Why William Randolph Hearst Provided the Platform to Create the Devastating Marijuana Prohibition?

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As the failed cannabis prohibition slowly coming to an end, many people coming across marijuana only now wonder: Why was it prohibited in the first place?

Young folks that don’t know as much about the stigmatized past, all they can see is a plant that is nothing short of a medical miracle… and for some reason, it is against the law to possess and use it.

Cannabis has been prohibited for 80 years this year, despite its unmatched safety profile and effectiveness as a medicine. Who would have done this 80 years ago and what was the motivation behind it? Who is responsible for withholding the safest therapeutic substance from humanity?

It is well known that Harry Anslinger is largely responsible for this crime, however, Anslinger did not do it alone. The most notable co-offender is William Randolph Hearst, the all powerful media mogul of the time.

harry anslinger

Anslinger was a bureaucrat cementing prohibition into the American and later the world history (through his influence in the United Nations), while Hearst was a business person whose media empire provided a platform to spread misinformation on cannabis.

Cannabis presented a huge threat to a portfolio of budding business at the time, including the paper industry, due to hemp fibres superiority and sustainability compared to timber fibre.

WR Hearst spent his life building his media empire, while he was also heavily invested in the timber business at the time. Competition from hemp fibre was threatening Hearst’s business interest for a good reason. Fibre from hemp is not only better for producing paper, but it also takes only about 6 months to grow, while the same amount of timber fibre might take 3 or more years to produce. Hemp is simply producing better fibre cheaper.

Hearst was not alone in terms of his business interest being threatened by the prospects of hemp. Rockefeller was another powerful wealthy business person of these times, who had a different set of reasons to fear cannabis. Rockefeller was leading the development of the new pharmaceutical industry, and medical herbs, most especially something so effective and widely used as cannabis meant a massive competition for new pharmaceutical products.

Rockefeller did not like competition, most of us would have heard his famous quote:

“Competition is a sin.”

Cannabis was not only one of the most commonly used, safest and most effective medication at the time, but it was also easy to grow, therefore it made it hard to generate profit on for pharmaceuticals.

Besides Rockefeller’s pharma, another area that hemp threatened was the budding synthetic plastic industry that the DuPont Chemical Company had just begun to push. Hemp fibre was not something that DuPont wanted to see competing with synthetic petroleum based plastics.  

In the early 1930’s, the Great Depression hit America very hard creating the most severe economic downturn since the industrial revolution. Suddenly, thriving businesses found themselves in very tough financial situations and in their efforts to avoid further risk and damage to their business interests from a plant they felt the urge to do something about it quickly … even if it resulted in a serious crime against humanity.

Apart from the business interest, another drive for Hearst to use his influential position controlling the media in the United States to spread lies about cannabis was his racist world view.

Hearst was known for his hatred towards Mexicans, largely due to his loss of 800,000 acres of timber plantation that he blamed on the Mexican General, Pancho Villa.

He was well aware how the human psyche worked and knew that presenting Mexicans as the scapegoats in the midst of the economic downswing would help him not only spread his hatred against Mexicans and other communities of colour but would also help to sell his newspapers and magazines.

Hearst’s role in prohibition was substantial, as changing the public opinion on cannabis was no small task. Cannabis was such an effective medicine and provided crucial fibre supply that fuelled the US Military’s might.

They actually introduced a new name for cannabis, the misspelt Mexican made up word of ‘marijuana’ to be able to dissociate it from cannabis and to be able to demonize and ultimately outlaw cannabis for their financial and political interests.

Cannabis prohibition has nothing to do with the plant’s effects on their users, obviously, all the Reefer Madness propaganda was based on deliberate misleading lies.

The government and the public were aware of the benefits of hemp and even in the 1930’s, the Indian Hemp Drugs Commission’s Report as well as the Panama Canal Zone Military Investigation into Marijuana by the US Military studied the effects of cannabis on users and both reports advised against restricting public access to the plant.

Hearst deliberately used his influential media portfolio to spread misinformation on cannabis. He had access to every segment of the population through his popular newspapers and magazines and utilised these outlets aggressively to change public opinion.

Nobody really knew that this crazy dangerous new drug ‘marijuana’ was actually cannabis or hemp until it was later federally prohibited by the Marijuana Tax Act in 1937.

80 years of devastating marijuana prohibition is directly responsible for the death of millions of people, ruining lives and families and creating major health issues such as the current opioid crisis in the United States… all due to the financial interest and racial hatred of half a dozen or so individuals, one of whom happened to control the media at the time.

Great times to be alive to finally see this unfair and unjust corrupt marijuana prohibition deal crumble.

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Krisztian Panczel

Krisztian Panczel

I am stoked to be able to write for greendorphin.com as I’ve been passionate about the Cannabis plant in its every form since I was 14 years old. I have a bachelor degree of Agricultural Science and have studied plant production for 8 years. Meanwhile, I learned so much about plants that it was hard to miss the outstanding (quite incredible) qualities of this hugely versatile plant. After university I went on to build a career and recently I had the opportunity to return to this most passionate area of my life and have been writing about a wide variety of topics on Cannabis and Hemp.

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