Fact 007: Marijuana Was Once a Legal Cross-Border Import

About a hundred years back, the federal government wasn’t very bothered about marijuana, the popular name for the Cannabis sativa L. plant. It was spelled ‘marihuana’ initially, it was also called hemp, Mary Warner, Mary Jane, and several other names. Most Americans weren’t aware of its existence, not to even talk about its use as a drug.

By the 1930s, most state governments and several other countries had abolished the drug. The United States government still didn’t, they hesitated, mainly because of the therapeutic advantages of Cannabis were still under exploration and the American industry gained from the commercial applications of hemp seeds, oil and fiber.

Marijuana wasn’t grouped as a major drug, unlike heroin and opium, that were illegal under the Harrison Narcotics Tax Act of 1914 and other restrictive legislation. Due to the change in political climate, the commissioner of Federal Bureau of Narcotics, Harry Anslinger, became a strong voice of anti-marijuana. His fight against Cannabis brought about the approval of Marihuana Tax Act of 1937, under which the cultivation, importation, distribution or/and possession of pot were regulated.

Under this act was the need for importers to make registration and a $24 yearly tax payment. To ensure that the necessary payments were made, a Marihuana Tax Act stamp were affixed on all the original form and signed by the revenue collector. The customs collector withheld every marijuana imported at the entry port the necessary documents were checked, with the same regulations guiding the exportation of marijuana. If any of the law provisions weren’t met, shipments were to be searched, seized and forfeited. Violating this act was followed by a fine of not over $2,000 or/and a five-year imprisonment.

In principle, the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 put an end to the use recreational use of the plant only. In practice, the industrial marijuana was found between anti-dope legislation, making commercial production and hemp importation in U.S. less economical. Medical testing and scientific research of hemp equally disappeared virtually. By 1970, it was grouped and restricted on the same level with narcotics and new, stricter rules were introduced. Over the past 45 years, there has been changes. As of January 2012, sixteen states and the Columbia District have already legalized the use of marijuana for medical reasons, though it was yet to be allowed under the federal regulations then.

Just before the approval of the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937, the Customs Agency Service came up with a Narcotics Manual which reported: “Marihuana may be cultivated or grown wild in almost any locality. Inasmuch as this drug is so readily obtained in the United States, it is not believed to be the subject of much organized smuggling from other countries.”

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