Home » Hemp/CBD » The Marijuana Tax of 1937

The Marijuana Tax of 1937

The Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 was primarily the unholy creation of Harry J. Anslinger, head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics from 1930 to 1962. Anslinger had made his career enforcing alcohol prohibition, but when that was repealed in 1933, Anslinger needed a new illegal substance to secure his job.


The US Government gave farmers permits to grow hemp/marihuana for fiber during World War 2. They called the fiber field ‘marihuana.’ The reason hemp, or marijuana, was prohibited in the 20th century was to suppress hemp fuel and fiber production (see below about hemp fuel).

The Act levied a tax equaling roughly one dollar on anyone who dealt commercially in cannabis, hemp, or marijuana. The Act did not itself criminalize the possession or usage of hemp, marijuana, or cannabis. It did include penalty and enforcement provisions to which marijuana, cannabis, or hemp handlers were subject. Violation of these procedures could result in a fine of up to $2000 and five years’ imprisonment.

“Marihuana” was a perfect target: It was used primarily by minorities who were feared by the public due to newspaper mogul William Randolph Hearst’s nationwide “Reefer Madness” campaign to demonize cannabis and hemp. Hearst was a racist who used the little-known term “marihuana” to describe what had always been commonly known as cannabis or hemp. Hearst ran a very effective scare campaign to convince the public that “Mexicans and Negroes” were smoking a new drug called “marihuana” that was causing them to rape and murder white people.

The Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 used a unique legal theory. Since Congress did not have the power to ban substances directly because of the 10th Amendment, they needed an indirect method of prohibition. They were inspired by the National Firearms Act of 1934, which effectively outlawed machine guns through the requirement of a “prohibitive” tax.

The Marihuana Tax Act adopted the “prohibition through taxation” scheme. Rather than making marijuana possession illegal directly, the law required you to purchase a tax stamp in order to possess marijuana legally. Because the taxes were set prohibitively high, it discouraged compliance, creating de facto prohibition.

Congress passed the law with very little debate, despite testimony by farmers, who complained that the law would destroy the hemp fiber and seed industry, and from the medical community, who complained that cannabis had been in the U.S. pharmacopoeia since 1850.

The new law went into effect on Oct. 1, 1937. A few days later, Denver’s own Samuel Caldwell became Anslinger’s poster boy as the first prosecution under the new Marihuana Tax Act. Caldwell, a 58-year-old Denver resident, was arrested for possessing and selling marihuana without being in possession of his tax stamp. Caldwell was arrested on Monday, Oct. 5, indicted by a federal grand jury on Thursday, Oct. 8, and sentenced to four years in Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary on Friday, Oct. 9.

Caldwell’s speedy prosecution was front-page headlines throughout the country. Anslinger himself traveled to Denver from Washington, D.C., for the photo opportunity at Caldwell’s sentencing.

The Marihuana Tax Act proved an effective method of prohibition, and the legal hemp and cannabis medicine industries soon disappeared. However, in 1969, Timothy Leary’s conviction for possession of marijuana without a tax stamp was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court. Since marijuana was illegal on a state level in many places, the Court ruled that the federal tax stamp requirement violated Leary’s Fifth Amendment right against selfincrimination.

Source: Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 rises from the dead  

About Hemp Fuel
Hemp seeds make biodiesel fuel. Hemp biomass makes ethanol. Hemp makes more biofuel than any other plant. Hemp produces more fiber than any other plant. There are two types of fiber in a marijuana stalk or stem, the bast fiber, which is the outer bark, and the hurd fiber, or the inner woody core.

According to the US Department of Agriculture’s Bulletin 404, a waste product from making canvas, rope,lace and linen from hemp bast fiber, this hemp hurd fiber alone, makes over 4 times more paper than trees.

Hemp paper is acid free, for a long shelf life, and produced without toxic chemicals. According to Washington State University’s Wood Sciences Lab, hemp fiber board is stronger than steel. When we allow farmers to grow hemp for its best fuel attributes, regardless of THC content, we will realign our whole economic system by replacing fossil fuel with biofuel. Hemp fuel and fiber are inexpensive to make and naturally decentralized. Small groups of people created the marijuana myth so they could profit from the expensive, capital intensive petrochemical alternatives that dominate our political process and economy today.

Hemp will decentralize our economic system and return wealth and control to the majority. Cannabis & hemp were renamed marijuana in the early part of the 20th Century in a misinformation campaign designed by and to benefit the petrochemical pharmaceutical military industrial transnational corporate elite fascist ruling class. Cannabis prohibition has always been about money, power and the centralization of economic and political control.

Drugs are a smokescreen. We don’t need to fight wars for oil because our farmers can produce a superior product. It is really an issue of economic and social justice. Please work for and support global cannabis freedom: restore hemp! – www.hemp.org

Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Check Also

5 Fascinating Facts About the Cannabis Plant

The cannabis plant is a plant so iconic and so deeply ingrained into popular culture …

Medical Marijuana Blog

Accessibility Tools