Washington state cannabis regulators on Wednesday adopted a motion to implement legislation passed last March which replaces the word “marijuana” with “cannabis” in state law, The Center Square reports. During the bill signing ceremony, Gov. Jay Inslee (D) said the term “marijuana” has “a racist history in the United States.”
The word was often used in anti-immigrant rhetoric in the early 20th century.
Jeff Kildahl, the state Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) cannabis policy and rules coordinator, said during a virtual meeting that state lawmakers approved the measure, finding the “use of the term ‘marijuana’ in the United States has discriminatory origins and should be replaced with the more scientifically accurate term ‘cannabis.’”
LCB Chair David Postman called the change “a great thing.”
“It took a little while. Some may think this is a simple thing, that it took a little while, and it’s going to take some work to get it all done, but it’s important, and it is part of our ongoing evolution of really the knowledge and acceptance of cannabis and learning about the history of some of these things.” — Postman, during the meeting, via The Center Square
The first measure to outlaw cannabis in the U.S. was called the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 which banned the possession and sale of the plant. The bill was backed by Harry Anslinger, the first commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics – which would later become the Drug Enforcement Administration – who is alleged to have supported cannabis prohibition because it was often used by minorities.
“There are 100,000 total marijuana smokers in the U.S., and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos, and entertainers,” Anslinger is alleged to have stated. “Their Satanic music, jazz, and swing result from marijuana use. This marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers and any others.”
A recently unearthed quote from John Ehrlichman, former President Richard Nixon’s chief domestic policy advisor when Nixon announced the roll-out of the War on Drugs, supports cannabis prohibition being as a tool to target minority and antiwar populations:
“The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and Black people. You understand what I’m saying?” Ehrlichman said in a 1996 interview with Harper’s reporter Dan Baum. “We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or Black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and Blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course, we did.”
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