Breaking Stoner Stigmas
Using cannabis has come with a stigma attac hed to it by mainstream society for the last eighty years. Regardless of the fact that it is a benign, even beneficial herbal supplement. The criminality assigned to cannabis during the Jim Crow era, the counter-culture status of cannabis given to it by the Hippies, the false propaganda campaign waged by the Nixon and Reagan Administrations, and the current prison-industrial complex all culminate in a modern day stigma that many Americans do not want assigned to them. The question has to be asked, why should we care?
Should one care about a stigma that is perpetuated by the worst parts of our culture? The judgmental and zealous nature of drug crusaders can often be laughable. Well, until that laughable attitude is in a position to make public policy. That is where we stand today. For too long, cannabis users have chosen to remain in the closet about their use. Many patients constantly say that they want to come forward, but the fear of losing their employment, financial aid for college, and losing their children all effect their decision to remain in the cannabis closet. In what free society do we take away people’s livelihood and children for utilizing a beneficial herb? America, that’s where. Doesn’t seem so free now does it?
These harsh penalties and unfair stigma attached to so called stoners is one of the most bigoted and inhumane practices in modern American society. This discrimination stretches across all color lines and cultures in this nation, however, we see police disparity when it comes to enforcing cannabis laws as we see with most laws in America. People of color and their communities are often hardest hit by the prison-industrial complex and have been the target of cannabis prohibition since its inception. Harry Anslinger, head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, the predecessor of the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) specifically targeted African American communities with both his propaganda and law enforcement tactics.
“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.” -Harry J. Anslinger, Federal Bureau of Narcotics
Commissioner Anslinger was given a boost to his propaganda campaign by newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst. Mr. Hearst’s campaign against Mexicans and his papers demonizing cannabis as a dangerous Mexican drug furthered the racist fire. His newspapers often ran racist columns nationwide.
“Was it marijuana, the new Mexican drug, that nerved the murderous arm of Clara Phillips when she hammered out her victim’s life in Los Angeles?… THREE-FOURTHS OF THE CRIMES of violence in this country today are committed by DOPE SLAVES — that is a matter of cold record.”
These men built an empire on catering to racist fears. Anslinger was the prime example of big government at its worse, creating problems that didn’t exist in order to gain a larger appropriation in the budget. Today his example has spiraled out of control with numerous agencies such the DEA, FBI, ATF, and NIDA all duplicating roles for the sake of their budgets.
Famous Reggae singer Peter Tosh had a hit song in the 1970’s called Legalize It. In the lyrics to the song he talks about the various cannabis smokers in society.
“Singers smoke it
And players of instrument too
Legalize it, yeah, yeah
That’s the best thing you can do
Doctors smoke it, nurses smoke it
Judges smoke it, even the lawyer too
So you’ve got to legalize it, and don’t criticize it”
Tosh’s lyrics remain true to this day. Judges, lawyers, Congressmen, nurses, doctors, school teachers, musicians, and singers alike all use cannabis. Whether for treating a debilitating medical condition or just utilizing it to relax after a long day at work, these productive members of society do not deserve the unfair stigma brought on by 80 years of racist and bigoted cannabis prohibition propaganda.
People need to come out of the cannabis closet and get involved in the mainstream political struggle to re-legalize cannabis in America. Regardless of what walk of life you come from, there is most likely a role for you in your state’s role to legalize cannabis use. And, as long as the Federal Government remains intransigent on its cannabis policy, there is always a place for you to get involved. Break the stoner stigmas and be not afraid to say I am a cannabis user and I pay my damn taxes!