The Same Racism Used To Justify White Supremacist Violence Was Used To Make Cannabis Illegal

Durban Poison. Not merely a good sativa, a great one…

I’ve searched Google & Wikipedia. I’ve searched the whole internet (every single tube of it). I even cracked an actual book. There’s no evidence anywhere that racism ever did anything good for anyone. Yet here we are, hostages of America’s racist soul.

I’ll warn ya right now — there’s a whole shitload of irony coming. Because of course.

Patrick Crusius, the El Paso shooter, published a manifesto an hour before heading out the door, armed to the teeth, his intent — hunt other humans and kill them because they’re different. His manifesto made his feelings about brown people and immigrants crystal clear. 21-year-old Mr. Crusius was angry enough to drive hours across the state of Texas to specifically shoot people coming from Mexico. Or, as Mr. Crusius would probably call them “Mexicans”.

I don’t know if Mr. Crusius smokes cannabis. I know lots & lots & LOTS of his white supremacist pals love the stuff. Why shouldn’t they? Cannabis is a great product (for adults for whom its appropriate and who are savvy about their dosing). But the fact that it IS a legal product now in places like California is in spite of the fact that it was “illegalized” back in the day specifically because of racism like Mr. Cruisius’.

In “Blunt Truths” — the series I wrote for Weedmaps News — I deep dive into the overt racism behind every bit of marijuana prohibition. At no point did anyone legislating marijuana ever ask “But, is it bad for people?” It was never about what marijuana did to anyone, it was always about WHO was smoking it. When Harry Anslinger became America’s first Commissioner of the nascent Federal Bureau of Narcotics, he didn’t give a shit about cannabis. He said so.

White people knew little about cannabis. It wasn’t part of their culture as it was part of Mexico’s culture. Not a big part, of course — but a part. Unlike alcohol, marijuana didn’t make anyone angry or violent. It just made them feel better and happier at the end of a day’s work. Or whenever they cared to use it. The Mexican Revolution (1910) created a wave of frightened Mexicans heading north. Marijuana traveled with them. Because it was unfamiliar, it caught the attention of the already nervous white people.

Marihuana caught a ride east and landed in New Orleans where jazz was being born. The musicians doing the birthing (guys like Louis Armstrong, King Oliver and Jelly Roll Morton) didn’t like to drink because alcohol dulled their senses and their creativity. Morphine was even worse. Marihuana however made them feel good without dulling them. Quite the contrary — reefer opened their minds. Suddenly they could hear tones and shadings and nuances they didn’t hear without the dope. They could create on marijuana. They could perform on it. They could live their lives on it.

New Orleans habitually expunged the black musicians from the city. When the city closed famed Storyville in 1918, all those talented players headed north, up the Mississippi. That same migration happened again in the late 1920’s. Those pot-smoking jazz musicians landed in Memphis, Nashville, Chicago. Each place they landed, marijuana culture started. And — here’s where it gets problematic for white people — WHITE PEOPLE started smoking it. That’s the reason behind cannabis prohibition not only in America but all around the world — for real: Cannabis was made illegal because white people started smoking it.

Harry Anslinger was a staggering racist but (the problem) a masterful bureaucrat. He overcame a veritable shitload of truth, reality and law to finally have his way and make marijuana illegal. Once he made it illegal here, he used his bureaucratic expertise to make cannabis illegal all over the world. To help accomplish that end, Anslinger invented every last bit of the marijuana mythology that still haunts us today.

Anslinger invented “reefer madness”. When, in the 1950’s his racist dog whistle stopped working as well in Congress (Anslinger had to fight a constant war for dollars to fund his agency), Anslinger invented “The Gateway Theory” to connect marijuana usage to hard drug usage. No legitimate data exists connecting those two things — emphasis on the word “legitimate”. None. Zilch.

Still, Richard Nixon used that lie to justify the (bullshit) War On Drugs. Just so we’re clear — the War On Drugs (John Haldeman even admitted this in an interview ffs!) was understood by those waging it to be a war on black people, brown people and liberal people.

Just like the raging racists who preceded them, no one ever asked “But, isn;t it actually kind of good for people?”

Racists like Mr. Crusius, Santino Legran (Gilroy Garlic Festival) & William Bowers (Tree Of Life Synagogue, Pittsburgh) or bigots like Omar Mateen (the Orlando gay nightclub shooter) despise all foreign cultures (especially if black or brown people practice them). Yet — given time, these same racists will ADAPT and come to love the very cultural object they once used as the focus of their ignorance and racism.

I celebrate anyone who enjoys and revels in the many pleasures and benefits of cannabis. Ummmm — hold on there, white supremacists. I’m celebrating your cannabis celebration with an asterisk: you’re a damned hypocrite.

What this illustrates is the sheer bullshittiness of racism. Those of us hip to the amazing advantages of multi-cultralism and diversity know — things not native to white Christian culture (jazz, food with flavor, cannabis) — will eventually burrow their way in (if not to the racists then to every last bit of the culture around them). But then there’s cannabis.

Even a racist can’t not love it. I warned you there’d be irony.

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