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Cannabis Prohibition History

Cannabis prohibition has a long and complicated history in the United States. It is important to understand the history of the prohibition of cannabis in order to better understand its long-term effects on American society.

The marijuana tax act of 1937 was the first significant step taken by the US government to regulate the use of cannabis. This Act imposed an excise tax on all transfers of cannabis and set up a framework for the enforcement of cannabis prohibition.

The Act had a number of long-term consequences that continue to shape American society today. This article will explore the history of cannabis prohibition in the US and examine its impact on American society.

Early Beginnings of Cannabis Prohibition in the US

In the beginning of the 20th century, the regulation of a certain botanical substance had its initial stirrings in the United States.

While cannabis had been used medicinally in the past, the onset of the 20th century saw a shift in its perception, largely influenced by racial bias.

Reports from the press of the time conveyed the plant’s supposedly devastating effects on users, primarily linking it to the influx of Mexican immigrants and their subsequent use of the substance.

As a result, state governments began passing laws to restrict the use of cannabis, with California being the first in 1913.

The trend continued throughout the decade, with 29 of the 48 states enacting laws to criminalize the possession and sale of cannabis by the end of the 1920s.

These early regulations set the stage for the full-scale prohibition of cannabis that was to come in the decades following.

The Marijuana Tax Act of 1937

Passed in 1937, the Marijuana Tax Act dramatically altered the landscape of drug use in America. It was the first federal law that criminalized the possession and sale of cannabis, although it did not make the use of the drug illegal.

The Act imposed heavy taxes on all activities related to cannabis, including medical use, and made it virtually impossible to legally obtain the drug. As a result of this legislation, it became much harder for physicians to prescribe cannabis for medicinal purposes, leading to potentially serious medical repercussions.

In addition, the Act was viewed by many as having racial implications, as the drug was associated with certain minority populations and criminalized disproportionately.

The Impact of Cannabis Prohibition on American Society

The criminalization of cannabis under the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 had far-reaching implications for American society.

The criminalization of cannabis led to a decrease in its medical uses, as it was no longer legally available for medical use.

Additionally, the criminalization of cannabis perpetuated racial issues in the United States, as the anti-cannabis campaign was largely driven by racist motivations and disproportionately impacted individuals of color.

This criminalization has led to an increase in rates of incarceration and criminalization for individuals of color, even when their use of cannabis was not significantly different from their white counterparts.

Furthermore, the criminalization of cannabis has had a negative effect on the mental health of individuals in the United States, as cannabis use has been linked to improved mental health outcomes in some cases.


The history of cannabis prohibition in the US has been one of continual evolution, with different laws and regulations having been enacted over time to reflect changes in public opinion and the social climate.

The Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 was the first major piece of legislation to criminalize cannabis, and it had a far-reaching impact on American society. This act was a pivotal moment in the history of cannabis prohibition, setting in motion a series of events that would lead to further restrictions on the sale, possession, and use of the drug.

As a result, cannabis prohibition has had a significant effect on the US population, from creating criminal records for those convicted of cannabis-related offenses, to creating barriers for those seeking to access medical cannabis.

While it is clear that cannabis prohibition has had a negative impact on many people, it has also helped to reduce the availability and abuse of the drug.

Lesley Murr
Lesley Murr
Lesley R. Murr, American vegan activist and writer, travels throughout Southeast Asia exploring vegan cuisine and eco-friendly product producers. She blogs about vegan health, recipes, and products. Her passion for animals guides her writings, and she's currently based out of Belmont, California.
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