Legalizing marijuana for both medicinal and recreational purposes is a burning hot topic these days. And when looking at the reasons for making something legal, you have to take a look at why it was ever made illegal in the first place. So, why was marijuana made illegal?
The prohibition on marijuana dates back to the early 1900s. At that time, America was in the middle of the Mexican Revolution and Mexican natives were starting to flock to states like Texas and Louisiana. And just like any immigrants moving to another country, they brought with them pieces of their homeland and culture, one of those things being a plant known as “marihuana.”
The cannabis plant wasn’t completely new to Americans at the time. It was after all, in many of their medicines and treatments already. But with the new name and the new culture surrounding it, politicians took the opportunity to start their fear-mongering of both these new American citizens, as well as this demon plant they had brought over with them. Following the move San Francisco had made years earlier when they used opium to search and detain Chinese immigrants, these states used the same kind of laws to do the same thing to Mexican immigrants. Those laws eventually then reached a national level when the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 was passed.
The Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 didn’t just ban marijuana, it made outrageous claims such the fact that it made men of color act violently and turned white women into prostitutes. These claims were a big part of the Act being found as unconstitutional years later, but in 1970 marijuana was once again defined as an illegal substance in the Controlled Substances Act.
The Controlled Substances Act put marijuana at the forefront of another controversy. The Act separated different narcotics and substances into schedules according to their potential for addiction and the danger they posed to society. Marijuana was placed under Schedule I, which placed it alongside much more dangerous drugs such as heroin and cocaine. Under Nixon’s presidency, the Schafer Commission argued that marijuana should not be considered a Schedule I substance, but that argument was eventually discounted and to this day, marijuana remains under Schedule I.
That’s not to say however, that marijuana hasn’t come a long way in the United States. California became the first state to legalize medical marijuana in 1996, which brought the issue of marijuana, its uses, its benefits, and potential dangers to the forefront again.
Today, 24 states have passed laws allowing marijuana use for medical purposes, Colorado has legalized it for both medicinal and recreational use, and many states are about to vote on whether or not they want to follow suit.