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By The Sea


The cannabis industry isn’t your “grandmother’s industry” any longer, so where did the term marijuana come from and why does it have negative connotations to some? Even worse, why has the word gained attention as a racist term?

Prior to 1910 the word didn’t exist in American culture. It first came into use spelled as marihuana in the early 1900s when over 890,000 Mexicans legally immigrated into the United States seeking refuge from the aftermath of the Mexican Revolution. The individual responsible for creating the stigma around cannabis/marijuana was none other than Harry Jacob Anslinger, a hate-monger and commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics from 1930 to 1962. 

Anslinger was appointed by President Hoover to oversee the newly minted FBN, which focused on Prohibition. When that ended in 1933, Anslinger, in an effort to keep his job, sought a new threat to the American way, essentially manufacturing a drug war. He first focused on cocaine and heroin but the numbers were relatively small. Anslinger then directed his attention to cannabis where his public statements, loaded with false claims of induced violence, focused on the minority communities stating once “… the primary reason to outlaw marijuana is its effect on the degenerate races.”

For 32 years, Harry Anslinger fueled the fires of marijuana fear and ignorance and padded the coffers of his racist friendship base. He remained at the helm of the Federal Narcotics Bureau until the Kennedy administration, but his ideas were swiftly adopted by successive administrations — always disproportionately to the detriment of people of color.

Will the term marijuana ever go away? Probably not, and most people aren’t aware of, nor do they reflect, the racist background of the word. 

If you really want to know more about the life and aftermath of Harry Anslinger, click here.

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The "M" Word

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