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There Was A Time

Written by Jim Hinckley

May 18, 2021

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History is a funny thing. It is often taught in a manner that is as exciting as three day seminar on insurance actuary tables. But the fact is that history is relevant. It is interesting. It is even fascinating. As an example, consider the evolving views on marijuana and CBD products.

Today The Bud Farmacy in Needles, California that sells these products is generally as socially accepted as Walgreens, CVS or Walmart. It is simply a store, a legal business that sells recreational products, and homeopathic remedies.

The modern history of marijuana is interesting, and tragic.

After the Mexican Revolution in the early 20th century, a wave of Mexican refugees poured into the American southwest. At the time the use of marijuana was generally accepted in Mexico, especially in rural communities. Some of these refugees brought the recreational use of cannabis, or as referenced in Spanish “marihuana” or “mariguana”  with them.

The timing couldn’t have been worse. The country was in a dramatic state of transition. In the closing years of the 19th century morphine, opium, and cocaine were widely accepted over the counter medications. As an example, it was possible to order a syringe loaded with cocaine for $1.50 through the Sears & Roebuck catalogue.

But the unregulated drugs and their wide availability fueled an escalating array of issues ranging from drug addiction to an increasing divorce rate. As a result in some states laws to ban or regulate drugs were passed. The federal government also responded to an increasing public outcry by levying taxes on and regulating morphine and opium. The Smoking Opium Exclusion Act of 1909 banned the possession, importation and use of opium for smoking. Then n 1914, Congress passed the Harrison Act, which regulated and taxed the production, importation, and distribution of opiates and cocaine.

During the same period there was a marked rise in anti immigration sentiment. In the 1890s, an increasing number of Americans considered immigration a serious danger to the nation’s security. The growing wave of people with different cultures and languages was also perceived to be undermining American morals as the political system.

Nativist movements included the Know-Nothing or American Party of the mid 850s, the Immigration Restriction League of the 1890s, and the anti-Asian movements popular in the west and southwest led to enactment of laws such as the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. The concern that immigrants would lower wages led labor unions to support restrictions.

The wave of Mexican refugees and immigrants during the teens provided ample fodder for anti-drug campaigners. It also gave politicians opportunity to fuel anti immigrant sentiments and then harness this to solicit votes.

In the west and southwest rumors quickly spread of Mexicans distributing “locoweed” to American schoolchildren. In port cities along the Gulf Coast such as New Orleans, the drug was linked with immigrants from the West Indian, African-Americans, jazz musicians, prostitutes, and “deviants.”

Prohibition was the most noticeable attempt of the era to regulate morality through legislation. The regulation and restriction on marijuana and related products, however, was just commencing. It took more than a decade before the ill conceived attempt to restrict alcohol sales and use was repealed. It took almost a century before a realistic approach to the study of cannabis, its regulated use and its potential medicinal benefits was initiated.

 

 

 

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