Guest Post by Lanny Swerdlow, RN, LNC
How did marijuana become illegal?
With so much credible scientific evidence about the wonders of medical marijuana, it’s a fair question. The answer will shock you. So this Halloween (or whenever you happen to be reading), follow us through the tales of reefer madness in our nation’s history and discover the horrifying truth of how marijuana became and continues to be federally illegal.
In the 1920s most Americans had no idea that the cannabis sold at their local corner drugstore was the demon weed “marijuana” that early prohibitionists like our first “drug czar” Henry Anslinger labeled as the “most violence-causing drug in the history of mankind.”
Rising from the ashes of the Bureau of Prohibition, Anslinger was determined to make his Bureau of Narcotics a powerhouse police agency of munificent proportions. Newspapers and movie newsreels gave headline treatment to his frightening tales that “Marijuana is an addictive drug which produces in its user’s insanity, criminality, and death” and that “You smoke a joint and you’re likely to kill your brother.”
Cannabis Heroes: Fiorello LaGuardia Tries to Stop the Reefer Madness
Openly skeptical of Anslinger’s claims, New York City Mayor Fiorello La Guardia, commissioned a study in 1939 on “The Marijuana Problem in the City of New York.”
Known as the LaGuardia report, the study, which was undertaken by the New York Academy of Medicine and published in 1944, found that smoking marijuana did not lead to addiction or the use of harder drugs, did not cause violent, anti-social behavior or uncontrolled sexual urges and that “The publicity concerning the catastrophic effects of marijuana smoking in New York City is unfounded.”
The report was given little notice in the media. Anslinger’s lies about marijuana continued to flourish even after his retirement in 1962 evidenced by the Outstanding Record Citation bestowed on him by President John Kennedy.
How Does Marijuana Remain Illegal: From Fake News to Faulty Science
Although the government no longer peddles Anslinger’s murder, mayhem and insanity tales as the boogey-man of marijuana, it now peddles fake and faulty science. The most often sited scary health story that even some respectable medical researchers accept is that since smoking marijuana produces similar carcinogens as when tobacco is smoked, smoking marijuana causes lung cancer.
Believing the connection to be there and looking forward to the publication of the definitive scholarly paper connecting marijuana to lung cancer, the National Institute for Drug Abuse provided Dr. Donald Tashkin, a renowned pulmonologist and researcher at the UCLA School of Medicine, with so much money that he undertook one of the largest population-based studies ever conducted on the relationship of marijuana to lung cancer.
Not only did his research not find any connection between smoking marijuana and lung cancer, his paper was one of the first to present evidence that marijuana reduces the incidence of cancer. One of the groups in the study showed that the people who smoke marijuana had a lower incidence of lung cancer than people who did not smoke anything at all.
Another oft repeated you-are-gonna-die scare story is that smoking marijuana can lead to heart attacks. The government continues to peddle that tale even though the authors of the original study claiming a link to a slight increase in susceptibility to heart attacks repudiated the study. In a subsequent publication the authors wrote that the reported increase “did not reach nominal statistical significance” – i.e. there was no increase.
A New Zealand study that claimed children who smoke marijuana had an 8 point lower IQ score than children who had not smoked marijuana is the nexus for the government’s “it-will-make-you-stupid” tale to scare parents and children stupid enough to fall for this line. Except that a subsequent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reported the original study was faulty as the fall in IQ is more likely correlated with socio-economic status than marijuana use.
Whether it is for funding their own police agencies or to prevent a viable product from competing with the multi-billion dollar pharmaceutical and alcohol industries, the Reefer-Madness crowd for over 80 years has spread tales of mayhem, murder, heart attacks and stupidity.
They have never been concerned with science, compassion or common sense. Just like the age-old Halloween stories of ghosts, gremlins and demons told to innocent and gullible children, they will continue fermenting scary tales of marijuana forewarning of tokes in the night and marijuana under the bed.
Lanny Swerdlow, RN, LNC is the host of the Internet radio show Marijuana Compassion & Common Sense and founder of the Marijuana Anti Prohibition Project and the Brownie Mary Democratic Club. Contact him at [email protected].