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Lifestyle, Politics

A Closer Look at Black History Month and Cannabis Prohibition

Ashley Priest

by Ashley Priest

February 18, 2020 10:53 am ET Estimated Read Time: 3 Minutes
A Closer Look at Black History Month and Cannabis Prohibition

The month of February is dedicated to Black history. Throughout the month, iconic figures from the African American community are recognized for their achievements and contributions to society. A part of Black History Month that was often not mentioned was one having to do with cannabis. The early prohibition of this plant targeted minorities and women. Cannabis prohibition was born from racism and based on a foundation of falsehoods. It was successfully implemented through the exasperating efforts of Harry J Anslinger. 

Black History and the Origins of Cannabis Prohibition

Anslinger was the first commissioner to serve the US Treasury department’s newly-founded Federal Bureau of Narcotics. At his lead, cannabis prohibition effectively began in 1937 with the signing of the MJ Tax Act. By the time the signing of this act took place, many other places had already criminalized cannabis, such as Massachusetts. The draconian cannabis prohibition in the past was founded on racial statements made by Harry J. Anslinger himself.

Here are some of the lighter racist statements of the past that helped to fuel a war that has detrimentally affected the African American and minority communities across the nation. A quick google search would certainly bring many more evil quotes to light.

  • The primary reason to outlaw marijuana is its effect on the degenerate races.
  • There are one hundred thousand total marijuana smokers in the US, and most are negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos, and entertainers. Their satanic music, jazz, and swing, the result of marijuana usage.

Thanks to the effort of countless cannabis advocates, progress is being made to not only recognize the racist past of cannabis prohibition but to correct it. The Minority Cannabis Business Association (MSBA) is a 501c founded back in 2015. They’re a great example of a group working to the right the wrongs of the past.

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  • Larger purchase limits
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The MCBA Vision

“The cannabis industry will maximize its unique potential to serve as an economic accelerator and creator of opportunity and improve critical social and health measures.”

The MCBA Mission

“Our mission is to create equal access for cannabis businesses and promote economic empowerment for communities of color by creating policy considerations, social programming, and outreach initiatives to achieve equity for the communities most affected by the war on drugs.”

According to, African Americans have a 3.73% higher chance of being arrested over cannabis than white people. The majority of arrests for cannabis between 2001 and 2010, for example, were for only marijuana possession with the prevalence of those arrests being arrests of minorities. 

Small Steps with Big Benefits

Maryland, New Hampshire, Oregon, Colorado, and others have past initiatives and laws to help expunge or seal records for those convicted of crimes related to cannabis such as possession, manufacturing, or cultivation. Other states such as New York have recognized the significance and importance of policy and procedures such as this and are currently working programs for their states.

Cannabis prohibition needs to end. The United States shows all-time support for cannabis legalization. This isn’t the first time, though. The people have wanted cannabis to be legal since our corrupt government took the plant from us early last century. This is evident in the reports released throughout the past including the LaGuardia committee report of 1944 and the Shafer Commission report of 1972.  This year for Black History Month, we invite you to share the stories of the African Americans that have influenced you and the activists on the frontlines today trying to right the wrongs of the past!

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