campaigners warned against the encroaching "Marijuana Menace," and terrible
crimes were attributed to marijuana and the Mexicans who used it.
During the Great Depression, massive unemployment increased public resentment
and fear of Mexican immigrants, escalating public and governmental concern
about the problem of marijuana. This instigated a flurry of research which
linked the use of marijuana with violence, crime and other socially deviant
behaviors, primarily committed by "racially inferior" or underclass
communities. By 1931, 29 states had outlawed marijuana.
of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN)
Harry J. Anslinger was the first Commissioner of the FBN and remained in that
post until 1962.
State Narcotic Act
Concern about the rising use of marijuana and research linking its use with
crime and other social problems created pressure on the federal government to
take action. Rather than promoting federal legislation, the Federal Bureau of
Narcotics strongly encouraged state governments to accept responsibility for
control of the problem by adopting the Uniform State Narcotic Act.
Propaganda film "Reefer Madness" was produced by the French director, Louis
The Motion Pictures Association of America, composed of the major Hollywood
studios, banned the showing of any narcotics in films.
After a lurid national propaganda campaign against the "evil weed," Congress
passed the Marijuana Tax Act. The statute effectively criminalized marijuana,
restricting possession of the drug to individuals who paid an excise tax for
certain authorized medical and industrial uses.
Guardia Report finds marijuana less dangerous
New York Academy of Medicine issued an extensively researched report declaring
that, contrary to earlier research and popular belief, use of marijuana did not
induce violence, insanity or sex crimes, or lead to addiction or other drug
During World War II, imports of hemp and other materials crucial for producing
marine cordage, parachutes, and other military necessities became scarce. In
response the U.S. Department of Agriculture launched its "Hemp for Victory"
program, encouraging farmers to plant hemp by giving out seeds and granting
draft deferments to those who would stay home and grow hemp. By 1943 American
farmers registered in the program harvested 375,000 acres of hemp.
Enactment of federal laws (Boggs Act, 1952; Narcotics Control Act, 1956) which
set mandatory sentences for drug-related offenses, including marijuana.
A first-offense marijuana possession carried a minimum sentence of 2-10 years
with a fine of up to $20,000.
use popular in counterculture
A changing political and cultural climate was reflected in more lenient
attitudes towards marijuana. Use of the drug became widespread in the white
upper middle class. Reports commissioned by Presidents Kennedy and Johnson
found that marijuana use did not induce violence nor lead to use of heavier
drugs. Policy towards marijuana began to involve considerations of treatment as
well as criminal penalties.
of the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs
This was a merger of FBN and the Bureau of Dangerous Drugs of the Food and Drug
of most mandatory minimum sentences
Congress repealed most of the mandatory penalties for drug-related offenses.
It was widely acknowledged that the mandatory minimum sentences of the 1950s
had done nothing to eliminate the drug culture that embraced marijuana use
throughout the 60s, and that the minimum sentences imposed were often unduly
Marijuana differentiated from other drugs
The Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act categorized marijuana
separately from other narcotics and eliminated mandatory federal sentences for
possession of small amounts.
National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) founded
The bipartisan Shafer Commission, appointed by President Nixon at the direction
of Congress, considered laws regarding marijuana and determined that personal
use of marijuana should be decriminalized. Nixon rejected the recommendation,
but over the course of the 1970s, eleven states decriminalized marijuana and
most others reduced their penalties.
of the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA)
Merger of the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs (BNND) and the
Office of Drug Abuse Law Enforcement (ODALE).
of parents' movement against marijuana
A nationwide movement emerged of conservative parents' groups lobbying for
stricter regulation of marijuana and the prevention of drug use by teenagers.
Some of these groups became quite powerful and, with the support of the DEA and
the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), were instrumental in affecting
public attitudes which led to the 1980s War on Drugs.
Abuse Act - Mandatory Sentences
President Reagan signed the Anti-Drug Abuse Act, instituting mandatory
sentences for drug-related crimes. In conjunction with the Comprehensive Crime
Control Act of 1984, the new law raised federal penalties for marijuana
possession and dealing, basing the penalties on the amount of the drug
involved. Possession of 100 marijuana plants received the same penalty as
possession of 100 grams of heroin. A later amendment to the Anti-Drug Abuse
Act established a "three strikes and you're out" policy, requiring life
sentences for repeat drug offenders, and providing for the death penalty for
War on Drugs
President George Bush declares a new War on Drugs in a nationally televised
Use Legalized in California
California voters passed Proposition 215 allowing for the sale and medical use
of marijuana for patients with AIDS, cancer, and other serious and painful
diseases. This law stands in tension with federal laws prohibiting possession