Harry Anslinger, who served as the first commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN) from 1930 to 1962, waged a campaign against cannabis, specifically against marijuana, as he believed it was a dangerous drug that posed a threat to American society. Some of the reasons for his campaign include:
- Personal belief: Anslinger believed that marijuana was a dangerous drug that led to violence, insanity, and moral decay. He also believed that marijuana use was associated with racial minorities and immigrants, and that it was a threat to white, middle-class Americans.
- Career ambition: As the head of the FBN, Anslinger was looking to establish the agency as a powerful and important organization. By leading a campaign against marijuana, he was able to raise the profile of the FBN and gain support from politicians and other influential individuals.
- Lack of knowledge: At the time Anslinger began his campaign, there was little scientific knowledge about the effects of marijuana. Anslinger relied on anecdotal evidence and misinformation to support his claims about the dangers of marijuana.
- Political agenda: Anslinger was known to be politically ambitious, and his campaign against marijuana was seen as a way to appeal to the conservative and prohibitionist sentiments of the time. He used the media and public opinion to create a sense of panic and urgency about the supposed dangers of marijuana.
- Economic Interests: Anslinger's campaign against marijuana was also driven by the interest of some sectors and industries, as hemp, which is a variety of the Cannabis sativa plant, was considered a major competitor to the timber, cotton, and synthetic-fiber industries.
Anslinger's campaign was successful in leading to the passage of the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937, which effectively made marijuana illegal in the United States. His campaign was based on misinformation and racist stereotypes, and it marked the beginning of marijuana prohibition in the United States, and similar laws were soon passed in other countries.