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History of Reefer - History

History of Reefer - History

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(Sch.: t. 76~; 1. 59', b. 19', dr. 6'; cpl. 40; a. 1 18-pdr. or 1

Reefer was a pilot schooner purchased by the Navy at New York City on 25 May 1846 from Brown and Bell for service as a dispatch boat in Commodore David Conner's Home Squadron during the Mexiean War, and commissioned on 19 Jlme 1846, Lt. Isase Sterrett in command.

The schooner reached Vera Cruz on 10 July 1846 and soon began blockade duty south of that port. Early in August, she participated in an expedition against Alvarado, a river port some 30 miles from Vera Cruz which sheltered a number of Mexiean gunboats. However, the strong current prevented the American vessels from effecting the planned landing. Another attempt was made against Alvarado on 15 October but was again abortive. In this second attack upon the Mexiean port a shell hit Reefer near her rudder head but did not damage her seriously.

On the 16th, Reefer got underway with a task force commanded by Commodore Matthew C. Perry, but the next day she was separated from her consorts in a severe storm and missed participating in the expedition up the Tabaseo River.

The occupation of Tampico came in mid-November for the schooner which became station ship at that port. In March 1847, she was part of the force which captured Vera Cruz.

After the fall of that important port, the American squadron ocoupied other Mexican ports along the gulf coast.

Alvarado and Tuxpan fell in April, and in Jame Fontera and Tabasco eame into Amerioan hands ending the fighting on the Mexican east coast. Thereafter Reefer and her sister ships settled down to blockade duty and maintained water lines of supply and eommunieation for the Army.

After the war ended, Reefer was sold at New York in 1848.

Reefer Madness! The Twisted History of America’s Marijuana Laws

Suggestions for nonfiction analysis, writing/discussion prompts and multimedia projects. Browse our lesson plan collection here.

On Thursday, just four days after recreational marijuana became legal to buy and sell in California, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions nudged federal prosecutors to aggressively enforce the federal law that strictly prohibits the drug.

In announcing the Justice Department's new stance on the issue, Sessions reversed an Obama-era policy directing federal prosecutors and authorities to generally deprioritize marijuana enforcement, particularly in states that had voted to legalize it for medical or recreational use.

Sessions previously served as an Alabama senator and a federal prosecutor at the height of the drug war. He insists that marijuana is "only slightly less awful" than heroin, blaming it for spikes in violent crime. In May, he ordered federal prosecutors to pursue the most serious charges possible against low-level drug offenders, overriding his predecessor's push for more lenient sentencing guidelines.

New threats of a federal crackdown have been staunchly criticized by liberals who say it will only further the steep human costs of the nation's largely ineffective drug war. Some conservatives also have opposed the action, considering it a states' rights issue. And while some in law enforcement support the tougher approach, a bipartisan group of senators in March even urged Sessions to uphold existing Obama-era marijuana policy of allowing states to implement their own recreational marijuana laws.

It's still unclear if this most recent change in federal enforcement policy will impact the rollout of California's newly relaxed weed laws.

Marijuana advocates argue that legalizing the drug will lower the number of racially skewed drug arrests. Contrary to Sessions' contention, they say it will also likely reduce violence by undercutting the black market and taking the trade away from criminal organizations. A regulated market, they argue, will also ensure that consumers are purchasing a safer, pure product.

Sessions and other opponents argue that legalization will lead to increased use of the drug, particularly among children and teens, resulting in an uptick in harder drug use and violent criminal behavior.

"Marijuana is not the kind of thing that ought to be legalized," said Sessions. "It ought not to be minimized. It is, in fact, a very real danger."

Meanwhile, marijuana has long reigned supreme as the nation&rsquos most popular illicit drug. And Americans seem to be increasingly open to legalizing it: In a recent Gallup Poll , 64 percent of respondents said they were for it, the highest (no pun intended) level of public support in the nearly half-century of polling on the issue.

California's legal shift, which went into effect on Jan. 1, was set in motion when voters passed Proposition 64 in 2016, a full two decades after it became the first state to legalize medicinal marijuana.

For a place known for its trendsetting ways and love of all things green, California is actually a bit late to the rec room: It&rsquos the sixth state to hop on board the legal weed train, trailing Colorado, Washington, Alaska, Oregon, Nevada and, yes, even the nation&rsquos capital.

But as the nation&rsquos most populous state, and biggest marijuana producer, California's legal shift is being considered a dramatic step toward mainstreaming what promises to be an incredibly lucrative industry.

Under the state's new rules, people who are 21 and older can legally purchase up to an ounce of weed and grow up to six plants per residence. Smoking in public, however, is still subject to fines (unless permitted by local jurisdiction).

And because marijuana sales are now taxable, the shift promises to be a huge windfall for the state.

Recreational marijuana sales are projected to bring in roughly $5 billion in annual sales, and about 35 percent will go to local and state taxes, according to a study commissioned by the state regulatory agency tasked with overseeing the, um, budding new market.

The federal government's most recent backlash against marijuana's latest resurgence is little surprise, given America's long, racially fueled war against the drug.

What follows is a twisted history of a very contentious weed.

1600s to mid-1800s: Cannabis literally becomes part of the national fabric

In the early 1600s, the British government encouraged colonial farmers to produce hemp, a form of cannabis with low levels of the psychoactive ingredient THC. The extremely hardy, fast-growing plant was primarily used for the production of rope, sails, clothing and paper, a fiber critical to the British and Spanish empires. In 1619, the Virginia Assembly passed a law that flat-out required farmers to grow it.

In the 19th century, as hemp production waned, more potent forms of cannabis were used as ingredients in many medicinal products and sold openly in pharmacies.

1900 - 1920s: "The Marijuana Menace"

After the Mexican Revolution of 1910, a wave of Mexican immigrants poured into the southwestern U.S. and helped popularize the recreational use of the drug. Cannabis in Spanish was referred to as &ldquomarihuana&rdquo or "mariguana" ("marijuana" is the Anglicized bastardization).

As the drug grew more popular, it was negatively associated with Mexican immigrants. Anti-drug campaigners began to warn against the encroaching "Marijuana Menace," describing the terrible crimes attributed to the drug and the Mexicans who used it.

"It was only referred to as marijuana "because anti-cannabis factions wanted to underscore the drug's 'Mexican-ness,' meant to play off of anti-immigrant sentiments," noted Matt Thompson from NPR's Code Switch blog. (It's also the reason why some cannabis advocates today consider "marijuana" a derogatory term.)

Rumors quickly spread of Mexicans distributing this "demon weed," or "locoweed," to unsuspecting American schoolchildren, wrote author Eric Schlosser in his 1994 Atlantic article "Reefer Madness."

In port cities along the Gulf Coast, the drug also became associated with West Indian immigrants, a connection broadly extended to African-Americans, jazz musicians, prostitutes and lower-class whites.

" 'The Marijuana Menace,' as sketched by anti-drug campaigners, was personified by inferior races and social deviants," Schlosser added.

In 1913, California (of all places) passed the first state cannabis prohibition law. The effort was sponsored by the state Board of Pharmacy as part of a larger anti-narcotics campaign (even though there was at the time still little public concern about cannabis). Proposed by Henry Finger, a powerful member of the board, the law was intended to supposedly prevent the spread of the drug's use by &ldquoHindoo&rdquo immigrants.

"Within the last year we in California have been getting a large influx of Hindoos and they have in turn started quite a demand for cannabis indica," wrote Finger in a 1911 letter (page 18). "They are a very undesirable lot and the habit is growing in California very fast the fear is now that it is not being confined to the Hindoos alone but that they are initiating our whites into this habit."

1930s: Reefer Madness

Widespread unemployment and poverty during the Great Depression furthered resentment and fear of immigrants and minorities, and fueled concerns about the perceived ills of the drug that had become associated with them. A flurry of pseudo-research linked the use of the drug to violence, crime and other socially deviant behaviors.

Harry J. Anslinger, the first commissioner of the newly created Federal Bureau of Narcotics, insisted that marijuana led to &ldquoinsanity, criminality, and death." By 1931, 29 states had outlawed it.

The debut of "Reefer Madness" in 1936, one in a series of anti-marijuana propaganda films released at the time, helped fuel hysteria about the drug. Originally titled "Tell Your Children," the film centers on a series of hyperbolic events that ensue when innocent high school students are lured into trying marijuana &mdash from a hit-and-run accident to manslaughter, suicide, attempted rape, hallucinations and a rapid descent into madness.

Following a lurid national propaganda campaign against the "evil weed," Congress passed the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937, the first time the drug was regulated and taxed by the government. The statute effectively criminalized marijuana, outlawing its possession and sale and restricting it to individuals who paid an excise tax for certain authorized medical and industrial uses.

1960s-1970s: The counterculture and the crackdown

A woman smokes a joint at the 1970 "Honor America Day" peace rally in Washington, D.C. (David Fenton/Getty Images)

Widespread adoption of marijuana by both young hippies in the anti-war movement and the white middle class briefly resulted in more relaxed attitudes and enforcement. Reports commissioned by Presidents John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson found that marijuana use did not induce violence or lead to u se of heavier drugs.

But that high didn't last long.

As part of President Richard Nixon's anti-drug efforts, Congress in 1970 passed the Controlled Substances Act. It created various legal categories, or schedules, for different types of drugs, depending on their perceived public threat. Cannabis was placed alongside heroin and LSD into Schedule 1, the most restrictive category, reserved for drugs deemed to have no medical benefit and the highest potential for abuse.

Including cannabis in this category was more a reflection of "Nixon&rsquos animus toward the counterculture with which he associated marijuana than scientific, medical, or legal opinion," Scott C. Martin, a history professor at Bowling Green State University, wrote in Time magazine. The Schedule I designation, he said, made it difficult even for physicians or scientists to procure marijuana for research studies.

In fact, the bipartisan Shafer Commission, an investigative committee appointed by Nixon to study drug abuse in America, went on to recommend that possession of small amounts of marijuana be decriminalized. In 1972, a year after Nixon declared his "war on drugs," the commission presented its findings to Congress in a report titled:"Marihuana, A Signal of Misunderstanding".

It noted that most marijuana users were not dangerous at all, but rather more "timid, drowsy and passive." It concluded that cannabis did not pose any widespread danger to society, and recommended using social measures other than criminalization to discourage its use.

In response to the nation' increasingly restrictive drug laws, the commission stated:

"Unless present policy is redirected, we will perpetuate the same problems, tolerate the same social costs, and find ourselves as we do now, no further along the road to a more rational legal and social approach than we were in 1914."

Not surprisingly, Nixon vehemently rejected his commission's findings, forging ahead with his anti-drug agenda, and the following year Congress created the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), a merger of the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs (BNND) and the Office of Drug Abuse Law Enforcement (ODALE).

The report, though, did significantly influence state governments. A movement spearheaded by the newly established National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) resulted in Oregon passing the first decriminalization statute in 1973. Over the next five years, 10 other states followed suit, from California to (astoundingly) Mississippi.

1986: Mandatory minimum drug sentencing

President Reagan in 1986 signed the Anti-Drug Abuse Act, instituting mandatory sentences for drug-related crimes. The legislation had actually been championed by Democrats, who saw a political opportunity to outdo Republicans by "getting tough on drugs." The shift was in part a response to the nation's shock over the death of Celtics star draft pick Len Bias from a cocaine overdose.

The astronomical surge in America's state and federal prison population was due in large part to increasingly strict drug laws enacted in the 1970s and 1980s. (Courtesy of the Sentencing Project)

The law increased federal penalties for the sale and possession of an array of drugs, including marijuana, with the penalties based on the amount of the drug involved. Under the law, possession of 100 marijuana plants received the same penalty as possession of 100 grams of heroin. A later amendment established a "three strikes and you're out" policy, requiring life sentences for repeat drug offenders.

In the wake of the law, drug-related arrests soared, spurring a massive increase in the state and federal prison populations. At the time of the law's enactment in1986, there were roughly 400,000 inmates in America's prison system. By 2015, the population had nearly quadrupled, to a peak of almost 1.5 million, giving the U.S. the dubious distinction as the largest jailer in the world.

Marijuana arrests factored heavily in this increase, accounting for more than half of all drug arrests, mostly for possession. African-Americans were, and still continue to be, arrested at dramatically higher rates than whites, despite similar rates of usage, according to the ACLU.

1996: Dawn of the medical movement

Card-carrying medical marijuana patients at Los Angeles' first-ever cannabis farmers'market. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images))

With the passage of Proposition 215 by a solid majority of voters, California bypassed federal law and became the first state to legalize the sale and medical use of cannabis for patients with AIDS, cancer and other serious and painful diseases. Twenty-eight other states and Washington, D.C. have since passed legislation authorizing medical use of the drug.

Despite the legalization of marijuana medical use in 29 states, it still remains a Schedule 1 drug under federal law, making it difficult for researchers to study its medical effects, as explained in this Above the Noise video.

2012 to now: Recreation time!

Colorado voters in 2012 passed the nation's first recreational marijuana law, which went into effect in 2014. Amendment 64 (apparently a popular number), regulates and taxes marijuana and allows adults to possess up to an ounce of the drug. Since then, five other states have followed suit.

Massachusetts will also be joining the party in July 2018. And Maine is likely to eventually hop on board, too: In 2016, Maine voters approved recreational marijuana sales, but the statute was initially vetoed by the state's Republican governor.


The Jazz Age introduced a wildly popular music genre that quickly spread nationwide. Legends like Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie, and Count Basie were populating record collections of white America. Of course some of the public “didn’t get it” and were not fond of the idea of “Negro music” influencing their youth culture.

It was not uncommon for jazz musicians to smoke pot. As one performer described it, “I smoke reefer to cope with the struggle of being black.” Cannabis use among the jazz culture was another way to spin up false and racist narratives that were to come in the 1930’s

It is important to note that this history existed in conjunction with the prohibition of alcohol. It only took America 13 years to learn that even if they illegalized alcohol, people would still consume it and an underground culture of bootleggers were going to provide it.

However, this lesson did not translate. Instead, between the 4 years that alcohol prohibition ended and cannabis prohibition began the government saw a lowered jail and prison population. Some people speculate if this is one reason why they targeted cannabis for prohibition.

They could kill two birds with one stone. Imprison a population that didn’t share their ideals, while the prison system could get back to the glory days that alcohol prohibition afforded them.


Typically reefer trailers come in standard lengths between 28 and 53 feet, and do not exceed 13.5 feet in height.

The load on a reefer truck should never exceed 44,000 pounds.

Alternatively, for smaller loads of temperature controlled goods, refrigerated vans and sprinters can be used.

Couriers often use refrigerated sprinters to transport goods quickly on a local level. In this case, the vehicle itself has a built in refrigerated container rather than a removable trailer.

Age of Discovery (15th-18th centuries)

Truly global trade kicked off in the Age of Discovery. It was in this era, from the end of the 15th century onwards, that European explorers connected East and West – and accidentally discovered the Americas. Aided by the discoveries of the so-called “Scientific Revolution” in the fields of astronomy, mechanics, physics and shipping, the Portuguese, Spanish and later the Dutch and the English first “discovered”, then subjugated, and finally integrated new lands in their economies.

The Age of Discovery rocked the world. The most (in)famous “discovery” is that of America by Columbus, which all but ended pre-Colombian civilizations. But the most consequential exploration was the circumnavigation by Magellan: it opened the door to the Spice islands, cutting out Arab and Italian middlemen. While trade once again remained small compared to total GDP, it certainly altered people’s lives. Potatoes, tomatoes, coffee and chocolate were introduced in Europe, and the price of spices fell steeply.

Yet economists today still don’t truly regard this era as one of true globalization. Trade certainly started to become global, and it had even been the main reason for starting the Age of Discovery. But the resulting global economy was still very much siloed and lopsided. The European empires set up global supply chains, but mostly with those colonies they owned. Moreover, their colonial model was chiefly one of exploitation, including the shameful legacy of the slave trade. The empires thus created both a mercantilist and a colonial economy, but not a truly globalized one.

Getting Banned

After the 1920’s, the future of marijuana was not looking too bright in the United States. By 1931, marijuana was illegal in 29 states. Then in 1937, the Marijuana Tax Act was passed. This was the first federal United States law that criminalized marijuana nationwide and gave the government full control of regulation. Samuel Caldwell, the first person to ever be arrested for marijuana in the U.S., was arrested on October 2, 1937, only one day after the law had been passed. He was sentenced to four years of hard labor. Besides making recreational marijuana illegal, the law also required importers to pay an annual tax. They were also required to use these stamps:

Industrial marijuana continued to be grown in the United States throughout World War 2. The last legal industrial marijuana farm in the 20th century was planted in 1957 in Wisconsin. During the 1960’s, marijuana was popular among college students and “hippies” and was also a symbol of rebellion against the authority.

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How racism contributed to marijuana prohibition in the US

Narrator: Weird orgies. Wild parties. Roots in Hell. How did marijuana get such a bad wrap? The answer is simple. Racism.

As early as the 1800s, there were no federal restrictions on the sale or possession of cannabis in the US. Hemp fiber from the plant was used to make clothes, paper, and rope. Sometimes it was used medicinally, but as a recreational drug, it wasn't that widespread. A New York Times article from 1876 even cites the positive use of cannabis to cure a patient's dropsy. Basically swelling from an accumulation of fluid.

In the early 1900s, an influx of Mexican immigrants came to the US fleeing political unrest in their home country. With them, they brought the practice of smoking cannabis recreationally. And it took off. The Spanish word for the plant started to be used more often too. Marijuana. Or as it was spelled at that time, marihuana, with an "H. This is when the more sensational headlines about the drug began to appear.

In 1936, a propaganda film called Reefer Madness was released. In the movie, teenagers smoke weed for the first time and this leads to a series of horrific events involving hallucination, attempted rape, and murder. Much of the media portrayed it as a gateway drug.

- [Reporter] Marijuana, a powerful excitant, produces unpredictable emotional results. But its greatest danger lies in the fact that it is a stepping stone to the harder drugs such as morphine and heroin.

Narrator: The following year in 1937, the Marihuana Tax Act was passed. Cannabis sales were now taxed. Part of the reason this act was passed was because of all the fear-mongering going on at the time. And a huge instigator of that fear-mongering was the man behind the Marihuana Tax Act, Harry Anslinger. Anslinger was named the Commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics during the prohibition era. But once national prohibition ended in 1933, Anslinger turned his focus to marijuana. This is when racism and xenophobia really kicked in.

Harry Anslinger took the scientifically unsupported idea of marijuana as a violence-inducing drug, connected it to black and Hispanic people, and created a perfect package of terror to sell to the American media and public. By emphasizing the Spanish word marihuana instead of cannabis, he created a strong association between the drug and the newly arrived Mexican immigrants who helped popularize it in the States. He also created a narrative around the idea that cannabis made black people forget their place in society. He pushed the idea that jazz was evil music created by people under the influence of marijuana.

But these racist ideas didn't just influence the media's portrayal or the public's perception of the drug, the discrimination they encouraged was evident in real numbers. In the first full year after the Marihuana Tax Act was passed, black people were about three times more likely to be arrested for violating narcotic drug laws than whites. And Mexicans were nearly nine times more likely to be arrested for the same charge.

By 1952, the Boggs Act was passed. This made sentencing for drug convictions mandatory. A first offense for possession could land you two to five years in prison and a fine up to $2,000. Through the 1960s and 70s, weed-smoking took on a new perception through the counterculture movement. Young white people resisted mainstream culture and powerful institutions. This was the era of hippies, beatniks, and flower power. But despite all the peace and love, laws continued to emphasize the severity of the drug. The Controlled Substances Act of 1970 passed under President Nixon.

- America's public enemy number one.

- Repealed the Marihuana Tax Act and instead made cannabis a schedule I drug. The most serious class. Schedule I drugs are considered to have a high potential for abuse and addiction. With no medical use. Other examples of Schedule I drugs are heroin, LSD, and ecstasy. Classifying cannabis as a schedule I drug has been highly debated since then.

- Marijuana is not a schedule I any more than a hedgehog is an apex predator.

- But to this day, it remains in that category and criminalization still disproportionately affects minority groups in the US. The ACLU reported that in 2010, black people were four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana than white people, even though both groups consume marijuana at about the same rate. Some states have taken action to reduce this type of criminalization. Nine states and Washington DC have legalized the recreational use of cannabis. And 29 states allow some form of medical marijuana. San Francisco recently dropped thousands of marijuana-related convictions. And Seattle plans to do the same. But this doesn't change the federal restrictions. And Attorney General Jeff Sessions seems Hell-bent on enforcing those federal rules.

- Good people don't smoke marijuana.

- Kansas State Representative Steven Alford made a case against legalizing cannabis by referring to the racist rhetoric of the Anslinger era.

- And we're still seeing a lot of anti-immigrant sentiment.

- They're bringing drugs, they're bringing crime, their rapists.

- So while some things have changed on the state level, some politicians are sticking with the fear-mongering and racism playbook. Even though Pew Research polls show that 61% of Americans now approve of nationwide legalization. Up from 16% about 30 years ago. Popular opinion suggests it's high time to reconsider federal laws.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This video was originally published in March 2018.



Refrigeration containers are often used at sporting events and activities, trade fairs, festivals or on occasions such as Oktoberfest that require perishables. Frozen containers are particularly suitable for keeping drinks (wine / beer / other spirits) cool and keeping meat, sausages or other foods such as fruit, vegetables or cheese fresh at such events. Furthermore, coolers can be installed in hotel and catering sectors.

Refrigeration containers provide a great solution for the food industry. The best part is that the refrigerated unit keeps the cooling room constantly at the required temperature (plus or minus), allowing for comprehensive usage of all perishables:

in a bakery, dairy, butcher shop or brewery,
meat and fish merchants or other major markets.

Reefer containers also make food storage easier for hospital cafeterias and retirement homes as well as big supermarkets that have their own eateries.

TIn addition, reefer containers can serve as cold storage for factories or farms. They are perfect for storing large products, frozen products and harvest surpluses at the proper temperature. Furthermore, the refrigerated containers can serve as intermediary storage.
Refrigerated containers are very flexible and are also used in the following areas:

nurseries, hunting, wine making and much more.


Climate regulating containers play an important role in product development in the industrial sector.
For example, refrigerated containers are the perfect area for functional tests of new products, since different climatic conditions can be simulated using the refrigerated unit.
Whether in the production of carbon or tires, in the vehicle or machine industry, this use extends to several areas.


As a suitable storage unit for easily affected medicines or chemical substances, a refrigerated room is perfectly fit for the job. Laboratory tests and long-term studies with, for example, bacteria or other synthetic substances, can be carried out optimally in cooling cells.

Reefer madness.

“Their satanic music is driven by marijuana, and marijuana smoking by white women makes them want to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers and others.”

— Harry Anslinger, Founding Commissioner, The Federal Bureau of Narcotics

Anslinger’s issues weren’t purely aesthetic. There were also professional anxieties at play. Anslinger had risen, quite quickly, to the top of the Federal Bureau of Alcohol Prohibition — a large, well-financed federal agency whose leaders enjoyed a lot of prestige and political clout. And when he had bootleggers to bust, marijuana was of little concern. In fact, Anslinger even went on the record to declare cannabis usage posed little risk to the public’s health and safety.

However, the repeal of the Eighteenth Amendment threatened to wreck the man’s professional ambitions. After all, without a controlled substance to police Anslinger and his colleagues would soon be out of a job. The twenty-first amendment—which ended alcohol prohibition—threatened to end his career before it even really began. Fortunately for Anslinger, it also dovetailed with the shifting demographics and the rise of jazz.

You see, marijuana was a foundational part of jazz culture. Immediately following World War I, “tea pads” — homes for hosting pot-smoking parties — started sprouting up around the country. These music-filled homes were made famous by frequent visitors (and unrepentant ‘vipers’) like Louis Armstrong and Cab Calloway. The famous jazzmen joined a cast of young city-dwellers who used the small spaces to worship music, money and the “Mighty Mezz”. Mixed-race mingling and liberal politics proliferated during the ‘tea parties’ held in these mellow, multi-ethic milieus. To people like Anslinger, these spaces were potent, physical examples of the egalitarian impulses that were threatening to upend traditional American society.

Given marijuana’s association with Black and brown Americans, Anslinger realized he could advance his career and preserve America’s societal status quo by pushing forward laws that ostensibly protected the public from the “degenerate races”.

He wasted no time aligning his personal and professional interests. Anslinger paired his bigotry with political savvy and worked to paint cannabis consumption as the activity driving this new ‘age of immorality’. In the dusty halls of a dying agency, cannabis became the new culprit. Having named a new enemy, the federal dollars began to flow in. Propagandists, yellow journalists and political leaders helped to demonize the substance and call for the criminalization of the “undesirable populations” who consumed it. Filmmakers — now flush with government funding — were quick to paint cannabis users as raping, murdering monsters. Journalists testified that cannabis consumption causes insanity, a still-cited claim that then—like now—contradicts the consensus of America’s scientific and medical community.

Anslinger’s decades-long crusade would see the respected statesman fabricate evidence, destroy dissenters’ careers, issue false reports to the Congress, and repeatedly perjure himself in court. While it would be impossible to detail all of the unethical things Anslinger did in the name of his anti-cannabis crusade, one of the most memorable occurred after he asked aides to assemble a dossier of violent crimes committed under the influence of marijuana. Anslinger presented these “Gore Files’ when he was called to testify during a Congressional hearing. Researchers later found that all 200 crimes detailed in these files were either completely fabricated or incorrectly attributed to marijuana use.

When lawmakers and medical professionals pushed back against Anslinger’s unscientific claims, he did everything in his power to discredit them. In one notable incident, New York City Mayor Fiorello La Guardia commissioned the New York Academy of Medicine to conduct a five-year study on the effects of smoking marijuana. The results of the study contradicted claims that cannabis caused violent crime, the corruption of children, and an inevitable addition to morphine, heroin or cocaine. Instead, the 220 page report found marijuana use results in laughter, drowsiness, and “increased feelings of relaxation, disinhibition and self-confidence.” It even suggested it might be used to help cure alcoholism and other serious drug addictions. In 1944, the LaGuardia Committee concluded that “the publicity concerning the catastrophic effects of marihuana smoking in New York City is unfounded” and recommended repealing existing anti-marijuana laws. Anslinger threw La Guardia’s report out.

This wasn’t the only time Anslinger lied when the recommendations issued by experts didn’t go his way. In 1942, he asked the American Medical Association to weigh in on a proposed marijuana ban. When 29 of the AMA’s 30 representatives objected to the ban, Anslinger testified before Congress that the AMA’s findings were “unscientific”. Anslinger’s callous disregard of scientific study became a hallmark of America’s War on Drugs, and similar efforts still continue—even decades after his death. In one notable Anslinger-inspired incident, President Richard Nixon set about destroying the career of Raymond Shafer—a lifelong friend and the former Republican Governor of Pennsylvania—solely because the Shafer Commission (created by Nixon himself) recommended decriminalizing the drug.

Despite having no basis in scientific fact, Anslinger’s state-sponsored propaganda campaign would generate enough public hysteria around “the devil’s lettuce” that Congress would classify it—alongside heroin and LSD—as a “Schedule 1” drug. This designation claimed that marijuana—which first appeared in the United States Pharmacopoeia in 1850 and had been widely utilized as a patent medicine during the 19th and early 20th centuries—had “absolutely no medical value” and represented “the highest potential for abuse”. No medical experts were involved in this categorization.

Anslinger ended up serving as the head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics for over three decades. Under his leadership, marijuana was made illegal in all fifty states and his architecture of the 1951 Boggs Act laid the groundwork for the drug-related mandatory minimums that would drive mass incarceration and an uptick in police brutality only a few decades later.

Though he had successfully redefined an entire country’s new approach to criminal “justice”, Anslinger’s reign didn’t end after retirement. Apparently not content to only wreak havoc domestically, he was appointed the U.S representative to the United Nations Narcotics Commission. There, as the de facto head of global drug policy, he led the creation of the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. Because the treaty meant that any country who choose not to comply with the American approach to marijuana would be ineligible for desperately-needed US development resources, it effectively criminalized cannabis around the world. These policies continues to destroy millions of lives, devastate countless communities and exacerbate racial inequities to this day.

Natalie Papillion is the Founder and Executive Director of The Equity Organization, a national not-for-profit that’s working towards a just, effective and equitable approach to criminal justice and drug policy reform.

¹ In fact, marijuana was a critically important part of our nation’s economy for hundreds of years. Colonial governments required settlers to cultivate cannabis for industrial use. Lawmakers like Thomas Jefferson and George Washington grew acres of the stuff on their personal properties. And while recreational use didn’t become widespread until the Roaring Twenties, pharmaceutical companies — including what would become Bristol-Myers Squibb — had been manufacturing and distributing cannabis-based medicines decades before the term ‘marijuana’ even entered the American lexicon. Inexpensive, safe and easily-accessible, these cannabis compounds were frequently prescribed by physicians to treat common ailments like migraines and nausea.

In the early 1800s, the time period in which American doctors started prescribing marijuana-based medicines to their patients, the plant was also being incorporated into the social and spiritual practices of Latin American and Caribbean communities. Cannabis had been introduced to the region hundreds of years earlier as a way for slave owners to try and control their subjugated populations. Over time, the descendants of these formerly enslaved populations reclaimed the substance as their own.

Watch the video: How Refrigerated Boxcars Revolutionized Food Transportation. The Henry Fords Innovation Nation (May 2022).