Saturday, May 31, 2003

America's first marijuana law, passed in Virginia in 1619

This funny report in the New York Times contains one interesting sentence: "Oddly enough, the first American law about marijuana, passed by the Virginia Assembly in 1619, required every household to grow it."

The rest of it is mostly a history of "reefer madness," including the following:

"Popular fears of marijuana arose in the early 20th century, prompted by the use of the drug by Mexican immigrants. Rumors spread about the "killer weed" that incited violent crimes and drove its users insane.

Marijuana was linked not only to poor Mexicans, but also to poor blacks and the new music they played: jazz. Jazz was then regarded much as hip-hop is today in some circles, as a subversive and barbaric threat to the national morality. Not long after marijuana was outlawed in 1937, the Federal Bureau of Narcotics planned to stage a nationwide roundup of black jazz musicians who smoked pot. Harry J. Anslinger, head of the bureau, hated jazz and saw it as a corrupting influence in American life. The plan was thwarted, however, by the inability of its agents to infiltrate the jazz milieu."

I'm not sure what to make of this history; it seems kind of amusing but since it is in the New York Times, I question it. The funniest part is the image of J. Edgar Hoover's men trying "to infiltrate the jazz milieu."

As a footnote to this scientific article, from this article on the capture of the accused 1996 Olympics bomber, Eric Rudolph, is an excerpt about marijuana:

"Sister-in-law Deborah Rudolph, who helped develop a profile for investigators, has said the accused bomber hardly lived the lifestyle of a religious zealot. In 2001 she told the Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Report magazine that Rudolph grew hydroponic marijuana and made as much as $60,000 a year selling it.

When he visited her Nashville, Tenn., home in the early 1990s, Rudolph would ``sleep all day, then stay up all night and eat pizza and smoke pot and watch movies by Cheech and Chong,'' Deborah Rudolph told the magazine.

Stone said Rudolph's marijuana growing made him more paranoid and fed his anti-government views."

No comments: