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March 29, 2013

Late Effects of the 1937 Marijuana Tax Act

Any thinking person taking the trouble to read the text of the inordinately complex Marijuana Tax Act, especially in this online version with David Solomon's introduction, should be able to recognize it as a clumsy attempt to deceive the public; especially since its prime mover, then Director of the FBN, has long since been exposed as a biased bureaucrat with a rich uncle and an axe to grind.

That such questionable legislation would be rejected on Fifth Amendment grounds by the Warren Court at that particular time isn't surprising; the Court's lawyers, having just ruled on Miranda in 1966, would then have been very attuned to Fifth Amendment issues and relatively unaware of Anslinger's shortcomings as an authority on "addiction."

However, the bill Nixon soon presented to Congress to replace the MTA had been hastily conceived by lawyers: Nixon himself and Attorney General John Mitchell. Both had obvious political motives and neither had a level of medical expertise greater than Anslinger's. Their haste and motive can be readily inferred from the fact that drug using "hippies" were then demonstrating against the draft and an increasingly unpopular war in Vietnam.

Although the Congressional committee responsible for writing the proposed new law had enough qualms about placing cannabis on "Schedule one" of the CSA to force Nixon to appoint a "Blue Ribbon" Committee to review the issue, no objections were raised by Congress, the media, or the committee itself when Nixon rejected its unexpected recommendations out of hand.

In any event, their negative report wasn't issued until March 1972. By that time, the CSA had been in effect long enough to have gained enthusiastic support from two important lobbies: Law Enforcement and Psychiatry.

Police everywhere embraced it with enthusiasm because the surge in "Marijuana" arrests, already underway when Timothy Leary was arrested in 1965, had continued; as had arrests for other "schedule one" drugs. The subsequent release of a series of iconic Hollywood blockbusters in quick succession: the French Connection (1971) the Godfather (1972) and Serpico (1973) also helped convince the public that a "War" against America's new drug menace was necessary.

Psychiatrists and clinical psychologists had also been impressed by the sudden appearance of thousands youthful "marijuana" users. Although it was was an illegal drug with which they'd had little previous experience, they quickly came up with a solid reason to support its suppression under the criminal code: its "Gateway" effect. Because nearly all its youthful users had also tried alcohol and tobacco- and smaller percentages had later tried "harder" drugs, they reasoned that "marijuana" itself was somehow responsible.

Thus was the spurious "Gateway" hypothesis born and launched on its four decade lifespan. It's a belief that many with an obvious vested interest continue to support under cover of "marijuana's" continuing illegality.

In retrospect, it's now apparent that two serious errors were made in the early Seventies. One was acceptance of the laughably uninformed scheduling algorythm of the CSA; the other was not asking why young pot smokers had suddenly appeared when they did.

The painful truth is that neither the Marijuana Tax Act nor the Controlled Substances Act deserved the respect they received from the powerful social institutions that accepted them as legitimate once they were passed and signed into law.

The next entry will deal with the several reasons behind those phenomena and why the illegality of cannabis remains such a contentious issue; one now supported more by the federal bureaucracy than the growing number of states opting some ill-defined form of "Legalization."

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at March 29, 2013 12:54 AM