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Commemorating the Victims of Prohibition: A Brief History of Cannabis Prohibition

As a part of the cannabis industry, we at Jushi Holdings Inc. (“Jushi”) are a part of an incredible movement. Not only do we get to be a part of shaping this industry’s future, but we are also able to witness first-hand states legalizing cannabis - a substance that has been touted for millennia as integral to achieving wellness. However, cannabis is still largely illegal. Therefore, we are in a position to reduce stigma by educating consumers about cannabis to ensure people of all communities may bask in its benefits rather than be punished for using it, as some still are today.


Cannabis has had quite the history in the United States. In the early 1900s, citizens across the nation used cannabis in a variety of medicinal products. Generally, cannabis use was not only acceptable, but it was also rather common. In the early 1930s, Harry Anslinger, the head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, led a campaign to demonize both cannabis and its use. Once this campaign launched, societal opinion around cannabis began to shift. This change in opinion ultimately led to harsh legislation surrounding cannabis. In fact, on October 1, 1937, the Marihuana Tax Stamp Act was enacted. This law effectively banned the use and sale of cannabis. If an individual was caught violating the act, he could face a fine of up to $2,000 and/or up-to five years imprisonment.


In the cannabis industry, October 5th is a day set to remind us of the first people arrested as a result of cannabis prohibition. The first two people known to be arrested for cannabis were Moses Baca and Samuel Caldwell. Ironically, these arrests occurred in Denver, Colorado - a city that is now popularized for its recreational cannabis market. The first victim, Moses Baca, was arrested on October 3rd, 1937 for possessing a quarter-ounce of cannabis. Baca was subsequently sentenced to 18 months in prison. On October 5th, Samuel Caldwell was arrested for trafficking and selling cannabis; he was found to be in possession of four pounds of the plant. Due to the multiple charges surrounding Caldwell’s arrest, he was sentenced to four years at the Leavenworth Penitentiary. Upon sentencing, Judge Foster Symes was quoted saying, “I consider marijuana the worst of all narcotics, far worse than the use of morphine or cocaine.” In 1970, the Marihuana Tax Stamp Act was deemed unconstitutional. However, society’s opinions on cannabis remained largely unchanged. Therefore, when the Controlled Substances Act was passed, cannabis maintained its illegal status. Cannabis remained entirely illegal in the United States until California first legalized it for medical use in 1996. 


As cannabis legalization is now supported by over six in ten Americans, it is important to remember the history surrounding cannabis prohibition. Cannabis remains illegal at the federal level. We at Jushi recognize the potential this plant has to offer to people all over the world, and we are active in informing those about its uses and benefits. We have come a long way from the days of Reefer Madness. However, it persists in various forms, and we will continue to push for research and accurate information regarding the plant. We will also not forget the first victims of cannabis prohibition. Cannabis offers a diverse profile of benefits, and we would like anyone who is interested to be able to explore them. We at Jushi support expanding access to cannabis, and we look forward to the industry landscape as it continues to grow and change.

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Patrick Libonate AUTHOR
*The views and opinions expressed are those of the writer and do not reflect the position of Jushi Holdings Inc. or its subsidiaries.