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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.”

    32 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. […] NORML Blog, Marijuana Law Reform Share and Enjoy: […]

    5. 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.

    6. 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.

    7. 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.

    8. 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.

    9. 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……

    10. TheOracle says:

      Cannabis prohibition is justified only if you believe the U.S. can arrest its way out of the problem. If you are a thinking person and have examined the issue, the logical conclusion is legalization.

      I love Andrew Sullivan!

    11. Esteban says:

      Wow What an urgent, heart felt appeal towards reason.
      This is what Thomas Paine would have said.

    12. […] full post on NORML Blog, Marijuana Law Reform Share and […]

    13. The American Genesist says:

      DEMAND RESEARCH – THE TRUTH WILL SET YOU FREE.

      “Self-evidently, cannabis has won this 100 year war.” We absolutely do need to legalize serious talk – in fact we mandate it. We need to present solid scientific evidence, from every scientific source. Let the debate begin. Let it be done.

    14. Washington’s Governor Gregoire celebrated 100 years of prohibition with a veto of SB5073 today – a bill which would have provided state protections for legal dispensaries in the state of WA. This comes exactly one day after yesterday’s pre-funk celebration of prohibition – which included Federal DEA raids on dispensaries in Washington yesterday. Reefer madness, indeed.

    15. The American Genesist says:

      15. Washington NORML.

      What do you think her chances are of getting re-elected? There zero with Washington state Genesist Colonies. Talk about a weak sister caving in to the feds. Dear God! Forgive her for she knows not what she does.

    16. Ben says:

      For CIVIL RIGHTS
      For Saving Money
      For Life
      For Liberty
      For the Pursuit of Happiness

      Reduce Government Power

      …Or die a slave, told what plants you could and could not ingest. GIVE IN TO FEAR, LOSE THE LAST DROP OF YOUR FREEDOM! TURN IN YOUR GUNS, YOUR WORDS, YOUR RELIGION, YOUR EXISTENCE!

    17. Don says:

      I think everyone of us should copy this article and send it out to their representatives for their consideration! These are strong words and would really hit home; at least in minds that aren’t stuck in small square boxes!!!

    18. The American Genesist says:

      God says – man is [like] one of us – [not] one of us. When man persists in defying his own power – God will call him to account, and exact a terrible punishment. Well! prohibitionists have most certainly defied their own power, and now, it’s time for that terrible punishment to occur, and if I can assist God in any way, count me in.

    19. dave says:

      the goverment and the people who are growing there pot are the ones stoppping the legalization. more the ass backwards goverment then anybody. the pot smokers of the U.S. have to fight on, while the goverment keeps spending money on a war there not winng or going to win,ever.

    20. The American Genesist says:

      21 Dave

      Explain – “The people that are growing their pot?” Can you be a little more explicit?

    21. […] DC: NORML acknowledges the 100-year-anniversary of marijuana prohibition, which began on April 29, 1911 in […]

    22. […] DC: NORML acknowledges the 100-year-anniversary of marijuana prohibition, which began on April 29, 1911 in […]

    23. Charles Queen says:

      Yes and it’s extremely hard to believe with all of the research and study’s done here and all around the world that our country unlike many of the other country’s are still trying to pull the ignorant act about marijuana.I find it so hard to believe with all of the study’s research atc which has all been positive and not one single negative that we have yet to legalize it,meanwhile more and more country’s are legalizing it for adult use all the way around and not just medicinal use.I’m hopin g that the next presidint which we pretty much all know it won’t be Obooboo and his screwed up admin gets in and has a more open mind about this and see’s it for what it really is and the way it will help our country and it’s people especialy financially but also all of the many other good points which have all been proven by the very many other country’s that have legalized it with many more following suit

    24. […] DC: NORML acknowledges the 100-year-anniversary of marijuana prohibition, which began on April 29, 1911 in […]

    25. msgtvance says:

      The Office of National Drug Control Policy, the ONDCP, headed by Drug Czar, Gil Kerlikowske, announced that it’s new focus in the War on Drugs is going to be on prescription drugs, misuse and abuse. Presumably the illegal drug problem has either magically been fixed, or this move is a recognition that misuse and abuse of prescription drugs is a far greater problem than illegal drugs. A large part of this push will be in education , and not just education of the citizens, but of the Doctors too. The Obama Administration is going to seek legislation that will require medical professionals to go through special training to be able to prescribe addictive drugs like oxycontin, fentanyl and methodone. There are several other recommendations that require action. As for myself, I don’t know how these requirements will cut back on prescription drug abuse. Most Doctors are responsible people and those who do prescribe drugs with abandon can easily be weeded out. It’s the same old squeeze of the sausage. Squeeze the Doctors to prescribe less drugs and you push more people into the illegal drug market to get the drugs they need. The only way we will ever get a handle on this problem is to end criminal possession altogether. The idea that mere possession cries out for criminal sanctions is a fallacy.
      Allowing Doctors to prescribe maintenance doses to addicts until the addicts can get into rehabilitation, and only involving law enforcement should the addict fail to attend rehabilitation, is the way to go. This approach eliminates the need for the addict to turn to the black market and enables the Doctor to monitor the addict. ’Firing’ the patient, forcing him into the black market, only helps to provide customers to the illegal drug trade, and is totally unethical.
      The Government’s new focus on the prescription drug problem will entail certain requirements. These requirements will undoubtedly need an amendment to the 1970 Controlled Substances Act to be put in force. In this is an opportunity. I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard people opposed to marijuana law reform say, “oh, legalizing marijuana would require amending the Controlled Substances Act. That’s too much trouble and can’t be done.” Now that the pro prohibition side wants a change, now, it’s no big deal! Marijuana law reform advocates should begin right now to prevail on those members of Congress who support ending marijuana prohibition and ask them to propose a counter amendment to the Controlled Substances Act when the Government moves for their new legislation. Prohibition as policy has not worked in almost 100 years of trying. Lets make the price of yet another try at making prohibition work the end of Federal marijuana prohibition. We have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

    26. The American Genesist says:

      30. msgtvance

      Plan A: We must “define” the whole plant material.
      Plan B: We must mandate “Scientific Conclusion.”
      Plan C: We must reschedule, reclassify the whole plant material [THC is already legal].
      Plan D: We must free ourselves from this legal razzle dazzle.

      WAR ON DRUGS

      If “cannabis” was the first thought that came to mind – there’s the problem. We must educate people to disregard cannabis as a schedule I substance every time they hear the phrase War on Drugs. Cannabis is not guilty by association. Cannabis is in the right church, but the wrong pew. We must demand that cannabis be seated in the right pew through Scientific Conclusion.

    27. […] DC: NORML acknowledges the 100-year-anniversary of marijuana prohibition, which began on April 29, 1911 in […]

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