An open letter to the Calaveras County Board of Supervisors:

Greetings, Honorable Board of Supervisors.

I want to commend you today for your choice last week to regulate rather than ban cannabis cultivation in Calaveras County. It took some courage and wisdom to make that decision in the emotional climate of turmoil and conflict surrounding the issue. You really didn’t have a choice to ban it. Your choice was limited to having a regulated market or an unregulated black market. You made the right choice.

“Restrictions and labeling of cannabis as a poison began in many states from 1906 onward. Outright prohibitions began in the 1920s. By the mid-1930s cannabis was regulated as a drug in every state, including 35 states that adopted the Uniform State Narcotic Drug Act. The first national regulation was the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937” (Wikipedia)

The legal regulation of cannabis or marijuana began in the United States a century ago. Here we are a century later still talking about banning it. If a ban was going to work, it would have worked long ago.

Why was marijuana ever illegal?

“The short answer is racism. At the turn of the 20th century, cannabis – as it was then commonly known in the United States – was a little-used drug among Americans. With the start of the Mexican Revolution in 1910, however, many Mexicans began moving to the United States, and they brought with them the tradition of smoking marihuana. Amid a growing fear of Mexican immigrants, hysterical claims about the drug began to circulate, such as allegations that it caused a “lust for blood.” In addition, the term cannabis was largely replaced by the Anglicized marijuana, which some speculated was done to promote the foreignness of the drug and thus stoke xenophobia. Around this time many states began passing laws to ban pot.

In the 1930s Harry J. Anslinger, head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, turned the battle against marijuana into an all-out war. Some believe that he was motivated less by safety concerns – the vast majority of scientists he surveyed claimed that the drug was not dangerous – and more by a desire to promote his newly created department. Whatever the impetus, Anslinger sought a federal ban on the drug, and to this end he initiated a high-profile campaign that relied heavily on racism. Anslinger claimed that the majority of pot smokers were minorities, including African Americans, and that marijuana had a negative effect on these “degenerate races,” such as inducing violence or causing insanity. Furthermore, he noted, “Reefer makes darkies think they’re as good as white men.” Perhaps even more worrisome to Anslinger was pot’s supposed threat to white women’s virtue. He believed that smoking pot would result in their having sex with black men.

Aided by an eager news media – and such propaganda films as Reefer Madness (1936) – Anslinger eventually oversaw the passage of the Marihuana Tax Act in 1937, which effectively made the drug illegal across the United States. Although declared unconstitutional in 1969, it was replaced by the Controlled Substances Act the following year. That legislation classified marijuana – as well as heroin and LSD, among others – as a Schedule1 drug. Perhaps unsurprisingly, racism was also evident in the enforcement of the law. According to some studies, African Americans in the early 21st century were nearly four times more likely than whites to be arrested on marijuana-related charges – despite both groups having similar usage rates.” (Encyclopedia Britannica)

You made the right choice.

Will Moore,

Valley Springs


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