In response to Scott Cooper’s article “Pot of gold” in the May 12, 2010, Gazette: I am still trying to figure out why our lawmakers insist on clinging to an outdated, ridiculous law such as the criminalization of marijuana. It is the very definition of the Latin legal term malum prohibitum, or “bad because it’s prohibited.”
Namely, the only logical reason for the further criminalization of marijuana is because we have forgotten why it was made illegal in the first place and simply think of it as bad because that’s what the state has decided.
Let us not forget that the demonization of marijuana largely came about from the actions of Mr. “Yellow Journalism” himself, newspaper mogul William Randolph Hearst.
Hearst, fearful of alternate paper-making techniques derived from the cheaper hemp (he owned acres of timberland and many paper mills suited for making paper out of wood pulp), published sensationalized articles in his newspaper that were condemning of marijuana. In fact, his flagrant use of the term “marihuana” as opposed to the much more common “hemp” helped to charge the racial insensitivities toward Hispanics.
It was because of Hearst that the American people began to associate marijuana use with homicidal and depraved behavior in teens. Newspaper accounts reportedly went so far as to suggest that the plant was undesirable because blacks who used it “dared to step on white men’s shadows, look white people directly in the eye for more than three seconds, and even laugh out loud at white people.”
Classy, right? And this is what our lawmakers are trying to uphold? An antiquated idea based out of antiquated prejudices?
Let us not forget that hemp has a much richer history in America than people like Hearst or Darrell Weaver, director of the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, would like us to think. The first draft of the Declaration of Independence was forged upon Dutch hemp paper. Wives and mothers spun clothing for Washington’s troops at Valley Forge out of hemp. In 1619, Jamestown Colony mandated the growth of Indian hemp seed.
If we re-criminalized alcohol and criminalized tobacco, then our lawmakers wouldn’t get to enjoy their Scotch and cigars after a long hard day of self-righteous delegation.