The War on Marijuana in the United States: Part 2 – Propaganda to Prohibition (1920 – 1937)

In part one of this series, we learned that anti-cannabis sentiment first began to take root among Americans in the early years of the 20th century. By 1918, the majority of U.S. states had anti-cannabis legislation in place, and the general consensus among the American public was that cannabis was a dangerous, deadly drug associated with immigrants and lower-class society.

  • Race and class were key weapons that helped galvanize the early years of the War on Marijuana.
  • Alcohol prohibition in the early 1920s likely increased the use of marijuana in the U.S.
  • Harry Anslinger used lies, fear, and propaganda to get a powerful anti-weed message across in the 1930s.
  • In 1937, the Marihuana Tax Act effectively banned cannabis at the federal level.

As such, marijuana use in the United States was relatively low by the beginning of the 1920s. Historians argue that cannabis became more popular because of alcohol prohibition in 1919, but even so, marijuana was by no means a popular recreational drug for the average American in the early 1900s.

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