In the mid-1930’s as the debate surrounding marijuana raged - rooted in some dubious reasons - one of the major concerns of the time was the safety of cannabis consumption.
At the time very little was known about the cannabis plant beyond how to grow, refine, and consume them. This was simply due to a lack of technology at the time, later in 1964 the active ingredient in marijuana (THC) was discovered by scientists in Israel.
What was known at the time was the weed was not the enemy. In fact, marijuana was commonly prescribed by doctors of the day and was even available as an over the counter remedy for most every ailments. From joint pain, to insomnia, and even gout, books from the early twentieth century rave about cannabis use and even provide dosages and extraction instructions.
A lot of literature from the early 1900’s featured side effects, common uses, and even recommended sativa or indica for certain treatments.
Because of the cannabis plants natural healing properties, ease of access for most patients, and unlikelihood of overdoses or negative side effects, many doctors advocated to protect the plants legal status in the United States, something they felt was in the best interest of health for Americans.
Don’t underestimate the power of corporate influences, even then. Unsurprising to some, America's growing corporate presence played an influential role in the crusade against pot.
By the 1930’s industrial hemp was being portrayed as America’s new miracle crop, our product of the future! While industrial hemp is still a cannabis plant, it’s naturally extremely low in THC, but is incredibly fibrous and easy to grow.
Industrial hemp also has very high yields naturally, is much easier to grow than most crops, and is unbelievably versatile - it can be made in anything from cereal to explosives.
The profitability of industrial and it’s growing popularity among farmers and consumers caught the attention of some of America's most powerful families of the day in some of the oldest and largest industries in the country - timber and paper.
Major controllers of timber and paper industries - including the DuPont family, W.R. Hearst, and Andrew Mellon - all funneled major funding into the anti-cannabis campaigns and related propaganda, as well as big prohibition players like Henry Anslinger.
Up until the prohibition weed was not just medication or textile, it was also a social activity. As early as the 19th century, there are records of growing numbers of social consumption hangouts, “lounges” that begin to appear. The social toking fad took a popular uptick in France, and France being, well , France, it quickly became popular in other countries as well - including America.
Archives of old New York newspapers hold random blurbs about happenings surrounding local smoke lounges as early as the 1890’s, and quickly gained favor among young American socialites.
Around the same time, it was also becoming a favorite treat of the everyday working American farmer and rancher, who often lit up after long days of tough labor in the elements.
Weed was viewed as a social event, kind of like having a beer with the guys, from the wild west to 5th Ave. Reefer madness would eventually pit the two different social classes against each other, depicting marijuana as a plight of the lower class and even demonizing the cannabis plant as “Devil’s Harvest”.