(Printed in The Towanda Daily Review 9/1/94.)
Editor: I certainly feel much safer after the conviction of a Litchfield couple for possession of marijuana. Knowing that I won't be attacked by drug-crazed potheads gives me the feeling that the limited resources of the state were wisely spent to convict these terrible criminals.
According to the account on page three of the 8/26/94 Daily Review:
three state police officers, two attorneys, a state police analyst, a marijuana expert, a judge, two trials, and a lot of time were required to defend society from two people whose next crime might be something as hideous as consuming alcohol smuggled across the NY/PA border.
The U.S. spends $40 billion per year to make 1.1 million drug arrests -- over $36,000 per arrest. Since resources were shared for the two Litchfield cases, somewhere between $36,000 and $72,000 were invested in our future safety. But safety from what? What follows will provide some history of the terrible scourge of marijuana.
Marijuana is the more common name of the cannabis, or hemp plant. It is not a narcotic and, like alcohol, is not sleep-inducing unless taken in large quantities. Unlike tobacco or opiates, it is non-addictive. A Consumer Union Report, published in 1972, states that, "The lethal dose is not known; no human fatalities have been documented."
Hemp can be used to make paper, which is acid free since it doesn't require acid during processing. Prior to the cotton gin, most clothing in the U.S. was made from hemp, which is superior to cotton in strength, durability, insulating properties, and texture. The hemp seed, free of the intoxicating effects of the flower of the female plant, is an excellent source of protein. Its medicinal value includes reduction of nausea associated with chemotherapy, and treatments for glaucoma, asthma, epilepsy, MS, back pain, muscle spasms, arthritis, and migraines. Other uses include building materials (fiber board), a rich cellulose source, paint, varnish, oil, and fuel. It also makes an excellent rope (which if smoked will produce the same effect as smoking other ropes nausea, which may then be treated by smoking the flower.)
From 1631 to the early 1800's, hemp was legal tender in most of the Americas. It was illegal not to grow hemp during periods of severe shortage. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson grew hemp on their plantations. Benjamin Franklin started one of America's first paper mills with hemp. The U.S. census of 1850 counted 8,327 plantations, each over 2,000 acres, growing hemp for cloth, canvas, and cordage. The paintings of Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Gainsborough, and others were primarily painted on hemp canvas.
From 1942 to 1946, U.S. farmers grew 42,000 tons of hemp from 400,000 pounds of seed distributed by the U.S. government for the war effort. Farmers from 1942 to 1945 who agreed to grow hemp were waived from military service, along with their sons.
How did it become illegal? The following summary comes from public records; come to your own conclusions.
In the 1930's, William Randolph Hearst owned vast forests, made paper, and printed newspapers. A major U.S. corporation had recently patented an acid process, which relied heavily on its own chemicals, to make paper from wood pulp. Nylon was also being perfected.
In the mid-1930's with recently developed machinery, the hemp plant could be processed economically into paper, textiles, and other products. Soon, newspaper articles equating marijuana use with depravity, madness, and murder began to appear. Most Americans didn't associate the term "marijuana" (the Mexican name) with hemp.
On March 14, 1937, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that machine guns could be controlled by first taxing them, then using the tax act to prohibit them. One month later Harry Anslinger, a former alcohol-prohibition agent and now head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, introduced the Marijuana Tax Act to Congress. Later that year, through deceptive and untruthful testimony by Anslinger and his associates, and despite the opposition of the American Medical Association, Congress passed the Marijuana Tax Act.
In 1944 after seven years of research, the La Guardia Marijuana Report from the NY Academy of Medicine showed that marijuana use, counter to the newspaper propaganda, caused no violence and had certain medicinal benefits. Outraged, Anslinger banned all marijuana research in the United States.
In 1948 Anslinger now swore that marijuana users became so passive and tranquil that they became susceptible to Communist influences. This argument gave Anslinger, along with his friend Senator Joseph McCarthy, increased publicity.
In 1962, John F. Kennedy forced Anslinger out of office.
In 1968, a double-blind study conducted at Boston University reported that tobacco and alcohol have more adverse effects on the body than marijuana.
In 1970, Congress passed the Controlled Substances Act and declared "war" on drugs.
I would like to thank the state for protecting me from people who are minding their own business; people who are doing no harm to the person or property of another. I would also like to thank them for doing this no matter what the costs. And with the almost certain passage of Mr. Clinton's Crime Bill, the costs will increase both financially and constitutionally.
John L. Ferri