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Tracing the Demonization Of Marijuana

The Rocky Mountain News has a fascinating article today on Colorado's first marijuana case.

In 1937, a man named Samuel Caldwell was the first person to be charged with a marijuana crime when he was busted after selling two joints to Moses Baca. He was arrested on the date that the Marijuana Stamp Act became effective.

In a dizzying swirl of law enforcement, Caldwell and Baca were busted on a Wednesday night, indicted on Thursday (they pleaded guilty) and sentenced on Friday.

"I consider marijuana the worst of all narcotics, far worse than the use of morphine or cocaine," thundered Symes from the bench. "Under its influence, men become beasts, just as was the case with Moses Baca . . . "Marijuana destroys life itself. I have no sympathy with those who sell this weed. I will impose the heaviest penalties. The government is going to enforce this new law to the letter."

Then Symes backed up his tough talk by sentencing Caldwell to four years' hard labor at Kansas' mighty Leavenworth Prison. And just to show Caldwell he was no softy, Symes tacked on the astronomical fine of $1,000.

Baca, the purchaser, got 18 months. Both men served every day of their sentences. Caldwell died a year after his release.

The article also discusses the racism and hyperbole behind the demonization of marijuana.

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  • Re: Tracing the Demonization Of Marijuana (none / 0) (#1)
    by Molly Bloom on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:04:21 PM EST
    4 years for 2 joints, talk about "One toke over the line, sweet Jesus..."

    Re: Tracing the Demonization Of Marijuana (none / 0) (#2)
    by scarshapedstar on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:04:25 PM EST
    Under its influence, men become beasts
    Uh, yeah, if the beast is a housecat, or maybe a sloth. I hope that people this detached from reality have faded out of existence by now.

    Re: Tracing the Demonization Of Marijuana (none / 0) (#3)
    by Lww on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:04:28 PM EST
    Isn't it hilarious that Bush,Gore and half the Congress have partaken of this demon weed? Yet we still lock people up. First Gentleman in Waiting Bill tho, against his better instincts declined to inhale. Man I wish I was a fly on that wall...

    Re: Tracing the Demonization Of Marijuana (none / 0) (#4)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:04:28 PM EST
    Hey, a couple of shots of JD and I'm bullet proof, a couple of tokes ... well here's an exchange from a few years ago: setup- I was on the road, talking to this girl, and this guy (unbeknownst to me it was her boyfriend) an' he gets in my face. He said " You wanna go outside!" ... and I said "no, but when you come back bring me a Snickers." I was stoned, he was drunk. So, who was the demon?

    Re: Tracing the Demonization Of Marijuana (none / 0) (#5)
    by cpinva on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:05:02 PM EST
    Harry J. Anslinger, for example, commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, was a vociferous foe of cannabis. In his book, Assassin of Youth, he labeled marijuana "dangerous as a coiled rattlesnake," and anguished, "How many murders, suicides, robberies, criminal assaults, holdups, burglaries, and deeds of maniacal insanity it causes each year, especially among the young, can be only conjectured."
    hmmm, might be a reason ol' harry could only "conjecture". possibly, because there wasn't a person in america at the time, except possibly for judge symes, who was more completely ignorant about anything having to do with pot. this was anslinger's claim to fame, absent pot, and he would have died another obscure and forgotten government employee. harry latched onto pot like a baby latches on to its mother's nipple. only difference was, the baby eventually grew up and let go, harry sucked it dry. this was truly "jim crow" at its most insidious; it was used mostly by blacks, the jazz clubs of new orleans, chicago and new york, places frequented by blacks and other "lowlifes", reeked of the stuff. what better way to "legally" jail blacks, than by making something that mostly they used, illegal? worked like a charm too, still does today. not to often you here of a nice, middle-class white family's home being barged into, in the middle of the night, and the residents being busted. if i'm walking down the street, at night, with a big ol' honking garbage bag thrown over my shoulder, full of pot (i did this in college), i have a better chance of being offered a ride home by the police (this also happened, i told them it was my laundry), than searched and busted. were i black, i wouldn't stand a chance.

    Re: Tracing the Demonization Of Marijuana (none / 0) (#6)
    by cpinva on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:05:08 PM EST
    He said " You wanna go outside!" ... and I said "no, but when you come back bring me a Snickers."
    rocker, two questions: 1. did you get the snickers bar?, and 2. did you know, 98% of all drug addicts* eat snickers bars? proving conclusively that eating snickers bars leads to drug addiction. * the other 2% don't eat candy bars, they aren't good for their teeth. ok, so i made that part up!

    Re: Tracing the Demonization Of Marijuana (none / 0) (#7)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:05:08 PM EST
    Molly: NJ still has a mandatory four year sentence for distribution of 1 joint of MJ within 1000 feet of a school. - k

    Re: Tracing the Demonization Of Marijuana (none / 0) (#8)
    by Dadler on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:05:14 PM EST
    And let's not forget ol' William Randolph Hearst putting his fortune behind MJ prohibition. A gluttonous man who lived like a spoiled king, destroyed people with his papers when he felt like it, and didn't want hemp to hurt his own interests.

    Re: Tracing the Demonization Of Marijuana (none / 0) (#9)
    by peacrevol on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:05:48 PM EST
    Uh, yeah, if the beast is a housecat, or maybe a sloth. I hope that people this detached from reality have faded out of existence by now.
    The problem is, that detached reality is still very much alive among the population of the US. Everyone still thinks pot is a life-ruining, demonizing, monster spawning halucinagen that takes away all of someones senses and controls. And that way of thinking is still sold to kids at an early age to keep them from using it. While it is good to teach the children that pot is not good for them and they dont need to be trying it, it instills in them false pretenses that they may never get rid of. Hence the outrage of half of the country over pot usage.

    Re: Tracing the Demonization Of Marijuana (none / 0) (#10)
    by squeaky on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:05:48 PM EST
    Too much money is made by keeping it illegal. The danger part is just the TV commercial, like Dove makes you look like a 20 year old supermodel.

    Re: Tracing the Demonization Of Marijuana (none / 0) (#11)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:05:48 PM EST
    "First Gentleman in Waiting Bill tho, against his better instincts declined to inhale." Actually, it wasn't that he "didn't inhale," it's that he "couldn't inhale." During that famous interview, he claimed that he tried to do so, but couldn't. Kept coughing or something like that. So the "didn't inhale" thing is not an attempt on his part to skirt a legality (like what's-his-name, the righty blowhard, who went outside the 12-mile limit). No, it's just a sad fact that Bill's body let him down, so he couldn't enjoy the effects of the drug. Ed