CannaMinutes April 2018: The US Government’s Dubious Relationship with Cannabis
It’s April 2018, this is Matt from RuffHouse Studios and welcome to CannaMinutes.
In the light of a recent progress at the FDA after giving a positive review for a new cannabis based anti-seizure drug, and a push to legalize industrial hemp from an unlikely conservative politician in the US Senate, let’s take a brief look at the dubious relationship between the US Government and cannabis.
Up until the early 1900’s cannabis was legal in America and many doctors used cannabis extracts to treat numerous symptoms such as nausea and pain. But when the Mexican American war in the mid-1800’s brought an influx of Mexican immigrants into the US it led to a shift of perceptions among many Americans about the drug. Because of its favored use among many of the Mexican immigrants as the recreational drug of choice, xenophobia among Americans led to a shift about the plant which was given the name marijuana by its opponents. This began what would snowball into a years long campaign to vilify cannabis as dangerous, despite the truth and for all the wrong reasons.
Another factor contributing to this shift in public perception was the threat that the commercial hemp industry posed to the newspaper industrialist who used cotton for printing their papers and were heavily invested in the cotton industry as well. Newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst used his massive media reach to disseminate false harmful information about cannabis, linking it, without evidence to violent crime. Some scholars have suggested this was an attempt to destroy the hemp industry and protect the interest of the cotton profiteers. Eventually, the states started regulating and outlawing cannabis and hemp and eventually led to the federal Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 which taxed and regulated cannabis by requiring stamps to obtain the drug legally. The stamps where then not released as they were supposed to be. And, by the 1950’s, minimum mandatory sentencing laws impose harsh penalties even for small possession violations and even stiffer penalties for quantities as little as an ounce leading to a felony conviction, which is still the case in many states today.
This disinformation campaign by law enforcement and governmental agencies continued through to the Nixon Admin’s war on drugs and to the eventual enactment of the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. This is the law that “officially” made cannabis illegal and placed it on the Schedule 1 of The DEA’s controlled substance list as a drug with a high potential for abuse and zero medicinal value. And this is where the relationship between cannabis and the US government begins to get complicated.
Here is a quote from President Nixon’s domestic policy chief John Ehrlichman as told to Harper’s writer Dan Baum for an article he researched in 1994 prior to Ehrlichman’s death.
“We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or blacks, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin. And then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities,” Ehrlichman said. “We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”
And to prove they knew they were lying, the US government grew cannabis, rolled it into joints, and mailed it to government sanctioned Medical Marijuana recipients from a 12 acre farm at the University of Mississippi, which is still in use. Though the original program’s patients have passed away and new patients have not been allowed in many years, it’s been unable to meet the demand for large quantities of high grade cannabis for testing so other growers are being recruited to help with the demand and quality issues.
And the inconsistencies grow deeper and seemingly more sinister still. First the Reagan administration ignores a 1988 article from the National Academy of Science entitled Cannabidiol and (−)Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol are neuroprotective antioxidants. The report was written by a group of esteemed doctors including a Doctor A. J. Hampson. Yet despite the refusal to acknowledge the Academy’s findings a patent on THC and CBD as neuroprotectants was filed by the same A. J. Hampson in 2001. The owner patent is listed as The United States Government. The patent is still on file as United States Patent #6,630,507.
However as recently as 2016 the DEA code was revised to specify CBD and ALL cannabis derived extracts acts and oils as covered by the law, Doubling down on CBD as Schedule 1 with no medicinal benefits. Years after a trusted government agency described its specific benefits and filed a patent on its medicinal value.
But to be consistently inconsistent yet again, now, only 2 years later the Food and Drug Administration just gave a positive report to Epidiolex, a cannabis based Anti-seizure drug from the British GW Pharmaceuticals recommending it for approval. This same company has multiple cannabis based drugs approved across the world, but not in the United states, perhaps until now.
And also this month the industrial hemp bill was introduced by conservative Republican Senator Mitch McConnell. The Hemp Farming Act of 2018 would legalize the cultivation of hemp and production of CBD oil as well as remove hemp from the Schedule of Controlled substances. However it does distinguish hemp from what it calls it’s illicit cousin, “Marijuana.”
So perhaps it’s a good sign that one of the first major attempts of suppressing cannabis, by making hemp illegal, is being undone. But considering that racism was another major cause of the vilification of cannabis it does not seem very hopeful that the current administration is eager to relieve the obvious unfair harm cannabis laws impose disproportionately heavy upon people of color.
I find it ironic that America will bomb and entire city out of existence to attack a few miscreants terrorists committing atrocious acts such as disrupting the medicine supplies of innocent people, while essentially doing the same to its own people. Cannabis is a medicine that is readily and affordably available to bring relief, healing and simple joy to the lives of millions but Law Enforcement in much of America will terrorize those who use and sell cannabis. Breaking down doors, breaking up families and even killing its own citizens to enforce draconian laws designed to persecute rather than protect. It seems to me that the only thing consistent about the relationship between cannabis and the US government is blatant hypocrisy and lies.
I hope you enjoyed this episode of CannaMinutes, if you did, please hit the like button and subscribe to RuffHouse Studios for more cannabis culture videos made just for you! This is Matt for RuffHouse Studios, thank you for watching.