Virginia outlaws marijuana

Posted by | February 6, 2017

By 1937, when “Drug Czar” Harry Anslinger, then Commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, introduced the Marihuana [sic] Tax Act to Congress, lurid testimonies were being introduced that cannabis caused “murder, insanity and death.” And just the year before, the film now known as cult classic Reefer Madness was financed by a church group and made under the title Tell Your Children. This highly exaggerated exploitation film revolved around the tragic events that follow when high school students are lured by pushers to try “marihuana:” wild parties with jazz music lead to a hit and run accident, manslaughter, suicide, rape, and descent into madness.

Reefer Madness still photoBut despite the national media hype, most states passed anti-drug laws without much scientific study or debate and without attracting public attention.

In Virginia, for example, the Uniform Narcotic Drug Act passed the House 88-0 on February 16, 1934, and was approved 34-0 by the Senate on February 22. Although the Act as passed in Virginia contained no marijuana provisions, the same legislature the next month passed a bill (H.B. 236), prohibiting “use of opium, marijuana [and] loco weed … in the manufacture of cigarettes, cigars” and other tobacco products. This law, which amended a 1910 Virginia statute prohibiting the use of opium in the manufacture of cigarettes, was the first mention of marijuana, or any of its derivatives, in the Virginia Code.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch, the newspaper of the state capital and perhaps the most influential newspaper in the state at that time, for the period surrounding the enactment of these two provisions (February 1 to March 15, 1934) shows clearly that little, if any, public attention attended their passage.

There is no mention at any time of H.B. 236. As for H.B. 94 (the Uniform Act), the Times Dispatch reported on February 7 that the bill had been introduced. This announcement was buried among the list of all bills introduced and referred on February 6. In a February 12 article dealing with “controversial” bills before the House and Senate that week no mention was made of H.B. 94. On March 6, the newspaper recorded: “Among the important bills passed were. . . . [far down the list] the Scott bill, making the State narcotic law conform to the Federal statute.”

That is the sum of the publicity received by the Uniform Act and the statute that first regulated marijuana in any way in Virginia.


3 Responses

  • John Weiss says:

    Hah! Outlawing Marijuana was a pretty lucrative business for some wasn’t it?

    Follow the money.

  • John Weiss says:

    Were they scared the marijuana smoking would cut into tobacco use?

    So stupid.

  • John K says:

    They are were not worried about cigarette use or any of that. If they were worried about cigarettes they would do something about it. Keeping marijuana and probably even more important hemp illegal is because of capitalism. Textile companies, oil companies, and corrupt politicians and many more are bankrolling prohibition without any regard for what the masses of our country want. Yes our politics are always catching up to where we really are as a country but this is about the money. Not health, not your kids having easy access to drugs none of that. Someone wearing a very nice suit and tie lying to your face on t.v. is laughing all the way to the bank.

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