Editorial: Cannabis and the courts: Expungement is an important step forward; Maryland should keep going

Read the editorial in the Baltimore Sun by JOTF senior policy advocate Kam Bridges on cannabis history and Maryland legislative efforts during the 2023 Session.

“Marijuana is racist. Not the drug itself, but the word. Derived from Mexican slang for cannabis, “marihuana” was not originally an established part of the American lexicon. But that changed when Harry Anslinger, the first commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics in the U.S. Treasury Department, began to use the foreign sounding term in a concerted effort to stigmatize cannabis usage by connecting it to Mexicans. While his tactics specifically targeted Mexicans, his racist motivations were much broader. He is quoted as saying, “Reefer makes darkies think they’re as good as white men. The primary reason to outlaw marijuana is its effect on the degenerate races.”

Anslinger’s campaign was instrumental to the passage of the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937, which paved the way for the Boggs Act of 1952 and the Narcotics Control Act of 1956. These two latter laws set mandatory sentences of 2 to 10 years for convictions of first-time cannabis possession. While the War on Drugs is commonly linked to the Nixon and Reagan administrations, their tactics were simply inspired by Anslinger’s playbook of the ‘40s and ‘50s to associate people of color with drug use and crime in order to justify incarcerative policies.”

Read more here.