The Great Wall of Cannabis Prohibition that was erected as a result of
the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 was never designed to withstand the barrage
of logic that the Internet has been able to bring to bear upon it and I am
sure that the Spin Doctors of the prewar post depression era who told the
first lies never dreamed that one day the Government would lose itís power
over information to the people via Internet..............
The Marihuana Tax Act of 1937
The marijuana prohibition is part and parcel of that era which is now being rejected
rather generally -- the New Deal era in Washington in the late 30s.
Whenever Congress is going to pass a law, they hold hearings. And as you may have seen,
these hearings can be extremely voluminous, they go on and on, they have days and days of
hearings. Well, may I say, that the hearings on the national marijuana prohibition were
very brief indeed.
The hearings on the national marijuana prohibition lasted one hour, on each of two
mornings and since the hearings were so brief I can tell you almost exactly what was said
to support the national marijuana prohibition.
When we asked at the Library of Congress for a copy of the hearings, to the shock of the
Library of Congress, none could be found. We went "What?" It took them four
months to finally honor our request because -- are you ready for this? -- the hearings
were so brief that the volume had slid down inside the side shelf of the bookcase and was
so thin it had slid right down to the bottom inside the bookshelf. That's how brief they
were. Are you ready for this? They had to break the bookshelf open because it had slid
There were three bodies of testimony at the hearings on the national marijuana
The first testimony came from Commissioner Harry Anslinger, the newly named Commissioner
of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics. Commissioner Anslinger gave the Government testimony
and I will quote him directly. By the way, he was not working from a text that he had
written. He was working from a text that had been written for him by a District Attorney
in New Orleans, a guy named Stanley. Reading directly from Mr. Stanley's work,
Commissioner Anslinger told the Congressmen at the hearings, and I quote,
"Marihuana is an addictive drug which produces in its users insanity, criminality,
That was the Government testimony to support the marijuana prohibition from the
The next body of testimony -- remember all of this took a total of two hours -- uh .. You
understand what the idea was, don't you? The idea was to prohibit the
cultivation of hemp in America. You all know that hemp has other uses than its euphoriant
use. For one, hemp has always been used to make rope. Number two, the resins of the hemp
plant are used as bases for paints and varnishes. And, finally, the seeds of the hemp
plant are widely used in bird seed. Since these industries were going to be affected the
next body of testimony came from the industrial spokesmen who represented these
The first person was the rope guy. The rope guy told a fascinating story -- it really is
fascinating -- the growth of a hemp to make rope was a principle cash crop in Northern
Virginia and Southern Maryland at the time of the Revolutionary War. But, said the rope
guy, by about 1820 it got cheaper to import the hemp we needed to make rope from the Far
East and so now in 1937 we don't grow any more hemp to make rope in this country -- it
isn't needed anymore.
If you heard that story, there are two things about it that I found fascinating. Number
one, it explains the long-standing rumor that our forefathers had something to do with
marijuana. Yes, they did -- they grew it. Hemp was the principal crop at Mount Vernon. It
was a secondary crop at Monticello. Now, of
course, in our research we did not find any evidence that any of our forefathers had used
the hemp plant for euphoriant purposes, but they did grow it.
The second part of that story that, to me is even more interesting is -- did you see the
date again - 1937? What did the rope guy say? We can get all the hemp we need to make rope
from the Far East, we don't grow it hear anymore because we don't need to.
Five years later, 1942, we are cut off from our sources of hemp in the Far East. We need a
lot of hemp to outfit our ships for World War II, rope for the ships, and therefore, the
Federal Government, as some of you know, went into the business of growing hemp on
gigantic farms throughout the Midwest and the South to make rope to outfit the ships for
World War II.
So, even to this day, if you are from the Midwest you will always meet the people who say,
"Gosh, hemp grows all along the railroad tracks." Well, it does. Why? Because
these huge farms existed all during World War II.
But, the rope people didn't care. The paint and varnish people said "We can use
something else." And, of the industrial spokesmen, only the birdseed people
balked. The birdseed people were the ones who balked and the birdseed
person was asked, "Couldn't you use some other seed?"
These are all, by the way, direct quotes from the hearings. The answer the birdseed guy
gave was, "No, Congressman, we couldn't. We have never found
another seed that makes a birds coat so lustrous or makes them sing so much."
So, on the ground that the birdseed people needed it -- did you know that the birdseed
people both got and kept an exemption from the Marihuana Tax Act
right through this very day for so-called "denatured seeds"?
In any event, there was Anslinger's testimony, there was the industrial testimony -- there
was only one body of testimony left at these brief hearings and it was medical. There were
two pieces of medical evidence introduced with regard to the marijuana prohibition.
The first came from a pharmacologist at Temple University who claimed that he had injected
the active ingredient in marihuana into the brains of 300 dogs, and
two of those dogs had died. When asked by the Congressmen, and I quote, "Doctor, did
you choose dogs for the similarity of their reactions to that of
humans?" The answer of the pharmacologist was, "I wouldn't know, I am
not a dog psychologist."
Well, the active ingredient in marijuana was first synthesized in a laboratory in Holland
after World War II. So what it was this pharmacologist injected into
these dogs we will never know, but it almost certainly was not the active ingredient in
The other piece of medical testimony came from a man named Dr. William C. Woodward. Dr.
Woodward was both a lawyer and a doctor and he was Chief
Counsel to the American Medical Association. Dr. Woodward came to testify at the behest of
the American Medical Association saying, and I quote, "The American Medical
Association knows of no evidence that marihuana is a dangerous drug."
What's amazing is not whether that's true or not. What's amazing is what the Congressmen
then said to him. Immediately upon his saying, and I quote again,
"The American Medical Association knows of no evidence that marihuana is a dangerous
drug.", one of the Congressmen said, "Doctor, if you can't say
something good about what we are trying to do, why don't you go home?"
That's an exact quote. The next Congressman said, "Doctor, if you haven't got
something better to say than that, we are sick of hearing you."
So, over the objection of the American Medical Association, the bill passed out of
committee and on to the floor of Congress. Now, some of you may think that the debate on
the floor of Congress was more extensive on the marijuana prohibition. It wasn't. It
lasted one minute and thirty-two seconds by my count and, as such, I will give it to you
The entire debate on the national marijuana prohibition was as follows -- and, by the way,
if you had grown up in Washington, DC as I had you would appreciate this date. Are you
ready? The bill was brought on to the floor of the House of Representatives -- there never
was any Senate debate on it not one word -- 5:45 Friday afternoon, August 20. Now, in
pre-air-conditioning Washington, who was on the floor of the House? Who was on the floor
of the House? Not very many people.
Speaker Sam Rayburn called for the bill to be passed on "tellers". Does everyone
know "tellers"? Did you know that for the vast bulk of legislation in this
country, there is not a recorded vote. It is simply, more people walk past this point than
walk past that point and it passes -- it's called "tellers". They were getting
ready to pass this thing on tellers without discussion and without a recorded vote when
one of the few Republicans left in Congress, a guy from upstate New York, stood up and
asked two questions, which constituted the entire debate on the national marijuana
"Mr. Speaker, what is this bill about?"
To which Speaker Rayburn replied, "I don't know. It has something to do with a thing
called marihuana. I think it's a narcotic of some kind."
Undaunted, the guy from Upstate New York asked a second question, which was as important
to the Republicans as it was unimportant to the Democrats. "Mr.
Speaker, does the American Medical Association support this bill?"
In one of the most remarkable things I have ever found in any research, a guy who was on
the committee, and who later went on to become a Supreme Court Justice, stood up and -- do
you remember? The AMA guy was named William C. Woodward -- a member of the committee who
had supported the bill leaped to his feet and he said, "Their Doctor Wentworth came
down here. They support this bill 100 percent." It wasn't true, but it was good
enough for the Republicans. They sat down and the bill passed on tellers, without a
In the Senate there never was any debate or a recorded vote, and the bill went to
President Roosevelt's desk and he signed it and America-and ultimately the
world - has had cannabis prohibition enforced upon it ever since ......................