This first law prohibiting cannabis within the U.S. occurred in California as part of a “Poisons Act” which banned numerous substances such as opium; “The 1913 law received no public notice in the press, but was passed as an obscure technical amendment by the State Board of Pharmacy, which was then leading one of the nation’s earliest and most aggressive anti-narcotics campaigns”, explains California NORML.
The law, as with the entirety of cannabis prohibition, was implemented on strongly racist grounds:
“Within the last year we in California have been getting a large influx of Hindoos and they have in turn started quite a demand for cannabis indica; they are a very undesirable lot and the habit is growing in California very fast…the fear is now that they are initiating our whites into this habit”, states Hamilton Wright, a chief architect of U.S. narcotics policy at the time; he worked closely with the infamous Harry J. Anslinger.
Now, 100 years later activists are still battling the prohibition that this law paved the way towards. However, things are clearly progressing at a fast and exciting pace, with numerous states and countries working to reform and end a prohibition which has been nothing but a failure.
As we look back on these 100 years, we must not be bitter and angered at the damage this ridiculous prohibition has caused (though it’s certainly hard not to be): We must remain passionate, thoughtful and consistent in our attempts to end it.