What About Farmer Bob?

By David Jenison

What About Farmer Bob?

Harry Anslinger pushed for cannabis prohibition, and Herman Oliphant came up with the idea of a prohibitive tax, but it was Robert Lee Doughton who presided over the House Ways and Means Committee hearing and introduced the Marihuana Tax Act into congress. Doughton, the son of a Confederate Captain and named after General Robert E. Lee, was a wealthy banker, industrial farmer and Tar Heel State congressman. Doughton, who graced the cover of Time magazine in 1934, owned more than 5,000 acres of farmland by 1900, which inspired the nickname Farmer Bob.

Anslinger appeared before the House Ways and Means Committee on April 27, 1937, as Congress deliberated on whether to pass the Marijuana Tax Act. He testified, “Ten years ago we only heard about [marijuana] throughout the Southwest. It is only in the last few years that it has become a national menace … Since the economic depression the number of marijuana smokers has increased by vagrant youths coming into contact with older psychopaths.” He explained that part of its appeal was its price. “To be a morphine or heroin addict it would cost you from $5 to $6 a day to maintain your supply. But if you want to smoke a cigarette you pay 10 cents… it is low enough in price for school children to buy it.”

“And they have parties in different parts of the country that they call ‘reefer parties,’” chimed in John W. McCormack, a Boston Representative and future Speaker of the House.

Anslinger maintained that while opium was a necessary tool for doctors, cannabis was not. “Opium has all of the good of Dr. Jekyll and all the evil of Mr. Hyde. This drug [cannabis] is entirely the monster Hyde, the harmful effect of which cannot be measured.”

Dr. William C. Woodward, the legislative counsel representing the American Medical Association (AMA), spoke before the committee against the tax, but his argument fell entirely on deaf ears. Farmer Bob, the committee chairman, called cannabis “a menace” that makes “people lose their mental balance… [and] become criminals.” He added that the Tax Act was a “remedy for this evil.” His quotes make it clear that prohibition, not tax revenue, drove his support for the bill. Furthermore, many people think that ties to DuPont, a gunpowder mill-turned-huge conglomerate, contributed to Farmer Bob’s support as a way to reduce competition from hemp.

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Timothy Leary vs. Marihuana Tax Act

The Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906

Nixon vs. Lennon

Prohibition’s Racist Roots

Richard Nixon's Drug War Turns 48

Cannabis and the CSA

The Substance Schedules

Scheduling Conflicts

The Controlled Substances Act

The Marihuana Tax Act of 1937

Was Harry Anslinger a Racist?

The Anslinger Gore Files

Anti-Cannabis Propaganda

Harry Anslinger: The Godfather of Cannabis Prohibition