Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Retail pot shops and the Board of Health

Last night the BOH held a meeting in which they decided to restrict the amount of accessory shops to 4 in Town and suggest to the council that there only be 3 retail shops. If you watch the meeting, the fun starts at 1:03 and while it is like watching a bad movie, you will notice a striking resemblance to 81 years ago when the first Drug Czar, Harry Anslinger was appointed and his sole mission was to demonize anyone who smoked hemp/marijuana to help his friends, William Randolph Hearst, the Du Pont family, Andrew Mellon and other tycoons who pushed for hemp prohibition as a way to protect their business interests, including paper and nylon production. He created fear of hemp/marijuana by demonizing Mexicans, Blacks and musicians. Our BOH is reviving much of the same propaganda in slightly different ways.

Probably no one did more to outlaw cannabis in the United States than Harry J. Anslinger, the first commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics. Ignoring the protests of key individuals in the American Medical Association (AMA), Anslinger fed the media a barrage of propaganda for decades that demonized the plant in the minds of countless Americans.
Born in 1892, Anslinger started out as an investigator for the Pennsylvania Railroad and rose to become the Assistant Commissioner of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Prohibition in 1929. He married the niece of Andrew Mellon, Secretary of the U.S. Treasury and one of the wealthiest people in the country, and in 1930 Mellon appointed Anslinger as Commissioner of the Treasury Department’s new Bureau of Narcotics.
Anslinger appeared before the House Ways and Means Committee on April 27, 1937, as Congress deliberated on whether to pass the Marijuana Tax Act. He testified, “Ten years ago we only heard about [marijuana] throughout the Southwest. It is only in the last few years that it has become a national menace … Since the economic depression the number of marijuana smokers has increased by vagrant youths coming into contact with older psychopaths.”
He explained that part of its appeal was its price.
“To be a morphine or heroin addict it would cost you from $5 to $6 a day to maintain your supply. But if you want to smoke a cigarette you pay 10 cents… it is low enough in price for school children to buy it.”
The committee chairman, Robert Lee Doughton, fast-tracked the proposed legislation into law, and cannabis prohibitionists now had a tool to start throwing more people in prison.
Anslinger ended his 32-year tenure as the nation’s first Drug Czar in 1962. During his reign, the prohibitionist popularized reefer madness films, the gateway drug theory, stigmas and stereotypes, the cannabis addiction myth and even the word “marijuana” itself. He also helped overcrowd the prisons with nonviolent cannabis offenders costing the U.S. taxpayers billions of dollars.
“Reefer makes darkies think they’re as good as white men… [and] the primary reason to outlaw marijuana is its effect on the degenerate races,” said Harry Anslinger, according to legend, during a Narcotics Bureau conference. He also supposedly said, “There are 100,000 total marijuana smokers in the U.S., and most are negroes, hispanics, filipinos and entertainers. Their satanic music, jazz and swing, result from marijuana use. This marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with negroes, entertainers and any others.”
The failure of alcohol prohibition frustrated Narcotics Bureau chief Harry Anslinger, but he saw his chance to make his mark by eradicating heroin, opium, cocaine and cannabis. For most of U.S. history, the public and doctors viewed cannabis as medicine, so to institute the plant’s prohibition, he launched a propaganda campaign that was about as factual as a Dr. Seuss book.
“Much of the irrational juvenile violence and killing that has written a new chapter of shame and tragedy is traceable directly to this hemp intoxication,” wrote Anslinger in his book The Murderers: The Story of the Narcotic Gangs.
The Uniform State Narcotic Drug Act was passed in 1934 in an effort to unify different state drug laws, and Anslinger wanted cannabis included in the Act alongside opiates and cocaine. But the AMA, the National Association of Retail Druggists and many pharmaceutical companies lobbied against the inclusion of cannabis, as they wanted to prescribe it as they saw fit, and the final draft of the Act left it up to each state to decide whether they wanted to regulate the plant.
So Anslinger devoted himself to the passage of the Marijuana Tax Act, which would restrict possession of cannabis to those who paid a tax for authorized medical or industrial use. Anyone who didn’t pay the tax could face a penalty of up to $2,000 and five years in prison.
To build his case, Anslinger went on a propaganda offensive, telling “the story of this evil weed of the fields and river beds and roadsides” in magazines, on the radio and in public forums. He was aided by “yellow journalism” mogul William Randolph Hearst, who sold newspapers by hysterically trumpeting a different national threat every week, from marijuana to immigrants to Communism. In Hearst’s Washington Herald, Anslinger proclaimed on April 12, 1937, “If the hideous monster Frankenstein came face to face with the monster marihuana, he would drop dead of fright." Anslinger claimed that cannabis made people “fly into a delirious rage” and “commit violent crimes.” In testimony before a congressional committee, he even claimed that cannabis was more deadly than opium, the poppy plant from which we get heroin and painkillers. “Opium has all of the good of Dr. Jekyll and all the evil of Mr. Hyde,” said Anslinger. “[Cannabis] is entirely the monster Hyde, the harmful effect of which cannot be measured.”
In 1970, the Journal of Social History took an extensive look at Anslinger with “The Federal Prohibition of Marihuana.” In the study, author Michael Schaller wrote, “When called upon to explain [the cannabis] problem to Congress, the Bureau relied on unsupported accounts it had supplied to magazines and newspapers. By reading its own releases into the record as outside proof, the Bureau had in fact created evidence to prove its point.” The study further noted that some examples “consisted of several accused criminals who had pleaded marihuana use as grounds for temporary insanity.”