The Marijuana Tax Act of 1937

Why The Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 Matters Today

Marijuana Tax Act 1937

While it might seem like no big deal to hunt around the internet for the best CBD Gummies….it’s been a long road towards the legalization of ANYTHING related to marijuana (including hemp and CBD). Despite the differences between THC and CBD, as well as the mounting research behind the benefits of CBD, legislators have always grouped them together. From the start, marijuana’s negative reputation in the US was associated with immigrants coming from Mexico during the Great Depression. At this point, in the early 20th century, the common word for “marijuana” was simply “cannabis.” Even though cultivation and trade was happening on both sides of the border, the US came to view it only as a foreign substance, and therefore bad. This fueled the fire in the minds of Americans toward their Mexican neighbors. 

Today, marijuana is largely illegal in the US. However, many more people are becoming more informed about its health benefits. They’re also realizing that THC and hemp do not have to be synonymous. Many varieties of CBD oil offer the excellent health benefits of the cannabis plant without any risk of getting high. That’s because some varieties contain 0% THC! The ones that do contain THC usually have a trivial amount-such as <0.3%. 

There are benefits of cannabis for pain, chronic health issues, anxiety, depression… the list could go on. Here is a bit more about the history of marijuana in the US, and how it came to have a negative reputation. This began with the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937. 

The Criminalization of Marijuana

This law is commonly known as the first advance made by the Federal US government towards banning cannabis. The law was passed on August 2, 1937. The Marijuana Tax Law of 1937 set the foundation for the general sentiment towards marijuana in the US. 

The main contributor to this law’s development was its writer, Harry Anslinger. He was a known opponent of cannabis use, and argued for its entire prohibition. Interestingly, he was also the first commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics. 

It’s worth reading about Mr. Anslinger. His life left quite an interesting legacy, both politically and socially. Funny enough, he actually flip-flopped in his views on marijuana around the end of the prohibition of alcohol in the 1920s. Initially, he saw no harm in it. Then he advocated for its prohibition. He was also a known racist, and this played a role in his approach to promoting the cannabis ban. He tried to tie in racial themes to win favor for his anti-cannabis views, relying on victimizing African Americans to try to show how detrimental marijuana use was to society. 

Knowing about the origins of the law, and its writer, are important for understanding its historical context and thus, its significance today. 

Some sources report that the original contention with marijuana comes from a problem a few businessmen had with the hemp market. In the 1930s, people called cannabis hemp. The story goes, that there were three American businessmen who took the hemp business as a threat. It was a threat because it was becoming known as a cheaper alternative to paper pulp, and they feared that the hemp industry would negatively impact investments they had in the newspaper industry. 

The goal of the Marijuana Tax of 1937 was not to totally outlaw the use of cannabis, but rather, to increase taxes on hemp use. So, it was still not a crime to be in possession of or use marijuana. Still, it increased the restrictions on marijuana use.

At this time, doctors were actually prescribing cannabis as a medical treatment. That meant that the physicians would be the ones to pay the taxes on cannabis, along with pharmacists. The tax law also made some new regulations for hemp farmers, even if its use was only for fiber sales. 

Implementation of the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937

Here’s how it worked in everyday situations. 

For everyone who sold, distributed, owned, or purchased maijuana, they had to register with the IRS in order to pay special cannabis taxes. It was required that there be written documentation of transfer between the seller and buyer. There was also a tax on the transfer of the marijuana! You even had to carry around an order form which was issued to you. This form would have had the contact info of both the buyer and the seller. It also had to show the exact amount of marijuana transferred. What a lot of work and documentation!

The Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 was enforced quickly. Soon, people were being. Interestingly, they weren’t arrested for simply having marijuana or buying/selling. Rather, they were arrested for failing to pay the marijuana tax! After the first rounds of arrests, criminalizing people who were in possession of marijuana, the marijuana tax was raised. The Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 actually became a matter of criminal law. This was thirty years later, in 1967. 

Here’s where things get sticky. Remember Mr. Anslinger? He was worried about his declining influence, and his professional/political weaknesses. Essentially wanting to boost his career, he used this relatively new war on drugs as an opportunity. Therefore, he went to town trying to combat the use of all narcotics. How far did he go? He gained influence by scaring the public with statements about marijuana which lacked scientific study. 

For instance, he claimed that marijuana caused violence, psychosis, and other mental health issues. He then inferred that these factors increased criminal activity, including homicide. 

So things took quite a turn. In just about half a century, marijuana went from being associated with manufacturing and fiber markets to a criminalized, harmful, destructive substance. 

Of course, used inappropriately, marijuana can pose risks. However, in this whole historical discourse, there has never been mention of any of the positive attributes of this incredible plant. Particularly, its health benefits…

You see where we are headed with this?

The lack of scientific evidence combined with personal political motives in the legislation and enforcement of the Marijuana Tax Law of 1937 leaves its validity in question. 

Hope for Change

Cannabis is a remarkable genus of the plant kingdom. Plants in this family, including cannabis sativa, are used in many ways to help people find relief from everyday health issues. From chronic pain to seizures, anxiety and depression, cannabis can benefit and provide relief to so many people. 

It’s becoming common knowledge that the benefits of cannabis-from CBD oils to marijuana, are many. However, there is still a stigma surrounding the cultivation and use of this amazing plant. Today, there are various laws regulating and restricting the use of marijuana and the cultivation of cannabis. This makes things difficult for farmers, businesses, and consumers who need relief from painful and life debilitating conditions. 

If individuals continue to self-educate about cannabis, there is hope that it will one day be seen as a powerful health supplement, and not a criminal substance. 

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