Cannabis & Productivity Go Together Like Cannabis & Feeling Good

I’ve written here before about my cannabis story. I wasn’t a fan in high school. Cannabis (if that’s what I was really smoking) put me to sleep.

That didn’t appeal to me as a kid. So, I avoided cannabis in favor of alcohol, cocaine and, occasionally ecstasy. Depression made sleep hard to come by as my late middle ages wore on. OTC sleep meds (like Simply Sleep) did nothing for me except make me groggy and forgetful.

I turned to cannabis because I live in California. It was (at the time) medically legal. I needed to fix my problem so I gave cannabis a shot.

“I have sleep problems,” I told that first budtender, feeling very illicit though I was doing a totally “licit” thing. “Skywalker,” they replied.

And, from that first night onward, cannabis became a part of my everyday life. I slept that night — slept well. Slept restfully. Woke up ready to face the day for the first time in years. Literally.

That was a game changer. When I returned to that dispensary a few days later, I wanted to know — what’s in all those OTHER canisters?

Turned out there were other indicas with slightly different flavors and effects. There also were sativas & hybrids.

“Sativa?” I asked.

I had no idea that cannabis wasn’t just a feel-super-good sleeping med. Depending on the strain, cannabis can be an all day product. Keeping in mind that virtually everything our culture “knows” about cannabis was racist bullshit invented first by America’s first drug czar Harry Anslinger then turned into a totally racist “War On Drugs” by Richard Nixon, it’s not shocking that, as a culture, we think cannabis & work are incompatible.

That’s because we have it in our heads that cannabis and alcohol work the same on our brains and bodies. They don’t. Not even remotely.

When cannabis began to spread from the Southwest US (in the 1910’s following the Mexican Revolution) to the South, it found a home in New Orleans where a group of African American musicians were busy inventing jazz. Artists like Louie Armstrong didn’t like to drink & play because alcohol dulls your creativity. Same goes for heroin.

Marijuana, on the other hand, had the opposite effect. Yes, there was that lovely euphoria. But cannabis, though you can get pretty “high”, it NEVER impacts your ability to reason or do physical things. Cannabis does not impact your motor skills & perceptions the way alcohol does.

As many of us have learned (through lots & lots of repetition), sativas especially focus your mind. They focus your creativity to a very fine point. You can get lots of very good work done.

I’ve written while drunk. Written while coked to the gills. It’s always crap.

Cannabis has the exact opposite effect on the mind — and subsequently the work the mind produces. In the exact same way, I discovered that a few hits of Durban Poison just before or while I play tennis takes my tennis game up a good, solid notch.

With DP in my system, everything slows down. I can see the spin on the tennis ball as it comes at me. I can see the damned fuzz on the ball. My timing becomes far more precise. I play better. Consistently. Reliably.

When I think of the destruction we caused — to people guilty of nothing other than using marijuana — I want to scream. We destroyed people — the overwhelming majority of them black or brown. But then, that was always the point of marijuana prohibition.

It should go without saying — cannabis is not for everyone. Nothing on this planet is. Let’s put that away, okay?

For most people, cannabis would be a great alternative to opioids and a great alternative to alcohol. If people attending a sporting event smoked cannabis instead of pounding down beer? Trust me, there’d never be another riot after a game ended. All the attendees would be too busy hugging each other or happily dozing.

Or they’d be too busy getting things done.

Bullshit In History — It’s Only “A War On Drugs” If You’re Not White

There never ever was a “war on drugs” in America. There was however a war on drug USERS. Still is.

But let’s be clear — no one ever waged that war because they worried about anyone’s health or any impact drugs might be having on it. The “War On Drugs” launched by Richard Nixon in 1971 was, by its own admission, a war on people — because of who they were, the color of their skin and the ideas in their heads. The drug-taking part was the bullshit justification to go after them.

For a full view of what I’m talking about, I recommend “Blunt Truths” — the series I wrote for Weedmaps News.

As we wade through more Republican bullshit — lies about everything from racism to treason — it’s important to remind ourselves just HOW bullshitty Republican bullshit is. A particularly telling example is illustrated by the story of how Harry Anslinger — while prosecuting brown and black people for using marijuana — kept Joe McCarthy’s secret that he was a hard core heroin addict.

Joe McCarthy epitomizes Republican hypocrisy, false patriotism and love of bullshit. As the piece puts it: “Because Anslinger agreed with [McCarthy’s] politics, however, he kept the addiction secret for the rest of the official’s life.”

Do as I say, not as I do. Bullshit doesn’t get any more “Republican” than that.

That’s Roy Cohn whispering sweet nothings into Joe’s ear in the photo. Roy Cohn, don’t forget, was one of Donald Trump’s mentors (until Cohn got AIDS at which point Trump abandoned Cohn).

These dots all connect — every one of them. Republican bullshit renews itself like Trumpian swamp water. The supply is as endless as it is eternal.

The Hardest Part Of Cannabis Legalization Is Overcoming The Mountain Of Bullshit & Lies

Poor cannabis. There’s bad press and then there’s the hatchet job that America’s first drug czar, Harry Anslinger, did to it.

When Anslinger first got hired in 1930, marijuana was hardly on his radar. Few Americans knew what it was. Fewer still smoked it (though many Americans benefited from its presence in various medicines). The Mexican Revolution in 1910 sent a wave of Mexican refugees across the border. They brought cannabis with them. That freaked out the white people. It wasn’t the cannabis that concerned them so much as the fact that Mexicans were smoking it and deriving pleasure from it. That meant (to the white people) that something had to be wrong with it.

Eventually, marijuana found its way to New Orleans where the black musicians assembled there were busy inventing jazz. While they couldn’t play or create on alcohol (it made their minds too fuzzy), marijuana had the opposite effect. It focused their minds and allowed their creativity to flow.

American soldiers in Vietnam encountered the same phenomenon. They were prohibited from drinking (because, as with the musicians, it fogs the mind). But, the American soldiers learned — having found marijuana both cheap and plentiful — that pot both relaxed them and focused them. They could smoke a joint then walk point in the jungle, their senses not diminished but, rather, heightened.

From time to time, New Orleans would shut down its whorehouses and banish all the musicians working at them When that happened in the mid 1920’s, musicians like Louis Armstrong headed up the Mississippi, stopping in places like Memphis and Nashville on their way to Chicago. Had all those black jazz musicians kept cannabis to themselves, that might have been the end of it. But they didn’t. Cannabis use spread to the white community — and that, from Harry Anslinger’s point of view, was a total non-starter.

Not once did Anslinger ask about marijuana’s health consequences. Even if he had, no research existed proving marijuana was good or bad for anyone’s health. But Anslinger had an agenda. He needed marijuana to be bad. And he knew that aside from the Mexicans, black jazz musicians and handful of white people using marijuana, no one knew a thing about it. Whatever Americans were going to know about cannabis would be what Harry Anslinger told them.

Virtually all of our current perceptions about cannabis flow from Harry Anslinger’s fetid imagination where every black man who smoked a joint then went on a mad raping spree (raping white women exclusively). Anslinger was a racist’s racist. But he was also a master bureaucrat who knew how to work the system.

We laugh now at Reefer Madness because it’s way over-the-top and way wrong about everything. But when Reefer Madness was released in the 1930’s, no one had that perspective. America and the world bought in to the Reefer Madness mythology.

Even in states where cannabis is now legal — like here in California — people remain squirrelly about cannabis. The thought of walking into a dispensary feels wrong to them. They worry about cannabis doing things to them, to their minds, that cannabis simply does not do.

If I get stopped by the LAPD — and they swab me — they’ll find THC in my system. The swab can’t tell how much THC is in me, what the accompanying turpene profile is (and how that might be affecting me), they can’t tell how much THC is in me or whether it’s an indica, sativa or hybrid. All the swab can tell is that there’s THC in my saliva.

We assume — because of the mythology’s enduring power that even a hit of cannabis will turn me into a danger on the highways. That’s because we apparently assume that alcohol and cannabis have the exact same effect on our brains and bodies. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The Nation Highway Transportation Safety Administration reported the following to Congress in 2017 — “…research has demonstrated the potential of marijuana to impair driving related skills. It does not show a relationship between THC levels and impairment.”

Get that? Research demonstrates “potential” impairment yet doesn’t show a “relationship between THC levels and impairment”. How is that possible? It’s not. It’s a leftover prejudice. In the very next paragraph of the NHTSA’s report, it says this: “… after smoking marijuana, subjects in most of the simulator and instrumented vehicle studies on marijuana and driving typically drive slower, follow other cars at greater distances, and take fewer risks than when sober…”. “In contrast,”, the report continues, “Subjects dosed with alcohol typically drive faster, follow at closer distances, and take greater risks.”

See how differently drivers with THC in them perform vs drivers who’ve been drinking? Why do we act like they have the same effect when they don’t? When even legitimate scientific research says they don’t?

Blame Harry Anslinger. Blame us, too. We know better. We simply refuse to acknowledge what we know. It’s like we prefer the effects that bullshit has on us.

America’s RW Is Treating Guns The Exact Same Way They Once Treated Cannabis — As The Basis For Their RACISM

I sure hope this isn’t up for debate: America’s war on drugs, especially its war on cannabis, was always about RACISM and nothing but.

I refer you to an excellent series (okay — I wrote it — I’m biased) called Blunt Truths over at Weedmaps News. Blunt Truths points out (with receipts) how at no time in the process of “illegalizing” cannabis did anyone creating or crafting the legislation ever ask “But, is it bad for anyone?” They specifically avoided that question because they knew for a fact the answer would be “We don’t think so — in fact, we see a multitude of ways it’s actually good for people”. That would have been the American Medical Association speaking.back in the day (before they were a political racket first and foremost). But, what did they know…?

Here’s some irony — because this story is built of irony — the very first anti-marijuana law was crafted in 1915 in California — by a group of Pharmacists. But, even as pharmacists, the law they crafted doesn’t bother with what marijuana did to anyone (they had no idea — no research existed whatsoever), what really worried them was WHO was smoking it.

Prior to 1910 — when the Mexican Revolution sent a wave of Mexican refugees fleeing north — Americans had never heard of marijuana. A few perhaps read Fitz Hugh Ludlow’s accounts of being a hashish eater but that was one white man’s experience of the “colored man’s” exotica. The Mexicans fleeing revolution brought marijuana with them because it had become part of their culture; they enjoyed it and its benefits.

Cannabis brings euphoria and happiness. It makes you laugh. Imagine how terrifying the sight of happy, laughing Latinos must have been to those poor, frightened white people — lots of alcohol already in their veins as they fearfully pounded down some more.

Marijuana spread to New Orleans in the early 20’s while jazz was being born. African American jazz musicians liked reefer because, unlike with alcohol which stifles creativity because it fogs one’s thinking, cannabis works the opposite way in our brains. Sativas especially bring mental energy and focus. The musicians took to cannabis because they could work with it in their systems and kick back with it in their systems. It was that multi-faceted a product. That was & is the truth about cannabis.

When Harry Anslinger took over as the Federal Bureau of Narcotics’ first ever Commissioner in 1930, he didn’t give cannabis a second’s thought. He testified before Congress that it wasn’t a problem. And yet — by 1934, Anslinger’s tune had changed. “Marihuana” (Anslinger’s spelling) had become a demon weed capable of motivating its users to madness and mayhem. What changed exactly? White people were now using it.

When the jazz musicians were kicked out of New Orleans, they headed north, following the Mississippi at first. They landed in Memphis and Nashville. They landed in Chicago. And everywhere they landed, marihuana landed with them — where white people, intrigued by the music, were sampling the black man’s inspiration. And liking it.

THAT — right there — is why Harry Anslinger changed his mind about cannabis being a danger to the public. Anslinger’s problem was there was nothing in the Constitution justifying marijuana prohibition. Anslinger had to create a crime (he went for tax evasion — if you didn’t pay the onerous tax each time you bought or sold marijuana — and get the stamp showing you’d paid the taxes — the stamp being unavailable — you became a tax cheat) in order to institutionalize his racism but Anslinger was a dedicated racist and a top notch bureaucrat.

You know how that ended up, right?

Our gun control debate flows from the same dark wellspring of racism. Look at the people arguing most vociferously to hold onto every last weapon they can till said weapons are pried from their cold, dead fingers (per former leader Charlton Heston). Notice anything about them? Like they’re almost entirely white? There’s a reason for that.

The same people will insist with a straight face that they’re fighting the good fight on our behalf — being the militia standing up against a hostile federal government. Yeah… except that’s not what the 2nd Amendment actually says (regardless of how the gun lobby rewrote it in our heads; it STILL puts all the decision-making about gun possession (“keep” and “bear” not “own) into the hands of a “WELL REGULATED MILITIA”.

The Second Amendment is a GUN CONTROL amendment that the gun manufacturers successfully reimagined as a “have all the guns ya want” freeforall. Some day — soon, I think — we’ll toss the bullshit revisionism and go back to the amendment as written.

The RW — always racist to the marrow in their bones — insist that they’re standing up against the potential of a federal government run amok. They don’t say that when the federal government raises, pays for and deploys AN ARMY. But, in the abstract? It terrifies them. Maybe they don’t really mean “Hostile Federal Government”. Maybe what they really mean is “people of color”.

American gun lovers — in their own minds — aren’t standing up against any “government”, they’re standing up against people they perceive the government has empowered — black people. “Arm yourself because black people now have political power and probably will use it.” That is literally what they’re saying and thinking.

Just for shits n giggles — imagine how those very same people would think about guns and people arming themselves to the teeth if the majority of those arming themselves were African Americans or Latinos. Do you really think all those terrified white people could tolerate all those guns going to all those non-whites? If you do, can I borrow some money interest free forever?

Lift the veil on virtually any topic in American politics and you’ll find racism of one kind or another sitting around waiting for the call to come out and play. American racism is always happy to oblige.

Look at all the experience on our CV…

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.

“Reefer Madness” Is What Happens When People Smoke Bullshit Instead of Reefer

The story of marijuana prohibition is an object lesson in what happens when bullshit triumphs over truth. That should matter to us right here, right now — because we’re facing a similar situation with the Mueller Report. Truth exists within its pages — yet there are people insisting that the diametric opposite is true. Too bad they have power — and the power to push their lies hard.

Republican Representative Justin Amash from Michigan held a town hall to explain to his constituents why he broke ranks with every other Republican to demand Donald Trump’s impeachment. Representative Amash had the audacity to actually read The Mueller Report. By contrast, it seems, not a single other republican has even cracked it. Wonder why…

Instead, the Republicans have relied on AG Bill Barr’s fraudulent characterizations of the Mueller Report, its findings and its tortured reasoning for why it couldn’t “do” more. And therein lies the historical comparison. Bill Barr is the new Harry Anslinger.

Anslinger was America’s first Commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics. A lot has been written about Anslinger recently, not all of it correct. For a more detailed analysis of Anslinger and his impact on America and the world, check out my series Blunt Truths over at Weedmaps News. Bottom line — Anslinger was a racist, top to bottom, who invested his racism in American laws. The reason we still live in Anslinger’s racist shadow is that, in addition to being a racist, Anslinger was a very good bureaucrat. He understood how the system worked and therefore how to work it.

In 1930, when Anslinger first took office, marijuana was a non-entity to most Americans. They had no idea what it was and didn’t care about it. Why would they? Prior to 1910 — when the Mexican Revolution sent Mexican war refugees heading north — Americans thought of cannabis as 1) medicine and 2) hemp. The influx of Mexicans meant an influx of Mexican culture — which included marijuana (the way WASP culture includes cocktails).

Apparently the sight of Mexicans blissing out horrified white people (and their abuse of alcohol).

Cannabis does what cannabis does. It doesn’t do what it doesn’t do. There are behaviors it “causes” and behaviors it doesn’t — because of how it works biochemically in peoples’ brains. Fact — if the crowds at football games (soccer games) all smoked cannabis instead of drinking beer, there’d be no lager louts rioting, setting cars and shops afire after matches. They’d all be hugging each other more likely. Or asleep. Happily. With no hangover in their future.

But people being happy and snoozing doesn’t “sell” anything. The first anti-cannabis laws were passed in California in 1915 — pushed hard by the Pharmacists. Funny thing? Though they were pharmacists, they weren’t thinking about whether or not cannabis could or would hurt its users. They were thinking only of its users — Mexicans. THAT, California’s pharmacists decided, was the problem.

Every single anti-cannabis measure ever passed — EVER — has been born of racism and nothing but. FACT.

As late as 1935, Harry Anslinger still didn’t give a damn about cannabis. But then something changed. Word began to filter toward Anslinger that white people were now using marijuana. During the 1920’s, cannabis use spread from the American Southwest to New Orleans where it found a very happy home amongst black jazz musicians. Musicians discovered that cannabis unleashed their creativity (whereas alcohol killed it).

Our thoughts are electrical currents flowing across the synapses in our brains. Our synapses are like digital circuits — they’re either open or closed. THC causes more of those synapses to be open. More thoughts flow through our brains. It’s not that we see more or hear more, we just become more aware of all the things we’re seeing and hearing. THC makes our brains more cognizant. That additional information flow can feel intimidating. It can feel like paranoia. But it can also make food taste incredible. It can make music sound sublime. It can make things funnier than you realized.

The truth about cannabis (and yes, yes — it’s not all positive — so what; people abuse EVERYTHING including chocolate and love) is that it’s a perfectly good product that, used responsibly by adults, produces a host of positive effects. That was not the story Harry Anslinger told about it however. The thought of white people acting like black or brown people horrified Anslinger. He leapt into action.

There is absolutely no basis in our Constitution to outlaw cannabis. None. When Anslinger bumped into that problem, he circumvented the spirit of the law by pushing through the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937. Very cleverly, the Tax Act imposed an onorous tax on every purchase and every sale of marijuana or hemp. To prove that you paid the tax, you had to have a stamp. The stamps were impossible to get. Therefore, everyone who thereafter bought or sold marijuana (or hemp) was a tax cheat.

Anslinger, in addition to being a very good bureaucrat, was an astute purveyor of public relations. He knew that Americans were completely ignorant about marijuana. Anything they were going to know about it would be what he told them about it. And that’s where Anslinger’s lesson about how to manipulate the American Public leaps forward in time.

The first two men arrested and convicted because of marijuana were sent away for not paying taxes. I bet that made Al Capone laugh.

Harry Anslinger lied utterly and completely when he told Americans what cannabis was. AG Bill Barr lied utterly and completely when he told Americans what the Mueller Report says.

Anslinger’s lies about cannabis have cost this country dearly — in lost money, manpower and justice. When racism’s juice began to falter in the 1950’s, Anslinger invented the “Gateway Theory” to suggest that cannabis use led to heroin use or worse. The same statistical horse shit could be used to suggest a link between coffee drinking and heroin use. Or tobacco use and heroin. Or breathing and heroin. It was dishonest and intentional. And racist.

Bill Barr is working from the exact same playbook. We The People — having been fooled once by White Bamboozlement syndrome — need to avoid a sequel. Lies need to be shot down the instant they land among us. They don’t ever go away of their own volition.

Not A Revelation: The War On Drugs Was An Exercise In Naked Racism Top To Bottom

I’ll apologize up front for doing a little cross pollination here — citing the series I just finished over at weedmapsnews.com: “Blunt Truths“. It’s about the deep down dirty truth behind the 100% pure racist illegalization of cannabis. At no point in the process did anyone EVER ask the question “But, is cannabis actually bad for anyone?” because its impact on anyone’s health was never the point of the exercise.

Who was smoking cannabis was the point. Mexicans at first in the Southwest US. After the Mexican Revolution began in 1910, a wave of Mexican war emigrees brought cannabis with them; it was part of their culture. White Americans were unfamiliar with this thing these Mexicans were smoking. Because it was different, cannabis, it scared the White Americans shitless.

The first anti-cannabis legislation was enacted in 1915 in California — written more or less by the California Pharmacology lobby who insisted cannabis was a dangerous substance right up there with heroin. When Harry Anslinger became America’s first Commissioner of the newly created Federal Bureau of Narcotics in 1930, he saw no threat in cannabis specifically because the only people smoking it (or even aware that it existed) were Mexicans. But — after cannabis use spread to New Orleans — where black jazz musicians like Louis Armstrong had taken it up because it made creating music so much more intense & satisfying — and then up the Mississippi to Memphis, Nashville, Chicago and the white world — things changed in Anslinger’s mind. White people using marijuana was a whole other question.

Anslinger saw in marijuana a way to generate money and manpower for his young, under-funded, under-manned agency. To get at that money and manpower, Anslinger invented first the whole racist marijuana mythology and then – when racism began to be less efficient — the “gateway theory” which justified continued cannabis prohibition because marijuana use invariably led to heroin addiction. Not a word of it was true.

When journalist Dan Baum interviewed Nixon henchman John Erlichman 19994 for Harpers, Ehrlichman forthrightly explained Nixon’s strategy regarding cannabis: “We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or blacks, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course, we did.”

One caveat though to seeing Harry Anslinger as a racist, pure & simple: it’s not true. Anslinger WAS a racist. But he also was a very talented bureaucrat. We overlook that fact about Anslinger at our peril. Anslinger’s racism was aided and abetted by his skill at turning his racism into 1) marijuana mythology and 2) legislation that criminalized huge chunks of the American population.