History

The AMA vs. Anslinger

When Narcotic Bureau chief Harry Anslinger made the case for the Tax Act before the Ways and Means Committee in 1937, he faced dissent from Dr. William C. Woodward, the legislative counsel representing the American Medical Association (AMA). “Most physicians would want to preserve the right to use it [cannabis],” Woodward testified on May 4, 1937. “To say, however, as has been proposed here, that the use of the drug should be prevented by a prohibitive tax, loses sight of the fact that future investigation may show that there are substantial medical uses for cannabis.”

Woodward also complained, “We cannot understand yet, Mr. Chairman, why this bill should have been prepared in secret for two years without any intimation, even, to the [medical] profession, that it was being prepared.”

He pointed out that the medical and hemp industries had been blindsided by the bill because it used the term marijuana in the title instead of cannabis. “The term ‘marijuana’ is a mongrel word that has crept into this country over the Mexican border and has no general meaning, except as it relates to the use of cannabis preparations for smoking. It is not recognized in medicine, and hardly recognized even in the Treasury Department. Marijuana is not the correct term. It was the use of the term ‘marijuana’ rather than the use of the term ‘cannabis’ or the use of the term ‘Indian hemp’ that was responsible, as you realized probably, a day or two ago, for the failure of the dealers in Indian hemp seed to connect up this bill with their business until rather late in the day.”

He then proceeded to pick apart Anslinger’s rhetoric. “We are told the use of marijuana 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 marijuana habit… You have been told that schoolchildren are great users of marijuana cigarettes. No one has been summoned from the Children’s Bureau… [But] in all that you have had here thus far, no mention has been made of any excessive use of the drug by any doctor or its excessive distribution by any pharmacist.” And he pointed out, “Newspaper exploitation of the habit has done more to increase it than anything else.”

The committee ignored the only medical doctor in this discussion and fast-tracked the bill into law. Interestingly, two years after the law took effect, New York Mayor Fiorello La Guardia commissioned his own study of cannabis by the New York Academy of Medicine. Released in 1944, the report stated, “Marijuana did not lead to violent, antisocial behavior, or uncontrollable sexual urges. Smoking marijuana did not alter a person’s basic personality structure… [and] does not lead to addiction in the medical sense of the word.”

The Substance Schedules

Scheduling Conflicts

To the States!

Protect the Children

Cannabis vs. Heroin

The Boggs Act & Mandatory Minimums

The First Marihuana Tax Act Arrest

The Marihuana Tax Act of 1937

Was Harry Anslinger a Racist?

The Anslinger Gore Files

Harry Anslinger: The Godfather of Cannabis Prohibition

Cannabis in the Christmas Cave

Comprehensive Uses

Who is Old Hemp?

Environmental Impact