Unseen Histories

The belief that cannabis use is an anti-social behavior is rooted in xenophobia, racism, and capitalism, it’s inhumane and wrong.

If you are one of those people that believe, or tell others, that cannabis users exhibit antisocial behaviors, you should probably ask yourself why you feel that way. You might have some internalized racist beliefs that you are unaware of.

Anti-cannabis propaganda was used to evoke negative emotions, fear based reactions, and create prejudice towards people of color since the early 1900s, and for nearly 100 years.

Prior to alcohol prohibition ending, cannabis was commonly used and hemp was a legally grown product.

During the 1920s, Anslinger went on record stating cannabis use was not problematic. After alcohol prohibition was repealed in 1933, Harry J. Anslinger, the Commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics needed another target and turned his attention towards cannabis users, specifically people of color (Weird History, 2019).

With the help of other tycoons ( like Dupont, Hearst, and Ford ) who were heavily invested in maintaining a monopoly on hemp’s competing industries (such as nylon and paper), race based anti-cannabis propaganda began to heavily circulate on print. Later, these anti-cannabis propaganda were seen in movies and by word of mouth.

This propaganda resulted in the 1937 Marijuana Tax Act, the federal ban on cannabis, and decades of Black and Brown cannabis users were incarcerated at nearly 10x the rate than white users. (Solomon, 2020).

Even the common name of cannabis, “marijuana”, is based in xenophobia. “The term “marijuana” originates from a Spanish word more likely to be associated with Mexicans.” Anslinger began using the term in the 1930s to associate cannabis use with Mexican and Black users. (Adams, 2016)

Anslinger often made outlandish claims about Mexican and Black cannabis users like “Coloreds with big lips lure white women with jazz and marijuana”

“All Mexicans are crazy and marijuana is what makes them crazy” and “Origins of marijuana, the Mexican menace.” (Papillion, 2020)

It was easy for anti-cannabis and racist rhetoric to spread during this time as Anslinger began his campaign during the Jim Crow era and right on the heels of the Mexican Revolution.

Prior to Anslinger’s campaign against cannabis, users were not considered outside the norm and use was quite common.

The term “[Anti-social] behavior refers to a heterogeneous set of actions outside the norms, rules, or laws of the social group in which the subject develops” (Acquaviva, Ellul, and Benarous, 2018).

Due to the Federal Government’s pursuit of cannabis users, cannabis users were forced to create their own culture and social group: anything but anti-social.

The popularity of cannabis use transcends racist belief systems and actually brings people together. Many people won’t even share a meal, but cannabis users will still pass a joint, especially to “the left hand side.”

Festivals and parties geared towards connecting with other cannabis users have existed for decades and a basic understanding of one another through music, clothes, gathering spots, stickers, methods of use, arrest records, and even preferred strains. These events help people connect socially with other cannabis enthusiasts and connoisseurs.

When a group is forced out of the dominant social hierarchy and forms their own community with a standard of rules and behaviors, those behaviors become a new norm for that group and should not be considered an anti-social behavior.

I understand that the mainstream public has been told cannabis users are exhibiting anti-social behaviors by governing agencies and that we are taught to believe.

The reality is that governing agents have often used false narratives that divide people based on identifiable (race) characteristics to achieve their goals and justify the means. All you have to do is look at the history of the enslavement of Africans, and the genocide of Indigenous peoples to the Americas to know that to be true.

So, before you make your next judgment against cannabis users, I’d advise asking where your beliefs originate from.

If it’s based on what the government told you, I’d check another source.


1 Anslinger, H. (2019, May 01). Harry Anslinger: The man responsible for Marijuana’s prohibition. Retrieved April 27, 2021, from https://youtu.be/W5K_ogM-LqI

2 Solomon, R. (2020, February 27). Racism and its effect on cannabis research. Retrieved April 27, 2021, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7173675/

3 Adams, C. (2017, May 16). The man behind the marijuana ban for all the wrong reasons. Retrieved April 27, 2021, from https://www.cbsnews.com/news/harry-anslinger-the-man-behind-the-marijuana-ban/

4 Acquaviva, E., Ellul, P., & Benarous, X. (2018, June 15). Variations in Pathways into and out of antisocial behavior from the perspective of DEVELOPMENTAL PSYCHOPATHOLOGY. Retrieved April 27, 2021, from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/B9780128153109000010

5 Papillion, N. (2020, July 03). Drug war History: Anslinger, Armstrong and America’s Early anti-cannabis crusade. Retrieved April 27, 2021, from https://medium.com/equityorg/drug-war-history-anslinger-armstrong-and-americas-early-anti-cannabis-crusade-949022207856