The first federal anti-marijuana law in the United States was signed into law 80 years ago today.
President Franklin Roosevelt signed House Bill 6385 – the Marihuana Tax Act – into law on August 2nd, 1937. The law was the first federal policy in the United States to place criminal penalties on the possession, production and distribution of marijuana.
Although the Marihuana Tax Act was the first nationwide law that placed penalties on marijuana, it followed the passage of anti-marijuana laws in 29 different states. The first state to pass such a law was Massachusetts in 1914, over 100 years ago.
The the Marihuana Tax Act was drafted by Harry Anslinger and introduced by Representative Robert Doughton (North Carolina) in April, and became law just four months later. The legislation imposed a federal tax on all cannabis-related activities, requiring a tax stamp to produce the plant. This essentially made cannabis illegal, as the government refused to issue any stamps.
“This drug is entirely the monster Hyde, the harmful effect of which cannot be measured” Anslinger said during one of two public hearings for the law. Opposition to the measure included the American Medical Association.
The Marihuana Tax Act officially took effect on October 1st, 1937.