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Historical References
Marijuana, the First 12,000 Years

Marijuana - The First Twelve Thousand Years

Reefer Racism

Even when it was not against the law, marijuana was used by very few Americans. Those who used it were typically from minority groups like the Mexicans and the Negroes, and this made them and their drug preferences highly visible. The fact that these people smoked marijuana for pleasure made marijuana a vice that was doubly suspect, since the American work ethic never recognized anything like an "artificial paradise".

At the root of America's preoccupation with the potential dangers of drugs such as marijuana was a xenophobia that seems to characterize the history of the country almost from its very beginnings. Although settled by foreigners, native-born Americans blamed newcomers to the United States for many of the country's ills. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, newly arrived foreigners were blamed for the sprawling urban slums, depressed paychecks, and labor unrest - conditions beyond the ken of frontier America's whelps. Although America was built by the sweat of toiling immigrants, the newcomers were seldom welcomed. This was especially true when the blue-eyed, blond-haired, fair-skinned, Protestant migrations gave way to the brown- and green-eyed, black-haired, swarthy non-Protestants from Southern and Eastern Europe who settled in the coastal cities of America.

Penniless when they arrived, they were grateful for whatever jobs they could get. Their readiness to toil for the lowest of wages was seen by native Americans as a stab in the back. These foreigners, they felt, were nothing less than strikebreakers.

In the southwest, the sudden increase in Mexican immigration to the Untied States around 1910 set off yet another round of ethnic confrontation. The Mexicans were lower-class immigrants. They were crude, loud, uneducated. They lived in dirty shanties, ate strange food, and spoke a foreign language. The more resentful of these foreigners Americans became, the readier they were to attribute other negative characteristics to the Mexican. The fact that the Mexicans were Catholics made their situation even more touchy since Protestant America considered Catholicism a religion of dark superstition and ignorance.

The Mexican was the Negro of the southwestern United States. While not a slave or a sharecropper, he was a peasant. The stereotype of the Mexican was that of a thief, an untamed savage, hot-blooded, quick to anger yet inherently lazy and irresponsible.

When revolution broke out in Mexico in 1910, it was inevitable that the fighting would spill across the Rio Grande. When Pancho Villa attacked the tiny outpost at Columbus, New Mexico, in 1916, the attitude toward the Mexicans worsened considerably. As General Pershing's army crossed the Rio Grande into Mexico in pursuit of the bandit, his soldiers marched to the tune of a song that reflected America's attitude toward all Mexicans:

It's a long way to capture Villa
It's a long way to go;
It's a long way across the border
Where the dirty greasers grow. [1]

Villa's followers rode to a different song "La Cucaracha" - the cockroach who can't walk any longer because he doesn't have any marijuana to smoke:

La cucaracha, la cucaracha
Ya no puede caminar
Porque no tiene, porque no tiene
Marihuana que fumar.

The song was adopted as Villa's battle hymn after his capture of Torreon and subsequent overthrow of the Mexican government because many of his men had smoked marihuana before going into battle, much like other soldiers drinking alcohol before battle.

When the 1930s devastated the American economy, the Mexicans bore the brunt of the scapegoat mentality in the southwest. Everything about them was abhorrent to many Americans, and there was a general hew and cry to kick them out of the country. Harassment was commonplace. The Mexicans were censured for almost everything they did or failed to do, including smoking marijuana. Marihuana, in fact, became the pretext for vexing the Mexicans just as opium had been the pretext for vexing the Chinese years before.

Outlawing Marihuana

The campaign to outlaw marihuana in America began unexpectedly. Hamilton Wright, chief US delegate to the international conference at The Hague in 1911, had wanted an expert on international law as part of his team, but was forced to accept a California pharmacist, Henry J. Finger, instead, by Secretary of State P. C. Knox (Finger's appointment was an act of patronage to Knox's brother). During the conference, Finger unexpectedly rose from his seat to plead that cannabis be put on the list with opium and other narcotic drugs to be censured on a worldwide basis. The reason for such an unprecedented move, he said, was San Francisco's concern over the "large influx of Hindoos", who were introducing "whites into their habit".

Italy was also in favor of restrictions on cannabis, and in fact stipulated that only if the cannabis issue were placed on the agenda would it attend the conference. Italy's interest in cannabis was anything but altruistic. Although it had no major cannabis problem of its own (and in fact was one of the world's major producers of fine hemp fabric), the Italians had just gone to war with Turkey and had won jurisdiction over the African colonies of Tripolitania and Cyrenaica, where such a problem did exist.

The other delegates, however, did not view San Francisco's plight or Italy's consternation seriously, and no recommendations regarding cannabis were adopted.

At the same time, the US House Ways and Means Committee, which also met in 1911 to hear proposals for federal antinarcotics legislation, were presented with arguments regarding whether cannabis should be outlawed domestically. Heading the anticannabis forces was Charles B. Fauns, a well-known director of a drug and alcohol hospital in New York City. Fauns berated those who minimize the dangers of cannabis. "To my mind it is inexcusable," he told the congressional hearing, "for a man to say that there is no habit from the use of that drug. There is no drug in the pharmacopoeia today that would produce the pleasurable sensations you would get from cannabis, no not one - absolutely not a drug in the pharmacopoeia today, and of all the drugs on earth I would certainly put that on the list..." [2] Dr. William J. Schieffelin concurred with Fauns, although he felt that Fauns had overstated the case. Although very little cannabis was being used in the United States, he had heard that New York City's Syrian colony were smoking it and therefore perhaps it should be outlawed. [3]

Charles A. West, chairman of the National Wholesale Druggists' Association, and Albert Plaut, representing Lehn and Fink, a New York pharmaceutical firm, spoke against the proposal, claiming that the notion that cannabis was in any way a harmful drug was based more on literary fantasy such as that found in The Count of Monte Cristo than on fact. West and Plaut were the more convincing speakers and cannabis was not even included in the subsequent debate over national restrictions on narcotic drugs.

Unable to secure national support to outlaw cannabis, various state legislators moved on their own to prohibit its possession unless prescribed by a physician. In 1915, California passed the first such law. Shortly thereafter, nearly every state west of the Mississippi followed California's lead, e.g. Utah (1915), Wyoming (1915), Texas (1919), Iowa (1923), Nevada (1923), Oregon (1923), Washington (1923), Arkansas (1923), and Nebraska (1927).

Yet, references in the newspapers to the adoption of these laws clearly show that the marihuana was relatively unknown, even in states with considerable Mexican populations. In Texas, for instance, the Austin Statesman explained to its readers that "marihuana is a Mexican herb and is said to be sold on the Texas Mexican border". [4]

Many northern states, however, also had anticannabis laws as early as 1915. To the legislators of Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts, and New York, a narcotic was a narcotic, whatever its name. Cannabis was considered a narcotic and therefore was accorded the same status as opium, morphine, heroin, and codeine, all of which were proscribed. Thus, when New York City's Board of Health prohibited cannabis from the city's streets in 1914, the New York Times (July 30, 1914) reported that the drug was a "narcotic [with] practically the same effect as morphine and cocaine... [and] the inclusion of cannabis indica among the drugs to be sold only on prescription is only common sense. Devotees of hashish are now hardly numerous here to count, but they are likely to increase as other narcotics become harder to obtain."

The motive behind these antimarihuana laws was obvious. Finger had alluded to San Francisco's "Hindoos" and Schieffelin had had New York City's "Syrians" in mind when they spoke out against the drug. But the Mexican connection was to outshadow these groups by far in future laws enacted against marihuana.

The Mexican Connection

In 1910, the revolution south of the Rio Grande drove thousands of Mexicans north into the United States. The main border crossings were El Paso, Texas; Nogales and Douglas, Arizona; and Calexico, California. The immigrants who passed through these points of entry usually took up temporary residence on the outskirts of these towns, and the Mexican ghetto or barrio became a common sight in parts of the southwest.

At first the newcomers were welcomed, especially by the wealthy landowners and the railway companies. These people were willing to work for cheap wages. As bad as the pay was, it was still worse in Mexico. While many Mexicans were ferried as far north as Chicago to work in the rail yards, most were recruited as fruit and vegetable pickers in California's Imperial and San Joaquin Valleys, in Texas's Rio Grande Valley, in Arizona's Salt River Valley, and in the sugar beet fields of Colorado. So valuable a labor commodity were the Mexicans that big business pressured Congress to exclude them from the literacy test and head-tax payments that had been written into the Immigration Act of 1917.

Small businessmen also reaped dollars from the newcomers, and as late as 1930 they fought all attempts to restrict Mexican immigration. Said one Los Angeles shopkeeper:

Mexican business is for cash. They don't criticize prices. You can sell them higher priced articles than they intended to purchase when they came in. They spend every cent they make. Nothing is too good for a Mexican if he has the money. They spend their entire paycheck. If they come into your store first, you get it. If they go to the other fellow's store first, he gets it. [5]

The reaction of the townspeople, however, was less favorable:

The evils to the community at large which their presence in large numbers almost invariably brings may more than over-balance their desirable qualities. Their low standards of living and morals, their illiteracy, their utter lack of proper political interest, the retarding effect of their employment upon the wage scale of the more progressive races, and finally their tendency to colonize in urban centers, with evil results, combine to stamp them as a rather undesirable class of residents. [6]

Small farmers, unable to compete with large growers because of the cheap wages paid to the Mexicans, were being driven out of business. Labor unions likewise complained of the competition from cheap labor. Local governments were unhappy about the number of Mexicans on relief. Business interests countered that the Mexicans were the most preferable of all the cheap labor available and were more suited than American whites at working at menial tasks. Caught in the middle, the Mexicans became the scapegoats for the economic conflict between business and labor. It was largely in this role of monkey-in-the-middle that the habits and customs of the Mexicans began to be attacked as un-American, and at the top of the list of un-American-like activities was their use of marihuana.

The American Hemp Drug Commissions

As the numbers of Mexican immigrants began to increase, especially in the border towns of the southwest, they were the object of close scrutiny by the townsfolk. Suspicious and often resentful of these newcomers, the townspeople humiliated, harassed, and abused them to make them feel as unwelcome as possible. When the Mexicans lashed back at their tormentors, their actions were often attributed to the influence of marihuana, which to many Americans symbolized the Mexican presence in America.

A early as 1914, the town of El Paso passed a local ordinance outlawing the sale or possession of marihuana. Like the outlawing of opium, the ordinance was meant to annoy and harass a class of people. The pretext for the law was said to have been a fight started by a Mexican who was allegedly under the influence of the drug, but the real reason was dislike, if not hatred, of the foreigners from across the Rio Grande.

Relations between Americans and Mexicans were not helped very much by the antics of the Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa. Villa frequently led his bandits on raids against towns on the American side of the Rio Grande and then fled back into Mexico. When finally the Americans had had enough, they sent General "Black Jack" Pershing in pursuit of the elusive bandit.

When Pershing returned from Mexico, there was some concern that marihuana had infiltrated the American ranks, although an official inquiry failed to turn up any proof to that effect. However, in 1921, the commandant of Fort Sam Houston expressly forbade marihuana anywhere on the grounds of the military post, ostensibly because American soldiers were smoking the drug while on duty.

In 1916, military authorities in the Panama Canal Zone began to suspect that army personnel were also smoking marihuana, but little attention was given to the issue at that time.

Six years later, in 1922, the provost marshall became concerned about reports that American soldiers were smoking marihuana and were becoming disobedient as a result. The following year, the army prohibited possession of marihuana by American personnel in the Canal Zone.

On April 1, 1925, a formal committee was convened to investigate the traffic in marihuana in the Canal Zone and to consider steps to prevent its usage. The committee invited army officers to express their opinions on the use of the drug by American soldiers, and at a hospital for the insane the committee watched while some soldiers, four physicians, and two policemen smoked marihuana in their presence. The committee also examined the military records of delinquent soldiers for any evidence that marihuana had produced unruliness.

A Colonel Chamberlain spoke for most of the committee's members when he concluded: "I think we can safely say, based upon the samples we have had smokes here and upon the reports of the individuals concerned, that there is nothing to indicate any habit forming tendency or any striking ill effects. All of the statements to the effect that two or three puffs produce remarkable effects are nonsense, judging from our experience."

A Mr. Johannes concurred and added that Dr. Cornell, a physician participating in the experiment, "was about the only man who was actually affected."

A third member of the committee, a Dr. Hesner, explained, however, that Dr. Cornell "had previously seen a marihuana smoker at my place and I think he must have had similar symptoms to what he would have had if he had smoked any other kind of cigarette."

"In other words," Colonel Chamberlain noted, "the same effects might have been produced by any other kind of vapor."

To which Mr. Johannes replied: "I have seen firemen on ship's fires overcome by smoke, overcome by peculiar symptoms, run around without knowing what they are doing, acting peculiarly, and lacking coordination."

Up to this point, the committee seemed admirably objective in their assessment of the evidence. They had witnessed an experiment which allowed them to observe the effects of marihuana firsthand and had found nothing to be alarmed about. But a Colonel Rigby now interjected the possibility that marihuana "seems to affect some individuals pretty seriously and doesn't seem to affect others."

In response to a suggestion by Dr. Hesner that if the committee could get some other men to use it, they might be able to observe some "susceptible cases", a Mr. Calhoun proposed what would eventually become a clandestine military practice. "It might well be," opined Calhoun, "to have some who would not know whether they were smoking it or tobacco for the purpose of ascertaining exact effects." To his credit, a Dr. Bates recognized the ethical implications and denounced such a scheme. "I feel that if the matter can be demonstrated scientifically," he replied to Calhoun, "it should be so demonstrated rather than by sneaking up on them."

On the basis of the testimony given, their own personal observation, and examination of military files, the committee finally concluded that marihuana was not habit forming nor did it have "any appreciable deleterious influence on the individual using it". Previous orders forbidding possession of marihuana were subsequently rescinded in 1926.

Despite the thoroughness of the probe, some high-ranking army officers refused to accept the committee's findings and ordered that a new investigation be conducted. In 1929, the department surgeon in charge of the new inquiry reported that "use of the drug is not widespread and... its effects upon military efficiency and upon discipline are not great. There appears to be no reason for renewing the penalties formerly enacted for the possession and the use of the drug."

Nevertheless, in December 1930 the department commander ordered that since "the smoking of marihuana impairs the efficiency of the soldiers [it] is forbidden. Soldiers smoking marihuana or using it in any way will be brought to trial for each and every offence."

In June 1931, a third Canal Zone investigation was begun. Once again the committee found no evidence to link marihuana with problems of morale or delinquency. "The evidence obtained," the committee said, "suggests that organization Commanders in estimating the efficiency and soldierly quality of delinquents in their commands have unduly emphasized the effects of marihuana, disregarding the fact that a large proportion of the delinquents are morons or psychopaths, which conditions themselves would serve to account for delinquency."

But the army brass would not be deterred. Morale was down and a scapegoat had to be found. Orders forbidding possession of marihuana on military installations were to be continued in force.

Marihuana and Violence

As the most conspicuous users of marihuana, Mexicans were oftentimes accused of being incited to violence by the drug. A letter written in 1911 by the American consul at Nogales, Mexico, stated that marihuana "causes the smoker to become exceedingly pugnacious and to run amuck without discrimination." [7] A Texas police captain claimed that under marihuana's baneful influence, Mexicans became "very violent, especially when they become angry and will attack an officer even if a gun is drawn on him. They seem to have no fear, I have also noted that when under the influence of this weed they have enormous strength and that it will take several men to handle one man while under ordinary circumstances one man could handle him with ease." [8]

Prison officials throughout the southwest had no doubt about marihuana's capacity to provoke violence. In the words of the warden of the state prison in Yuma, Arizona: "Under its baseful influence reckless men become bloodthirsty, terribly daring, and dangerous to an uncontrollable degree." [9]

The Butte Montana Standard reflected the thinking of the state's legislators when they outlawed marihuana in 1927:

When some beet field peon takes a few traces of this stuff... he thinks he has just been elected president of Mexico, so he starts out to execute all his political enemies." [10]

When challenged, these statements were never supported. Dr. M. V. Ball, one of America's few authorities on marihuana, visited the border towns in 1922 as a representative of the American Medical Association to get a firsthand look at the alleged dangers of marihuana to the citizenry. Ball had previously noted that whenever cannabis drugs were mentioned in the old scientific literature, they were invariably mixed with opium, [11] and he was sceptical of the reports he had heard about the drug as far as its criminogenic properties were concerned.

During a site visit to a Texas jail, the warden gave an inmate a marihuana cigarette to smoke so that Ball could see for himself what it did to a man. "To the surprise of the American Prison Physician and the jailer who assured me three wiffs would drive fellows so wild that they become exceptionally difficult to subdue," the smoker remained calm and unperturbed. "There is no evidence whatever that I can discover," Ball subsequently reported, "to warrant the belief that marihuana smoking is on the increase among Americans or that it is prevalent or common, there is no evidence worthy of belief that marihuana is a habit forming weed or drug, or that its use is increasing among Mexicans in Mexico or in America." [12]

Four years later, Dr. W. W. Stockberger, a scientist at the US Bureau of Plant Industry, issued a similar statement. "We have had correspondence with El Paso and other border cities in Texas for a good many years about this situation," he said. However, "the reported effects of the drug on Mexicans, making them want to clean up the town, do not jibe very well with the effects of cannabis, which so far as we have reports, simply causes temporary elation, followed by depression and heavy sleep..." [13]

Several years later still, Dr. Walter Bromberg clearly demonstrated the carelessness of police officers in attributing criminal activity to marihuana. Among ten patients whose cases he pulled form the files of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, Bromberg became especially interested in a J. O., a prisoner "described as having confessed how he murdered a friend and put his body in a trunk while under the influence of marihuana." Bromberg had J. O. brought to his clinic for a detailed interview. The interview convinced Bromberg that J. O. was no more a user of marihuana than was the commissioner of the Bureau of Narcotics. "Although he [J. O.] was a psychopathic liar and possibly homosexual," Bromberg concluded, "there was no indication in the examination or history of the use of any drug. The investigation by the probation department failed to indicate use of the drug marihuana." [14]

Yet another example of the way facts were deliberately falsified or distorted is a case cited by Dr. Lawrence Kolb. [15] As reported by the press, a fight which ended in the death of one of the combatants was described as a vicious, marihuana-induced murder. The facts, as best Kolb could uncover them, were the two men who were drinking heavily smoked one marihuana cigarette during the night. Sometime later a quarrel ensued. A fight erupted and one of the men was killed. Since marihuana had been used, the newspapers attributed the death to marihuana although there is little doubt that if any drug was responsible for what happened, it was alcohol.

During the 1930s the most sensationalistic of all the crimes to be attributed to marihuana's baneful influence was that of the death of a Florida family. On October 16, 1933, Victor Licata axed his mother, father, two brothers, and a sister to death in their Tampa home. The following day the Tampa chief of police declared "war on the marihuana traffic here," after reading the investigating officer's report that "the weed used as a cigarette had been indirectly to blame for the wholesale murder of the Michael Licata family..." [16] The link between the crime and marihuana was that Victor Licata had been a known user of marihuana.

On October 20, a Tampa Times editorial blared: "Stop This Murderous Smoke": "...It may or not be wholly true that the pernicious marihuana cigarette is responsible for the murderous mania of a Tampa young man in exterminating all the members of his family within his reach - but whether or not the poisonous mind-wrecking weed is mainly accountable for the tragedy its sale should not be and never have been permitted here or elsewhere." [17]

Victor Licata was subsequently turned over to a psychiatrist for evaluation. The examining psychiatrist found that not only was Licata criminally insane, but that he had a history of insanity in his family and many of his relatives had been committed to mental institutions. In fact, the Tampa police had made an attempt to have Licata committed to an institution a year earlier (and a half year prior to his using marihuana), but his parents argued that they could take better care of him in their own home and he was remanded to their custody.

Licata was ultimately sentenced to the Florida state mental hospital, where he was again examined and diagnosed as suffering from a long-lasting psychosis which was probably responsible for his crime. In 1950, Licata hanged himself.

Although there was no evidence to show that Licata had killed his family while under the influence of marihuana, Harry Anslinger, the commissioner of the Bureau of Narcotics, cited the case during the hearings on the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 as just one example of the dangers of marihuana:

In Florida, a 21-year old boy, under the influence of this drug killed his parents and his brothers and sister. The evidence showed that he had smoked marihuana. [18]

In his book The Murderers, Anslinger once again turned to the Licata case:

Much of the most irrational juvenile violence and killing that has written a new chapter of shame and tragedy is traceable directly to this hemp intoxication... A sixteen-year-old [sic] kills his entire family of five in Florida... Every one of these crimes has been preceded by the smoking of one or more marihuana "reefers". [19]

Anslinger's attitude was typical of other police officers in regard to the marihuana issue. Without any evidence to back them up, more than a few law enforcement officers adamantly denounce marihuana as a "killer drug".

The campaign against the drug picked up especially during the Depression as marihuana became yet another issue on which to harass Mexican immigrants. The Mexicans were accused of spreading the marihuana vice throughout the nation:

While the plant is a native to the Torrid Zone, its cultivation has been taken up through the United States and it is, at the present time, to be found in practically every state in the Union - in fact wherever Mexicans are located. So far north and east of its natural habitat has the weed spread under cultivation, that the New York Narcotics Forces have discovered patches of it which were grown within city limits. Again the Mexican influence is shown, the supply being found near the Pennsylvania Railroad Yards, in the Borough of Queens, where the Mexicans are employed. [20]

Labor groups and antiforeigner groups like the American Coalition badgered California's legislators to kick the Mexicans out of the state on grounds that marihuana was undermining American morality. Said C. M. Goethe, a spokesman for the coalition:

Marihuana, perhaps now the most insidious of our narcotics, is a direct by-product of unrestricted Mexican immigration. Easily grown, it has been asserted that it has recently been planted between rows in a California penitentiary garden. Mexican peddlers have been caught distributing sample marihuana cigarets to school children. Bills for our quota against Mexico have been blocked mysteriously in every Congress since the 1924 Quota Act. Our nation has more than enough laborers. [21]

A report from the Missionary Educator Movement in California also called attention to the widespread use of marihuana among the Mexicans and its alleged connection with lack of morality:

The use of marihuana is not uncommon in the colonies of the lower class of Mexican immigrants. This is a native drug made from what is sometimes called the "crazy weed". The effects are high exhilaration and intoxication, followed by extreme depression and broken nerves. [Police] officers and Mexicans both ascribe many of the moral irregularities of Mexicans to the effects of marihuana. [22]

Los Angeles's chief of detectives, Joseph F. Taylor, likewise hammered away at the crime-inducing effects of marihuana on the Mexican:

In the past we have had officers of this department shot and killed by marihuana addicts and have traced the act of murder directly to the influence of marihuana, with no other motive. [23]

Elsewhere throughout the southwest, where there were heavy concentrations of Mexicans, newspapers carried on a vigorous campaign against marihuana, aimed ostensibly at the evils of the drug but the real object of their indictment was crystal clear: "Four men, including a deputy sheriff, were seriously injured last night by a marihuana-raged Mexican before the bullets of another officer killed him, as he charged this officer with a knife." [24]

In 1933, the arrest of a "dope ring" specializing in marihuana, in Longmont, Colorado, prompted the remark from one journalist that marihuana was "highly intoxicating and constitutes an ever recurring problem where there are Mexicans or Spanish-Americans of the lower classes." [25]

Readers were likewise informed that while "appalling in its effects on the human mind and body as narcotics, the consumption of marihuana appears to be proceeding, virtually unchecked in Colorado and other Western states with a large Spanish-American population." [26] And if this were not dire warning enough, readers were also told that marihuana was "kin to loco weed... [and] when mixed with hay causes death to horses!" [27]

In 1931, the California State Narcotic Committee reported that marihuana usage was "widespread throughout Southern California among the Mexican population there," [28] and cited statistics from the city of Los Angeles that marihuana was frequently listed as being involved in criminal arrests. On the other hand, although "widespread" among the Mexicans, no other city in the state could produce comparable statistics. In fact, surveys of crime and delinquency among the Mexicans clearly demonstrated that they exhibited "delinquent tendencies less than their proportion of the population would entitle them to show." [29] When the records of one officer who had been adamant in his denunciation of the Mexican crime wave were examined, it was discovered that he had overestimated the proportion of Mexican arrests by 60 percent! [30]

It was not their antisocial behavior nor their use of marihuana that made the Mexicans persona non grata. As long as the economy had been viable, differences between the Mexicans and Anglos were rarely belligerent. When the Depression hit, however, jobs in the city disappeared. Anglo workers now began looking to farm labor as a means of livelihood. It was then that real competition for jobs became an issue.

Relief programs for the unemployed were a related issue. During the 1920s, the Mexican population in Los Angeles alone increased by 226 percent. [31] By 1930, there were over 97,000 Mexicans in the city. When these immigrants lost their jobs and went on relief, the business sector, which had once regarded them as an exploitable asset, now began to view them as an intolerable burden.

To reduce the relief burden, labor groups led by the AFL began urging that the Mexicans be shipped back across the border. Repatriation became law in the 1930s, and beginning in 1931 thousands of Mexicans were shipped back across the Rio Grande. The cost to repatriate one Mexican to Mexico City was $14.70. An average family ran about $71.14, including food and transportation. Los Angeles County paid out $77,249.49 to repatriate one covey of 6024 Mexicans and figured it had got itself a bargain compared to the $424,933.70 it estimated charitable relief would have cost had these people remained. [32]

Mexicans who did not wish to return voluntarily were subjected to varying forms and degrees of harassment. Many were charged with vagrancy. Others were arrested for violation of state marihuana laws. When they began to resist efforts to jail and deport them, their resistance was attributed to the influence of marijuana and these charges lent further weight to the accusation that marijuana incited violence.

References and Notes