Original Post: Marijuana Moment: Library Of Congress Highlights Racist News Coverage Used To Justify Criminalizing Marijuana A Century Ago
[Canniseur: The Library of Congress has published long-overdue documentation of the racist news coverage used 80 years ago to justify the criminalization of cannabis. The media was complicit and racist in its printing of stories leading to the eventual ban of marijuana. We know this racist-inspired decision was spearheaded by Harry Anslinger in the 1930s. Anslinger was a rabid racist. Cannabis was made illegal in 1937 and this documentation only goes to 1915, but it’s a start.]
The Library of Congress (LOC) is documenting racist depictions of marijuana in early 20th century news coverage that helped to drive the criminalization of cannabis, highlighting sensationalized articles about the plant that the federal research body says effectively served as “anti-Mexican propaganda.”
As part of the institution’s “Chronicling America” project, which digitizes media from throughout U.S. history, LOC published a timeline last week that gives examples of headlines concerning cannabis from 1897 to 1915.
“From the late 19th to early 20th century, newspapers reported the early rise of marihuana (known today as marijuana),” the post states. “Alarming reports of the menace of marihuana reach the United States press. Tales of alleged atrocities fueled by the drug are often tied to anti-Mexican propaganda.”
On a landing page featuring links to the digitized newspaper clippings, LOC warns: “Some of the linked articles contain ethnic slurs and offensive characterizations.”
One early article on marijuana, published in The Sun in August 1897, said that the plant “continues to impel people of the lower orders to wild and desperate deeds.”
In a separate 1897 piece in the Tombstone Prospector, which reported on an alleged attempt to smuggle cannabis into a prison, marijuana is characterized as “a kind of a loco weed which is more powerful than opium.”
Via Library of Congress.
“The Mexicans mix it with tobacco and smoke it in cigarettes, which causes a hilarity not equalled by any other form of dissipation,” it continues. “When smuggled inside the prison walls the Mexicans readily pay $4 an ounce for it, but outside it is only worth about 50 cents an ounce.”
One 1887 Memphis Appeal piece ran with the shocking headline, “Senseless Brutality. A Mexican Priest Flogs the Corpse of a Dead Wizard.”
A 1904 article—titled “Dangerous Mexican Weed to Smoke”—relays a story about two people who got the “marihuana habit,” consumed cannabis and “after a few minutes ran amuck” before being hospitalized.
“It is feared that the two men, if they recover from their wounds, will lose their minds permanently, as is the case often with marihuana smokers,” the report said.
Even early articles on marijuana policy contained language that stereotyped marijuana as a “Mexican drug” or “Indian hemp,” as was the case in an El Paso Herald piece published in 1915 after the City Council approved legislation to prohibit cannabis.
The Ogden Standard in 1915 published a story that features especially racist language.
Via Library of Congress.
“Are the Mexicans becoming a mightier and braver race, or in the language of Texas, are they becoming ‘locoed?’” the article asks. “Reports received here indicate that the sudden burst of bravery on the part of the Mexicans is due to an increased use of the weed known as Marihuana, which has much the same effects as opium or morphine on its users.”
“When a Mexican is under the influence of Marihuana he imagines that he can, single-handed, whip the entire regular United States army, while if reinforced by several other Mexicans, he might include a few European nations in his dream conquests,” it continues. “While under the influence of marihuana Mexicans are liable to commit murder and when arrested give the authorities great trouble.”
Such openly racist rhetoric around cannabis has largely dissipated from news coverage in recent years as support for ending criminalization continues to grow. But as numerous policymakers have pointed out, the racial inequities associated with enforcement of prohibition laws are far from gone.
Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) discussed the role of marijuana criminalization and the broader drug war in perpetuating racial injustices last week, and they remarked on how black people are significantly more likely to be arrested for cannabis possession compared to white people despite similar rates of consumption.
Two members of the House circulated a sign-on letter last week urging fellow lawmakers to keep marijuana reform in mind as a way to further promote racial justice while they debate policing reform legislation.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom described his states’s legalization of marijuana as a “civil rights” matter earlier this month.
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said that the passage of cannabis decriminalization legislation this year represents an example of how his state has addressed racial inequities that are inspiring mass protests in the wake of police killings of black people such as George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.
Booker also recently said racial disparities in marijuana enforcement is an example of a systemic injustice that underlies the frustration of minority communities.
Last month, 12 House members introduced a resolution condemning police brutality and specifically noting the racial injustices of the war on drugs.
That measure came one week after 44 members of the House sent a letter to the Justice Department, calling for an independent investigation into a fatal police shooting of Taylor in a botched drug raid.
In New York, there’s a renewed push to pass a package of criminal justice reform legislation that includes a bill to legalize marijuana.
The head of a federal health agency recently acknowledged racial disparities in drug enforcement and the harm that such disparate practices have caused—and NORML asked her to go on the record to further admit that this trend in criminalization is more harmful than marijuana itself.
Biden-Sanders Task Force Members Push For Legalizing Marijuana And Other Drug Reforms
Photo courtesy of Library of Congress.
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Original Post: Marijuana Moment: Bernie Sanders And Cory Booker Talk Racial Injustices Of Marijuana Criminalization At Virtual Town Hall
[Cannabis: Let’s face it and I think we have already. Cannabis was demonized and made illegal in the 1930s precisely to control the African American population. The prohibition was racist. It was NOT based on science. It was based on racist, uninformed, harmful and incomprehensible views about black people. It’s been time to end the prohibition for a while and the Federal Government just won’t declassify marijuana. There are nor reasons left to not declassify cannabis. None. Let’s get it done. I don’t know that the democrats have the stomach for it if they win in November, but we may find out.]
Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) discussed the role of marijuana criminalization and the broader drug war in perpetuating racial injustices during an online town hall on Wednesday.
The former 2020 presidential candidates touched on a variety of drug-related policy issues. For example, Booker brought up an ongoing ban on access to coronavirus relief programs for business owners with prior drug convictions and said it’s an example of why the two senators “talk about marijuana justice all the time.”
“I’m all for legalization,” Booker said. “But to say that in the same breath and not to include expunging records, reinvesting profits into communities that have been economically devastated by the drug war—you’re not talking about justice if you suddenly say, ‘okay, everybody started in the same field, go ahead.’”
“All these big companies—pharmaceutical companies, others—are getting into the marijuana business,” he said. “Yet blacks in many states can’t even qualify for a license because they have nonviolent drug charges. All of these issues, you’re stripping people of their political power, their economic power, by over-criminalizing a population.”
A virtual attendee later asked the senators: “What would legalizing marijuana, expunging the records of those arrested for marijuana, mean for people of color?”
Booker weighed in and said that in 2017, “there were more marijuana possession arrests than all the violent crime arrests in America combined. And again, they’re arresting people of color.”
“And by the way, that’s an expensive proposition,” Sanders said.
“Very expensive, and it’s ridiculous,” Booker agreed. “This demonization of marijuana, the prohibition on marijuana, is ridiculous.”
Sanders then talked about how, during his presidential campaign, he would ask people in the crowd at his rallies to raise their hands if they or someone they knew had ever been arrested for cannabis possession.
“I was astounded by the hands that went up,” he said. “Then if you get a criminal record, as you discussed earlier, right? You’re looking for a job and the boss says, ‘have you ever been arrested?’ ‘Well, yeah, I have been.’ ‘Okay, well, thank you, we’ll interview somebody else.’”
Booker noted that there’s “no difference between blacks and whites for using drugs. In fact, young white men have a little bit higher rates of dealing drugs than black men.” Yet black people are nearly four times as likely to be arrested for a marijuana offense.
“Now you get a nonviolent drug charge for doing something that two of the three last presidents admitted to doing,” the senator said. “Now you have 40,000 collateral consequences that strip you from your economic power. You can’t get Pell grants, can’t get public housing, can’t get jobs, can’t get loans from the bank.”
Booker raised many of these points earlier this month during an interview with MSNBC, where he highlighted systemic social issues—including racial disparities in marijuana enforcement—that need to be addressed as people across the country protest police killings of black Americans.
Nevada Governor Introduces Measure To Pardon Tens Of Thousands With Marijuana Convictions
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Bernie Sanders And Cory Booker Talk Racial Injustices Of Marijuana Criminalization At Virtual Town Hall was posted on Marijuana Moment.
Original Post: Marijuana Moment: New Mexico Marijuana Legalization Effort Gets Boost From Ouster Of Anti-Reform Senators
[Canniseur: New Mexico has failed to pass legalization twice in the last 15 months or so. The legislators who were responsible for that failure are now gone. They’ve been ousted by voters in their party. Could this make the change and could the legislature now pass legalization? We’ll find out soon enough.]
Several key New Mexico state senators who have helped to block marijuana legalization legislation are on their way out after Tuesday’s primary election.
The secretary of state has called at least major four races where progressive challengers in districts across the state have won their contests against conservative-leaning incumbents. The Senate president pro tem, Finance Committee chair and several other lawmakers who remain opposed to adult-use legalization were rejected by Democratic voters.
While marijuana reform wasn’t the only thing on voters’ minds, with other major issues such as reproductive rights being at issue in the election, cannabis legislation has been one area where candidates have been pressed during the course of their campaigns.
The results bode well for the prospects of enacting legalization within the next year—a policy supported by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D). In recent interviews, the candidates replacing the incumbents have broadly embraced comprehensive reform.
Senate President Pro Tem Mary Kay Papen (D) lost on Tuesday. The leader was asked in a recent survey about her views on cannabis reform and said that “[a]t this time I will not support the legalization of recreational marijuana in New Mexico” and simply committed to “look at all Legislation that comes before the Senate and evaluate it on its merits.”
She also voted against cannabis reform on several occasions, including for a proposed 2016 constitutional amendment to establish a legal marijuana market in the state.
Meanwhile, her challenger, Las Cruces Green Chamber of Commerce President Carrie Hamblen, said, “I support the legalization of recreational marijuana as it can provide much needed jobs, can be regulated, and communities can benefit from the taxation.”
“Plus, by legalizing it, we can stop criminalizing people of color and focus more on incarcerating those with legitimate crimes,” she said.
Senate Finance Chairman John Arthur Smith (D) lost his race against retired special education teacher Neomi Martinez-Parra. Smith’s panel declined to act on a House-passed legalization bill last year, ending its prospects. He also voted against the 2016 measure on the floor.
“I do not support legalizing the use until the federal government steps to the plate,” he said recently. “I have over 600 Border Patrol stationed in my district and they will enforce the federal law.”
Martinez-Parra, meanwhile, said the state “needs to diversify its revenue” and legalization represents an opportunity to that end.
“We cannot rely on oil as the major source of revenue,” she said. “I support legalizing and taxing the sale of marijuana, as long as we have the right regulation in place to protect our children.”
Given the opening for Smith’s chairmanship, advocates say the prospects of enacting broader drug policy reform, even beyond marijuana legalization, will be significantly increased since he lost.
Another opponent to comprehensive cannabis reform, Sen. Clemente Sanchez (D), was also shown the door. The senator said that while he supports the state’s medical cannabis program, he felt “we need to ensure that the recreational sales do not hurt it and we are not there yet.”
“We need to make sure that law enforcement can test for impairment and we don’t have that yet. And most importantly we need to keep out of our youth,” he said.
During his time as chair of the Senate Corporations and Transportation Committee, he made a floor motion to specifically request that a legalization bill be referred to his panel in order to kill it. He also voted against legal cannabis on the floor.
Pamela Cordova, a retired educator, beat the incumbent, and she has embraced comprehensive cannabis reform.
“I support legalizing recreational marijuana, with strong regulation and taxation,” she said. “I believe our limited law enforcement resources can be better spent addressing more serious criminal behavior. New Mexico will benefit from the millions of dollars in tax revenue to our general fund at a time we most need it.”
Sen. Richard Martinez (D) appears to have lost his race to Leo Jaramillo, though the secretary of state hasn’t called the race yet. The senator voted to kill a legalization bill in the Judiciary Committee this year, though his record also involves introducing legislation to establish safe injection facilities in the state and voting for the 2016 legalization measure. Even so, advocates say he’s become increasingly conservative in his votes.
Jaramillo, on the other hand, stated clearly that marijuana “should be legal for both medical and recreational purposes.”
“It will attract new industries to the state and trim New Mexico’s heavy economic independence on oil production,” he said. “The legalization of recreational cannabis will generate hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue. The legalization of marijuana would be one step in a new direction.”
Sen. Gabe Ramos (D), who was appointed to the office last year, is out after losing to school psychologist Siah Correa Hemphill. He hasn’t cast a vote on legalization during his time in the seat, though advocates expected that he would align himself closer to the conservative faction of the party. When discussing the issue, he’s stressed that he would have to see the final product before making a decision, though he anticipated passage.
“I really want to see the actual bill before it gets on the floor,” he said in January. “I have a feeling that it’s going to pass, with restrictions.”
“We’ll have to look closely at those restrictions, what they’re going to be,” he added. “I know there’s a lot of concern from the legislators that I’ve talked to, but if we got a good bill with restrictions, I think it could pass. The proof will be in the pudding, he said, when it goes through the committees and then to the floor.”
Hemphill said “I support legalizing recreational marijuana in New Mexico as a way to free up law enforcement to address more pressing criminal activity.”
“With proper regulation and taxation, marijuana sales could bring in hundreds of millions of dollars of new tax revenue for schools, roads, and healthcare,” she said.
While Tuesday night’s election results generally favored cannabis reform advocates, there were a couple examples of opponents holding on to their seats.
Incumbent Sen. George Muñoz (D) defeated a progressive challenger, and he’s previously voted against legalization. Likewise, Judiciary Chair Joe Cervantes (D) won his reelection race. His panel voted to table a legalization bill during the short session at the beginning of the year.
During that hearing, the chair raised concerns with provisions around labor union influence on the marijuana industry and directing the state to subsidize medical cannabis purchases for low-income patients. He also took issue with the specifics of language allowing people with past drug convictions to obtain licenses.
Emily Kaltenbach, New Mexico state director for the Drug Policy Alliance, told Marijuana Moment that, overall, the election results mean that “New Mexico takes one step closer to legalizing cannabis.”
“As a result of last night’s primary, a handful of powerful Senate Democrats who supported the drug war status quo and blocked cannabis legalization year after year have lost their elections,” she said. “The Democratic candidates, if they win in November, are likely to vote in favor of cannabis and other drug policy reform measures.”
The vote “signals that New Mexico can become the next state to legalize cannabis for the right reasons: protecting consumers, keeping cannabis out of the hands of our children, putting medical cannabis patients first, reinvesting back into communities most harmed by prohibition and diversifying our economy.”
It remains to be seen whether legislators will again make an attempt to pass legalization legislation when they convene for a special session on June 18, but what’s clear is that voters sent a message by ousting these key senators: they’re ready for progressive change. When the new legislature is seated for the 2021 session, several Democratic opponents of legal cannabis will be gone, and they will likely have been replaced by supporters.
In December, a cannabis working group established by the governor released a poll showing overwhelming public support for cannabis legalization.
New Mexico Marijuana Legalization Effort Gets Boost From Ouster Of Anti-Reform Senators was posted on Marijuana Moment.
Original Post: Marijuana Moment: New Mexico Governor Says Legalizing Marijuana Would’ve Funded Programs Cut Due To Coronavirus
[Canniseur: Could COVID-19 be the impetus to legalize cannabis? Not just in New Mexico, but in many other states that need revenue. COVID-19 has hurt economies in every one of the States. There is a great need to increase revenue without raising taxes. Cannabis could be an answer, at least partially.]
The governor of New Mexico said last week that the state needs to explore every option for economic relief, and that includes passing marijuana legalization.
Near the end of a two-hour livestream updating residents on the state’s coronavirus response efforts on Wednesday, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) was asked whether she was in favor of the legislature passing adult-use legalization during an upcoming special session to generate tax revenue to offset financial challenges caused by the pandemic.
“Let’s end on a high note,” the governor joked, adding that she felt suspensions of various capital projects due to the health crisis “likely would not have occurred” if lawmakers had legalized recreational marijuana during this year’s regular session as she’d unsuccessfully urged them to do.
“The projections are nearly $100 million of recurring revenue into the budget” from cannabis legalization, she said. “If we want economic support and economic relief, then we have to use every economic idea. And I want to point out also that the vast majority of New Mexicans favor recreational cannabis.”
Watch the governor’s marijuana comments, starting around 2:18:10 into the video below:
Lujan Grisham hinted that she may actively campaign against lawmakers who blocked her legalization bill in this year’s regular session.
“We have an opportunity,” she said. “I think all of our policymakers need to think clearly—and they should expect me to be supporting in the next general election—we have to pass recreational cannabis in the state. We need to diversify our economy, we need to increase opportunity for recurring revenue and we have to rebuild an economy that has suffered dramatically during this public health crisis.”
The governor made a similar argument last month, though she also acknowledged that the $100 million revenue estimate, which was released by a working group the governor formed to study the impact of legalization last year, would likely have been affected by the pandemic.
It should also be noted that the $100 million figure is an estimate of the combined tax revenue from the existing medical cannabis market and the add-on of adult-use sales. And that’s after the latter market matures.
Further, a legalization bill that passed one Senate committee earlier this year only to be rejected in another before the close of the short 30-day session stipulated that sales would have begun on July 1, meaning the state would not have been able to collect the much-needed revenue in the midst of the health crisis, unless emergency action was taken.
Legalization might not have happened as planned during New Mexico’s regular 2020 legislative session, but the governor said in February that she’s open to letting voters decide on the policy change via a ballot referendum.
While the Lujan Grisham didn’t directly answer the question about whether legalization should be pursued during the special session in June, a spokesperson for her office recently said that it’s unlikely the reform move will happen during the window.
Photo courtesy of Brian Shamblen.
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Original Post: Marijuana Moment: Missouri Lawmakers Defeat Amendment To Require They Consume Marijuana Before Voting
[Canniseur: This is too good. And the amendment was put in the bill by a republican. A republican!!! The crazy thing about it is that it would probably work to get these legislators focused on the bills they’re considering! Way to go, Missouri!]
Missouri lawmakers rejected an amendment to a health care bill on Thursday that would have required House members to consume a “substantial” amount of marijuana before performing their legislative duties.
The amendment, introduced by Rep. Andrew McDaniel (R), was defeated in a voice vote—though a reporter in the room said he heard a few “ayes.”
Text of the measure stipulated that “members of the Missouri House shall consume a substantial dose of medicinal marijuana prior to entering the chamber or voting on any legislation.”
McDaniel told Marijuana Moment in a phone interview that, this time of year, lawmakers tend to pile on amendments to bills. The current health care-focused legislation has “a whole bunch of crap” that’s been attached to it, he said, and so he saw an opportunity to “get everyone to chill out and get a little chuckle” with his proposal.
< blockquote class=”twitter-tweet”>
A GOP Missouri lawmaker introduced an amendment to a health care bill today that would have required members to consume a “substantial” amount of marijuana before performing their legislative duties.
No really ?https://t.co/32470pjfCE
— Kyle Jaeger (@kylejaeger) May 7, 2020</blockquote >
The hope was also that it could “get them all to pay attention” and “quit messing it up,” he said.
The lawmaker said he similarly heard some “aye” votes from the chamber, though he said he wasn’t going to force people to go on the record with a roll call vote.
“It was just for fun—simmer down, bring up a little bit of laughter in such a somber environment of the times we’re in,” McDaniel said.
Erik Alteri, executive director of NORML, told Marijuana Moment that he appreciated the sentiment.
“During these trying times we all could certainly use a laugh which this amendment provided. Though having state legislators imbibe before session might not be the worst thing to encourage cooperation for the public good,” he said. “At the very least perhaps opponents of ending our failed probation on cannabis may finally realize they are ruining hundreds of thousands of lives per year over a plant.”
Another part of the inspiration behind the lawmaker’s amendment was a more serious provision of the overall legislation that provides protections for registered cannabis patients against having their registration in the program reported to the federal government.
The bill, SB 580, states that “no state agency, including employees therein, shall disclose to the federal government, any federal government employee, or any unauthorized third party, the statewide list or any individual information of persons who have applied for or obtained a medical marijuana card.”
McDaniel said that he supports both medical and adult-use cannabis legalization, though constituents in his district haven’t gotten on board with broader reform and so he doesn’t have immediate plans to introduce actionable legislation to that end. The legislator described himself as having a libertarian perspective on the issue.
He did sponsor a bill in 2018 that would have made a constitutional amendment establishing a limited medical cannabis program in the state. That came before voters approved more a far-reaching medical marijuana legalization measure during the November election that year.
Last month, a campaign to legalize marijuana in Missouri officially ended its bid to qualify for this year’s general election ballot due to signature gathering difficulties caused by the coronavirus outbreak.
Photo courtesy of Martin Alonso.
Missouri Lawmakers Defeat Amendment To Require They Consume Marijuana Before Voting was posted on Marijuana Moment.