3 of History's Biggest Opponents to Marijuana Legalization

These guys are first ballot inductees into the Anti-Cannabis hall of fame. Throughout history, few individuals have had a bigger impact on keeping cannabis away from Americans like the three you're about to meet:

Harry Ansingler

(May 20, 1892 - November 14, 1975)

via wikipedia

The man behind the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 put the first stones in the wall between American and cannabis starting in the mid 1930's. Ansingler was a U.S. government official who served as the first commissioner of the U.S. Treasury Department's Federal Bureau of Narcotics. He had a reputation of being honest and incorruptible.

Ansingler was appointed by Secretary of the Treasury, Andrew W. Mellon of Mellon Bank fame. At the time, the trade of alcohol and drugs were considered a loss of tax revenue.

Prior to the end of alcohol prohibition, Anslinger claimed cannabis was not a problem and did not harm people. He said, "there is no more absurd fallacy" than the idea cannabis made people violent. 29 out of 30 leading scientists at the time agreed with him saying cannabis did no harm.

Ansingler flipped the script when alcohol prohibition ended, and his department needed a new fight to keep receiving funding. Ansingler used all the scare tactics available in the media at the time to get people thinking smoking weed would turn you or your loved ones into flesh eating zombies. He turned to his "Gore Files" — a collection of stories about people who went mad after smoking weed.

One such story was about Victor Licata who supposedly killed his entire family after experiencing "Reefer Madness". The American Magazine's account of the story reported:

"An entire family was murdered by a youthful addict in Florida. When officers arrived at the home, they found the youth staggering about in a human slaughterhouse. With an axe he had killed his father, mother, two brothers, and a sister. He seemed to be in a daze... He had no recollection of having committed the multiple crimes. The officers knew him ordinarily as a sane, rather quiet young man; now he was pitifully crazed. They sought the reason. The boy said that he had been in the habit of smoking something which youthful friends called 'muggles,' a childish name for marijuana."

Later on it was discovered Licata had a mental illness, not a problem with marijuana.

Ansingler used mass media to link racial fears to cannabis. His nationwide Marijuana and Musicians campaign suggested jazz musicians were addicts of the drug and were using music to endanger society.


Richard Nixon

(January 9, 1913 - April 22, 1994)

via biography.com

The Supreme Court legalized marijuana in 1969 in the Leary v. United States case, but before the celebrations could get under way, Nixon got together with a few anti-pot government officials and trumped the Supreme Court by rescheduling marijuana as a Schedule 1 substance.

That one political move reversed five decades of struggle to undo what Ansingler had put in place with the Marijuana Tax Act. Although there was no clear evidence marijuana was a dangerous drug, Nixon was determined to keep it out of the hands of Americans. Nixon created a National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse to study cannabis. In 1972 the commission recommended cannabis prohibition end, which would have taken it off the Schedule 1 list. The commission's statement on cannabis read:

"Neither the marihuana user nor the drug itself can be said to constitute a danger to public safety," concluded the report's authors, led by then-Gov. Raymond Shafer of Pennsylvania. "Therefore, the Commission recommends ... [the] possession of marijuana for personal use no longer be an offense, [and that the] casual distribution of small amounts of marihuana for no remuneration, or insignificant remuneration no longer be an offense."

Nixon disregarded his own commission's findings as evidenced in the Nixon Tapes where he can be heard trying to put pressure on Gov. Raymond Shafer of Pennsylvania. Four decades later and over 13 million arrests here we are.


Kevin Sabet & Patrick Kennedy

via ibtimes

Marijuana's biggest opponent in 2016 might just be SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana). Cofounder Patrick Kennedy, son of the late Senator Ted Kennedy visited a rehab center several times including the time right after he crashed his car into a barricade on Capitol Hill in 2006. Kennedy was addicted to prescription drugs including the painkiller OxyContin. After headline-grabbing struggles with substance abuse, he made addiction and mental health the main focus of his political agenda. His ties to the pharmaceutical industry may have something to do with motivation as well.

At an anti-pot rally near Washington D.C. in 2013 Kennedy got on stage and told attendees, "Let me tell you, there is nothing more inconsistent with trying to improve mental health and reduce substance-abuse disorders in this country than to legalize a third drug." The former congressman also praised his fellow speakers for standing up to the "extremist responses" from legalization advocates.

SAM's other cofounder and current president, Kevin Sabet rose to prominence after contributions to the Washington Post, Huffington Post, The New York Times and other media channels. While he is in favor of removing low level marijuana criminal charges, he is a big opponent to overall legalization.

Saber received his education from UC Berkeley and Oxford University, where he received a Doctorate in social policy.

In 2013, Rolling Stone called Sabet "Legalization Enemy #1" ahead of DEA head Chuck Rosenberg. Sabet claims on his website he has been cited in over 15,000 news stories and that he is the "quarterback" of a new anti-drug movement that emphasizes lifelong stigmas about pot-related arrests. One of his biggest claims is the marijuana industry is trying to become the next tobacco industry that will market its products to children.


If marijuana proponents know one thing, it's that the fight to legitimize cannabis has been a long drawn out fight riddled with misinformation and media manipulation by a few powerful men who don't fully understand cannabis. Luckily, in 2016 the pendulum of momentum toward normalization and acceptance of cannabis is swinging the other way and more people are waking up every day to realize this plant isn't as bad as it was made out to be.