Not Past It - Reefer Racism

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Did you ever come across the concept of like weed as a gateway drug?

Oh, yeah, absolutely.

We does a gateway.

Drug you do?

We, you’re going to be on heroin.

That’s Mary prior.

She’s the co-founder of a cannabis startup and an advocate for racial Equity within the Cannabis industry.


But Mary wasn’t always.

So, we’d positive growing up in the 90s.

She heard the weed is bad message.

Well, everywhere, especially an anti-drug PSAs on TV.

This is your brain on drugs with the fried eggs.


Classic by yes.

A man with aggressive gym teacher energy holds up a This is your brain points to a frying pan.

This is drugs.

And then cracks the egg into the hot pan.


This is your brain on drugs and questions.

According to these PSAs, we’d had a laundry list of negative consequences.

We’d also like to not graduating school not having a job.

This hurts.


Stop you for living up to your potential looking ugly.

Your friends not weighing hang out with you this the way it’s been.

Since she started smoking pot, she’s all lazy and You name it.

I saw a lot of these ads growing up to.


I heard the same messages from TV from school from parents, and I can assure you, they did not work on me but it did get me wondering.

Where did this message?

Come from?

Where did it all start?

The marihuana tax act marihuana Tax Act.


From gimlet media.

This is not passed it a show about the stories.

We can’t quite leave behind every episode.

We take a moment from that very same week in history and tell you the story of how it shaped our world.

I’m Simone plannin 85 years ago, this week on August 2nd 1937, Congress passed the marijuana tax act, effectively making weed illegal in the US.


But this one Tax Act was preceded by a campaign.

To paint cannabis as a devil drug.

A Scourge on America’s social fabric today, we’ll explore how this story came to be and the fears that it raised fears that continue to shape how we talk about the cannabis plant to this day.


So take a puff with me and I’ll catch you up after the break, voila.


In the 1910s, a Revolution was being waged in Mexico.

The working classes were tired of the wealthy ruling Elites a tale as old as time and they found a hero and Pancho Villa, he was a revolutionary General, a robin, hood-like figure he and a group of 40 or so Outlaws would get in gunfights with Texas Rangers.


Said between battles.

Some of his gorillas had a particular Pastime.

They liked to smoke a specific plant.

The legend of Pancho Villa and his smoking Outlaws spread across Mexico.


And the u.s. eventually people started singing a song La Cucaracha as a Mexican folk song.

One version is about a foot soldier who can’t function without smoking up this cheap and toxicant, you probably know it by its Spanish name, marijuana.


And you know, La Cucaracha translates to cockroach as in roach.


See these dots see how I’m connecting them.

It’s around this time that weed smoking, started popping up in the US.


Mainly, it’s from the migration of Mexicans, fleeing, the Civil War, people were fleeing the violence, people were seeking a better economic situation this Martin, Lee author of smoke signals, a social history of marijuana.


He says, as people moved across the border in the early 1900’s, they brought over things that were important to them.

They had different herbs, for cooking one, other hit would have their jar of marijuana to, which they use for different ailments medical cannabis was already a thing in the states usually in the form of tinctures.


But weed smoking was unfamiliar to many Americans and as Mexicans migrated across the u.s.

They brought the practice with them folk smoked up and down the Texas border, further east, in Louisiana, out west and Colorado, and California.


And into urban centers, were jobs, were available places like Kansas City, and Chicago, some State officials started taking notice of this smoking Trend and the political opportunity it presented, you have the influx of Mexican Americans in see the United States, where, for political reasons.


And people thought to take advantage of the association with cannabis with people who were not really Americans, you know, they were coming across the border immigrants.

Aliens politicians, claimed that marijuana would soon cross cultural lines and infect white communities gasp.


Then in the 1930s, the federal government set their sights on shutting down marijuana Treasury Department intends to pursue a Relentless Warfare against the Despicable.

Do peddling vulture who preys on the weakness of his fellow, man?


This loquacious fella is Harry anslinger, prohibitionist.

And an official in the Federal Bureau of Narcotics.

He made it his job to tell America about the evils of drugs.

Harry’s background has nothing to do with science or chemistry drugs or alcohol.


This is New School literary studies Professor.

Alexander Chasin.

She was researching America’s criminal justice system and found Harry anslinger right at the center of it is background.

Has everything.

You to do with alcohol prohibition, bureaucracy, bureaucratic procedure, see anslinger, cut his teeth policing, alcohol during prohibition.


He had a reputation as a tireless champion of American bureaucracy, but after prohibition started to falter in 1929, many American prohibitionists like anslinger turn their sights to a different social Scourge drugs.


A lot of the Eggs, they targeted had once been used for medical purposes.

Back in the 1800’s Physicians would regularly prescribe opiates like heroin and morphine and the 1880s cocaine was used in local anesthetics and the 1890s heroin was produced as a cough suppressant damn, talk about knocking out a cold as time went on, though, I became understood that certain treatments could become habit-forming.


And problematic for society, the US was seeing what some have characterized as an addiction crisis.

The government began rolling out, different forms of legislation for better pharmaceutical and consumer responsibilities, like, the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906, it required products that were classified as food or prescribed drugs to list their ingredients.


Then in 1914 regulation went a step further with The Harrison Act.

Narcotics had come through the government.

Primarily under the Aegis of the Harrison act, which was passed, as a Stamp Act to control the distribution of mostly opiates and cocaine.


The ACT imposes, a tax on the production importation and distribution of Narcotics.

After the Harrison act, narcotics like morphine heroin and cocaine were federally regulated weed was not states.


Did start regulating it though.

Targeting communities that smoked it in 1913 California, outlawed, recreational Cannabis about 15 years later.

Louisiana officials basically made recreational weed illegal to at the same time various media Outlets were publishing stories.


Lincoln crime to cannabis and the Mexican migrants who smoked it.

Research from the time though, found that foreign-born people were more law-abiding than people born in the US.

But officials cherry-picked stories about weed.

Smoking Mexicans committing crimes, taking the outliers and making them seem like the norm.


It’s giving fear-mongering, it’s giving racism.

It’s giving moral panic.

And how perfect, because this is where Harry anslinger steps back into frame, the bureaucrat with a penchant for Flowery language, a year earlier and singer was made the commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics or fbn initially.


He had no real issue with cannabis, but the fbn had been created on the Tails of a failing alcohol prohibition.

The government wasn’t going to allocate the same number of resources to a new prohibition.

This ended up putting Harry in a tough spot.


The Federal Bureau of Narcotics was not large did not have many agents.

He did not have a lot of money, he went perpetually to ask for bigger budget for guns that match the guns of gangsters for cars that matched, the cars of gangsters.

Professor Jason says, anslinger also felt the pressure because the bureau was frequently on The Chopping Block.


Did Harry need some signal.

Successes in order to ensure the Mission and the continued budgeting of the bureau yes, anslinger needed a win and he needed to go after an enemy to get that win.


There was already a growing anti cannabis sentiment being pushed by state leaders, so anslinger hopped on that train when anslinger had that power in his hands.

He very clearly said about to associate marijuana, with Latinos and African-Americans.


He was a blue Smugglers.

We’re trying to raise money to State the revolution down there.

The Central American countries have been increasingly used as basis for this rocket, is matter of fact that for most of our trouble comes from, And singer produced films, condemning cannabis, and warning of its unsavory associations.


And he used the drug Spanish name in smear campaigns weed.

Marijuana is grown in every state in the Union recently, this is from the opening scene of the 1936 film Reefer Madness.

It’s now known as an absurd anti cannabis propaganda film.


But at the time, I told a story of how we It would turn Americans, white Americans, and to manic murderers, I know what you want.

You want to kill me?

This film came out in the middle of the Great Depression.


Economy was in a full tailspin, there was a lot of competition for a limited amount of jobs, more and more pressure was being placed on DC to do something about the Immigrant problem immigrants.

That by now we’re closely linked to marijuana in the minds of many Americans.


The next year in 1937, Congress had hearings about what needed to be done about cannabis at the federal level, they were discussing a new tax act.

The mayor Want to Tax Act.

It’s around this time that anslinger published.


One of his most Sensational pieces of writing about the drug.

One of my favorite pieces is Assassin of Youth, which is a piece that was published in American Magazine.

In 1937, the piece opens with the description of a woman dead splattered on the sidewalk outside an apartment building in Chicago.


She’s gone out of a window on the fifth floor.

The article immediately goes on to say the killer was a narcotic known to America as marijuana.

It is a narcotic used in the form of cigarettes and that it was as dangerous as a coiled rattlesnake.


She got got by the weed this story and once like it would end up helping anslinger codify his anti cannabis messaging into law even though and this may not come as much of a surprise, but there was no such woman.


There was no event, like that will solve this marijuana mystery after the break.

Sub Stoners.


Welcome back before the break.

We learned how migrants brought pot smoking to the US during the Mexican Revolution, which got the girls mad.

The girls being the US political leaders naturally and how head honcho at the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, Harry anslinger, pushed this growing anti cannabis sentiment and remember that explosive article.


He wrote marijuana Assassin of Youth with the pot smoking woman. and the fifth floor window and the Well, answering our expert.

Alexander chasen says, none of that happened anslinger was an office guy so the propaganda is stuff that he wrote while sitting in Washington.


It’s not reportage.

Not reportage.

In other words he totally fabricated.

This scenario Assassin of Youth goes on to list.

Other Tall.

Tales one, where a quiet young man took an axe and murdered his whole family.


After lighting up there was the man who assaulted a young girl because of his reefer addiction.

It goes on and on anslinger crafts.

These narratives about Hot Tamale Peddlers, implying that they’re notorious drug dealers.

He It explicitly but we can all guess who he’s implicating there and he implicates other racial minorities in Assassin of Youth.


To the implies that black migrants brought their pot, smoking North to New York that the Jazz musicians of the Harlem, Renaissance used the drug to help them play their quote, hop music.

And that it helped them play notes with a furious speed that no sober person could possibly imitate right because Stoners are the toria’s for their speed.


His ideas were informed by a kind of Mythology it confirmed.

His sense that immigrant groups and racial social groups were responsible for the destruction of the fabric of an imagined intact white American society.


This flurry of Tall Tales From anslinger, they’re all being published around the Same time.

That Congress was meeting for anslinger’s marijuana.

Tax act.

Marijuana Assassin of Youth is now widely considered a piece of anti cannabis propaganda.


A timely piece of propaganda.

In the spring of 37 anslinger strutted, through the halls of Congress multiple times, delivering statements advocating for the tax on cannabis, the American Medical Association though.


According to weed historian Martin Lee their legislative Council made a very different appeal.

The am a representative at these hearings, actually opposed the passage of this act.

One of the reasons they said is that we believe there could be undiscovered.


Use of this and that that it has a history of being used as a safe medicine and we might develop went to a Congress that was already stretched thin.

They were still dealing with the depression and the rising threat of fascism in Europe.

So Lee says they just went along with anslinger, this is Voice vote and it’s ridiculous.


Some of the congressmen didn’t even know what they’re voting on.

Some of the comments that were made, that were ultimately reported, you know, someone saying, what is this again?

What did we just 40 marijuana?


Something like a narcotic you know, they don’t even know what they were doing.

The marihuana tax act of 1937 was passed on August 2nd.


It pretty much gave the federal government full control over weed, they taxed and regulated it so heavily that it was functionally illegal.

And those stories answering are told about black and brown boogeymen deathly, consequences total, social chaos.


They’ve stuck around these last 85 years and they’ve I loved.

I mean, come on you can’t tell me your brain on drugs is a fried.

Egg makes any more sense than the weed is making the Jazz too fast.



And these messages don’t only come from the media.

Maybe you even heard some of this stuff at school.

I was a part of the deer program at school.

I was on the board, that’s Mary prior the Cannabis Equity, Advocate from the top of the show.

That program she participated in Dare or drug abuse resistance, education was especially popular in the 80s and 90s.


Oh wow.

Tell me about that.

I was you know I was definitely on the gym floor and our school uniform.

Talking about drugs are bad.

Mary’s introduction to weed was charged with all these messages of its damaging effects until and her young, adulthood a health, scare prompted her to take a second.


Look at cannabis.

I got hit with crohn’s disease about 10 years ago and I found myself relying more on the medicine of it, just to like, get through the pain, stomach issues, the intestinal issues, and of what now, Mary was taking 20 different medications for Crohn’s some to deal with the pain, others to counteract.


The side effects of the initial medications, that was a never-ending spiral of pain and prescriptions.

And more pain.

I started learning about all of these different ways to just utilize the plant outside of what I learned in.

Catholic schools will can we with my friends, or Mary started researching, the cannabis, plant diving, deep into all its properties, how to use it to treat pain and other symptoms.


She says it helped her manage her chronic illness tremendously.

Mary was traveling in and out of Colorado at this time where medical cannabis was legal.

Starting in the 90s states were doing an about-face on cannabis legalizing, it both medicinally and then recreationally.


This state by state legislation opened up, business opportunities, and Mary wanted to advocate for cannabis entrepreneurs.

Eliminate the stigma, she learned as a kid that’s part of why she founded her company can occlusive, but she quickly found that.

Even if it was legal at the state level, the lingering social stigma, and federal restrictions, It’s made things, especially difficult people, keep treating it like a drug and that bleeds into banking as something that we can access it bleeds into capital capital, capital, capital, capital capital capital, because of federal regulations.


Most banks can’t risk offering Financial Services to companies who work directly with cannabis.

So many cannabis entrepreneurs, turn to other sources of funding.

Private investors friends and family that kind of thing sources of capital that historically black and brown.


People have a harder time getting access to As more and more opportunities seem to pop up around this new industry.

Mary is aware of these real challenges, how there’s no sure footing for black and brown entrepreneurs.


And if you ask her it ties directly back to 1937 Mela needed communities.

In namely North, America were disenfranchised from understanding the value of so many things based on how the Tax Act was created.


And Me to Target namely black and those who are would be considered Mexican and that time as the scapegoats, this scapegoating hasn’t changed.

According to the ACLU.

Black people all across the country are nearly four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana.


Possession than white people, even though usage rates are roughly equal between the two groups and in general black and Latin X people in America are more heavily, criminalized combined They make up roughly one third of the US population but make up two-thirds of all incarcerated people in the country.


All this crazy stuff really makes it even more challenging.

Now to get laws and policies passed that are going to be significantly aware of what racism has done to us to be able to have access in anything.

Write an interesting place with cannabis in America.


It’s been legalized for recreational use in 19 States.

It’s decriminalized or legalized for medical use in a total of 37 and yet Federal restrictions continue to stunt the industry.

Creating sometimes insurmountable barriers of Entry limiting who can get a piece of this business.


Those messages that Harry anslinger and other prohibitionist introduced almost a 100 years ago.

Still with us, even if they manifest a little differently, it’s in the stigma still attached to cannabis, it’s in the racial discrepancy of who now gets to profit from it and who’s criminalized for using it, even when it stops being a criminal.


Not passed it as a Spotify original produced by gimlet and zsp media.

This episode was produced by remotely Phillip.

Next week, we’re bringing you a story from our friends over at every little thing.

Most people agree that the kind of first cheer was actually at a game between Rutgers and Princeton, a group of residents broke out into this cheer, which was rah.


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The rest of our team is producer.

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The supervising producer is Erica Morrison editing, by Britain loose Andrea, be Scott and Zach Stewart, Ponte fact-checking, by Jane, Ackerman sound design and mixing by Emma Monger original music, by Sachs kicks.


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You can read more of Harry anslinger has tall tales and professor chasen’s book.

Assassin of Youth, a kaleidoscopic history of Harry.

J anslinger, ’s War on Drugs.

Special thanks to Carlene Pinto.

Candice Fortin Donnell, Alexander Damien, fagin, Professor Steve Underhill and summer.


Fox Laura made Cohen and Lesley Nicol.

Over at we’d Maps where you can learn more about everything cannabis and to Lydia Pole.

Green Abbie ruzicka Dan Behar Jen hon, Emily wiedemann list Styles and Joshua Bianchi, follow not past it.


Now to listen for free exclusively on Spotify, click the little bell next to the follow button to get notifications for new episodes and while you’re there hey why don’t you write as 5 Stars?

You can follow me on Twitter at Simone.

Plannin, thanks for hanging, we’ll see you next week.


I wish I had information when I was younger, but I was also younger.

I was a kid.

My top, concerns were going to ice capades with my girl scout friends.