Anyone Ever Wonder Just How Marijuana Became Illegal In The US?

AL did a great job covering the political fallout from AG Sessions crusade against the demon weed, but what I almost never see discussed in all of the coverage is just how marijuana was deemed to be dangerous and became illegal in the US. It all comes down to one appointed official trying to protect his department’s budget

If you look for the roots of America’s ban on cannabis, you’ll find nearly all roads lead to a man named Harry Anslinger. He was the first commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, which laid the ground work for the modern-day DEA, and the first architect of the war on drugs.

Anslinger was appointed in 1930, just as the prohibition of alcohol was beginning to crumble (it was finally repealed in 1933), and remained in power for 32 years. Early on, he was on record essentially saying cannabis use was no big deal. He called the idea that it made people mad or violent an “absurd fallacy.”

But when Anslinger was put in charge of the FBN, he changed his position entirely.

“From the moment he took charge of the bureau, Harry was aware of the weakness of his new position. A war on narcotics alone — cocaine and heroin, outlawed in 1914 — wasn’t enough,” author Johann Hari wrote in his book, “Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs.” “They were used only by a tiny minority, and you couldn’t keep an entire department alive on such small crumbs. He needed more.

Consequently, Anslinger made it his mission to rid the U.S. of all drugs — including cannabis. His influence played a major role in the introduction and passage of the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937, which outlawed possessing or selling pot.

Fueled by a handful of 1920s newspaper stories about crazed or violent episodes after marijuana use, Anslinger first claimed that the drug could cause psychosis and eventually insanity. In a radio address, he stated young people are “slaves to this narcotic, continuing addiction until they deteriorate mentally, become insane, turn to violent crime and murder.”

In particular, he latched on to the story of a young man named Victor Licata, who had hacked his family to death with an ax, supposedly while high on cannabis. It was discovered many years later, however, that Licata had a history of mental illness in his family, and there was no proof he ever used the drug.

The problem was, there was little scientific evidence that supported Anslinger’s claims. He contacted 30 scientists, according to Hari, and 29 told him cannabis was not a dangerous drug. But it was the theory of the single expert who agreed with him that he presented to the public — cannabis was an evil that should be banned — and the press ran with this sensationalized version.

Ansliger then combined his pursuit of a dedicated funding stream for his bureau with a healthy amount of all American racism and bigotry.

Harry told the public that “the increase [in drug addiction] is practically 100 percent among Negro people,” which he stressed was terrifying because already “the Negro population . . . accounts for 10 percent of the total population, but 60 percent of the addicts.” He could wage the drug war—he could do what he did—only because he was responding to a fear in the American people. You can be a great surfer, but you still need a great wave. Harry’s wave came in the form of a race panic.

Ansliger even promoted the term marijuana over cannabis because of its ethnic and racial connotations.

The word “marijuana” itself was part of this approach. What was commonly known as  cannabis until the early 1900s was instead called marihuana, a Spanish word more likely to be associated with Mexicans.

“He was able to do this because he was tapping into very deep anxieties in the culture that were not to do with drugs — and attaching them to this drug,” Hari said. Essentially, in 1930s America, it wasn’t hard to use racist rhetoric to associate the supposed harms of cannabis with minorities and immigrants.

So as the nationwide attitude towards cannabis began to fall in line with Anslinger’s, he testified before Congress in hearings for the Marijuana Tax Act. His testimony centered around the ideas he had been pushing all along — including a provocative letter from a local newspaper editor in Colorado, saying “I wish I could show you what a small marihuana cigaret can do to one of our degenerate Spanish-speaking residents.”

One appointed officials pursuit or relevance and power combined with his racism and bigotry spawned an almost 100 year war on drugs in the US. An effort that has spent billions of dollars, but done very little to curb American’s appetite for drugs. All while perpetuating and furthering systemic racism and its horrific effects on Americans of color.

“What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.” — Kohelet 1:9

Let’s Do Something For The Real Forgotten Men and Women of the US: Toys For Puerto Rico

Despite the President’s and the White House’s Spokeswoman’s Office constantly harping on the forgotten men and women of America (aka the same cranky white conservatives that everyone has been pandering to for over 200 years), there are actually real forgotten Americans. They live in Puerto Rico. Many (most?) still don’t have reliable power and won’t for several more months. And since the GOP controlled Congress is happy to add $1.5 trillion to the deficit for corporate and affluent tax relief and to further screw Puerto Ricans over by treating it as not part of the US for import purposes, but not to actually properly provide for the general welfare of US citizens that live in Puerto Rico, let alone any other US citizens that aren’t wealthy, the rest of us have to step up.

Lin-Manuel Miranda, an example of someone who is doing an amazing job and is being recognized more and more, I notice, has taken the initiative to make sure the children of Puerto Rico have as merry a Christmas as possible. Puerto Ricans traditionally give gifts on the Feast Day of the Three Kings/Dia de los Tres Reyes, which is on 6 January. So he’s been pushing Toys for Puerto Rico, as well as Unidos: Disaster Relief and Recovery Program to Support Puerto Rico.

Chef Jose Andres and his colleagues are still going above and beyond trying to feed all the Puerto Ricans in need.

Here’s the link to World Central Kitchen’s page.

I know someone here is always asking you all for money. Usually it is Doug! using ActBlue to actually pay for his new kid’s college fund er, um, fund Democratic candidates. And that is very important. But too many of our fellow Americans in Puerto Rico have lost almost everything and with all the other meshugas going on they’ve largely dropped off the news media and political radar. So if you can afford to help make sure a girl or boy in Puerto Rico has something to brighten their holiday or to help make sure they and their family get a hot meal or necessary disaster relief, please pitch in.

And for those in the path of the bomb cyclone – stay warm, stay safe!

Open thread!

Something Is Going On In Iran: Calls For Second Day of Protests

I was out and about and offline most of the day and am just now getting caught up with the day’s news. Apparently there were anti-government protests across Iran today.

And there are now calls for a second day of protests on 30 December 2017.

I honestly am not sure what to make of what is going on. The last time we saw protests like this they led to no actual changes and the organizers manipulated imagery by shooting pictures and videos from multiple angles, using forced perspective, and even using pictures and videos from protests in other parts of the Middle East to try to convince non-Iranians that far more activity of far greater consequence was occurring. I’ll keep tracking this tomorrow and will update if anything significant occurs. These types of popular protests often (usually) don’t go anywhere, but the times when they do they tend to move very fast and catch everyone flat footed. Not least the governments they seek to overturn.


I highly recommend this thread by Karim Sadjadpour. Lot of good information in it.

Stay frosty!



Breaking News: The President Has Given An Interview To The NY Times Without Legal Counsel Or Aides Present

I just got in from watching the hockey game with a friend, turned on the TV, and Ari Melber on MSNBC is reporting that the President sat for an interview earlier today with reporters from The NY Times. Without legal counsel or advisors present. According to Melber the entire interview produced twelve pages of transcripts. The NY Times has posted excerpts here.

Apparently the President has decided that his governing philosophy is l’etat est moi:

SCHMIDT: You control the Justice Department. Should they reopen that email investigation?

TRUMP: What I’ve done is, I have absolute right to do what I want to do with the Justice Department. But for purposes of hopefully thinking I’m going to be treated fairly, I’ve stayed uninvolved with this particular matter.

He also believes the only collusion was between the Democrats and the Russians:

TRUMP: [Inaudible.] There was tremendous collusion on behalf of the Russians and the Democrats. There was no collusion with respect to my campaign. I think I’ll be treated fairly. Timingwise, I can’t tell you. I just don’t know. But I think we’ll be treated fairly.

SCHMIDT: But you’re not worked up about the timing?

TRUMP: Well, I think it’s bad for the country. The only thing that bothers me about timing, I think it’s a very bad thing for the country. Because it makes the country look bad, it makes the country look very bad, and it puts the country in a very bad position. So the sooner it’s worked out, the better it is for the country.

But there is tremendous collusion with the Russians and with the Democratic Party. Including all of the stuff with the — and then whatever happened to the Pakistani guy, that had the two, you know, whatever happened to this Pakistani guy who worked with the D.N.C.?

Whatever happened to them? With the two servers that they broke up into a million pieces? Whatever happened to him? That was a big story. Now all of sudden [inaudible]. So I know The New York Times is going to — because those are real stories. Whatever happened to the Hillary Clinton deleted 33,000 emails after she got [inaudible] — which you guys wrote, but then you dropped — was that you?

The President also appears to be unclear on how the GOP majority caucuses in both chambers of Congress approached the recent tax cut legislation:

TRUMP: Had they asked, “Let’s do a bipartisan,” Michael, I would have done bipartisan. I would absolutely have done bipartisan.

SCHMIDT: But they didn’t. … They didn’t …

TRUMP: And if I did bipartisan, I would have done something with SALT [the state and local tax deduction]. With that being said, you look back, Ronald Reagan wanted to take deductibility away from states. Ronald Reagan, years ago, and he couldn’t do it. Because New York had a very powerful group of people. Which they don’t have today. Today, they don’t have the same representatives. You know, in those days they had Lew Rudin and me. … I fought like hell for that. They had a lot of very good guys. Lew Rudin was very effective. He worked hard for New York. And we had some very good senators. … You know, we had a lot of people who fought very hard against, let’s call it SALT. Had they come to me and said, look, we’ll do this, this, this, we’ll do [inaudible]. I could have done something with SALT. Or made it less severe. But they were very ineffective. They were very, very ineffective. You understand what I mean. Had they come to me for a bipartisan tax bill, I would have gone to Mitch, and I would have gone to the other Republicans, and we could have worked something out bipartisan. And that could’ve been either a change to SALT or knockout of SALT.

He also wants to do away with chain migration (I’ll have a longer post on this next week), which is interesting because if it wasn’t for chain migration his grandfather would have never made it to the US from Germany, nor his mother from Scotland (and Stephen Miller’s family wouldn’t have made it out of Europe before the Holocaust).

TRUMP: I’m always moving. I’m moving in both directions. We have to get rid of chainlike immigration, we have to get rid of the chain. The chain is the last guy that killed. … [Talking with guests.] … The last guy that killed the eight people. … [Inaudible.] … So badly wounded people. … Twenty-two people came in through chain migration. Chain migration and the lottery system. They have a lottery in these countries.

They take the worst people in the country, they put ‘em into the lottery, then they have a handful of bad, worse ones, and they put them out. ‘Oh, these are the people the United States. …” … We’re gonna get rid of the lottery, and by the way, the Democrats agree with me on that. On chain migration, they pretty much agree with me.

He’s also very optimistic on his chances of reelection:

TRUMP: We’re going to win another four years for a lot of reasons, most importantly because our country is starting to do well again and we’re being respected again. But another reason that I’m going to win another four years is because newspapers, television, all forms of media will tank if I’m not there because without me, their ratings are going down the tubes. Without me, The New York Times will indeed be not the failing New York Times, but the failed New York Times. So they basically have to let me win. And eventually, probably six months before the election, they’ll be loving me because they’re saying, “Please, please, don’t lose Donald Trump.” O.K.

Open thread.

Amusing Christmas Traditions: The Most Senior Ranking Jewish American Military Officer Is In Overwatch In Support Of Santa’s Deliveries

Yes, you read that right Gen David L. Goldfein, Chief of Staff of the Air Force and the most senior Jewish American officer in the US Military, is supervising this year’s tracking of Santa by NORAD.

This US Air Force tradition of tracking Santa began back in the 1950s when a typo in an advertisement led a call to Santa to go awry and wind up on the line of Col. Harry Shoup, of Continental Air Defense Command, now known as North American Aerospace Command (NORAD).

Shoup’s children, Terri Van Keuren, 65, Rick Shoup, 59, and Pam Farrell, 70, recently visited StoryCorps to talk about how the tradition began.

Terri remembers her dad had two phones on his desk, including a red one. “Only a four-star general at the Pentagon and my dad had the number,” she says.

“This was the ’50s, this was the Cold War, and he would have been the first one to know if there was an attack on the United States,” Rick says.

The red phone rang one day in December 1955, and Shoup answered it, Pam says. “And then there was a small voice that just asked, ‘Is this Santa Claus?’ ”

His children remember Shoup as straight-laced and disciplined, and he was annoyed and upset by the call and thought it was a joke — but then, Terri says, the little voice started crying.

“And Dad realized that it wasn’t a joke,” her sister says. “So he talked to him, ho-ho-ho’d and asked if he had been a good boy and, ‘May I talk to your mother?’ And the mother got on and said, ‘You haven’t seen the paper yet? There’s a phone number to call Santa. It’s in the Sears ad.’ Dad looked it up, and there it was, his red phone number. And they had children calling one after another, so he put a couple of airmen on the phones to act like Santa Claus.”

“It got to be a big joke at the command center. You know, ‘The old man’s really flipped his lid this time. We’re answering Santa calls,’ ” Terri says.

“The airmen had this big glass board with the United States on it and Canada, and when airplanes would come in they would track them,” Pam says.

“And Christmas Eve of 1955, when Dad walked in, there was a drawing of a sleigh with eight reindeer coming over the North Pole,” Rick says.

“Dad said, ‘What is that?’ They say, ‘Colonel, we’re sorry. We were just making a joke. Do you want us to take that down?’ Dad looked at it for a while, and next thing you know, Dad had called the radio station and had said, ‘This is the commander at the Combat Alert Center, and we have an unidentified flying object. Why, it looks like a sleigh.’ Well, the radio stations would call him like every hour and say, ‘Where’s Santa now?’ ” Terri says.

“And later in life he got letters from all over the world, people saying, ‘Thank you, Colonel,’ for having, you know, this sense of humor. And in his 90s, he would carry those letters around with him in a briefcase that had a lock on it like it was top-secret information,” she says. “You know, he was an important guy, but this is the thing he’s known for.”

“Yeah,” Rick says, “it’s probably the thing he was proudest of, too.”

It says something important that a whimsical tradition, born of a moment of empathy at the start of the Cold War, is now being overseen and promoted by the highest ranking Jewish American military official. That despite all the meanness and smallness and pettiness of the past year there is still resilience left in American civil society.

For those celebrating Christmas tonight: a very Merry Christmas to you. For those that aren’t:

Merry Christmas! And Happy Holidays! Drive safe, be safe, and enjoy!

Open thread!

A Little Good News: The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Rules the Third Travel Ban is Unconstitutional

Blanket bans are not an effective way to protect the US, Americans, or anyone else visiting the country. They are simply discriminatory, exclusionary, and rooted in deep seated religious and ethnic prejudice and racism. And within the administration’s senior staff they’re being pushed by a deeply disturbed young man who hasn’t quite figured out that he’s only considered white based on the sufferance of others.

From the decision:

“The Government’s interpretation of 8 U.S.C. § 1182(f) not only upends the carefully crafted immigration scheme Congress has embodied in the INA, but it deviates from the text of the statute, legislative history, and prior executive practice as well. Further, the President did not satisfy the critical prerequisite Congress attached to his suspension authority: Before blocking entry, he must first make a legally sufficient finding that the entry of the specified individuals would be “detrimental to the interests of the United States.” The Proclamation once again conflicts with the INA’s prohibition on nationality-based discrimination in the issuance of immigrant visas.”

The decision takes direct aim at Trump’s claim that, as President, he can do whatever he’d like with regard to banning people from any country for any reason.

“The Government argues that the President, at any time and under any circumstances, could bar entry of all aliens from any country, and intensifies the consequences of its position by saying that no federal court—not a federal district court, nor our court of appeals, nor even the Supreme Court itself—would have Article III jurisdiction to review that matter because of the consular nonreviewability doctrine. Particularly in the absence of an explicit jurisdiction-stripping provision, we doubt whether the Government’s position could be adopted without running roughshod over the principles of separation of powers enshrined in our Constitution.”

The court also takes on the xenophobia underlying Trump’s order:

“In assessing the public interest, we are reminded of Justice Murphy’s wise words: “All residents of this nation are kin in some way by blood or culture to a foreign land.” Korematsu v. United States, 323 U.S. 214, 242 (Murphy, J., dissenting). It cannot be in the public interest that a portion of this country be made to live in fear.”

The court issued a limited injunction blocking the ban as it applies to “foreign nationals who have a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.”

The full ruling can be found at the link.

Open thread.

The President Presents the New National Security Strategy

The President will be giving an address at 2:00 PM EST to introduce his administration’s first/new National Security Strategy. You can find the document here.  If you want to see the previous one to compare them, prepared by the Obama Administration and released in early 2015, you can find that document here.

The new National Security Strategy states that it is rooted in

… principled realism that is guided by outcomes, not ideology. It is based upon the view that peace, securi , and prosperity depend on strong, sovereign nations that respect their citizens at home and cooperate to advance peace abroad. And it is grounded in the realization that American principles are a lasting force for good in the world.

It delineates four vital national interests:

First, our fundamenta l responsibility is to protect the American people, the homeland, and the American way of life. We will strengthen control of our borders and reform our immigration system. We will protect our critical infrastructure and go after malicious cyber actors. A layered missile defense system will defend our homeland against missile a acks. And we will pursue threats to their source, so that jihadist terrorists are stopped before they ever reach our borders.

Second, we will promote American prosperity. We will rejuvenate the American economy for the benefit of American workers and companies. We will insist upon fair and reciprocal economic relationships to address trade imbalances. The United States must preserve our lead in research and technology and protect our economy from competitors who unfairly acquire our intellectual property. And we will embrace America’s energy dominance because unleashing abundant energy resources stimulates our economy.

Third, we will preserve peace through strength by rebuilding our military so that it remains preeminent, deters our adversaries, and if necessary, is able to fight and win. We will compete with all tools of national power to ensure that regions of the world are not dominated by one power. We will strengthen America’s capabilities—including in space and cyberspace—and revitalize others that have been neglected. Allies and partners magnify our power. We expect them to shoulder a fair share of the burden of responsibility to protect against common threats.

Fourth, we will advance American inf luence because a world that supports American interests and reflects our values makes America more secure and prosperous. We will compete and lead in multilateral organizations so that American interests and principles are protected. America’s commitment to liber , democracy, and the rule of law serves as an inspiration for those living under  ranny. We can play a catalytic role in promoting private-sector-led economic growth, helping aspiring partners become future trading and security partners. And we will remain a generous nation, even as we expect others to share responsibility.

Strengthening our sovereignty—the first duty of a government is to serve the interests of its own people—is a necessary condition for protecting these four national interests. And as we strengthen our sovereignty we will renew confidence in ourselves as a nation. We are proud of our history, optimistic about America’s future, and confident of the positive example the United States offers to the world. We are also realistic and understand that the American way of life cannot be imposed upon others, nor is it the inevitable culmination of progress. Together with our allies, partners, and aspiring partners, the United States will pursue cooperation with reciprocity. Cooperation means sharing responsibilities and burdens. In trade, fair and reciprocal relationships benefit all with equal levels of market access and opportunities for economic growth. An America First National Security Strategy appreciates that America will catalyze conditions to unleash economic success for America and the world.

In the United States, free men and women have created the most just and prosperous nation in history. Our generation of Americans is now charged with preserving and defending that precious inheritance. This National Security Strategy shows the way.

If you’re going to watch the President’s address, the key to look for is how close or how far he strays from the actual document. A lot of this new National Security Strategy is straight up International Relations realism with some of the President’s favorite phrases worked in. In many ways it is what one would expect with LTG McMaster as the Assistant to the President – National Security Advisor and Defense Secretary Mattis. The references to border security and sovereignty are the result of inputs from Attorney General Sessions and Stephen Miller, Assistant to the President for (Domestic) Policy.

Today, as was the case with the President’s speeches when visiting NATO earlier in the year, the question is whether LTG McMaster is able to keep the speech from being changed at the last minute by Stephen Miller. If LTG McMaster can keep the speech locked down and control what is fed in the teleprompter, the President should stick close to the just released document. If he can’t, and Miller is able to revise it as he did during the NATO visit, then things could get very, very interesting. Live stream is below.

Open thread!