Anslinger musings

I was reading an interesting post over at Dr. Tom O’Connell: Pot Prohibition’s Ultimate Absurdity

…how could a policy as ludicrous and destructive as marijuana prohibition have been endorsed by the whole world? The answer turns out to be critically important, embarrassing, and even more absurd than the policy itself.

In 1937, the “reefer madness” fantasy of a single uneducated bureaucrat named Harry Jacob Anslinger, with a big assist from the Hearst Newspaper chain, became the basis of a deceptive tax law that had the net effect of subjecting all the products of the hemp plant to criminal prohibition. The excuse used to justify that legislative sleight-of-hand was both highly imaginative and totally bereft of pharmacological validation, even by the comparatively primitive standards of 1937. Most notably missing was any clinical research on the effects of either inhaled or orally ingested cannabis on humans; nor were there any economic or demographic data on the use of what was then a legal product listed in the US Pharmacopeia.

The whole post is a good read, and pretty much lays the entire thing at the feet of Anslinger (aided by Hearst, et al, of course).

So it got me thinking… and I thought I’d get my loyal readers involved:

  1. Would marijuana be illegal today if it wasn’t for Anslinger?
  2. If you could go back in time and talk with him (and maybe show him something?), what would you do/say? (no violence, now)
  3. (Particularly for the science fiction fans…) If marijuana had not been made illegal at the federal level, how would the world be different today?
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19 Responses to Anslinger musings

  1. ezrydn says:


    We know that Anslinger was facing being out of a job after Alcohol Prohibition ended and needed to transition his office into a different witch hunt venue. His pal, Hearst, was worried that all the timber land he had invested in would be useless if hemp were allowed to take over the paper trade. Therefore, Hearst, began his “yellow jounalism” AND funded Anslinger to keep hemp off the market.

    If I went back in time, I doubt I’d even approach Anslinger. I’d be shouting at Congress at the top of my lungs. However, it WOULD be fun to get into a true debate with Mr. A.

  2. ezrydn says:

    Plus, we need to remember that Anslinger was related to Hearst, through marriage.

  3. Shap says:

    Learned all this stuff from a history channel series, Hooked: Illegal Drugs and How They Got That Way. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in drug policy. According to the series, Anslinger was purely a bureaucrat who cared about making money for his agency. Therefore I think any bureaucrat would have stepped up to replace Anslinger had he never existed and therefore marijuana would still be illegal if he were never involved. If marijuana were never made illegal at the federal level, states could have performed the function of being the laboratories of democracy as they were originally intended to be. Some states would have legal marijuana, some wouldn’t. The best policy would eventually be adopted by most, if not all states.

  4. BruceM says:

    We would not have a drug war if it were not for the perjury of Harry Anslinger. If I could go back in time, as I’ve said before, the only words I’d say to Anslinger are “buh-bye” before I shot him between the eyes (yes I’d take out Hitler and Stalin too, given my magical time machine and no worries of paradoxes).

    In fairness to Anslinger, he was just telling Congress what they were all demanding to hear. Contrary testimony was excluded, and by telling Congress what they wanted, Anslinger was up for a huge power grab. You can’t eradicate a plant and stop people from possessing a leaf without unlimited, grossly unconstitutional power. Of course, just because Congress wants to hear something and will reward you for your perjured testimony is no excuse or justification to lie. And Anslinger absolutely knew he was lying, of that I have no doubt. That’s why I consider him such an evil figure in our history. He wasn’t just misinformed, like a 19th century racist who thinks blacks are an inferior species as compared to whites because that’s all he’s ever heard and been told.

  5. factsofthematter says:

    I personally don’t buy into the particular conspiracy theory that marijuana was made illegal on the orders of Mellon and Hearst as a way of removing hemp as an agricultural commodity from the marketplace. I could change my mind about that, but the evidence I’ve seen for it is skimpy to non-existent, consisting primarily of a couple of coincidences, and guilt by association.

    From the information I’ve managed to glean over the years, Harry Anslinger was simply a man of his time and place- a cultural xenophobe and racist; an authoritarian moralist; a petty, mendacious bureaucrat in search of a reason for his continued existence. With marijuana suppression, he found that reason. He pursued it as his top priority career goal, and was successful in getting Federal criminalization enacted, thus keeping his bureaucratic sinecure.

    And Anslinger certainly didn’t put that law into effect single-handedly. The Congressional majorities that passed the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 as the result of his “crusading” were quite comfortable with his fear-mongering. The committee where the legislation was being considered included the testimony of medical doctors who stated that cannabis was a safe and valuable medicine. Their professional empirical and scientific views were simply overruled by know-nothing legislators.

    The Hearst press undoubtedly played an important role in propagandizing anti-marijuana hysteria. No countervailing views were made available in the media of the day. And the societal mores and character of the majority of the American electorate was as small-minded and pro-authoritarian sado-moralist as Harry Anslinger.

    In fact, it’s taken nearly three-quarters of a century for that group of Americans to lose their popular majority. A a huge number of the American voting public still consists of fear-driven neophobes who resist being confused by facts- seemingly at all costs, to the death.

  6. off article topic… the cali. legalization hearing is going on right now and you can watch it live here

  7. kaptinemo says:

    Bruce, I beg to differ. As Professor Whitebread points out, there were efforts in Western States to ban cannabis prior to 1937:

    “If you go back to 1937…in the period from 1915 to 1937, some 27 states passed criminal laws against the use of marijuana”.

    Given the anti-Hispanic sentiments of the day, it’s quite possible we could have had a Federally-mandated War on Weed. But without Anslinger’s connections (marrying into the Mellon banking family was a big help) it’s likely such a move would have come much later. Anslinger was a crucial lynch-pin to the banning of cannabis, but mainly because of the connections (banking, media, petrochemicals, etc., the usual province of the Powers-That-Be) that marriage gave him.

    A ‘perfect storm’ of the worst sort occurred at that time, with the development of petrochemically-based (and structurally inferior) fibers, the Great Depression (engineered by bankers; look around yourself at what’s happening today – some things never change), the abandonment of traditional Constitutional checks and balances (courtesy of the result of FDR’s threat to pack the Supreme Court with his sycophant judges) and a host of other circumstances combined to create the mess we presently suffer from.

    To paraphrase an old saying, if there hadn’t been an Anslinger, one would have been invented. The stakes against the petrochemical industry, outnumbered at the time by the farmers, were simply too high. (The US then was a largely agrarian society at the time, with 45 out of a hundred people still living on family farms.) In order to enact the scheme to supplant decentralized agrarian production of hemp with easily monopolized and centrally controlled petrochemical industries, such a person as Anslinger was necessary, for it was under the cover of government that this took place, not via naked, up-front, in-your-face-and-whatcha-gonna-do-about-it corp-rat maneuvering. And Anslinger was the perfect tool for the job.

  8. kaptinemo says:

    And as to the ‘sci-fi’ aspect of this:

    Imagine a country which produces its’ own energy via agrarian methods, and also produces a myriad of ‘durable goods’ industrial products with a minimum of pollution involved. Imagine a nation in which almost everything consumed is produced within its’ borders and has little need for trade with the rest of the planet. Imagine a nation that is prosperous because it hasn’t gone to war for resources since 1918 because it simply didn’t have to. Imagine what the society of such a nation might be like. It would be a society of truly limited government, for there would be little need for the kind of centralization that allows for tyranny to occur.

    I could go on, but you get the idea. Such a nation was what the Founders intended and almost succeeded in making possible, until the rise of the Robber Barons thanks to the Civil War, and the predations of their descendants, who have become the de facto Ruling Class of this country.

    We have strayed far from the path, and the DrugWar is a perfect illustration as to just how far we’ve wandered into darkness.

  9. Nick Zentor says:

    What Kap said. Anslinger was a tool of vampires and vultures seeking to seize limitless power over the United States (and the world). This brings to mind the whole idea of monopolies being anti-American. Isn’t what those vultures did essentially a “monopoly” and couldn’t it be argued that making hemp illegal was an unconstitutional abuse of power which led to a massive monopoly?

    It would be hard to not kill Anslinger if I went back in time, so if i did something as nonviolent as possible, it would probly be kidnap him, drug him, put him in a gorilla suit, and ship him to Africa.

    The world would be a much better place if cannabis were legal right now because it would help the over-worked relax and people wouldn’t be so strung out with tension and anxiety all the time, nor would there be so many automobile accidents (from alcohol abuse), as well as much less other of the negative effects of alcohol abuse.

  10. truthtechnician says:

    I think there’s a lot more to Marijuana prohibition than the Anslinger story. It was the progressive movement that started the entire concept of a “drug-free lifestyle,” which Cannabis became swept up in. For example, in your last post it is mentioned that California banned Cannabis in 1913. I found a good article by Dale Gieringer on Cannabis prohibition pre-1937 tax act, that goes into some detail…

  11. DdC says:

    I think A more appropriate moniker would be…
    actsofthefatter, but I’ll be easy since you’re new.

    “Those who will not read,
    have nothing over those who can not read.”

    personally don’t buy into it … bla bla bla … and guilt by association.

    Oh but you want us to take your word for it,
    with absolutely no evidence? Personally I don’t take speculation and gossip as science, so excuse me if I think thats a lame statement.

    medical doctors who stated that cannabis was a safe… bla bla bla … views were simply overruled by know-nothing legislators.

    Medicinal cannabis and Hemp were not outlawed by the 1937 Marijuana Tax Act, technically. It was made almost impossible to grow with the catch 22 tax stamps required. But it wasn’t until Nixon arbitrarily disregarded his own commission and included RxGanja and Hemp into the Un-Constitutional CSA. Ansliger, like the Women’s Christian Temperance League crusading for booze prohibition, never had more than a handful of states. It was corporate money and corporate lobbies making it a reality. Al Capone and Watergate are still Red Herrings.

    “…the primary reason to outlaw marijuana
    is its effect on the degenerate races.”

    – Harry J. Anslinger – America’s 1st Drug Czar (FDR – JFK)

    Your opinion is of one burying their head, and casting doubt with no agenda other than keep the confusion and doubt in the mix. Its very simple, remove competition get more profits. Anslinger worked for his relative Mellon. Mellon Carnegie Dupont and Rockefeller had bug bucks invested in Fossil Fools replacing biomass and ethanol. Crude oil cellulose was being developed for fiber for clothing and the same reason for alcohol prohibition, remove the obstacles to profits. “Personally don’t buy into it” is a retarded answer or most likely since you’re a newbie, a diversion. Keep it off the debate table. The prison industry lobbied against Prop 5. but maybe they have no interest either. I’m sure the Enrons and Pharmaceuticals have enough ethics to not interfere with a plant that grows free and could replace half their inventory, just coincidence eh? The booze corporations produced the “documentary” Reefer Madness, out of their concern for the kiddies I guess. The steel Henry Ford replaced with a Hemp auto body more dent resistant didn’t mind losing customers. The cotton crop buys 90 million pound of crude oil based poison pesticides each year, not used on Hemp but the same chemical corporations poisoning the people are too moral to lobby for prohibition. Boy do I have a bridge to sell you. These drug worriers stand with the same corporations and Mellons Banks and yet someone always wants to keep the selfish profits for their masters. Pitifucklingfools! Ganja and Hemp are illegal because of weak lazy citizens and mean nasty greedy scumbuckets herding them.

    “Marijuana is an addictive drug
    which produces in its users insanity, criminality, and death.”

    ` Harry J. Anslinger

    The Elkhorn Manifesto

    Uses for Hemp youtube collection

    I see in the near future a crisis approaching
    Henry Ford originally made his cars to run on ethanol, so farmers could create their own fuel. Along comes John D. Rockefeller, who wants people to use oil. He provides money to the anti-alcohol movement in order to make Prohibition a reality, and stop the ethanol fuel industry and promote the use of fossil fuels.

    HEMP vs Taxes from Texas

  12. Servetus says:

    Demonizing a substance is only one step away from demonizing the person who consumes it. Many more bureaucrats and law enforcement personnel than just Anslinger understood this racist, ethnocentric tactic. Hitler understood it when immediately upon taking office as Chancellor in 1933 he abolished the openly hedonistic drug culture characterizing Weimar Berlin and later Paris.

    As head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN) beginning in 1930, Harry Anslinger was in the right place at the right time to be the point man in a fascist war on personal and intellectual freedom, as well as “…Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos and entertainers. Their Satanic music, jazz and swing, result from marijuana usage. This marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes….”

    Had another mental midget run the FBN office instead of Anslinger, Anglo-American racism and the culture wars would have forged the same result we see today.

    The United States of the 1930s had forced sterilization. People could be beaten with a rubber hose by police interrogators in their neighborhood precincts. The Ku Klux Klowns had serious political clout. While much of this sort of activity has disappeared, the drug laws have carried on this archaic tradition of fascist oppression.

    Within such a tyrannical climate, it would have been impossible to talk someone like Anslinger out of waging war on cannabis users, unless of course one could convince him that his name would be forever linked by historians to abject tyranny for his policies. A society without Anslinger and his ilk in the 30s would have been a reflection, not a cause, of a culture more likely to embrace a tolerant future society.

  13. R.O.E. says:

    And do ya really think that if we could have stopped Anslinger that some opportunist down the line wouldnt have picked it up. Those at the (TOP){And these days the top seems like the bottom considering all the lies} ALWAYS fight for control and money.

  14. R.O.E. says:

    What would the world (or just America) be like today if cannabis was never banned. Hopefully a much smaller government that didnt walk all over our rights and the constitution. Freer and much more relaxed people i WOULD HOPE.

  15. R.O.E. says:

    IT SEEMS TO ME THAT THOSE AT THE TOP ARENT HAPPY UNLESS WE ARE BEING DRIVEN INTO THE GROUND. They push people to work them selves to death just so they have unlimited power and money to waste. Can we just choose to be lazy? Hell no! Dont even think of slowing down,relaxing and accually ENJOYING life. NO ,NO! Enjoy life on your breaks, enjoy life in that 2 or 3 weeks that you are given for …lol vacation….then right back to being driven into the ground for their benefit. No,No! Dont take time with your kids, dont pay attention to your wife. WORK EAT SLEEP!

    The cure? Much smaller government, cut that leash, break that wip!

    Slavery never was abolished,it was just ..Transformed.
    Dont believe it? Your chains are in the form of money,paychecks,credit. Where do you get it? Work,who makes the rules of work?? Government. You have no control over your life. Its a constant cycle of work make money and spend.

    Take a year off people. Tell me how your thinking changes.

    Ok .Im ranting…but its true.

    Now with that I’m gonna light this …and try relax. (just kidding, cant light up need a job)
    Oh theres those work rules again………………….

  16. DdC says:

    Trillion spent is a trillion earned + tax
    NAFTA/GATT\Prisons&Poisons and War Paraphernalia.
    Selling Treatments Banning Prevention and Cures.
    Wars only pay when they’re being waged.
    Can’t fix what ain’t broken,
    Selling band aids to barefoot yuppies,
    led down broken glass roads.

    Journey for Justice
    Slave Labor Means Big Bucks For U.S. Corporations

    Ganjawar: Slave Labor, Rape & Pillage Deterrent
    “At the same time, the United States blasts China for the the use of prison slave labor, engaging in the same practice itself. Prison labor is a pot of gold. No strikes, union organizing, health benefits, unemployment insurance or workers’ compensation to pay. As if exploiting the labor of prison inmates was not bad enough, it is legal in the United States to use slave labor. The 13th Amendment of the Constitution states that “neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted shall exist within the United States.”

    ‘Relax Your Muscles as Much as Possible’
    Deterrents to Jury Trials with 404 gag rules and Mandatory Minimums.
    In 2000 approximately 77,000 state, local and federal inmates were imprisoned on marijuana charges… What’s life like in our prisons for those 77,000 marijuana convicts? Let’s steel our nerves and go visit the Web site where the Los Angeles outfit “Stop Prisoner Rape” has posted the little plain-talking handbill it has prepared for young men entering our prison system, titled “For Prisoners: Advice on Avoiding HIV/AIDS.” The group’s handout — targeted primarily at heterosexual men who have no desire to ever be involved in homosexual activity — advises continued…

    872,721 marijuana arrests in 2007 Inhaling or Not

  17. BruceM says:

    Kaptinemo: Sure Anslinger was acting for interests other than his own. And yeah, if he had been assassinated by some time traveler from the future named Bruce, it’s quite possible that someone else would have taken his place and done the same thing, committed the same perjury, took the same power grab, etc. The same can be said for most if not all evil, nefarious figures throughout world history (sadly, the same can’t be said for history’s heroic figures… if there’s an opportunity for evil, someone will always seize it… but if there’s an opportunity for good, only rarely will someone take advantage of it).

    And as I’ve said in several other threads, FDR and his court-packing threat indeed directly led to the modern day legislature with unlimited “commerce clause” power and the “drug exception” to the Constitution, both of which have led to the total failure and imminent collapse of the United States.

  18. primus says:

    Since Anslinger’s dishonesty was at the root of the drug war, perhaps someone should commission an honest biography of this ass. Nobody has done so yet because they can’t write it honestly and still support the drug war, so write it honestly and let the people see how the system worked against common sense, decency and the constitution. When the book hits, and then becomes a movie, perhaps the sheople will see they have been lied to all these years and demand change.

  19. BD says:

    Assuming you could prove to Anslinger that you’re from the future, I think all you’d have to do to stop him dead in his tracks is tell him that in the future they’ll actually be arresting white people for possession, not just the “degenerate races.” Knowing his motivations, I think this piece of information alone would be sufficient.

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