More and more states are introducing legislation that allows for the legalization of marijuana for patient's use under a doctor's supervision for the treatment of illnesses and diseases. Washington, Alaska, Oregon, and Colorado have also passed bills for the legalization of cannabis for recreational use, and studies show that many Americans favor these types of laws. With the changing attitudes about marijuana, many people are wondering why marijuana became illegal in the first place and when it happened. The answer is pretty surprising, as you'll soon find out.
When Did Marijuana Become Illegal and Why?
A brief look back into the history of marijuana reveals that anti-immigrant sentiments were largely responsible for the ban on marijuana. During the early 1900s, a wave of immigrants left Mexico bound for the United States, fleeing the ravages of the Mexican Revolution. Many of these immigrants brought with them the tradition of smoking marijuana in order to relax. They called their herbal remedy "marijuana".
In parts of the South, particularly in Louisiana and Texas, the immigrant populations concerned residents. Illegal activities were often falsely blamed on Mexicans, and people began pushing lawmakers to find a way to stop Mexicans from entering the country, and to deport the ones who were already here. The marijuana that they smoked became the perfect solution. A movement for a ban on the plant began during the early 1930s.
What most people who were in favor of the marijuana ban didn't realize was that many Americans were actually using marijuana! At that time, "cannabis" was a common remedy found in many over-the-counter medications, but people failed to realize the ingredient was the same as "marijuana".
In 1937, lawmakers succeeded in the first ban on marijuana with the passage of the Marijuana Tax Act. Under the law, anyone in possession of marijuana, cannabis, or even hemp could be fined as much as $2000 and put in jail for up to 5 years.
How Have Marijuana Laws Changed Since 1937?
Marijuana laws have changed over the years since the initial ban on the drug. In 1970, the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act classified marijuana in its own category, so that those convicted of possessing it would not be subject to mandatory federal sentences. By about 1975, many parents' groups were speaking out against marijuana, concerned about the threat that it could pose to teenagers smoking weed. In 1986, the Anti-Drug Abuse Act was passed, changing the laws and imposing mandatory sentences for all drug-related crimes, including marijuana possession. The first law that legalized marijuana, Proposition 215, was passed in 1996. The law was the first medical marijuana bill and has gone on to inspire legislation in 19 other states.
Should Marijuana Be Legalized?
When you look back at the reason why the ban on marijuana occurred, it's hard not to wonder why it's not simply legalized entirely by the federal government. The truth is that most people don't know about the origins of why marijuana is illegal. Even if they did, there are people who still object to marijuana usage due to concerns about possible addiction, the worry that marijuana could be a gateway drug to other drugs, and worries about risks of marijuana usage posing to children.
The arguments for the legalization of marijuana include increases in tax revenue for state governments, enhancements in freedoms for Americans, and the expansion of access to potentially beneficial medication for millions of people who suffer from illnesses and diseases. While it may take time for widespread legislation to be passed, the trend does seem to be that one by one, state lawmakers are slowly beginning to rethink marijuana prohibition.