For thousands of years, hemp (cannabis) has been one of the most widely cultivated agricultural crops known to man. Cultivated for paper, fabric, building materials, oil, medication and a source of protein for both humans and animals, it really has numerous uses. So why was it banned and why are people still so afraid of it?
Times are changing, and people are certainly more enlightened than they were a few decades ago when it comes to cannabis. However, marijuana, as it came to be known, is still seen as a dangerous drug that is a gateway drug to worse substances and is still seen as something that is only used by hippies, drop-outs and losers. How did this happen?
Cannabis and the power of the media
It was only in the 1930’s that cannabis was actually re-branded as marijuana – an evil drug that was ruining white American families. This was largely due to the influence of a man named William Hearst who owned a chain of as many as 30 newspapers in major American cities at the time.
Hearst had a vested interest in manufacturing paper from trees, not hemp, and so cannabis production was a direct threat to his newspaper empire. He used his media power to conjure up and run stories about cannabis being a horrific drug and was commended by judges, lawyers and politicians for “pioneering the national fight against dope”. His “pioneering against dope” was nothing of the sort, he wanted to protect his own wood pulp products against the industrial use of hemp. In fact, it is no secret that Hearst routinely invented and published sensational stories, fake interviews and pictures and he also distorted real events in order to win more readers and get marijuana banned. It worked. In 1937, the Marijuana Tax Act was passed, which meant marijuana was prohibited and this effectively stopped the production of hemp and cannabis products in America, allowing his paper businesses to flourish.
When you have money and power over the media, you can pretty quickly convince most of the population to believe anything you want. To this day, millions of people believe just about everything the mainstream media publishes as if it were gospel truth.
The perception remains that cannabis causes serious psychological harm in some people, like severe anxiety, paranoia, coordination and in worse cases, bipolar depression or schizophrenia. It is said to affect the heart and cause infertility. While there is truth in this, one can argue that alcohol and prescription drugs are abused on a daily basis by millions of people. Alcohol abuse causes social problems like spouse and child abuse, causes fatal accidents when heavy drinkers on on the roads, causes people to lose their money, their memory and it can ruin family life. Abuse is abuse, whether it’s abusing alcohol or marijuana. What brings fear to people is the blind belief in the propaganda of the media and being close-minded and unwilling to test their beliefs.
As the economy spirals downwards, however, things are changing. Cannabis is catching the eye of forward thinking states as they realise this harmless plant can generate revenues. The bottom line is always money, which unfortunately needs to be the focus to keep the marijuana movement moving forward. Politicians don’t really care about health benefits, they want to provide tax revenue to lighten the load on their constituency in order to further their political careers. Already, many have flipped from fighting a “war on drugs” to legalization of this useful plant.