Sensi: History Repeats Itself

Leland Rucker, senior editor at Sensi Magazine looks back 80 years to August 2 1937, when President Franklin Roosevelt signed House Bill 6385: the Marijuana Tax Act into law. On April 14, 1937, Rep. Robert L. Doughton of North Carolina introduced House Bill 6385, which imposed a prohibitive federal tax on activities involving the plant’s cultivation and possession. There were only two hearings in Congress, mostly testimony Federal Bureau of Narcotics Director Harry Anslinger — who told members that the plant was the monster Hyde. The American Medical Association opposed it, but members of the House and Senate overwhelmingly approved it.
As part of the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act 33 years later, in 1970, then president Richard Nixon was required to empanel a commission to study marijuana use from all aspects — medical, cultural and legal — and come up with recommendations. Nixon dispatched a former Pennsylvania governor, Raymond Shafer, to come up with a document that showed how marijuana was undermining the country.

Instead, Shafer’s National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse took its charge seriously and produced, to date, the only serious study of marijuana yet undertaken from its medical, cultural and legal aspects. It offers a history of marijuana use and regulation, but its main conclusion was that marijuana should be decriminalized for adults for personal use.

“I read through the report again and it’s worth repeating one graph of its conclusion: “The criminal law is too harsh a tool to apply to personal possession even in the effort to discourage use. It implies an overwhelming indictment of the behavior which we believe is not appropriate. The actual and potential harm of use of the drug is not great enough to justify intrusion by the criminal law into private behavior, a step which our society takes only with the greatest reluctance.””

Now today, 37 years later, Attorney General Jeff Sessions is still talking about a federal crackdown on states with legal cannabis. And in parallels to the Nixon situation, he has in hand a report from The Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Safety, a group of prosecutors and federal law enforcement officials, which was leaked and pretty much says to keep the current fed/state policies in place. It was not meant to be made public.

Sessions, like Nixon, says that marijuana is comparable to heroin. And he claims that marijuana is responsible for an uptick in violent crimes, both claims unsubstantiated by any data. The report shows that shutting down the whole industry is neither palatable nor possible.

A scientist who was interviewed by the task force, said that the members need to convince the attorney general that the recommendations are the best they can do without embarrassing the entire department by implementing a policy that has already failed and will again. Might sessions do it anyway?

History repeating itself? Just this week, Jeff Hunt of Colorado Christian university, who warns of an apocalypse if marijuana is legalized, saying Colorado has become a wasteland of drug addicts and that no money is going back into schools, which just plain lies about the millions of dollars being used for school reconstruction projects around the state. “Reefer madness,” says Rucker, “it never stops.”


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