Profiles In Prohibitionism: Harry Anslinger- The Godfather of Reefer Madness

Any history of the Drug War, and especially Marijuana Prohibition, must begin with Harry Anslinger.

It is surprising how much harm an obscure bureaucrat can do. We all know about Hitler and Stalin and their henchmen like Himmler and Beria, but Harry Anslinger was instrumental in starting the ongoing global Drug War, and especially marijuana prohibition. It has resulted in tens of millions of arrests in the US alone, and countless deaths from the global suppression of the medical use of cannabis. He even managed to outlaw hemp (in the US) which had been an agricultural staple for millennia, grown by America’s “Founding Fathers”. 


He is a perfect manifestation of Hannah Arendt’s famous phrase: The Banality of Evil.

President Trump and Attorney General Bill Barr have denied that there is “systemic racism” in American law enforcement. However, the racist origins of marijuana prohibition are explicit in Anslinger’s work.


And America’s War on Drugs Has Treated People Unequally Since Its Beginning

Actually, Anslinger was a vicious racist. The Wikipedia article offers a few quotes:

“Colored students at the Univ. of Minn. partying with (white) female students, smoking [marijuana] and getting their sympathy with stories of racial persecution. Result: pregnancy.”

“Two Negros took a girl fourteen years old and kept her for two days under the influence of hemp. Upon recovery she was found to be suffering from syphilis.”

“Reefer makes d…. think they’re as good as white men.”

If you are offended by these quotes, complain to the DEA.

And don’t think this was simply a bureaucratic game. 

See The Hunting of Billie Holiday: How Lady Day was in the middle of a Federal Bureau of Narcotics fight for survival

His crowning achievement was the United Nations Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs which locked the U.S. into the Drug War, especially marijuana prohibition, by a treaty, which is still being used to justify banning cannabis around the world.

See Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs

This year there will be over 600,000 arrests for marijuana possession just in the US. More than for all the violent crimes combined, and African Americans will be arrested in numbers that are far out of proportion to their percentage of the population.

“Specifically, a 2020 analysis by the American Civil Liberties Union, concluded, “Black people are 3.64 times more likely than white people to be arrested for marijuana possession, notwithstanding comparable usage rates.” Authors reported, “In every single state, Black people were more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession, and in some states, Black people were up to six, eight, or almost ten times more likely to be arrested. In 31 states, racial disparities were actually larger in 2018 than they were in 2010.”


Racial Disparity In Marijuana Arrests

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