By Chris Roberts,
Fri., Apr. 29 2011
Alcohol prohibition did little to stop Americans from guzzling booze, though it helped make gangsters rich, cops and courts busy, and encouraged foreign imports of “medicinal whiskey” (sound familiar?)
That experiment was short-lived — ratified in 1920, the 18th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution was repealed in 1933 — and particularly short-lived in comparison to the country’s experiment with outlawing marijuana — which turns 100 years old today.
In stark contrast to fermented grapes and grain, the intoxicating qualities of the cannabis sativa plant were unknown to Americans outside of a few Southwest border towns in 1911, according to Dale Gieringer of California NORML. Gieringer spent the better part of 10 years trying to find evidence of marijuana use among 19th-century American writers (local boy Jack London experimented with hash, but he is an exception).
“There is no record of any public concern over marijuana at this time,” Gieringer told SF Weekly. “Only after cannabis was prohibited did it come into widespread popularity.” Pot got plenty of attention in 1911 — and thereafter when Massachusetts passed a law to ban “hypnotic drugs” such as opiates. “Marihuana” or “Indian hemp” was added to that list, despite its widespread anonymity as well as a clause in the Massachusetts ban that allowed drug stores to sell medicinal pot. That included the widely available tinctures used to alleviate migraines and menstrual cramps, according to Gieringer. Ironically, these anti-marijuana laws fostered a new mystique around the drug, which began seeping into the mainstream in the 1920s; it was popularized by jazz musicians and other hip folk.
Since then, the record has been established: An international compact in 1961 supported the banning of cannabis, which the federal government did outright with the Controlled Substances Act in 1970. Pot use and arrests have increased steadily since; marijuana arrests in the United States have nearly tripled since 1990.
Continue reading at: http://blogs.sfweekly.com/thesnitch/2011/04/marijuana_prohibition_100_years.php