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Tolerating Jane

April 26, 2009

by Amador Salazar

11/20/08

November 4th was a historic moment for the United States, because not only did we elect a new president, it was also a moment showing us that we have come so far in terms of race relations and will finally have the first African American president in our Oval Office.

However, there was something else that happened this day that could arguably have improved our race relations more profoundly than having Obama as our president for the next four years.

The people of Massachusetts have joined a short list of 12 other states to decriminalize the use of marijuana. Instead of receiving a criminal offense it is instead reduced to a lowly civil offense.

In other words, you will not head to the slammer as long as you don’t have more than an ounce on you; instead, you will only be fined a sum of one hundred dollars.

That is definitely a lot for anyone that is feeling the pains of an ailing economy, but it is better than going to jail.

According to NORML.org, the offense for getting caught with two ounces or less, in Texas, is considered a class B misdemeanor. As if that weren’t enough you could face up to 180 days of incarceration, and a fine of $2000. Needless to say, the penalties are much worse for the fellow red-eyed citizen in the state of Texas as opposed to the new law passed by the people of Massachusetts.

Now you must be thinking, “Wait- How does this have anything to do with improving our race relations?” To understand this, one must look back to the times when marijuana was made illegal, through the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937. When looking back at this piece of legislation it can easily be seen that racial prejudice, rather than scientific or medical evidence was used as the main reason to illegalize this sticky, green plant.

During the hearings for the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 there was no scientific or medical explanation for outlawing marijuana. Instead it stemmed mostly of racial and ethnic hatred, with statements during the testimony from Harry Anslinger, then head of the Bureau of Narcotics, that are shocking and ridiculous. He was recorded as saying that, “the primary reason to outlaw marijuana is its effect on the degenerate races.”

During the hearings only two experts testified on the subject. One was a professor by the name of James Munch. He claimed that he had injected 300 dogs with the primary ingredient of marijuana and that two of the dogs had died from it. They asked him if he chose dogs because of the similar effect of marijuana on dogs as in humans to which he replied, “I wouldn’t know I am not a dog psychologist.”

The other expert, William Woodward of the American Medical Association, stated that, “The American Medical Association knows of no evidence that marihuana is a dangerous drug.” Even with this statement from Woodward, it was passed in Congress mainly because the speaker of the House claimed that Woodward was 100% behind it even though he was still unsure of the immediate or long-term effects of marijuana.

Once the act was passed, Anslinger held a national conference inviting 42 people who he claimed had knowledge of marijuana. It turned out that 39 of the 42 invited left because they had no knowledge of the subject. This left Anslinger, Woodward, and James Munch the “dog injector” together at the conference. Instead of choosing Woodward who was the most reasonable in his judgment of marijuana, Anslinger picked Munch to be his “official expert.”

As if it could not get any more ridiculous, Munch was asked to testify at a Newark court about the substance’s ability to drive people insane. He admitted that he had tried marijuana once and that, “After 2 puffs on a marijuana cigarette, I was turned into a bat.” Now, regardless of whether you agree on whether marijuana should be legal or not, I think everyone can agree that this is the most ridiculous testimony ever heard, and whatever it was that he was smoking must have been some good stuff. He also claimed that he flew around for fifteen minutes. As a consequence, many people started claiming that they smoked marijuana and went insane, so all the people using this claim were not convicted for their crimes.

Now that you know the absurdity as to why marijuana was initially made illegal; I suggest you go and tell all your friends! Government cannot regulate bad habits, and will never be successful. Instead of throwing money away to arrest innocent people who only harm themselves, our government should end this absurd war against marijuana, and instead realize that regulation equals less freedom.

This is just another example of our government getting in the way of our lives, and is also an example of how bad legislation that stemmed from racial and ethnic prejudice from many years ago can still affect us today.

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