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A Centennial Anniversary That’s Hardly Worth Celebrating

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director April 29, 2011

    Marijuana prohibition ‘celebrates’ its centennial anniversary today. That’s right, the government’s war on cannabis consumers is now officially 100-years-old.

    Self-evidently, cannabis has won.

    Although many credit the passage of the federal Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 with the initiation of pot prohibition, the reality is that one hundred years ago today, Massachusetts Governor Eugene Foss signed the first statewide anti-pot prohibition into law. Following Massachusetts, over 30 states quickly followed suit — including California, Maine, Indiana and Wyoming in 1913 — leading the way for federal prohibition some two-and-a-half decades later.

    Of course, cannabis use was practically non-existent in Massachusetts (as well as in most of the rest of the country) in 1911. Yet today, 100 years following the plant’s criminalization, the state boasts one of the highest rates of pot use in the nation.

    Former NORML Board Member Richard Evans, author of Massachusetts House Bill 1371, the Cannabis Regulation and Taxation Act, nails it:

    “Despite a century of ever-zealous enforcement and thunderous propaganda at taxpayer expense, marijuana inextricably permeates our culture. Its cultivation, commerce and use have proven ineradicable. We have tried mightily and we have failed to extirpate it. If anyone, anywhere, believes that spending more money on marijuana enforcement will drive out pot, let that person come forward and tell us plainly what it will take to make that happen, how much it will cost, and where the money will come from.

    The futility of enforcement, however, is not the urgent reason to legalize it. The reason is that prohibition has become a destructive force in our society.

    Most perniciously, marijuana prohibition provides the tools and the excuses for the oppression of minorities. No historian denies that the early drug laws were conceived for that purpose, and today’s grotesquely disproportionate incarceration rate of African-Americans proves that the drug laws have shamefully accomplished that purpose.

    Prohibition divides us. Getting caught with pot, or the fear of getting caught, divides parents and teens, employers and employees, friends, neighbors, colleagues, doctors and patients, and citizens and the police. That divisiveness weakens us as we face colossal challenges like a sick economy, the insolvency of states and municipalities, climate change and our addiction to imported oil. As long as cannabis remains illegal, it cannot be a part of the solution to those colossal challenges.

    … Our immediate challenge is not to legalize cannabis, but to legalize serious talk about it, without smirks and snickers. How legalization can best protect public health and safety, and discourage abuse, and how to tax the substance, are issues not just for politicians, but for everyone. Legalization is no longer for stoners; it’s for taxpayers, entrepreneurs and grandparents, horrified at the likely state of the planet on which their grandchildren will grow up.

    Let the debate begin now, lest another hundred years go by.”

    33 Responses to “A Centennial Anniversary That’s Hardly Worth Celebrating”

    1. Interesed says:

      Beautiful, just beautiful. Couldn’t of said any better myself.

    2. bud says:

      I’m one “grandparent” that is horrified at prohibition and the harm it could cause to one of my grand kids. Once this weed if finally legal I’ll be able to relax. Come on seniors, get your heads on straight and ignore everything you’ve been told in the past about cannabis. FTW

    3. Jeff says:

      status quo goverment..are you people ready for another 100 yrs of prohibition..then another..then another, no wonder we keep wishing a meteor would hit the earth..life is empty without ever experiencing real freedom..the freedom to do with my body as i choose, without infringing on anyone elses rights..alcohol prohibition didnt last long..alcoholics demanded it got violent about it yelled, kicked screamed, and got their way..pot people are just too laid back..too mellow, taking medical mmj as a win..when the truth is govt is still regulating it..and growers are getting rich, off sick people, then when it comes to legalizing you have an industry..with lots of govt paperwork, and cash voting against legalization to protect their own wallets…wrong road people, i want to smoke and thats my business, my shits not for sale..mine, mine, mine..so if you want to do something norml, make random drug test illegal..aint nobodys business what i do in my own home, full legalization..no strings attached..quit supporting mmj growers unless their doing it for free, quit putting the matter in the govts hands..we seen their a bunch of bickering, money grubbing maggots

    4. Jim says:

      In reality, cannabis prohibiion is probably not 100 years old but millenia old. Ever since humans have been able to live away from their agriculture, on which civilizations survive, cannabis prohibition has been the norm. Cannabis use was first discovered in Taiwan 10000 years ago. It likely thrived in Mesopotamia 7200 years ago. Prohibition went along with it, because legal cannabis use cuts down health care costs, energy use costs, textile costs, and law enforcement costs, and keeps societies from incarcerating minorities.

    5. Sakume says:

      I would say that dealers would highly disagree with you. Prohibition makes the police, DEA and dealers lots and lots of money. Why, dealers often times agree with police officials such as the DEA that it should remain illegal.

      Now when you have dealers agreeing with officials that it should remain illegal, something needs to change.

    6. Brandon says:

      Alcohol prohibition lasted about 13 years. That took a lot of reconstructing to fix. Marijuana prohibition has lasted over 100 years. That will take a lot of reconstructing to fix, but it will be a lot less if we start today, rather than if we start tomorrow.

    7. 10acjed says:

      “Prohibition divides us. Getting caught with pot, or the fear of getting caught, divides parents and teens, employers and employees, friends, neighbors, colleagues, doctors and patients, and citizens and the police. That divisiveness weakens us as we face colossal challenges like a sick economy, the insolvency of states and municipalities, climate change and our addiction to imported oil. As long as cannabis remains illegal, it cannot be a part of the solution to those colossal challenges.”

      Yet another valid point to consider. With nearly 50% of the US citizens using or having used pot at some point there are so many of us forced to lie to save being vilified or incarcerated, or looked down upon! Not something you think of every day but certainly true. There are strides being made though. Public acceptance is at an all time high…

      As a parent of a child that is coming of age I worry about many of the aspects of prohibition. It truly is the kids that are being hurt the most by this. I don’t advocate child or teen pot use, but as a parent I would love to teach the art of responsible use like I will with alcohol. I don’t ever want a barrier between my child and I, and ESPECIALLY not over something as harmless as a joint. Hopefully someday we can all just talk about it without bandanas over our faces.

    8. Donna says:

      The 1% rule and smoke without fear of arrest. The pee from thee and not from me is utter bullshit. I wonder how quickly Marijuana would be legalized if the politicians also had to comply with mandatory random drug tests.

      Hmmmmmmm……

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