By Khara Cartagena
CEO of Breakthrough Brands LLC , Inked Canna, and OleoResin Solutions
Where did cannabis come from?
The oldest known written record on cannabis came from the Chinese Emperor Shen Nung in 2727 B.C. The Kurgan Burial mounds in Siberia (3,000 B.C.) have mummified marijuana. From this information we can deduce that Cannabis evolved in Central Asia (Mongolia, Southern Siberia). During its evolution, Coastal farmers brought cannabis to Korea (2000 B.C.). Indians used it recreationally as did Muslims because alcohol is Haram. Haram meaning a sin against their God. In fact, it was the Muslims who introduced the world to hash, which spread to Iran and North Africa.
“The history of cannabis use goes back as far as 12,000 years, which places the plant among humanity's oldest cultivated crops” (Ernest L. Abel)
In the past, the seeds of the Cannabis plant were used for nutrition . The fiber was used for hemp rope and clothing. The oil was used as a vehicle for paint and the buds were used for medicinal and spiritual purposes. Why does all of this history matter? It goes to show that cannabis has been a huge and accepted part of various cultures for longer than we can fathom. So why did it become illegal in the United States?
Despite marijuana's recognized medicinal value, the government began a Controlled Substances Act in 1970, which deemed cannabis a Schedule 1 drug. “Schedule 1 drugs, substances, or chemicals are defined as drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. Some examples of Schedule 1 drugs are: heroin, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), marijuana (cannabis), 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (ecstasy), methaqualone, and peyote (DEA).” Cannabis and heroin. Side-by-side.
Why is it still Schedule 1?
The answer to this question is unfortunately one charged with racial implications, with a history of slave labor and indentured servitude of black and brown bodies. And to this day, the trend remains the same. It is not only reflected in skewed demographics of American prison populations, but it is clearly exemplified by the rate in which black and brown people are murdered by the police, as compared to whites. America has a long history of discrimination against black and brown people and this cannabis issue is no exception.
“Nationwide, the rate of drug admissions to state prison for black men is thirteen times greater than the rate for white men. In ten states, black men are sent to state prison on drug charges at rates that are 26 to 57 times greater than those of white men in the same state. In Illinois, for example, the state with the highest rate of black male drug offender admissions to prison, a black man is 57 times more likely to be sent to prison on drug charges than a white man,“(Human Rights Watch). Keep in mind that both the black man and the white man are being charged for the SAME crime. That means that the argument that minorities do more drugs and therefore are the majority of the drug offender population becomes obsolete. Both races are convicted of the same crime. But two races suffer exponentially ore: Blacks and Latinos.
According to the History channel, “The Mexican-American War, waged between the United States and Mexico from 1846 to 1848, help[ing] to fulfill America's ‘manifest[ed] destiny’ to expand its territory across the entire North American continent.” Subsequently, Mexican Immigrants fled their country during the Mexican Revolution after the war (1910-1911) to obtain the American dream.
Many Mexicans, their homes, and their families were left in the shadows of the war. They began migrating to the United States in search for better land and opportunities after theirs had been stripped from them. The Nation's Premier Civil Rights Organization more commonly known as the NAACP was founded in 1909.
Coincidentally enough “Pharmacy prohibitions in New England states started in the early 1910’s, but weren’t widely enforced. That was the start of the pharmaceutical industry’s opposition to marijuana. Marijuana prohibition for sure started in 1915 in El Paso, Texas, where a marijuana possession ban went into effect. The prohibition was mimicked off of a similar law in San Francisco aimed at opium dens” (Weed News).
The prohibition of marijuana began in tangent to Mexican immigration to the southern states of America the beginning of the NAACP (an organization dedicated to advocating for minorities rights in America). We can confidently deduce that prohibition began in El Paso because of the heavy immigrant population in southern states such as Texas. While cannabis was still recognized as legal, the media began to heavily discourage marijuana, a more Spanish sounding equivalent to the same drug many white people had in their medicine cabinets. It created an intentional cognitive dissonance so that people would associate marijuana to Mexicans and drug use, meanwhile, their cannabis was as acceptable as melatonin. The regulations on marijuana gave the government the legal excuse to begin deporting any Mexican charged with possession. It also gave the government an excuse to lock up black people at an alarming rate. Hundreds of thousands of black fathers are serving time in jail for something that can legally be purchased in 10+ States. Something that is somehow recognized as medicinal but still classified as a Schedule 1 drug.
The only reason that this contradiction is allowed is because it is successfully imprisoning black and brown bodies at extreme rates. A phenomenon commonly referred to as Mass Incarceration.
Perhaps it is time to ask the most pertinent question of all: Why are hundreds of thousands of people still in jail for something that is decriminalized, medicinal, or recreational in 40 out of the 50 states? In 2017 alone, 659,700 people were locked up for marijuana charges. 599,282 (90.8 percent) of those people are locked up for simple possession (drugpolicy.org).
Now that the government recognizes the profitable market of legalized marijuana, they have become the biggest hypocrites of the century. We must work toward a better future and fight for the justice of wrongly incarcerated people. The government, to this day, is arresting people for something that they are selling and making TRILLIONS off of. Trillions. While thousands are behind bars for a dime bag.