Posted April 10, 2013 by evergreen-culture in Culture



hen we first conceived of doing this, we initially forged a strong determination to never use the word “marijuana”. We wanted to redeem this plant, which has served mankind for millennia, from the clutches of ruthless and greedy men who used all sorts of false information and propaganda to take cannabis from a legitimate part of human life, to public enemy #1. One such propaganda campaign was so effective that, at least in American society, many people have probably never even heard the word “cannabis” until the medical marijuana movement began trying to take it back from those lying about it. But “marijuana”? That, you’ve heard of. So, do you even know where that word came from?

Well, first off, it was called marijuana before the 1920′s. In Mexico. Where they call things by names like mar-hee-whaa-naa. Who would have named something using a word like that in early 20th century American society when virtually the entire place is a bunch of crackers?! Foreign things were exotic, but super scary and threatening to the average white American in the early 1900s – okay, most of the 1900s. So how did this epitaph make its way so far north? So far in fact, that no matter what outer reaches of the globe you find yourself on, you can find someone who knows what the word “marijuana” means. Think about it. That’s crazy right?!

Crazy Mexican on the Loco Weed! This was a very scary stereotype that the public bought into. There was a foundational racism in society, especially high society in most of America. If you weren't a WASP, you were seen as exotic but dangerous and base - and you certainly didn't mix yourselves with them (thus the need for all the sex mania stuff). All kinds of crazy legends of what these Mexicans perpetrated on each other and the unsuspecting while under the influence of marijuana! were published in comics, films, books, posters, pamphlets, and anything else they could get the message on.

Crazy Mexican on the Loco Weed! This was a very scary stereotype that the public bought into.

Well, it was basically the work of a fairly new, but powerful part of the federal government in the form a federal police force. One such entity was The Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN), formed in 1930 – interestingly enough under the Department of the Treasury, because illegal narcotics were not seen as a major social issue but rather an unregulated revenue stream, they simply didn’t want you buying something they didn’t get a chunk of change out of. The first Commissioner was a man named Henry J. Anslinger and he is largely responsible for not only our nonsensical and ignorant laws, but, due to our influence on the rest of the world, virtually every other industrialized nation’s laws regarding drugs and cannabis – influence that is only beginning to wane in recent years as some nations decide to stop the bleeding on this “war on drugs”.

You have to remember a few things about this time in history. The prohibition of alcohol was a miserable failure and embarrassment. It literally did the exact opposite of what the government told us it was doing for us. And to the extreme – alcoholism, alcohol-related deaths, abuse, social issues, crime, it all skyrocketed to levels never imagined. It created a powerful underworld of crime and corruption that still reaches into politics and law enforcement. Now based on that, you would think that people would not be up for another round of prohibition.


This is the thinking that drove the cannabis policies that have shaped our public opinion over this plant. Still want to go along?

But, if you can find the perfect symbol, something kind of mysterious and unknown by the vast majority of society, paint it with just the right strokes,  the general public will let you do whatever you want to them in the name of being kept “safe”. People knew alcohol. It had been apart of American culture for as long as it has existed. With prohibition creating a huge problem, putting forth something common and known wasn’t going to work again. When Anslinger chose cannabis as the specter he would scare everyone with, it really was quite brilliant, it just needed a new public image. A lot of people think the government was who produced the propaganda that was used in the 30′s (think “Reefer Madness” and that ilk). But in actuality, Anslinger paid little attention to cannabis in the early part of his job as Commissioner of the FBN. It simply wasn’t an issue and he didn’t perceive it to be so.  It wasn’t until his fourth year at that post that he had a sudden change of heart, almost overnight cannabis became this dangerous substance. But there was one issue: people had used cannabis as medicine, able to purchase it in the drug store – it even sounded scientific and legit, “cannabis”. Not very menacing. But, what if you could rebrand it as something much, much worse. And thus, “marijuana” became the deadly plague that was destroying American society and killing our youth, turning them into sex-crazed serial killers who would even sleep with “negroes and orientals” (literally words spoken during deliberation in the government over marijuana prohibition). But it wasn’t actually Anslinger who was behind the media campaign.

"What actually happens!" This is a classic. No one takes this seriously so I totally encourage you to watch it.

“What actually happens!” This is a classic. No one takes this seriously so I totally encourage you to watch it. They actually showed it to us in high school in the 1980s as what isn’t true about marijuana.

Believe it or not (not hard to), it was privately produced by two corporations (see, nothing’s new), namely W.R. Hearst and DuPont (yes, that DuPont). You see, Hearst owned a publishing empire and had recently acquired significant timber land. DuPont had developed a process for making paper out of wood pulp, something that was difficult to do up to this point. You see, there was always the option of hemp for paper – but, it so was labor intensive to harvest and prepare for processing into paper and other products it really didn’t have any particular advantage over equally labor-intensive wood-based paper production. However, with the advent of a miracle machine called the decorticator which was designed to, among other things, strip the fiber from hemp plants.

With the invention of the decorticator, hemp suddenly posed a significant threat to this business venture. Hemp paper would be cheaper to make, and would be based on a much more sustainable crop that grew incredibly fast and was inexpensive to plant and maintain. The decorticator was invented in American in 1935…in 1936, Reefer Madness plunged the unsuspecting public into panic, which caused politicians to fall right in line regarding the prohibition of marijuana in 1937 with the establishment of the Marihuana Tax Act, thus making way for Hearst and DuPont to monopolize the paper market.

As proof of the reality of this threat, Anslinger would produce incredible tales of violence and depravity, usually committed by a youth, and always with “Marihuana!” as the cause. Here is an example of one such story he published in the press:

An entire family was murdered by a youthful addict in Florida. When officers arrived at the home, they found the youth staggering about in a human slaughterhouse. With an axe he had killed his father, mother, two brothers, and a sister. He seemed to be in a daze… He had no recollection of having committed the multiple crime. The officers knew him ordinarily as a sane, rather quiet young man; now he was pitifully crazed. They sought the reason. The boy said that he had been in the habit of smoking something which youthful friends called “muggles,” a childish name for marijuana. – Press release by Anslinger during his time as head of the FBN

Because most of society had never heard the word “Marihuana”, they really had nothing to contradict this story. They trusted they were being told the truth, and if it was real, it posed a very real threat to them, their kids, their neighbors and the American way. But come on, you and I have no such excuse. If we claim ignorance and continue falling for the same lies, simply softened to make them more palatable to a more savvy public, it is all on us. We literally have the world at our fingertips, all the time. And we take it in almost continually. They didn’t have that in 1934. Now, knowing what we know, does that scenario above bear any witness to what you know understand marijuana to be and do? Speed? Sure. PCP? For sure. But marijuana? No. So what have they done? They simply flip it around. Now it’s, “Marijuana will make you lazy, unmotivated and stupid”. And people buy it everyday when the truth of who represents the culture of marijuana in our society is right in front of us, and probably next door, and in the cube across the aisle, even at church.

Thus, calling cannabis “marijuana” is essentially continuing to buy into a bunch of lies and deceit. Not that it is a bad word. It’s great and part of why we can accept it in good conscience is because we are a multi-cultural and lingual melting pot and referring to things by their Spanish labels is perfectly appropriate. And so we let go of our refusal to use that word.

But a rant was in order.

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