Tuesday, September 22, 2009

All That Jazz

This was made in 1933. Marijuana was made illegal in 1937.

Harry Anslinger was the front man for the effort to make marijuana illegal.
Harry Anslinger (1892-1975) was the first US drug czar. Anslinger was appointed to the newly created position of Commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics on August 12, 1930 and he served in the position until 1962. He had perviously served as Assistant Prohibition Commissioner in the Bureau of Prohibition. He was responsible for the introduction of the 1937 Marijuana Tax Act which criminalized cannabis in the United States.

He is notorious among the American proponents of de-criminalization of marijuana for his manipulation of misinformation masquerading as science behind the criminalization process, the earliest form of a " War on Drugs"
Harry had only the best of taste in music.
Marijuana is taken by ...musicians. And I'm not speaking about good musicians, but the jazz type... —Harry J. Anslinger, Commissioner of the US Bureau of Narcotics, 1930 - 1962
Even in his prime Harry was known as a fraud. At least among some folks.
Even at the time, reputable experts had already deemed much of the alarmist anti-cannabis propaganda that was being disseminated in Hearst publications and quoted by Harry J. Anslinger in congressional testimony was inaccurate. Anslinger took pains to ensure that news of upcoming meetings was not circulated where any groups that might counter the proposed legislation (which taxed marijuana out of existence, in an end-run around the medical issues) would be alerted. The American Medical Association, which would likely have argued the medicinal benefits of marijuana, was notified only two days before the hearing. Their representative, Dr. William Woodward, denounced the hearings as being rooted in tabloid sensationalism, and demanded an explanation for the secrecy involved. Anslinger ignored Woodward's vociferous objections -- when before the vote he was asked by Congress if the AMA agreed that the bill should be passed, a member of Anslinger's committee replied, "Yes, they are in complete agreement."
And so for the last 70+ years we have been denied the benefits of marijuana as medicine based on the lies of a government official.

Not every one was on board with the refer madness of the time.
The La Guardia Committee was the first in depth study into the effects of smoking marijuana. It systematically contradicted claims made by the U.S. Treasury Department that smoking marijuana results in insanity, deteriorates physical and mental health, assists in criminal behavior and juvenile deliquency, is physically addictive, and is a "gateway" drug to more dangerous drugs.

The report was prepared by the New York Academy of Medicine, on behalf of a commission appointed in 1939 by New York Mayor Fiorello La Guardia who was a strong opponent of the 1937 Marihuana Tax Act . Released in 1944, the report infuriated Harry Anslinger who was campaigning against marijuana and he condemned it as unscientific. Anslinger went on an offensive against what he saw as a "degenerate Hollywood" that was promoting marijuana use.

After high profile arrests of actors like Robert Mitchum, Hollywood gave Anslinger full control over the script of any film that mentioned marijuana.
Thankfully, as more information comes out, reefer madness is dying a slow death.

H/T Diogenes via e-mail

Cross Posted at Classical Values


Neil said...

Heh. I never could figure how Cab Calloway was supposed to be much of a marijuana smoker. Waaaaay too much energy, and too precise in his performances. I'd believe maybe cocaine, except that he never burnt out--his performance was just as tight at the end of his life.

Maybe he just knew the meaning of "moderation".

Now, Louis Armstrong? Oh yeah, he smoked a joint every now and then, I'd bet.

M. Simon said...


You only need to look at Rock Musicians to see that smoking pot does not lead to the low energy condition you describe.

And you might want to Google - jazz musicians marijuana - to find out what really goes on in jazz.

The stereotype of the pot smoker as slacker is just that - a stereotype. Some are. Some aren't.

It might just as well be put in the category of violent drunks. Some are. Most aren't.

Although I will admit that violent drunks are more prevalent than violent pot heads.

Neil said...

I didn't mean to imply that a marijuana smoker should lack energy--Louis Armstrong certainly didn't. But Calloway can't even be described as relaxed in any way. I always figured any implied heavy usage was just a shtick.

M. Simon said...

OK. I get it. An entertainer playing to his audience. Wouldn't be the first time.

Clay S. Conrad said...

Louis Armstrong was a notorious marijuana smoker, and proud of it. So was Fats Waller, who wrote "The Vipers Drag" about smoking "a reefer five foot long, mighty mez, but not too strong." A viper was a jazz musician who smoked marijuana. Today, there is a fantastic band called the New Orleans Jazz Vipers.