The Racist Origins of Cannabis Prohibition

Often for­got­ten in the debates of today, the ori­gins of drug pro­hib­i­tion show us the eth­os behind a men­tal­ity which was happy to stig­mat­ise entire groups of people, to the point of cre­at­ing laws again­st them by proxy. Rather than dir­ectly attack immig­rant or sub­jug­ated groups, it was far too easy for those in power to attack their source of fun, espe­cially when they were wor­ried that such sub­stances ten­ded to break down bar­ri­ers between humans, and per­haps even lead to inter­ra­cial rela­tion­ships. South Africa played home to some of the wor­st segreg­a­tion the plan­et has ever seen, and it’s in that very same nation that can­nabis was being attacked, long before Europeans or Amer­ic­ans decided to crack down on its use.

The first video below tells us the his­tory of can­nabis demon­isa­tion in Africa, while the second tells the tale of Chinese immig­rants in Amer­ica, and their con­nec­tion with opi­um. Finally, to round off our won­der­ful his­tory les­son, I give you Mex­ic­ans and ‘marijuana’, or ‘can­nabis’ as it’s known, when not uttered by some­body try­ing to form a link between a nar­cot­ic and an eth­nic group.

Oh, but don’t fear, it’s not like the very people in charge of enfor­cing these laws are racist, right? Pro­hib­i­tion was built on racism, and des­pite racism no longer being accept­able in most places, soci­ety has for­got­ten that it’s not ok to stig­mat­ise and pun­ish people simply for how they are or what they do. People need to be reminded of this fact, and have par­al­lels drawn for them in order to high­light the absurdity of their inher­ently pre­ju­diced think­ing.

To this day we see a dis­pro­por­tion­ate num­ber of eth­nic minor­it­ies arres­ted for drug offences, and you have to won­der if this plays a part in an appar­ently racist insti­tu­tion not being so quick to call bull­shit on the war on some users of some drugs.

 

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Azad Kamall

About Azad Kamall

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