Seeds Of Marijuana Prohibition First Sowed 171 Years Ago Today

  • by Allen St. Pierre, Former NORML Executive Director January 26, 2009

    Thanks to Andrew Glass at Politico.com for penning the This Day In Politics column reflecting the legislative origins of America’s off-and-on temptation with prohibitions, notably today’s 171st anniversary of America’s first prohibitionist laws in Tennessee.

    Of course, the parallels to today’s 71-year old marijuana prohibition are unavoidable.

    Tennessee bans sale of alcohol, Jan. 26, 1838
    By: Andrew Glass, Politico.com

    January 26, 2009

    On this day in 1838, the Tennessee Legislature passed the nation’s first Prohibition law.

    The statute made it a misdemeanor for residents to sell alcoholic beverages in taverns and stores. Tennessee had been admitted to the Union in 1796 as the 16th state. Under the new law, any person convicted of selling “spirituous liquors” could be fined at the “discretion of the court.” Such fines would help fund public education.

    The roots of Prohibition in North America reach back to 1657, when the General Court of Massachusetts outlawed the sale of liquor “whether known by the name of rum, strong water, wine, brandy, etc., etc.”

    In the early years of the republic, some Americans formed religiously oriented temperance societies to combat what they believed were the adverse effects of strong drink. A consensus emerged in those circles that while alcohol was a gift from God, its abuse through excessive consumption remained the work of the devil.

    Benjamin Rush, a prominent physician and a signer of the Declaration of Independence, called for moderation, arguing that excessive use of alcohol damaged both physical and psychological health. Influenced by Rush’s writings, some 200 Connecticut farmers founded a temperance association in 1789. Similar associations were formed in Virginia in 1800 and New York in 1808.

    By the late 19th century, “dry” groups had emerged as a powerful political force, calling for nationwide abstinence. In 1917, Congress passed the 18th Amendment, barring the manufacture and sale of alcohol. During the 1920s, the federal government nevertheless failed to curb the widespread distribution of alcoholic beverages by crime syndicates. In 1933, the nation repealed Prohibition with the 21st Amendment, although some states and localities continued to enforce a ban for many years to come.

    Source: “Battling Demon Rum: The Struggle for a Dry America, 1800-1933,” by Thomas Pegram (1998).

    15 responses to “Seeds Of Marijuana Prohibition First Sowed 171 Years Ago Today”

    1. Jeff says:

      D E A Go Away…

      & Legalize Marijuana Today…

    2. Watch Zeitgeist the movie says:

      The real problem is socialism in government. Prohibition of weed is just one of thousands of socialist laws that are destroying our freedom. Many who visit this site would probably like to see guns band, both are socialist ideas. Those who would see guns ban think if only we the enlitented ones could remove the tools of vilolens the world would live in peace. Simerly those who would ban drugs think if only we the saved can take away the tools of vice sin would disapear.

      In truth no law ever made a man sober or peaceful. Laws have only the power to make criminals. They do not now nor have they ever stopped or even reduced the activities they forbid.

      Prohibitions of Drugs,guns,sex,hate,thought are all equally wrong. They seek to preemptively punish vice or violence that may or may not even exist. Force is not the answer a beating never made a man wise,peaceful,or faithful.

    3. Philo says:

      Why is this so hard for the mainstream to swallow?

    4. Jerry says:

      We should go back to the time alcohol was illegal but , this time keep it illegal. Acohol is responsible for perhaps millions of murders , blood on our highways , assaults , littering , vandalism , health problems including diabetes , strokes , heart attacks , liver problems and a host of other heath related problems yet , the Alcohol , drug and tobacco companies continue to spend millions into deceptive advertisments to trick you into thinking marijuana is a bad drug . Well , marijuana does none of these things , nor does it kill you or cause irreversible harm to the human body . Outlaw Alcohol not marijuana .

    5. Sweetskunk says:

      I always wondered why they lifted the ban on alcohol but marijuana is still illegal and does not harm anyone,on the other hand alcohol kills many every year!!!! Lawmakers suck!!!

    6. Don says:

      The absolute hypocrisy.That stem’s from both period’s of alchoholic prohibition too the now corruptive marijuna prohibiton.Brings too bare that the policy of of today are stll laced with irresonsible bias and dogmas created by legislation.Slated too big oil and the drug companies!and as long as lobbiyist and special itrest get’s to pay politician’s for favorable legislation too keep prohibition in place on marijuana.They will be dicrimating against the American public intrest.because it constitute a conflict of intrest on all of us.

    7. Vote like a Beast says:

      Before alcohol prohibition the future gangsters were nothing more than pickpockets and petty thugs. The vast sums of money from illegal booze turned them into millionaires with access to the highest levels of society and government. When prohibition was repealed these same gangsters spearheaded the drive to outlaw marijuana as a way to make up the lost revenue, succeeding five years later in 1937. Let all who ask for your vote be told that BY SUPPORTING MARIJUANA PROHIBITION THEY ARE REVEALING THEMSELVES TO BE MERE TOOLS OF ORGANIZED CRIME. REFUSE TO EVER VOTE FOR ANY CANDIDATE WHO DOES NOT SUPPORT FULL LEGALIZATION, NO EXCEPTIONS.

    8. Vote like a Beast says:

      RE – #2 Notice how on NPR programs the prohibitionist line is always the only viewpoint given time. Call into any NPR program and mention marijuana, see how long it takes them to hang up. This is because NPR now gets paid to air ONDCP ads, NPR has sold out it’s journalistic credibility. Next pledge drive JUST SAY NO to NPR.
      RE – #3 Testing positive for Marijuana will in and of itself cause YOU TO BE DENIED

    9. Vote like a Beast says:

      Sorry hit the “enter button by mistake.
      RE – #3 Testing positive for marijuana usage will in and of itself cause YOU to be denied an organ transplant in EVERY hospital in EVERY state of the Union. This is especially true in the Legal Medical Marijauna states. Use a tenth of the energy we’ve seen waisting our time on Change.org and Change.gov. Go to the NPR and ORGAN DONATION websites and inform them of your boycott, see how long it takes to CHANGE their punitive attitudes and policy’s.

    10. cheesy says:

      You think that after real doctors across the world have admitted that marijuana does have medical purposes would trigger some thought in the minds of politics. And if that does not say anything, how bout the millions that they would not have to spend on that section of the DEA. Also to see that there are 13 states that have decriminalized the substance and there has been no crime increase; same for Canada. NO crime increase there either.