The Tainted Herb – The History of Marijuana Stigma

The Tainted Herb – The History of Marijuana Stigma

July 10, 2019

Cannabis shows a lucrative and deep history which influences our arts, commerce, transportation, literature, and as a form of monetary exchange. As Cannabis is one of the most resourceful plants there is, imagine the improvements in the current quality of life. But before the re-build destruction is necessary. And "alcohol, tobacco industries and a large number of chemical corporations" would have less business.

In the land of liberty, nothing can halt you from verbally expressing your opinion. The coined phrase, freedom of speech, invoked by the first amendment, gives Americans the power to speak their mind. So, you can freely speak your mind but in actuality, where are those thoughts formulated?

A large portion of Americans form their notions from religious teachings, social interest, and racial outlooks. All of which can be thrown into political introspect. We saw this first hand during the 2016 presidential election and ongoing today; Christians giving support to the pro life candidate, blue lives matter supporters siding with law enforced policies, and 94% of the black community voting for the party who recognizes discrimination.


Sadly, within those heartfelt opinions is a lack of experience and/or a predisposed view on the matter, creating a bias. An individual's unknowing prejudice can judge the situation, not necessarily from a negative or positive standpoint but by that of an inexperienced and ill-advised individual. The three notions; religious teachings, social interest, and racial outlook, are taught in favor to the interest of those teaching. Naturally causing a cloud of confusion, where the Washington Post phrase is captured perfectly. "If you don’t get it, you don’t get it."

Cannabis stigmas have been cultivated in part by those we structure our lives to and formulate opinions for. Political figures and those leading religious officials continue to be the origin of individuals receiving their views on marijuana. Nonetheless, these figures would only cultivate their opinion based off of their studies of marijuana usage, growth, botany, and herbology, right? Or perhaps, to control their followers with their own selfish desires. You decide.

Marijuana Stigma: Politics

After 45 years, more than $1 trillion wasted, and the creation of the world's largest prison system, America still lacks the political will to change its failed drug policy.

Marijuana Richard NixonPresident Richard Nixon labeled marijuana as a Schedule I drug in 1970, due to the rise in heroin usage, stating, "to defeat the war on drugs, we need to wage a new all out offensive”. An honorable endocrine, yet, decrypted and you get mass raids of urban households, life sentences to what today would be classified as a misdemeanor in Maryland, and defacing the production and movement of blacks in America. Now, here's the kicker... Later, sources from his 1968 political campaign would state that Nixon wanted to simply criminalize black and brown people, as well as those of the "hippy" communities, knowingly educated on the true effects of marijuana. Therefore, producing negative stigmas against black, brown, and the hippy community.


Enter DARE - Just Say No - War on Drugs. One of the most destructive times for African Americans and marijuana. President Ronald Reagan alongside his wife Nancy, criminalized marijuana through executive orders, media depiction, and the impotent DARE frenzy. Their covert tactics started with misinformed schooled children on the effects of marijuana, leading millions of Americans to believe marijuana was as dangerous as crack. This in turn would lead to the penalization of cannabis users. Reagan made sure of this by stating; "We must mobilize all our forces to stop the flow of drugs into this country” and to “brand drugs such as marijuana exactly for what they are—dangerous,”. So, an already popular president campaigning on Nixon’s “War on Drugs” lead to an anti-marijuana America. Millions of people believed in these "fixed" dangers marijuana posed by supporting the Anti-Drug Abuse Act, the Comprehensive Crime Control Act, and ignoring the racial militaristic actions taken against African Americans.  

Read more about The Disastrous Legacy Of Nancy Reagan’s ‘Just Say No’ Campaign.

Weed Stigma: Religion


Marijuana NunsJust as laws vary from state to state, religious stigmas towards marijuana vary as well. The law seems to have a hand in persuading religious denomination notions on recreational and medicinal marijuana usage. For example, some churches may feel marijuana is not wrong as long it's used for appropriate pain management and health recovery. However, some religions, such as Jehovah Witnesses ignore new profound marijuana studies and structure their teachings to their existing religious policies. Within their website at, more than thirty years of outdated information on marijuana is taught.

Vintage posters from the early Cannabis prohibition reveal the kind of audience they were targeting, and that would be Christians of the period. Christianity was then as it is now, a major religion and has been... well... since the "birth of Christ". I'm not looking to spark a religious debate, so let me just say that I don't think that it was right for the propaganda artists of early prohibition to use people's own religion as a means to instill fear in them, and not facts. You can find more Anti-marijuana propaganda posters here.

Via Westwrod

Opinions from doctors, scientist, and psychiatric are listed to show their intelligent diagnosis on the substance. However, if you continue to read, the information dates from 1977 to 1981. All of which label marijuana as a danger to the mind. Furthermore, back to favoring their religious teachings, Jehovah Witnesses are taught from an unnamed Harvard University study, that marijuana is unsafe due to lung damage, comparing its effects to heavy cigarette users. I strongly encourage you to visit to view their unbelievably outdated stance on marijuana. You might want to find the stance your religion has on marijuana as well.

Cannabis Stigma: Society & Culture

Snoop Dogg Pounds Rocketship Straight Ice Herb Water PipeMarijuana first appearance on Capital Hill was fueled out of pure racism, allowing law enforcement agencies, such as the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, to legally raid and jail those of minority communities. However, this was not the start of marijuana prejudice; the racial epidemic started with Mexico. Marijuana usage in Mexico was legal and it was part of the culture to smoke. Later, the Mexican Revolution of 1910 would lead thousands of Mexicans to immigrate to America, largely in Texas.In today's America, the main obstacle to marijuana legalization is the common, uninformed and historically embedded prejudice against cannabis and its users. Such condemnation mostly shared by people who casually celebrate the use of alcohol, a well known dangerous and addictive substance/drug. Double standards!

During this time in America, marijuana was favorably referred to as cannabis by medical journals and news reports but the new wave of Mexican immigrants changed Americas tolerance towards the herb. Rumors started to spread, that Mexicans consuming marijuana gained superhuman strength as well as a thirst for blood. This became the face of MJ. So, fast forward to the 80’s - marijuana was being defaced, largely because of its minority users, and back to 1910, where cannabis is being distorted because of its’ Mexican ties.

Conclusion: Marijuana Propaganda

Reefer MadnessIn order for marijuana to be looked at through a positive lens, nation wide, our message must touch the hearts of these political and religious leaders as well as straighten societies confused state by the the spread of propaganda.  Americans have been fooled from the start. Marijuana's debut spotlight in 1910, came in the form of racism, claiming Mexicans gained superhuman strength and a lust for blood. Followed by the 1930’s crazed “Women cry for it - Men die for it! Reefer Madness” and so on through Nixon and Reagan’s presidential terms. We need to continue the push of educating each with up-to-date information and studies backing that information. Marijuana will continue in the direction of prominent perspectives and soon be given its rightfully superior stigma, as those of its community spread the truth. This will be the first step in overcoming more than a hundred years of conviction, persecution, and the ostracism of an earthly jewel.  


My Opinion

As this occurs the emerging reunion of cannabis/hemp. May potentially result in potential end of world hunger, boost economy, makes biodegradable plastic, create fine clothes. The founders of this country utilized hemp "Make the most of the hemp seed. Sow it everywhere" ~ George Washington.

The medicinal properties have been well known and being further studied today. "From 1850-1937, cannabis was used as the prime medicine for more than 100 separate illnesses or diseases in U.S. Pharmacopeia".Soon the big pharmaceutical and medical insurance companies will be acknowledging cannabis, and will cause a systematic financial transformation.

In closing our history can give us hints to what is happening in the near future. As oil-based plastics continue to be overused. There is proof in history of great alternative biodegradable plastics in hemp. As for recreational usage that is a personal choice, and does not devalue the Cannabis plant contributions.

Editor's Note: This post was originally published in October 2016 and has been completely revamped and updated as needed for accuracy and comprehensiveness.