With the passage in Montana of I-190 we have joined California, Washington, Oregon, and a few other “Liberal” states in making the purchase and use of marijuana jail time free. It has been about 100 years since its use became a social stigma, then illegal in the United States. Marijuana use was blamed for everything from mild insanity to the insatiable urge to massacre hundreds of people at one time. How could something that was once in common use become so bad and then good again? I’d like to say it was common sense that caused many people to realize that people peddling the horror stories of marijuana were just blowing so much smoke, but for a long, long time in America and the world a lot of people suffered from the most serious effects of marijuana use, namely jail time, and sometimes lots of it.
Before the 1920s there were a fair number of drugs that could be had for the asking at the local drug store; cocaine, codeine, and even heroin. In fact, in a book entitled “Chasing the Scream, the First and last Days of the War on Drugs” by Johann Hari the story goes that a young man who grew up to be the head of anti-drug efforts in America, Harry J. Anslinger, was motivated to begin his anti-drug career as head of the Federal Narcotics Bureau by the screams of a woman suffering from heroin withdrawal. Fortunately for the woman and the peace of the neighborhood Anslinger was, at that very moment, bringing her a packet of heroin from the pharmacy where he was employed as an errand boy.
But back to marijuana, also known as spleef, ganja, weed, mary jane, muggles, pot, and a host of other interesting names. The irony is that while it was illegal it was a sort of a mild sedative, not very strong at all, and it was only after the strength of marijuana increased a hundredfold that it became legal. It is sort of like outlawing beer but not whiskey.
There have been several reasons why the “War on Drugs” has petered out. The major one was that it wasn’t very