If you're a bonafide stoner, you already know what 4:20 pm, especially on a Friday afternoon, is all about. The less said about that the better.
But do you know what happened on this day exactly 100 years ago? Here's a hint: it happened in Massachusetts and it involved pot, although that's not what it was called at the time.
Dale Gieringer of the California chapter of NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, knows.
The answer after the jump . . .
Today, 100 years ago, Massachusetts enacted the very first law in the United States of America that prohibited the use of marijuana. Anyone violating the new statute faced a $100 fine and up to six months in jail, with three months behind bars for anyone who even happened to be present when said pot smoking took place. Apparently, cannabis was added to the statute, which mostly focused on “hypnotic” drugs like opium, at the last minute.
“Ironically, there is no record of any public concern about cannabis at the time,” Gieringer says. “'Marijuana,' the Mexican name for cannabis leaf rolled into cigarettes, was still unknown outside a few border settlements in the Southwest.”
The most interesting aspect of America's first pot ban, according to Gieringer?
“Significantly, the law expressly permitted pharmaceutical sales of cannabis, the medical value of which was widely acknowledged at the time. Only in 1937 was medical cannabis suppressed at the insistence of federal narcotics boss Harry Anslinger, whose last century “reefer madness” policy sadly remains with us today.”
Gierenger also points out that Massachusetts' law seems to have helped stir public interest in marijuana and possibly helped increase its recreational use. “In sum, the evidence is overwhelming that the 100-year war on cannabis has failed,” he concludes. “In practice, prohibition has served as a crime-creation program, criminalizing otherwise innocent Americans, promoting a criminal market, and generating disrespect for the law. In the wake of this historic failure, public support for re-legalizing marijuana has recently risen to record levels, reaching majorities in the West Coast and New England.”
You can read Gieringer's essay about this historic occasion in an essay published today on CANORML's website.