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DRCNet Library | Schaffer Library | Major Studies
The Forbidden Fruit and the Tree of Knowledge
The Marijuana Conviction
by Richard J. Bonnie & Charles H. Whitebread
U. of VA Press 1974
Marihuana Becomes a "National Monster"
Pp 92 thru 117
Illustrations: pp 93, 96, 99, 102, 105, 107, 110, 113, 1/2 of 115 (map), and 116
AT THE BEGINNING of the campaign for passage of the Uniform Act In the several states 1933, marihuana use was not widespread or very much noticed. As we have seen, marihuana use was pretty much confined to the Mexican communities of the southwestern states throughout the twenties. Sometime around 1926, however, use among the black and lower-class white elements of New Orleans emerged along with the propensity toward use by youth in these communities. Later in the decade it appears that use had appeared in the major urban areas, particularly in Chicagp Denver, Tulsa, Detroit, San Francisco, and Baltimore. There is little evidence, however, that the habit was widespread in New York City. Apart from those in the Mexican communities, it appears that the urban users were artists, musicians,' medical students, and blacks.2 It is also possible, of course, that white high school students, primarily from the lower class, had been attracted to the drug in communities where it was available.
Despite the propaganda released by the law enforcement community in the early thirties, the general public was probably largely unaware of the drug, its use, or its alleged effects. Contrary to the picture of a marihuana epidemic conveyed by the propagandists in the early thirties, use at this time probably had stabilized both geographically and demographically. It was still a regional, ethnic phenomenon. Commissioner Anslinger himself observed in late 1937 that "ten years ago we only heard about [marihuana] throughout the Southwest. . . . it has only become a national menace in the last three years." 3
As Anslinger's comment suggests, there seems to have been a change around the end of 1934. It is hard to determine whether use increased or whether opinion makers-including the press, the FBN, and various other groups-succeeded in increasing public awareness. Whatever its cause, this increased awareness played a
Page 93: Cartoon from Washington Herald, Nov.4, 1932
significant role in passage of the Uniform Narcotic Drug Act by the states and in the decision of national politicians to seek federal legislation.
The Role of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics
Critics of existing marihuana legislation have frequently attributed the illegal status of marihuana solely to the crusading zeal of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics and especially of its long-time head, Harry J. Anslinger. Some observers have suggested that the bureau's activity was produced by bureaucratic exigencies and the need to expand;4 others have said that theBureau was on a moral crusade,5 still otherg have asserted that the bureau believed its own propaganda about the link between criminality and marihuana.6 While each of these factors may have played some role, it is clear that the bureau did not singlr handedly conjure up the idea of banning marihuana use.Since twenty-four states had already undertaken the prohibition of marihuana before the creation of the bureau in 1930, the bureau alone cannot be credited with the pressure to outlaw the drug.
The bureau did, however, play a pivotal part. Although Anslinger suffered a setback during the drafting of the Uniform Act, he set to work at once to secure its enactment by the states, including the optional marihuana provision. There can be little doubt that the bureau's activity hastened the passage of the act by state legisla-tures and increased public awareness of marihuana. The bureau's primary objective, of course, was adoption of the entire Uniform Act; of particular interest here is its activity regarding marihuana.
Immediately after the commissioners approved the act, the bureau began a comprehensive campaign in the press, in legislative chambers, and in any other forum it could find to gain public sup-port for the act's passage. Perceiving the absence of public aware-ness of marihuana and wanting to encourage positive action to overcome the drug's optional status, the bureau sought to arouse public interest in marihuana through "an educational campaign describing the drug, its identifications and its evil effects."7 That the FBN had a difficult task is illustrated by the fact that as late as 1936 it was necessary to show marihuana to the New York police so that they could recognize the growing plant and its dried, smokable form.8
A large part of the bureau's activity consisted of intensive lobbying in each legislature before which the
act was pending. Anslinger instructed his district supervisors and local agents to campaign actively with state legislators for the passage of the act, urging them to make as many speeches and public appearances as possible to marshal public support. On 19 February 1934, for ex-ample, Isabelle Ahern O'Neill, a former Rhode Island state legislator and then New England representative of the FBN, delivered a major address over a Providence radio station calling for that state's legislature to be among the first to pass the Uniform Narcotic Drug Act.9 Anslinger made numerous speeches and several radio broad-casts throughout the country in an effort to encourage public support for the legislation. In an important strategic decision, the commissioner suggested that his three hundred agents work directly with legislators. They were to discuss in detail the provisions of the act with any legislator who voiced objections and seek to convince him to support the act. Agents were also assigned to assist the floor managers and sponsors of the act in each state's legislature.'0
Elizabeth Bass, a Chicago agent, was a particularly effective lobbyist and opinion maker. Her sustained activity before such groups as women's clubs and the Women's Christian Temperance Union enlisted a great deal of support. Over and above direct personal appeals to civic groups and legislators by FBN personnel, Anslinger conducted a press campaign across the country to gain the support of different constituencies. He sought editorial support in newspapers11 and assisted in the drafting of articles for popular magazines12. To mobilize the Bar, Anslinger and Tennyson wrote
an article for law journals explaining the need for the Uniform Narcotic Drug Act.13
Despite all these FBN efforts, the Uniform Act did not fare well in state legislatures at first. By 26 April 1933 only two states had enacted it in full. Twenty months later only seven additional states were in the fold. The state of Indiana so badly mutilated the Uni-form Act that the commissioner and the bureau were greatly disappointed with the legislation.'4 As late as March 1935 only ten states had enacted the Uniform Narcotic Drug law. This lack of success led Anslinger to complain: "The representatives of this
Page 95: Cartoon from Washing ton Herald, Nov.23, 1932
Bureau have persistently and patiently worked to overcome the apathy or hostility to the proposed legislation and so far as I have been able to determine the Bureau has been working alone in its nationwide attempt to stimulate interest in bringing about favorable action upon the Uniform State Narcotic Law, at least until very recently." 15
A number of significant objections emerged in the state legislatures considering the passage of the Uniform Narcotic Drug Act. First among these was the potential cost to the state of enforcing the act. Second, a widely held belief that the Uniform Act would require special licensing of doctors, dentists, and veterinarians provoked concern about the amount of red tape involved. Third, the limit on the amount of exempt preparations which could be sold caused a great deal of technical difficulty with the act. Fourth, many objected to the power of the courts to revoke or suspend licenses to practice medicine or pharmacy. Finally, there seemed to be widespread misunderstanding of the record-keeping requirements of the act. Although these objections were largely administrative, and may well have emanated from the American Medical Association and the Pharmaceutical Association, they nevertheless posed what appeared to the bureau to be serious stumbling blocks to the successful passage of the Uniform Act in most of the states. 16
The combination of public apathy and administrative resistance dictated a new strategy. The bureau needed to arouse public interest so that the professional objections would seem inconsequential beside a "felt need" of the legislatures. The "marihuana menace" was an ideal concept for such a campaign. Thus, beginning in late 1934, Commissioner Anslinger gradually shifted the focus of the FBN's publicity campaign away from the inability of federal law enforcement agencies to deal effectively with local drug problems toward the need to cope with a new drug menace-marihuana.
>From 1932 through most of 1934 very little of the bureau's propaganda was directed toward the supplemental marihuana provision. But by late 1934 the Narcotics Bureau had begun to use the specter of widespread marihuana addiction as a means of calling attention to and gaining support for the Uniform Narcotic Drug Act. When Commissioner Anslinger was asked in 1934 what would be the best way of dealing with the marihuana problem, he replied: "The confusion among the States' narcotic laws today is one of the
Page 98: \
greatest aids of the illicit traffic in every dangerous drug. It clogs all the machinery of detection, impedes all the processes of preven-tion and punishment. Put a Uniform State Narcotics Act through every legislature. That will not only cure the worst of the hashish evil; it will help reduce the whole drug evil to a minimum."17
The change in bureau strategy is apparent in a comparison of two official statements of Commissioner Anslinger-one made in 1933, the other in 1936. The 1933 statement explained the need for a Uniform Narcotic Drug law and emphasized international obligations of the United States, the need for more effective coordination in law enforcement, and the impact the law would have on the incidence of morphine, cocaine, and opium addiction.18 In his later statement, however, the commissioner devoted more than half his time to a discussion of the "worst evil of all," the marihuana problem. In the commissioner's words:
Another urgent reason for the early enactment of the Uniform State Narcotic Act is to be found in the fact that it is THE ONL Y UNIFORM LEGISLA TION yet devised to deal effectively with MARIHUANA....
There is no Federal law against the production and use of Marihuana in this country. The legal fight against its abuse is largely a problem of state and municipal legislation and law enforcement.
All public spirited citizens should enlist in the campaign to demand and to get adequate state laws and efficient state en-forcement on Marihuana.19
In the new strategy Anslinger discarded his previous policy of not officially associating himself or the FBN with the coterie of propagandists on the marihuana issue. Instead, he too tried to popularize the issue through speeches and articles. Indicative of his efforts was "Marihuana: Assassin of Youth," which appeared in the widely circulated American Magazine in July 1937.20 The FBN files contain over fifty letters addressed to the commissioner which say, "your article was the first time I ever heard of marihuana."
In addition to its own attempts to impress the public with the scope of the marihuana menace, the bureau stood ready to assist others in writing about the new evil, whether the intended product was factual reporting or literary fiction. Indeed, in the depression
Page 99: Cartoon; Evening Herald & Express, Feb.21, 1924
era when sensational journalism was a competitive necessity, it was very hard to tell the two apart. One author requested "information as background material for literary fiction which will, in effect, further the fight against the evil. Any facts regarding the narcotic plant marihuana is tsic] especially desired."~1 In response the bureau asserted: "Police officials in cities of those states where it is most widely used estimate that fifty per cent of the violent crimes committed in districts occupied by Mexicans, Spaniards, Latin-Americans, Greeks, or Negroes may be traced to this evil."22 The FBN supported all efforts, fact or fiction, to arouse public interest in the threat posed by marihuana and its users and to generate support for the otherwise unglamorous Uniform Narcotic Drug Act.
Among the most effective proponents of the Uniform Act was the Hearst newspaper chain. These papers began editorializing in favor of enactment within days after the act was approved by the American Bar Association in October 1932. Dr. Woodward then observed that "the support of the Hearst papers should contribute materially toward procuring enactment of legislation."23 From then on, the editorial pages of the Hearst newspapers across the country periodically carried declarations of support for the fledg-ling act. Especially after a combination of hostility and apathy began to bog down the bureau's efforts in the legislatures, Hearst frequently published cartoons and editorials to incite public pressure. And the content of Hearst editorials clearly reflects the bureau's decision to emphasize marihuana. This one appeared on 11 September 1935:
Much of the opposition to the Uniform State Narcotic Law must be imputed to the selfish and often unscrupulous opposi-tion of racketeering interests.
But more than half the states have not acted favorably and Commissioner Anslinger has announced that an intensified drive will be made at once to bring the rest into line.
One thing that the indolent legislatures should be made to understand is that the "dope" traffic does not stand still./fontfamily>
/fontfamily>In recent years, the insidious and insanity producing marihuana has become among the worst of the narcotic banes, invading even the school houses of the country, and the Uniform State Narcotic Law is ThE ONLY LEGISLATION yet devised to deal effectively with this horrid menace.24
One indication of the influence of these articles is a 1937 resolution of a narcotics conference of lawyers, judges, and civic leaders commending William Randolph Hearst and his newspapers "for pioneering the national fight against dope."25
The Hearst chain was not alone. A Birmingham, Alabama, paper on 22 August 1935 emphasized the need to control marihuana as a reason for adopting the act.26 A Washington Post columnist in September 1934 devoted three quarters of a column to marihuana with quotes from Anslinger and New Orleans' Stanley urging adoption of the Uniform Act.27
Where this newspaper propaganda was heavy, the legislatures usually became, in time, aware of the so-called marihuana problem. In Colorado, for example, the Denver News and other papers had been reporting marihuana honor stories since the late twenties. This newspaper interest and repeated activity on the legislative front strongly suggest a public antipathy, which continued unabated into the thirties, toward the Mexicans and their weed. On 4 September 1936 the bureau received a letter from the city editor of the Alamosa Daily Courier, describing an attack by a Mexican-American, allegedly under the influence of marihuana, on a girl of his region. It went on to say: "I wish I could show you what a small marihuana cigarette can do to one of our degenerate Spanish-speaking residents. That's why our problem is so great; the greatest percentage of our population is composed of Spanish-speaking persons, most of whom are low mentally, because of social and racial conditions."28 The FBN volunteered its own cooperation at once in the paper's "educational campaign to describe the weed and tell of its horrible effects."29
Other large-city newspapers such as the Cleveland Plain Dealer30 and the St. Louis Star-Times31 kept a stream of anti marihuana propaganda flowing in the period just before the passage of the Uniform Act in those areas. In Missouri, especially, local concern generated by the sensational articles in the Star-Times speedily
Page 102: Cartoon; Atlanta Georgian, March 17, 1934
pushed the legislature to adopt the Uniform Act. Activity by the press, particularly after 1935 when marihuana "became a menace, played a significant role in generating legislative awareness and support for adoption of the Uniform Act in a number of states.
Marihuana made better copy than the Uniform Act, and a marl-huana epidemic made better copy than its isolated use. Thus, it is as unreliable to conclude from increased press coverage that the use of marihuana mushroomed around 1935 as it is to assume from newspaper reports that marihuana caused crime. At the same time, it is possible that use did spread after the publicity cam-paigns, especially among the young. Certainly use increased in New York City in the l930s, judging from the tremendous expansion in coverage by the New York Times beginning in 1935, the evidence supplied by the LaGuardia Commission in its 1944 report, and the leap in enforcement activity.
Another influential participant in the FBN's campaign, especially after the repeal of prohibition, was the Women's Christian Tem-perance Union. Although the WCTU had distributed a pamphlet on marihuana as early as 1927, the Union Signal does not reflect any significant interest either in the Uniform Act or marihuana until 1934. Before that year the "narcotic" receiving the most attention was nicotine. Then the Signal contained a plea for passage of the Uniform Act each year from 1934 to 1936 in a special section of the paper observing Narcotic Education Week. The editorial content during these years reflects the change in FBN strategy. The theme in 1934 is the Uniform Act's role in promoting more effective law enforcement. Marihuana is mentioned only once. By 1936 the act is promoted as a necessary concomitant to an active campaign against the marihuana menace.
During 1934 and 1935 Elizabeth Bass, the FBN's agent in charge in Chicago, supplied most of the WCTU's information. Beginning in 1936, however, the Union Signal had a direct line to the FBN national office, and from then on every issue contained propaganda on the marihuana menace. Surgeon General Cummings' 1929 re-port was published, as was every report, statement, interview, or Letter from Anslinger. The Signal continuously editorialized in 936 and 1937 for adoption of the Uniform Act, with most ittention being devoted to marihuana.32 Under the auspices of the Norld Narcotic Defense Association, the president of the WCTU
Ida B. Wise Smith, gave a speech over the CBS radio network urg-ing public support for adoption of the Uniform Act.33
A recurrent theme in the WCTU publications is an increase in use, especially among the middle class and among the young. Elizabeth Bass is reported to have stated in 1934 that "dope parties" were becoming common on Chicago's North Side and that "smok-ing of marijuana is becoming particularly widespread." The Union Signal also printed reports from other federal agents:
Marihuana-smoking at women's bridge parties has become frequent, "the parties usually ending up in wild carousals, some-times with men joining the orgies."
The appalling effects on both body and mind seem no hindrance to its increase of consumption, particularly in the states where there is a large Spanish-American population, says a recent news item in the New York Times. In Western and South-western states, it is being sold more or less openly in pool halls and beer gardens and, according to some authorities, is being peddled to school children.'
On 20 April 1935 the Signal reported that the use of "love weeds" was "growing to appalling proportions, especially among young people" many of whom "come from good homes."35 Almost a year later the Signal noted that Elizabeth Bass and local educators and police officials agreed that marihuana use in Chicago high schools was increasing, with the major source of supply being south
Chicago's "Mexican colony. Then in October of the following year the Signal cited an article appearing in Hygeia to the effect that, in 1937, there were 100,000 "marihuana addicts in the United States, the majority of whom were of high school and college age."37
The second major theme of the WCTU literature was that the use of marihuana led to use of heroin, opium, and cocaine. Although inconsistent with the contention that marihuana was the "worst" of the drug evils, and contradicted by Commissioner Anslinger in testimony before Congress in 1937,38 the WCTU con-tinually emphasized this.39 It is not surprising since their literature often postulated a similar causal relationship between alcohol and the use of narcotics. Others used the same argument; the safety director of Denver had stated in 1931 that "from liquor to marihuana is but a step."
Page 105: Cartoon; Minneapolis Star, Dec.11. 1934
The WCTU literature also stressed the relation of marihuana to crime. In February 1936 the Union Signal reported that Commis-sioner Anslinger had estimated that "fifty per cent of the violent crimes committed in districts occupied by Mexicans, Greeks, Turks, Filipinos, Spaniards, Latin Americans, and Negroes may be traced to the use of marihuana."41 On 19 September of the same year the Signal printed an article by Rex Stewart, a Phoenix attorney, which enlarged upon the Stanley thesis in a manner bearing a striking resemblance to the Mexican "you take it three times" folklore:
"A man is dangerous after a whiff or two of marihuana. He doesn't need to smoke an entire cigarette. A few sucking puffs are enough to give him the heart of a lion and make him as resilient to punishment as a rubber ball. He will commit any crime if he is mentally so inclined, and he will take chances he would not dare normally."42
Ida B. Wise Smith devoted a major portion of her radio address on the Uniform Act to marihuana and most of that to the criminal impulse of marihuana users. "It creates delusions of grandeur and breaks down the will power and makes the addict ready for any crime, even murder."43
Still another of the dramatis personae in the propaganda campaign directed by the FBN was the World Narcotic Defense Association. Led by Admiral Richmond P. Hobson, a native Alabamian and veteran of the Spanish-American War, the association included among its supporters many former government leaders. It com-manded a position of moral leadership during the narcotics clean-up campaign, and it had urged adoption of a uniform state narcotic act since the early 1920s. Despite its well-intentioned proposal and its respected public image, however, the WNDA had been excluded from the drafting process of the Uniform Narcotic Drug Act. The federal narcotics bureaucracy and the medical establishment, determined to keep the drafting process out of the public eye, were wary of the extremism of most of the association's propaganda against the drug trade. When the association submitted a draft of its own proposed uniform law in 1927 to the surgeon general, internal hygienic laboratory correspondence noted:
The World Narcotic Defense Association is an outgrowth of two other closely related associations, the International Nar-
Page 107: Cartoon; Washington Herald, Dec.14, 1934
cotic Education Association and the World Conference on Narcotics Education, and it is practically under the same management. The [Public Health] Service has had occasion to call attention before to the propaganda nature of these associations and the gross exaggerations of the narcotic situation that they have made in the name of education.44
This skepticism was shared by many reputable doctors and govern-mental officials. As late as 1 July 1932 an influential doctor in the American Medical Association observed: "There is a rather pernicious group working under the direction of Mr. Hobson on the adoption of the law which if utilized and passed by the legislatures will postpone and complicate uniformity later."45
The Federal Bureau of Narcotics did not seem quite so concerned about the bad reputation of the WNDA as many of the others involved in the drafting process. Nevertheless, the bureau was eager to quash the draft of the uniform act drawn up by the association because it feared avid legislators might accept that draft and thereby undermine the efforts of the Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws. When the time came to campaign for passage of the Uniform Narcotic Drug Act in the various state legislatures, however, Commissioner Anslinger was willing to seek help anywhere it was offered. The bureau was not above utilizing the tremendous lobbying network and prestige offered by the World Narcotic Defense Association.
The association was continually in postal contact with almost every state legislator in the country.46 Hobson's name constituted a stamp of moral approval for the operation. Newspapers editorial-izing in favor of the act continually noted his leadership in the narcotics field.47
The Hobson group was among the well-financed divisions of Anslinger's army. In addition to underwriting national broadcasts, such as that by Ida Smith over CBS, the association distributed widely a lengthy pamphlet on marihuana in 1936. The following excerpt reflects the kind of exaggeration the FBN had once dis-claimed but now embraced:
The narcotic content in Marihuana decreases the rate of heart beat and causes irregularity of the pulse. Death may result from the effect upon the heart.
Prolonged use of Marihuana frequently develops a delirious rage which sometimes leads to high crimes, such as assault and murder. Hence Marihuana has been called the "killer drug." The habitual use of this narcotic poison always causes a very marked mental deterioration and sometimes produces insanity. Hence Marihuana is frequently called "loco weed" (loco is the Spanish word for crazy).
While the Marihuana habit leads to physical wreckage and mental decay, its effects upon character and morality are even more devastating. The victim frequently undergoes such moral degeneracy that he will lie and steal without scruple; he becomes utterly untrustworthy and often drifts into the underworld where, with his degenerate companions, he commits high crimes and misdemeanors. Marihuana sometimes gives man the lust to kill, unreasonably and without motive. Many cases of assault, rape, robbery, and murder are traced to the use of Marihuana.48
The General Federation of Women's Clubs also contributed energetically to the bureau's cause. Support of the national organization was enlisted by Helen Howell Moorehead, head of the Foreign Policy Association and one of the most respected leaders of the international drug control movement. In January 1936 Act-ing Commissioner Wood sent the president of the federation a list of states which had not yet passed the Uniform Act and a list of states without marihuana legislation. Following current FBN prac-tice, Wood emphasized marihuana, noting the success of the propaganda campaign which had begun late in 1934: "Public opinion generally is being aroused by the steady accumulation of reports showing the evils attendant upon the abuse of marihuana and of atrocities committed by persons under its influence, and this office looks forward to increased state control over the growth and distribution of cannabis, or marihuana."49
The federation wasted no time in educating its membership about the need for the Uniform Act and about the evils of marihuana in particular. A lengthy article appeared in Clubwoman, the group's magazine.50 The chairman of the federation's department of legislation noted: "The situation concerning club women par-ticularly is the accessibility of the frightening, degenerating, marihuana weed, which is rolled in cigarettes . . . and has been playing such havoc with young high school boys and girls."51 The state and local clubs immediately began to write local legislators
Page 110: Cartoon; New York American, 1934
/fontfamily>and to conduct educational campaigns for parents, teachers, and children.
Narcotics agents worked closely with the Federation of Women's Clubs in an effort to instill the fear of marihuana among the middle-class women of America. To them, the marihuana "menace" was an unfamiliar abstraction which had to be tied to reality. For example, an FBN agent appeared at a New York meeting with two marihuana plants. They were exhibited at a local flower show:
Marihuana Plant exhibit at Flower Show of Katrina Trask Garden Club
Tomorrow, 3 P.M. on at the Casino
This plant is the cause of a dread menace which is being fought by the State Department of Health.
Public Invited to Show . . . 25 cents52
Other groups such as the YWCA, the National PTA, and the rational Councils of Catholic Men and Women were all in touch rith the bureau, and they were made aware of the bureau's dual ims of "influencing and creating public opinion in favor of the assage of the Uniform Narcotic Drug Act, and awaken [sic] the arents of this country to the increasing danger of the use of .arihuana... . Typical of Anslinger's approach to such groups, is perhaps of his own thinking, is his letter to the general secretary of the National Catholic Welfare Council:
The Act has been and is being opposed in some of the legislatures in session this year by certain "groups" who wage their campaigns under cover. These cliques think that their interest may be negatived by passage of this legislation. Many of the legislatures in session this year will not convene again until 1937. It is, therefore, of the greatest importance to concentrate activities in these commonwealths now. There is no more important or far reaching problem affecting health and morals before the world today than that of narcotic drug control.
Within the past three years there has been an alarming and almost unbelievable spread of the use of Marihuana, known botanically as cannabis. A cigarette is compounded from the dried, flowering pistillate tops of Marihuana or Indian Hemp, and sold illicitly and insidiously by peddlers to adolescent youths, children in high and grammar school grades. This statement is not exaggerated but is unfortunately true, as the Bureau has legal proof of such malpractice.
When an opium or cocaine habitue has been made, it is extremely difficult to effect a cure, although this has been done by scientific medical hospitalization. The case of Marihuana addicts is well nigh hopeless as the Hasheesh or Marihuana smoker becomes insane. Favorable action must be taken to prevent the spread of this pernicious weed because its evil consequences are irremediable.
In behalf of the intensive campaign which we are waging for the adoption of the Uniform Narcotic Drug Act in the 35 state legislatures, I respectfully request the endorsement of the National Catholic Welfare Councils of Men and Women for this necessary and vital legislation.54
Marihuana: the Campaign and Public Opinion
The FBN wanted to arouse public opinion against marihuana, and Commissioner Anslinger enlisted an army of public opinion makers and legislative pressure groups to accomplish this task. How deeply into the general public consciousness all these efforts spread the fear of marihuana is a moot point. But what Anslinger really wanted was enactment of the Uniform Act along with prohibitory marihuana legislation in all the states. From this point of view the campaign was a success, and the adoption of the marihuana strategy in 1935 was the turning point.
Whether or not widespread public interest actually existed, public opinion makers influenced legislative opinion and created a "felt need" for legislation. Because there was rarely any substantive opposition to the legislation, the job was usually not difficult. When the marihuana strategy was instituted early in 1935, only ten states had adopted the Uniform Act. And three of these states had not included marihuana. Within the next year eighteen more states adopted the act, and each that had no previous legislation included inarlhuana. Minnesota, New Hampshire, and Missouri even enacted special legislation on marihuana without adopting the Uniform Act. Certainly the precipitating factor in Missouri was the campaign waged against the drug by the St. Louis Star-Times.
The ease with which legislation was passed once the opinion makers got started is reflected in the Virginia experience. One of the first states to pass the Uniform Act, in 1934, Virginia did not include the marihuana provision.55 A year later, however, rumors
Page 113: Cartoon; Atlanta Georgian, Feb. 27, 1935
began to circulate in Roanoke that school children were using the weed. With the assistance of FBN Agent L. C. Rocchiccioli, the commonwealth's attorney of Roanoke secured a local ordinance against the drug. 56 Rocchiccioli then turned his attention to Richmond, hoping to use the Roanoke experience as a wedge to remedy the deficiency in Virginia's narcotics legislation. He quickly succeeded. A bill, prohibiting sale, possession, and cultivation and providing harsher penalties than did the 1934 act, passed both houses unanimously. 57 After the state senate passed the measure on 29 February 1936, the Richmond Times-Dispatch noted:
Among the bills passed by the Senate was the Apperson measure prohibiting the cultivation, sale or distribution of derivatives of the plant cannabis sativa, introduced as an outgrowth of alleged traffic in marihuana cigarettes in Roanoke. It fixes punishment for violation of its provisions at from one to 10 years in the penitentiary, or by confinement in jail for 12 months and a fine of not more than $1,000 or both.
Charges that school children were being induced to become addicts of marihuana cigarettes and that the weed was being cultivated in and near the city on a wide scale were laid before the Roanoke City Council last year. A youth who said he was a former addict of the drug testified before the Council that inhalation of one of the cigarettes would produce a'cheap drunk' of several days' duration.58
In some respects Colorado, Missouri, and Virginia reflect the typical levels of public awareness and legislative reaction on the marihuana "issue." In Colorado, use by Mexicans had been discussed for many years, and the legislature acted three different times on marihuana before adopting the Uniform Act in 1935. In Missouri, a sudden newspaper campaign precipitated legislation in 1935, and then the "issue" quickly receded. In Virginia, a single story from a single city generated state legislation with no public interest. Of course, there is another point on the continuum alsono use, no interest. When New Jersey, Rhode Island, Oregon, and West Virginia passed the Uniform Act in 1934 and 1935, including the cannabis provision, the major newspapers of Newark, Providence, Salem, and Charleston referred to the Uniform Act only once and to marihuana not at all.59 Typical of both legislative and newspaper concern about the new law is the following Charleston Daily Mail comment:
Page 115: (top 1/2 of page is illustration-map of US)
A Narcotic Bill
Inconspicuously upon the special calendar of the delegates- rather far down upon it-is Engrossed S.B. No. 230, lodging specific powers in the hands of state authorities for the control of the traffic in narcotics. It has passed the Senate unanimously. It should pass the House, and its only danger of defeat there is the very real one that it will become lost in the shuffle of adjournment now but a few hours away. The bill goes under the name of the Uniform Narcotic Drug Act and it is just that.
Identical measures for the control bv the states of illicit traffic in drugs have been passed by other states, notably the Southern qoup. Its passage here would result in a broad territory in which
there are corresponding laws . . . . 60
All in all, neither narcotic drugs in general nor marihuana in particular were major public issues during the thirties. After the bureau initiated the marilluana strategy in late 1934, sufficient
Page 116: Cartoon; Washington Herald, Aug 3, 1935
attention was aroused among organized moralist groups to incite legislative adoption of the Uniform Act. Interest in marihuana was still regional, although transient interest had now been aroused elsewhere. Viewed nationally, apathy was the norm. In a sensc, however, there was nothing to be concerned about. Use was confined and there was no substantive opposition to overcome. Usually if a person had heard of marihuana, he could be counted on to favor prohibition of this grave evil. In one of the few dissents triggered by the FBN's campaign, a Chicago judge, addressing a women's club meeting, tried to place marihuana in perspective: "My own personal opinion is that the 'Home Medicine Chest' (pain killers and sleep producers) as found in homes such as yours is a greater menace than marihuana. One percent to two percent of cases coming through our Court are 'drug' cases, 20% - 25% are alcoholic. Why don't you Clubwomen frown on such a social evil. ,61 Such heresy was atypical. Most of the public which had heard at all of marihuana would have concurred in Anslinger's own characterization of the drug in April 1937: "If the hideous monster Frankenstein came face to face with the monster Marihuana, he would drop dead of fright."62
End of Ch V
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