80 Years Ago Today: President Signs First Federal Anti-Marijuana Law

norml_remember_prohibition2Eighty years ago today, on August 2, 1937, President Franklin Roosevelt signed House Bill 6385: the Marihuana Tax Act into law. The Act for the first time imposed federal criminal penalties on activities specific to the possession, production, and sale of cannabis.

Congress’ decision followed the actions of 29 states, beginning with Massachusetts in 1914, that had previously passed laws criminalizing the plant over the prior decades. It also followed years of ‘Reefer Madness,’ during which time politicians, bureaucrats (led primarily by Federal Bureau of Narcotics Director Harry Anslinger), reporters, and science editors continually proclaimed that marijuana use irreparably damaged the brain. A 1933 editorial in the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology largely summarized the sentiment of the time, “If continued, the inevitable result is insanity, which those familiar with it describe as absolutely incurable, and, without exception ending in death.”

On April 14, 1937, Rep. Robert L. Doughton of North Carolina introduced HR 6385, which sought to stamp out the recreational use of marijuana by imposing a prohibitive federal tax on all cannabis-related activities. Members of Congress held only two hearings to debate the merits of the bill, which largely relied on the sensational testimony of Anslinger — who opined, ”This drug is entirely the monster Hyde, the harmful effect of which cannot be measured.” Over objections from the American Medical Association, whose representatives opposed the proposed federal ban, members of the House and Senate overwhelmingly approved the measure by voice votes.

President Franklin Roosevelt promptly signed the legislation into law and on October 1, 1937, the Marihuana Tax Act officially took effect — thus setting in motion the federal prohibition that continues to this day.

Tell Congress to end 80 years of failure. Click here to urge federal leadership to support The Marijuana Justice Act of 2017 in the US Senate and click here to support The Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2017 in the US House of Representatives.

26 thoughts

  1. And to think it all started with some greedy, racist beurocrat named Anslinger scapegoating “Mexicans raping and bringing their marijuana” in order to convince American farmers to vote against the hemp that sustained their own farms? How STUPid! I mean, no one could ever fall for THAT trick again, could they? (Wait, how did Trump start his campaign again?)
    The difference now is that blaming marijuana on our socioeconomic inequality isnt getting as much internet time as watching cannabis stop seizures in an epileptic child or the Journal of the American Medical Association’s 2015 report that opiate addiction… therefore fatal traffic accidents, suicides from PTSD etc… are all reduced in states with medical or recreational legalized marijuana.
    As states legalize the voter supression of incarceration from nonviolent arrests is diminished. And as mire activists contact our state and federal Congressman, our garden-variety citizen lobbying plants a few more seeds while were in our legislators office… such as opposing the voter caging Crosscheck program or taking gerrymandering to court. The collateral benefits of marijuana legalization have yet to be fully imagined. We may have even found the treatment for Congressional corruption…

    1. Four States that voted for Trump also voted for Medical Cannabis.

      And that includes Florida.

      The States are –> North Dakota, Florida, Arkansas, and Montana.

      1. @ MSimon,
        Anyone who voted for Trump shot themselves in the foot like a NRA dumbass. Never get into the car with a suicidal driver! That’s Trump, in political terms. Trump betrays all who trust in him — the first suckers in line being Trump voters like you. You’re all going down together, fool.

        Let’s be clear: Trump is an existential threat to marijuana legalization because he is a threat to a free civilized society itself. He is a violent, corrupt dictator wannabe who never intended to do one damn good thing for America.

        So, MSimon, either you’re a paid Trump propagandist, or you’re just another dumbfuck racist redneck, or both!

      2. Whew… MSimon you are about as dense as a bucket of wet concrete aren’t you? You frame your argument in such a way as to suggest that states that voted for Trump and mmj must be magical evidence that the two votes are mutually inexclusive; as if a vote for Trump is somehow, by ignorant egoinflated bliss, a vote for marijuana reform.

        Anyone else reading this notice how MSimon ignored my comments about voter caging or voter supression? Care to see what effect the Republican Cro$$check program had on those four states? Do the numbers reveal how many people truly voted for Trump and how many got duped by the same tired drug propaganda and lies?


        Trump is ramping up the drug war. No one is being fooled by your battered-wife syndrome defending Trump or his parasitic policies. Take a toke and face your fears. Or in the words of Bob Marley, which Ive posted to you before;

        “Open your eyes and look within.
        Are you satisfied with the life youre livin’?”

      3. Julian,

        I’ve noticed for years on this forum that my points are rarely if ever addressed by cons or liberts. You get the testy replies from them, but no counter points. Perhaps they know they don’t actually have valid points, or points they can easily defend?

      4. Both and more, my friend. We answer not for the wicked with envy but our youth who will listen to our persecuted wisdom.

    2. it is such a joy to read this!! I’m so sick of these idiot old timers saying how marijuana is harmful!!! alcohol is the gateway not pot morons!!! you don’t smoke and decide to try something hard or to Rob or steal!!! or drive 100 mph that happens when your inhibitions are low and u don’t care…pot makes you a little scared to try something you know is wrong or dangerous or dumb!!@ ASSHOLES

  2. It is interesting to note that the American Medical Association opposed the anti-marijuana legislation in 1937. Marijuana prohibition never did pass the smell test. And it still stinks, to this very day.

    I’ve been “one toke over the line” for a very long time now. My resulting afflictions are: good digestion, healthy skin, robust appetite, improved mood and mental performance, improved physical mobility, enhanced sexual relations, general euphoria, and reduced joint and nerve pain.

    If this is “inevitable death,” I must be in Heaven!

    1. The doctors were told about this new drug called marijuana which they had never heard of. Once they found out that they were really talking about cannabis they were furious as they were using it to treat many ailments including asthma which my brother died from although he had plenty of inhalers nearby.

      1. @ Tom,
        No disrespect to your brother intended by my flippant remarks. Death is no joke, and cannabis prohibition is a crime against humanity in general, and in specific, your brother. If I’m not overstepping my bounds: We here all support you, and we oppose and resist these criminal policies. Thank you for your comment.

  3. In the future I would like seeds sent into the space program early 12 volt gardening systems

  4. Ya know for a bunch of old folks who pray before every meeting and show all the “Christians” Blessing POTUS there sure is quite a few Hypocrites (Greek Translation “Actors”) among the group,don’t ya think.Our “Holy” Government would rather we consume synthetic Opium Compounds and other poisons( than to use a plant that hasn’t been destroyed by Federally Funded Laboratories)rather than an herb put here by the very God they pretend to worship.If it wasn’t so damn sad it would be funny!!!

      1. FDR was a Democrat. MSimon is suggesting modern Republicans will oppose marijuana prohibition if they learn that FDR, a Democrat, supported it.

        What MSimon forgets is that Republicans don’t believe in learning.

        You should have known that, “Brain-in-a-jar.”

      2. The GOP’s leader, President Trump, didn’t even know Lincoln was a Republican until AFTER he was elected and endorsed. (Hint on your next civics exam, Drumph; “What is the “Party of Lincoln?”)
        And MSimon thinks were gonna sway the GOP with FDR? Now we KNOW he’s smokin crack!

  5. In all honesty I’ve always thought it was a ploy but or government, Levis, and RJ Reynolds…
    Wouldn’t have such a mass denim look if hemp was still being used. Wouldn’t have so many smokers if marijuana was legal. Hell wouldn’t have as much cancer either I’d assume. As a 26 year old man I smoke to relieve pain from fibro, arthritis, IBS, chronic migraines, and a list of other reason, but I’ve been told I need disability since I was young and refuse to be all pilled out and not able to work and support myself and my family so I smoke some cannabis to keep myself working and the tax payers (which I am) from paying my way. Government needs to get on board, because Kansas isn’t ever going to go legal otherwise.

  6. I’m a native Floridian, this state is dragging their feet on implementing medical cannabis. I could see this coming from a mile away. No smoking allowed is the dictate from this completely controlled Republican fiasco in Tallahassee. What did anyone expect from Rick Scott, our Trump bandwagon governor who owns a huge medical clinic business, obviously in big pharmas pocket. The same guy who plead the 5th like 70 times on ripping off medicare. Florida had a hundred year run of democratic leadership up until the 1980s.

      1. What does “conservative” mean to you? To conserve soil? Or “power”? To conserve clean water? Or money? Does conservative mean to incarcerate and plunder the weak in financial resources? Or to liberate them with sustainable wisdom and knowledge so all of our grandchildren can prosper in the earth we all share so we can stop wasting our planet?

        What are you conserving?

  7. @Mark
    How many Christians did you ask before posting your vitriol? I you had it would have surprised you. I am a Christian and believe that God put all things for us to use in moderation. I also bet you have never read the Bible but have only run into nominal Christians. They are a scourge to us. Peace!

    1. Mark made observations about “some” Christian hypocrits that do exist. You made an accusation without asking questions from Mark first. Find common ground.

  8. And in 1937 we had no crime, and not the wrong type of character attracted to the drug and drug use, because of it. No demoralizing of the United States morals or it’s ability to be drafted and fight in World War one, World War two, the Korean war, and Vietnam. All draft duty wars of non drugged young and old people ready to defend life. The non communist stoner United States we once were.

    1. Satire doesn’t work if we can’t see your silly face.

      “No crime” in 1937? Were you unaware of the lasting effects of alcohol prohibition?


      The US was still cleaning up the mobsters from that era. But the organized crime had reached the Bureau of Narcotics and a new source of prohibition was targeted.

      And the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 was itself a crime:


      Which is precisely why it was ruled unconstitional in 1969 with Leary v. the United States:


      As it violated the 5th amendment through self incrimination.

      A similar argument is being used to challenge the assertion of authority over the CSAct using the Commerce Clause in the upcoming case of Washington et al v. DEA et al. Forced incrimination by unjust laws is unconstitutional.

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