Originally posted on www.meramecmontage.com on February 8, 2012
What do the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 and Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act of 1924 have in common? Both laws were once part of the American legal and social landscapes, both were once considered perfectly natural; and to most modern men and women those laws are inconceivable.
As our society evolves, we reconsider previously accepted ideas. Other ideas give rise to panic, and are resisted; for example, Cannabis Sativa L.
Bud, nuggets, blaze, Mary Jane, rope. No plant has yielded as much controversy and has been as misunderstood as cannabis. The myths about marijuana and its effects are as plentiful as its names. All the myths, although still widely exploited, have been debunked or credibly challenged.
Scientists have proven alcohol and nicotine are far more addictive than marijuana. There is no need to remind anyone that a wealth of data attests to marijuana’s medical benefits.
Despite America’s comparatively severe penalties, the U.S. is already the world’s leading per capita marijuana consumer.
The economic ramifications of the prohibition of marijuana and its subsequent black market economy with its billions of tax-free dollars are evident.
In order to understand the actual nature of marijuana’s prohibition, one must understand it has very little to do with the purported “harm” cannabis does and more with the politics behind it.
Marijuana has not always been illegal. For example, Cannabis was prescribed by physicians for medicinal purposes in late 19th century. Farmers were encouraged to grow cannabis in the form of hemp as early as the 17th century.
Other evidence, however, suggests the prohibition of marijuana was nothing more than a xenophobic attempt to control the influx of Mexican workers into the U.S. The migrants, who used marijuana for recreational purposes, were coming into the United States in search of work during the Great Depression and were competing with the white men seeking jobs. Some have also argued the pharmaceutical industry promoted the prohibition of marijuana because it saw marijuana as a competitor.
Why then, despite all the knowledge discrediting the myths and the information available, is marijuana still a taboo?
The answer is simple. Argumentum ad antiquitatem – it has always been this way. Any orthodoxy or convention is very slow to change. The status quo is always the most comfortable place to be. Hesitancy to legalize marijuana stems from the same ideas; since it has always been done this way, leave it as is. Everything new is always scary. The problem is marijuana use is nothing new.
Despite opposition, the war on marijuana is futile. Look no further than the Alcohol Prohibition laws, just as with prohibition, people can learn a lesson here: the government’s job is not to coerce and censor, but to inform and promote responsible usage and give help to those who need it.
So what are the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 and Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act of 1924? The former stated that all runaway slaves had to be returned to their rightful owners and the latter was an anti-miscegenation law that prohibited interracial marriages. Wrap your minds around those two in our contemporary world.
By the way, once upon a time, tomatoes were illegal and considered deadly poison. Add that one to the list of things to ponder.