be informed

The Racist History of Cannabis in America

Cannabis Medicine

The Racist History of Cannabis in America

Has cannabis improved your life? Do you question where the stigma came from? We researched the history of cannabis in America to find the answers and the story is – tragic.

At Be Jubie we believe that normalizing cannabis through education is extremely important. We are a CBD company but we are advocates for all varieties of the cannabis plant and the truth.

History Of Cannabis | The Racist History Of Cannabis In America | Be Informed
The Racist History of Cannabis in America 1

Cannabis is Medicine

Doctors prescribed cannabis as medicine during the 1800s and it was administered by the mouth from a tincture vs. being smoked. In the early 1900s, predictive medicine like aspirin became available and doctors started to prescribe cannabis less often. Predictive medicine may have been easier for doctors to work with but it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s better for you. In the early 20th century the Endocannabinoid System wasn’t discovered yet and explains why doctors in that era experienced inconsistent results. Now we know that dosing cannabis is unique to the individual and takes patience and consistency.

In 1910 during the Mexican Revolution, Mexican refugees fled to the Southwestern states and they brought smokeable cannabis. Smoking cannabis was widely known as “colored-peoples” drug which is important to note because it drove the racist antics that soon followed.

Harry Anslinger

History Of Cannabis | The Racist History Of Cannabis In America | Be Informed

Harry Anslinger became the Commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics in 1930. He was responsible for enforcing prohibition laws against alcohol. When the prohibition ended in 1933 he feared he would lose his job. To ensure he remained relevant he began a racist campaign against cannabis. The campaign wasn’t based on scientific evidence or facts.

He created the ‘Reefer Madness’ campaign and strategically used lies, fear, and racism to gain momentum. His tactics worked! His campaign started at the state level and through mass media outlets it quickly gained acceptance among whites nationally. Here are examples of Anslinger’s racist statements:

“Reefer makes darkies think they’re as good as white men.”

“Two Negros took a girl fourteen years old and kept her for two days under the influence of hemp. Upon recovery, she was found to be suffering from syphilis”

Anslinger created what’s known as “Gore Files” where he used horrific murders as an example of what can happen to you when you consume cannabis when in fact cannabis wasn’t consumed before or during the murders. He painted the picture that cannabis made black and brown people rape and kill white people. If white people smoked it then it would make them go crazy and kill or worse, have orgies! The stories were beyond crazy but in the 1930’s it was more believable because the propaganda was being fed through mass media from the trusted government.

This playbook feels all too familiar – lies, fear, racism, and false media. We experience that TODAY.

Samples of the ‘Reefer Madness’ imagery used in the 1930’s to evoke fear-based propaganda in the 1930’s:

History Of Cannabis | The Racist History Of Cannabis In America | Be Informed
The Racist History of Cannabis in America 2

Marihuana Tax Act of 1937

History Of Cannabis | The Racist History Of Cannabis In America | Be Informed

The Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 allowed the federal government to apply high taxes to cannabis growers, sellers, doctors, etc. The taxes were so high no one could afford to pay them. The American Medical Association (AMA) opposed the act because there was no scientific basis and it prevented doctors from prescribing cannabis for medicine. That didn’t stop Anslinger, he locked up anyone that didn’t pay the taxes.

Anslinger strategically used the word marihuana (or marijuana) in the name of the act because it sounds foreign which aided his racist narrative that black and brown people use cannabis to rape and kill white people. Today, we acknowledge the racist ties to the word and we choose to use the real name of the plant – cannabis.

From 1937 on, cannabis stigma became rooted in our culture and is still alive today. We believe it’s extremely important to understand the history of cannabis in the U.S. in order to overcome its stigma. Harry Anslinger’s personal political agenda to remain relevant has effectively demonized a safe plant and led to disenfranchise entire black and brown communities. The racist history of cannabis in America is another example of systemic racism. The emerging cannabis industry needs to be held accountable to create an equal playing field for black people to enter the industry, ensure cannabis tax dollars are given back to the families and communities most affected by the war on drugs and to free prisoners locked up for cannabis-related charges. BLACK LIVES MATTER!!

Sources used:
Vice News
Feature Image from Antique Cannabis Book


  1. Avatar Of Lana
    August 27, 2020 at 4:12 am

    Thank you for your blog post.Really thank you! Awesome.

  2. Avatar Of Clapp
    June 27, 2020 at 1:45 pm

    One time for Reefer Madness?????…really insightful article tho.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.