From the Archives: Racism & Reefer (1990)

in Culture

Corporate greed isn’t the only factor which led to the prohibition of marijuana. As Jack Herer shows in this latest excerpt from The Emperor Wears No Clothes, racism, bigotry, and fear are also to blame.

Since the abolition of slavery, racism and bigotry have generally had to manifest themselves in America in less blatant forms. Cannabis prohibition laws illustrate again this institutional intolerance of racial minorities and show how prejudice hides behind rhetoric and laws which seem to have an entirely different purpose.

Smoking in America

The first known smoking of female cannabis tops in the Western hemisphere was in the 1870s in the West Indies (Jamaica, the Bahamas, Barbados, etc.). Cannabis arrived with the immigration of thousands of Indian Hindus imported by the British for cheap labor. By 1886, the Mexicans and black sailors who traded in those islands picked up on and spread marijuana use throughout the West Indies and into Mexico.

Marijuana smoking was generally used in the West Indies to ease the back-breaking work in the cane fields, to beat the heat, or to relax in the evenings without the threat of an alcohol hangover in the morning. Given this late 19th century area of usage—the Caribbean West Indies and Mexico—it is not surprising that the first recorded use of marijuana in the US was in the black dominated “Storeyville” section of New Orleans, Louisiana, frequented by sailors in 1909.

New Orleans’ Storeyville was filled with cabarets, brothels, music, and all the other accoutrements of “red light” districts the world over. Sailors from the Islands took their shore leave and their marijuana there.

The Public Safety Commissioner of New Orleans wrote that marijuana was the most frightening and vicious drug ever to hit New Orleans, and in 1910 warned that regular users might number as high …

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Author: High Times / High Times

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