by Evan Tuchinsky
While patients in California have access, cannabis remains a prohibited substance for medical use in 18 states and for recreational use in all but four. How did this ban bias begin? Here is a timeline showing the evolution.
1906: Three centuries after hemp production was not only encouraged, but legally mandated in parts of what was to become the United States of America, Congress passed the Pure Food and Drug Act, requiring that any over-the-counter remedy maker list its cannabis content on the label.
1930: The U.S. government established the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN).
1932: With marijuana — linked by anti-drug campaigners to Mexican immigrants during the Great Depression — banned in 29 states, the FBN adopted the Uniform State Narcotic Act to put the onus for action on state governments.
1936: The film “Reefer Madness” by French director Louis Gasner got released, in the same year that the Motion Picture Association of America prohibited its member studios from depicting narcotics use in movies.
1937: Congress passed the Marijuana Tax Act, limiting possession to those who pay an excise tax and use it for specific medical and industrial purposes.
1952 & ’56: The Boggs Act and Narcotics Control Act set mandatory sentences for drug-related offenses. (A first conviction for possessing marijuana carried a minimum sentence of two to 10 years’ incarceration and a fine up to $20,000.) Most of these minimums got repealed in 1970, in conjunction with the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act.
1973: The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) formed, merging two agencies: the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs (BNND) and the Office of Drug Abuse Law Enforcement (ODALE).
1986: Amid the “War on Drugs” of the 1980s, President Ronald Reagan signed the Anti-Drug Abuse Act that, with the Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984, increased federal penalties for possessing and dealing marijuana. A subsequent amendment set the “three strikes” sentences (life for repeat offenders and death for “drug kingpins.”)
1989: President George H.W. Bush proclaims a new “War on Drugs.”
Source: PBS “Frontline”