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Marihuana Tax Act (1937)

  • By: Dale H. Gieringer
  • In: Encyclopedia of Drug Policy
  • Edited by: Mark A. R. Kleiman & James E. Hawdon
  • Subject:Public Policy, Drug Crimes

The Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 was the first national marijuana prohibition law. Its passage was engineered by Federal Bureau of Narcotics Director Harry Anslinger following a nationwide “reefer madness” campaign that portrayed marijuana as a cause of insanity, addiction, and criminal violence. Anslinger had initially been reluctant to get involved in marijuana due to fears about the constitutionality of federal legislation. The problem was resolved by proposing a prohibitory tax. The act passed easily despite opposition from the American Medical Association. It was declared unconstitutional in 1969 and was supplanted by the Controlled Substances Act.

The Marihuana Tax Act was not the first U.S. anti-cannabis law. The Pure Food and Drugs Act of 1906 listed cannabis as an intoxicant whose presence had to be noted ...

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