Important Facts To Know About Marijuana Tax Act (1937)

AskGrowers Staff

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Reviewed by Denys Svirepchuk



6 min
Important Facts To Know About Marijuana Tax Act (1937)

Did you know that marijuana was legal in the USA until the infamous Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 was implemented?

In August of 1937, the endeavors of the cannabis prohibitionist Harry Anslinger bore fruits as on the 2nd of this month, and The Marijuana Tax Act officially became law. The President in the Office at that time, Franklin D Roosevelt signed the bill and rendered it the first-ever law based on weed in the United States. The law became effective from October of the same year entailing that everyone who is in possession or wants to possess marijuana should obtain a tax stamp first.

Well, obtaining a tax stamp required the individuals to disclose everything about the substance they possess, including the quantity they possess and its location. The individuals would end up in prison in the process.

However, although the Act had a good run of over 30 years in the country, it was repealed in 1970 by Congress. They passed the Controlled Substances Act to maintain the illegality of the substance in the country. So, according to the federal government, the ban continues, but it is up to the states to regulate cannabis in their regions. Therefore, eight states have legalized recreational and medicinal marijuana in the US as of now.

What Led To The Ban Of Weed?

Before we proceed with the facts, you should know why the country required a ban on marijuana in the first place.

Well, the truth goes back to the early 1900s when more and more individuals have started becoming addicted to marijuana. Therefore, many states had taken up the exercise to restrict these, then considered, malicious drugs. In the 1930s, all the states had some regulation or the other in action to control the consumption of marijuana in their jurisdiction.

Another step taken by the US in those times, precisely in 1925, is that they became a part of the International Opium Convention. So, they strongly condemned the practice of exporting Indian hemp, a variety of marijuana, to countries that have banned them. Therefore, even the US was importing the amount which was quintessential for medicinal or scientific purposes.

The commissioner to the Federal Bureau of Narcotics ( the organization that was into action before DEA ) Harry Anslinger, declared marijuana as a " national menace. " He described the effect of consuming marijuana as unpredictable and potentially destructive.

Aslinger didn't leave any stone unturned to ensure that marijuana was banned in the country. To strengthen his congressional testimony, he cited the examples of individuals belonging to minority communities who had committed crimes in the past under the effect of weed. Moreover, the south-western and western parts of the country were getting flooded with an increasing number of migrants who were bringing in new forms of cannabis and their concentrates. The migrant population that scared the US the most at that time was that coming from the Middle East and Mexico.

Although the apex medical body in America, the American Medical Association testified that there is no scientific evidence that proves that marijuana is harmful to the human body, Aslinger didn't rest his case here. A 90-second debate followed the 1-hour long congressional address. Once all the parliamentary bodies had passed the bill, it finally reached the president's desk for the seal of approval.

The Provisions Of The Act

The provisions of the Marijuana Tax Act were not very complicated. All individuals who were involved in the purchase, sale, import, cultivation, or prescribing of the drug were supposed to pay a tax of $ 1 to the government. Any individual who was found not adhering to the law could face imprisonment of 5 years and /or fine of $ 2,000. Remember, to two grand of those times amount to approximately $34,000 today, if you add the inflation.

The executors of this law were the Federal Bureau of Narcotics. They were allowed to conduct investigations and arrest the individuals violating the law.

For instance, if a doctor wanted to prescribe marijuana to a patient, they must first provide all the information regarding the patient along with medical history, the reason for prescribing the drug, and from where did they obtain the drug to the authorities. In case of any failure, FBN could hold a serious investigation on the physician and the patient.

The Impact Of Marijuana Tax Act, 1937

Ever since the USA has declared the “ war on drugs ", the rate of crime has dropped significantly in the country due to stricter law enforcement. The Drug, the Policy Alliance, issued reports from 2014 the which Indicates That amongst the more than 700,000 offenders of the drug is the control Act arrested that year, 88% simply possessed them.

Another concern of the US government, which was addressed with a ban on marijuana was to control the expansion of ' gateway drugs '. Yes, weed may not be as harmful to human health; then again, the individuals who get addicted and accustomed to its high once may feel encouraged to try other substances too.

However, no research scientists, who have been hard at studying the effects of marijuana, ever confirmed that it could prompt the users to switch to harder drugs. This claim was immediately waved off by Anslinger.

The government repealed the Marijuana Tax Act when Timothy Leary filed a case, contesting the authorities, questioning the legality of the Act. So, the court realized and accepted that the law violated the 5th amendment in the constitution. So, in 1969, the law was dismantled. However, the authorities could not let marijuana flow freely in the country, so they implemented the Controlled Substances Act without any delay. Now, marijuana still remains illegal.

The time when these acts came into force was perhaps too young to allow individuals free access to drugs for recreation. This is the reason why now more and more states are legalizing the use of medicinal and recreational pot in the country. Apart from the 30 states that have accepted the medicinal vantages of marijuana and legalized it for the purpose, there are a few who have voted in favor of legalization of weed for recreational purposes as well.

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