Friday, May 16, 2008

Agenda Setting, Formulation and Adoption of the 1937 Marijuana Tax Act

1937 Marihuana Tax Act
(correct spelling of Act)

written by: Jeff Meints

April 14, 2008


Back in the 1900's, drug addiction was running rampant and some say it was worse than compared to current times. So in 1906, the Pure Food and Drug Act allowed the government to attempt to get a handle on this drug addiction epidemic.[7] Morphine was the focused controlled substance at that time because it was a over-the-counter drug purchasable at pharmacies. Hemp and its byproduct marijuana were not yet focused upon. Positive facts were being spread around such as in 1916, USDA Bulletin 404 predicted that a decorticating and harvesting machine would be developed, and hemp would again be America’s largest agricultural industry.” There was also scientific claims that hemp would soon become the our nations #1 paper product, a savior to saving our forests due to the rapidity that they grow and benefit to the soil they provide in return, which most plants do not do.[15]

The Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 helped pave the way for the criminalization of marijuana and hemp:

"1- It created the Food and Drug Administration in Washington that must approve all foods and drugs meant for human consumption. The very first impact of that was that the patent medicines were not approved for human consumption once they were tested."

"2- The Pure Food and Drug Act said that certain drugs could only be sold on prescription."

"3- The Pure Food and Drug Act, (and you know, this is still true today, go look in your medicine chest) requires that any drug that can be potentially habit-forming say so on it's label." "Warning -- May be habit forming."[7]

Once The PFD Act was passed it assisted in containing the addiction that was running rampant from over-the-counter drugs such as morphine and this was the first unseen step in criminalizing marijuana. In the 1915s, twenty seven states passed criminal laws against the use and possession of marijuana and the very first state to pass a marijuana law was Utah where in 1915, the Mormon Church decreed marijuana contrary to the Mormon religion.[16] The states that followed in the wake of these laws soon created their own marijuana laws and thus began the inspirational push to criminalize marijuana. Some of these first states were New Mexico, Montana, Texas, and Colorado.[1]

The Harrison Act was passed in April 1915 and regulated that "nothing contained in this section shall apply . . . to the dispensing or distribution of any of the aforesaid drugs to a patient by a physician, dentist, or veterinary surgeon registered under this Act in the course of his professional practice only" and we must not forget to underline the "professional practice only." Wikipedia stated that, "Before the Act was passed, on February 8, 1914 The New York Times published a racist article supporting the Harrison Act entitled "Negro Cocaine 'Fiends' Are New Southern Menace:Murder and Insanity Increasing Among Lower-Class Blacks." [24]

Racism played a role in helping make marijuana illegal because many Americans were concerned with the illegal immigrants who were coming across the border seeking work and supposedly with them they brought marijuana. Two examples of such opinions were made by Senators from a few of those states, such as a Texas legislator who said, "All Mexicans are crazy, and this stuff (referring to marijuana) is what makes them crazy." Also, a Montana legislator commented, "Give one of these Mexican beet field workers a couple of puffs on a marijuana cigarette and he thinks he is in the bullring at Barcelona." [2]

Unfortunately, I couldn't pull the exact names up who made these comments despite how hard I searched for them, but there were many references on the Internet regarding it. The northeast was beginning to pass laws as well regarding marijuana. Illegal immigration wasn't an issue in the northeast and evidence is found instead within the newspapers of those states. The New York Times in 1919 wrote, "No one here in New York uses this drug marijuana. We have only just heard about it from down in the Southwest, but we had better prohibit its use before it gets here. Otherwise, all the heroin and hard narcotics addicts cut off from their drug by the Harrison Act and all the alcohol drinkers cut off from their drug by 1919 alcohol Prohibition will substitute this new and unknown drug marijuana for the drugs they used to use."[1] The Agenda Setting here is quite clear and bold, because news organizations reported without proper oversight and reported on false scientific data which shifted the public opinion through misinformation. This sentiment was carried all throughout the press and soon throughout the states and combined with the racism of “crazy Mexicans” being spouted by our politicians it was sure ingredients for the eventual criminalization of hemp and marijuana.

In 1930, a new division in the Treasury Department was established and the Federal Bureau of Narcotics was born. Harry Anslinger ran the Bureau and it just so happens his uncle-in-law is Andrew Mellon. The banks Mellon owned were one of the two bankers for DuPont and the New York Times.[3] Anslinger testified that “Opium has all the good of Dr. Jekyll and all the evil of Mr. Hyde. This drug [cannabis] is entirely the monster Hyde, the harmful effects of which cannot be measured". Anslinger also wrote in his Gore Files which were distributed all throughout the country: [13]

    - "There are 100,000 total marijuana smokers in the US, and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos, and entertainers. Their Satanic music, jazz, and swing, result from marijuana use. This marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers, and any others."
    - "...the primary reason to outlaw marijuana is its effect on the degenerate races."
    - "Marijuana is an addictive drug which produces in its users insanity, criminality, and death."
    - "Reefer makes darkies think they're as good as white men."
    - "Marihuana leads to pacifism and communist brainwashing"
    - "You smoke a joint and you're likely to kill your brother."
    - "Marijuana is the most violence-causing drug in the history of mankind.”
    - "In the year 1090, there was founded in Persia the religious and military order of the Assassins, whose history is one of cruelty, barbarity, and murder, and for good reason: the members were confirmed users of hashish, or marihuana, and it is from the Arabs' 'hashashin' that we have the English word 'assassin.”

I went to the source of the Gore Files and from what I read regarding the evidence presented to the Committees formed to review marijuana, the sources were incorrect, false and possibly non-existent. The site [13] reported that they have not been able to find evidence of the accused and sentenced persons. It then questions the legitimacy of the crimes that inspired the committee's decision upon the presentation of the report that the committee reviewed before passing the Act. The reports were false and that raises a few questions:

“Should a Law remain a Law when it was founded upon purposely presented false statements, false evidences and in turn, deceiving the very establishment which they swore an oath upon?” “Shouldn't an immediate repeal of said Law be justifiable due to its illegitimacy upon creation?”

Other comments were printed by newspaper companies that were owned or tied to DuPont, Mellon or Rockefeller. One example is the man William Randolf Hearst whom had invested heavily in the timber Industry which coincidently is connected to hemp as well. Far less land is needed for hemp to produce paper, fiber and wood compared to other trees and agriculture. It also costs far less economically to produce into products due to how quickly the plants grow compared to other plants.[11] So Hearst assisted in the agenda setting by standing on his proverbial soap box and printed malicious lies, claiming to his peers, the press and the public, "Marihuana makes fiends of boys in thirty days -- Hashish goads users to bloodlust." Hearst and Anslinger were supported by Dupont chemical companies, Mellon's constituency and various pharmaceutical companies in the effort to outlaw hemp and marijuana.[1]

The pharmaceutical companies were also threatened by hemp because they could neither identify nor standardize cannabis dosages for medicinal use. Another benefit with hemp is that people can grow their own medicine, fuel and food and not have to purchase these items from stores or large companies. So, after two years of secret planning Anslinger brought his plan to Congress complete with a scrapbook full of sensational Hearst editorials. These editorials contained stories of ax murderers who had supposedly smoked marijuana, a story of a rapist who was put to death by the electric chair and had smoked marijuana, as two examples.[11]

In the 1930s the Uniform Narcotic Drug Act was established and was the final push in the legislative process to pave the way for states to begin criminalizing marijuana. Some of the guidelines within this Act were focused upon things such as “that "Cannabis indica" or "cannabis sativa" shall include any compound, manufacture, salt, derivative or preparation thereof and any synthetic substitute for any of them identical in chemical composition” as well as "Habit forming drugs" shall mean coca leaves, opium, cannabis indica or cannabis sativa.”[10] They created a law that focused purely on the few ingredients of hemp that could induce a euphoric effect and categorized the “whole plant, in regards to a part of the plant.” This categorization would create the manipulation in ignoring the 50,000 other resources that derives from hemp all by focusing on one misconceived section of the plant.

The Agenda Setting for the actual Marihuana Tax Act in 1937 was great. The drive behind this Act was mainly due to corporate greed and monopolistic gain. Wealthy individuals such as DuPont who at the time mainly worked with nylons, polymers, paper, plastics and owned GM motors was one of the people who would gain the most from the criminalization of hemp. Marijuana which is a byproduct of Hemp, can both be made into fuel, oil, nylons, medicines, food, paper, plastics and yes, even cars and at a fraction of the cost. This was a threat to DuPont's business and other individuals who assisted in removing it from our society.[3]

In theory, if hemp had not been made illegal, 80% of DuPont’s business would never have materialized and the great majority of the pollution which has poisoned our countries rivers would not have occurred. Andrew Mellon was the founder of Gulf Oil and as you now know hemp can be used to produce fuel and oil. Hemp was a threat to Mellon's business as well. Last but not least we have Rockefeller who was of the Standard Oil Company and yes, he to had something to gain from the criminalization of hemp.[4] Representative Robert L. Doughton of North Carolina introduced the Act in Congress on April 14, 1937 to criminalize the recreational use of marijuana through prohibitive
taxation and some called it the Doughton Bill.[23]


The measure was presented in the form of a tax revenue bill brought to the six member House Ways and Means Committee, chaired by DuPont and allied by Robert Doughton of North Carolina.[6]This bypassed the House without further hearings and passed it over to the Senate Finance Committee, controlled by another DuPont ally, Prentiss Brown of Michigan, where it was rubber stamped into law. Another prominent member of one Congressional subcommittee who voted in favor of this bill was Joseph Guffey of Pennsylvania, an oil tycoon and former business partner of Andrew Mellon in the Spindletop oil fields in Texas.”[6] “When the ban was proposed in 1937, the AMA went before Congress to oppose the law and specifically protested that the Marijuana Tax Act was a fraud because the plant's scientific name is Cannabis sativa, its English name is True Hemp, and no one at the time knew that the ban would affect the essence of medicine, agriculture and industry.”[12] The Act continued on through the process despite.

The first evidence presented came from a pharmacologist at Temple University who claimed that he had injected the active ingredient in marihuana into the brains of 300 dogs and two of those dogs had died. A congressman asked, "Doctor, did you choose dogs for the similarity of their reactions to that of humans?" The pharmacologist answered, "I wouldn't know, I am not a dog psychologist." [1] Did anyone think to ask why we are injecting marijuana into the brains of dogs? Why not have it inhale the smoke? Another study done was reported by a group of Harvard scientists that involved smoking the plant with an extensive group of varied individuals and they came to the conclusion that marijuana had no harmful or addictive traits.[18]

Dr. William C. Woodward was chief Counsel to the American Medical Association and supported hemp and perhaps even marijuana by stating,”The American Medical Association knows of no evidence that marihuana is a dangerous drug.”[1] Oddly enough a congressmen then responded to Woodward by saying, “Doctor, if you can't say something good about what we are trying to do, why don't you go home?”[1]

“A report about the commercialization of hemp reported that from 1880 to 1933 the hemp grown in the United States had declined from 15,000 acres (61 km²), to 1,200 acres (5 km²), and that the price of line hemp had dropped from $12.50 per pound in 1914 to $9.00 per pound in 1933.” [6] Along with shutting down non-medical establishments whom sold hemp for medicinal purposes, this Act clogged more then one river of economic revenue and dug a single new river for those other allied “threatened” businesses and corporations. [3] America had thrived from hemp farms since the days of our founding fathers and we should thrive again. Now we can be inspired into action from the information above. So many people were put out of business and the 50,000 resources that hemp provides were swept under the monopolistic rug. Imagine the ocean of opportunity that awaits hemp legalization.

An interesting story that I found in an article is as follows, “When we asked at the Library of Congress for a copy of the hearings (marihuana committees), to the shock of the Library of Congress, none could be found. We went "What?" It took them four months to finally honor our request because -- are you ready for this? -- the hearings were so brief that the volume had slid down inside the side shelf of the bookcase and was so thin it had slid right down to the bottom inside the bookshelf. That's how brief they were. Are you ready for this? They had to break the bookshelf open because it had slid down inside.”[1]

Below is another Conference on Cannabis Sativa L. that was held January 14, 1937 in Room 81 Treasury Building at 10:30 AM. This conference was much more brief than the previous and contained far less individuals. [9]

Those present at the Conference were:

DR. LYSTER F. DEWEY, (retired) Department of Agriculture.
DR. JAMES C. MUNCH, Professor of Pharmacology, Temple University
DR. CARL VOEGTLIN, Chief, Division of Pharmacology, National Institute of Health
MR. ARTHR F. SIEVERS, Division of Drug and Related Plants, Department of Agriculture
MR. PETER VALAER, Alcohol Tax Unit Washington Laboratory
DR. JOHN MATCHETT, Chemist, Bureau of Narcotics
MR. P.W. SIMMONS, Alcohol Tax Unit Laboratory
MR. JOHN F. WILLIAMS, Chief, Division of Laboratories, Bureau of Customs
MR. H.J. WOLLNER, Consulting Chemist to the Secretary of the Treasury.
MR. H. J. ANSLINGER, Commissioner of Narcotics
MR. A. L. TENNYSON, Legal Division, Bureau of Narcotics
MR. S. G. TIPTON, General Counsel's Office
MR. R. L. PIERCE, General Counsel's Office [9]

There were also Hearings on H.R. 6385 on the days of April 27, 28, 29, 30, and May 4, 1937. Another hearing before a Subcommittee of the Committee on Finance United States Senate, Seventy-Fifth Congress, First Session on H.R.6906, was held on July 12, 1937 and discussed the financial aspects of The Marijuana Tax Act..

Those who attended the conference were as follows:

PAT HARRISON, Mississippi, Chairman
DAVID I. WALSH, Massachusetts
JOSIAH W. BAILEY, North Carolina
HUGO L. BLACK, Alabama
Peter G. Gerry, Rhode Island
JOSEPH F. GUFFEY, Pennsylvania
JAMES J. DAVIS, Pennsylvania

The Marihuana Conference meeting was held in the United States Bureau of Internal Revenue Building (Room 3003) Washington D. C. called by the Bureau of Narcotics of the United States Treasury Department presided over by Mr. H.J. Anslinger, Commissioner of Narcotics, and Mr. H.J. Wollner, consulting chemist, treasury department.” [8]

Those who attended the conference were as follows:

DR. JOHN R. MATCHETT, Chief Chemist, Bureau of Narcotics
DR. JOSEPH LEVINE, Chemist, Bureau of Narcotics
DR. LOUIS BENJAMIN, Chemist, Treasury Department
DR. B. B. ROBINSON, Bureau of Plant Industry, Department of Agriculture
DR. HERBERT O. CALVERY, Chief, Division of Pharmacology, Food & Drug Administration, Department of Agriculture
DR. ROBERT P. HERWICK, Food & Drug Administration, Department of Agriculture
DR. LAWRENCE KOLB, Division of Mental Hygiene, Public Health Service
DR. JAMES COUCH, Pathological Division, Bureau of Animal Industry, Department of Agriculture
DR. A.H. BLATT, Professor of Chemistry, Howard University
DR. S. LOEWE, Pharmacologist, Cornell University Medical College
DR. A.H. WRIGHT, Professor of Agronomy, University of Wisconsin
DR. WALTER BROMBERG, Senior Psychiatrist, Department of Hospitals, City of New York
DR. JAMES C. MUNCH, Professor of Pharmacology, Temple University
MR. H. M. LANCASTER, Chief Dominion Analyst, Canadian Government, Ottawa, Canada
MR. HENRY FULLER, Consulting Chemist, Washington, D. C.
MR. FRANK SMITH, Chief of Drug Control, State of New York.
DR. JAMES HIBBEN, Geophysical Laboratory Carnegie Institute of Washington
MR. FRED T. MERRILL, Foreign Policy Association Washington, D. C.
MR. PETER VALAER, Chemist, Alcohol Tax Unit Laboratory, U. S. Treasury Department, Washington, D. C.
DR. W. V. LINDER, Chief, Alcohol Tax Unit Laboratory, U. S. Treasury Department, Washington, D. C.
MR. PAUL W. SIMONDS, Assn. Chief, Alcohol Tax Unit Laboratory, U. S. Treasury Department, Washington, D. C.
MR. MORRIS KAPLAN, Office of the Chief, Division of Laboratories, U. S. Bureau of Customs
DR. S. T. SCHICKTANZ, Chemist, Alcohol Tax Unit Laboratory, U. S. Treasury Department [8]

During these Conferences questions were asked of the Dr's on-hand whom for the most part were divisions of pharmacological companies, chemists, employees of the Bureau of Narcotics, and retired Dr's from the Department of Agriculture. The testimony claimed that most parts of the hemp plant do not contain sufficient THC to consider it a drug and questions were left unanswered such as why is the Act called marihuana when there are different breeds, sexes such as hemp. These Dr's went as far as claiming that you can't get high off smoking the stalk and seeds, yet despite what the Dr's claimed, the agenda was already set.

During one of the hearings Dr. William C. Woodward, Legislative Council of the American Medical Association started questioning Anslinger about “distorting earlier AMA statements that had nothing to do with marijuana and making them appear to be AMA endorsement for Anslinger's view.” Woodward beautifully“reproached the legislature and the Bureau for using the term marijuana in the legislation and not publicizing it as a bill about cannabis or hemp and accused Anslinger and the committee of “outright misconduct.”[11]

Dr. Woodwards questions varied and were:

"That there is a certain amount of narcotic addiction of an objectionable character no one will deny. The newspapers have called attention to it so prominently that there must be some grounds for [their] statements [even Woodward was partially taken in by Hearst's propaganda]. It has surprised me, however, that the facts on which these statements have been based have not been brought before this committee by competent primary evidence. We are referred to newspaper publications concerning the prevalence of marihuana addiction. We are told that the use of marihuana causes crime.”

“But yet no one has been produced from the Bureau of Prisons to show the number of prisoners who have been found addicted to the marihuana habit. An informed inquiry shows that the Bureau of Prisons has no evidence on that point.“

“You have been told that school children are great users of marihuana cigarettes. No one has been summoned from the Children's Bureau to show the nature and extent of the habit, among children.“

“Inquiry of the Children's Bureau shows that they have had no occasion to investigate it and know nothing particularly of it.”

“Inquiry of the Office of Education--- and they certainly should know something of the prevalence of the habit among the school children of the country, if there is a prevalent habit--- indicates that they have had no occasion to investigate and know nothing of it.”

“Moreover, there is in the Treasury Department itself, the Public Health Service, with its Division of Mental Hygiene. The Division of Mental Hygiene was, in the first place, the Division of Narcotics. It was converted into the Division of Mental Hygiene, I think, about 1930. That particular Bureau has control at the present time of the narcotics farms that were created about 1929 or 1930 and came into operation a few years later. No one has been summoned from that Bureau to give evidence on that point.”

Informal inquiry by me indicates that they have had no record of any marihuana of Cannabis addicts who have ever been committed to those farms.”

The bureau of Public Health Service has also a division of pharmacology. If you desire evidence as to the pharmacology of Cannabis, hat obviously is the place where you can get direct and primary evidence, rather than the indirect hearsay evidence."[11]

The Committee asked Dr. Woodward,If you want to advise us on legislation, you ought to come here with some constructive proposals, rather than criticism, rather than trying to throw obstacles in the way of something that the Federal Government is trying to do. It has not only an unselfish motive in this, but they have a serious responsibility.” To which Woodward responded, We cannot understand yet, Mr. Chairman, why this bill should have been prepared in secret for 2 years without any intimation, even, to the profession, that it was being prepared.”[11] Woodward raises an excellent point, “Why was this deemed to be prepared in secret for two years as if this was a national security issue that required “immediate” attention?”

It takes awhile to form, hire and create these committees I imagine. Oddly, the committees which can last months in this case only lasted 2 hours. Perhaps it wasn't such an open and shut case criminalizing hemp and they needed a lengthy amount of time to prepare their agenda setting. They sure didn't spend much time in Committee checking and balancing this 2 year thought out all important agenda. The Committee passed the Act and sent it back to the House floor to be voted upon one last time before the President received it.


One month before the Marijuana Tax Act was signed into Law a letter was sent by the American Medical Association Bureau of Legal Medicine and Legislation on July 10, 1937. Within the letter it read, “Since the medicinal use of cannabis has not caused and is not causing addiction, the prevention of the use of the drug for medicinal purposes can accomplish no good end whatsoever” and also wrote, “How far it may serve to deprive the public of the benefits of a drug that on further research may prove to be of substantial value, it is impossible to foresee.” The letter was signed by Dr. William. C. Woodward with the Council of the American Medical Association.[17]

After one hearing with the Ways and Means Committee the Marihuana Tax Act was approved.[23] Not much time was spent debating the bill when it was presented to the floor at 5:45pm Friday, August 20 and not many senators were in attendance. The debate lasted about 1 minute and 32 seconds.[16] The only questions asked before the bill was passed was from a New York senator whom asked two questions. “Mr. Speaker, what is this Bill about?” To which the Speaker of the House Rayburn replied, "I don't know. It has something to do with a thing called marihuana. I think it's a narcotic of some kind." The New York Senator then asked, “Mr. Speaker, does the American Medical Association support this bill?" A man who was later in life to become a Supreme Court Justice and was on the very committee that passed this Act, stood up and stated, “Their Doctor Wentworth came down here. They support this bill 100 percent."[11]

Do we recall what Dr. Woodward said during the committee meeting? “The American Medical Association knows of no evidence that marihuana is a dangerous drug. The committee responded ,“Doctor, if you can't say something good about what we are trying to do, why don't you go home?” [11] The bill was quickly passed via “tellers” (members vote by a electronic voting system) and without a recorded vote. The Senate held one brief hearing on the bill and it was then sent to President Roosevelt's desk where he signed it without delay.[1] FDR signed the Marijuana Tax Act into law and there is evidence that he was also on the Rockefeller payroll from his first days in politics.[3] This wasn't a hard law to pass since so many were going to benefit from hemp's public demise. Countless jobs and resources were lost in the tidal wave of monopolistic bureaucracy of that era and hemp was swept away as well. The whole process clearly lacked the checks and balances which are the sole purpose for our legislative process in making laws.

When a Law is founded upon such false premises the constitutionality of a Law should come into question and review. Never was there a mention of the history of the plant and there was no thorough examination of the plants other aspects which had been highly produced and thrived upon up until this time. So on August 2, 1937, marijuana became illegal at the federal level and went into effect on October 1, 1937.[23] Hemp and its byproduct marijuana and the 50,000 resources backing them both were removed from our countries way of life. [3] The Great Depression followed this Act and “In 1937, the American economy took an unexpected nosedive, lasting through most of 1938. Production declined sharply, as did profits and employment. Unemployment jumped from 14.3% in 1937 to 19.0% in 1938.”[22] Coincidence?


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