Tags: Marijuana Legalization | marijuana laws history

History of Marijuana Laws: 4 Important Changes in American Policy

By    |   Sunday, 29 Mar 2015 07:12 PM

America’s changing policy on marijuana is illustrated by the stories of two men.
In 1937, Samuel Caldwell, 58, of Colorado was sentenced to four years hard labor in Leavenworth for possession and sale of two joints of marijuana. His arrest came two weeks after the passage of the Marijuana Tax Act, the first federal law that criminalized marijuana by requiring a $1 tax stamp label on the drug.  

Urgent: Should Marijuana Be Legalized in All States?

Flash forward to 2014, when Larry Harvey, a 71-year-old Washington man, was charged by the Justice Department with growing 70 marijuana plants in his home. Harvey had pancreatic cancer and said the plants were for his medical needs. Five members of family who lived in the home were also charged. 

Caldwell served the four years in prison. He died a year after his release at age 63.
Charges were dropped against Harvey in mid-February of 2015 after he was diagnosed with late-stage cancer. 

Vote Now: How Do You Feel About Marijuana Legalization?

While the federal government continues to criminalize all use of marijuana, the enforcement of those laws has eased dramatically since the 1930s. In December, Congress passed a spending bill that contained legislation guidelines. It ended a federal policy criminalizing possession of marijuana in states that have legalized the drug for medicinal use, according to the Los Angeles Times

The following are 4 important changes in the timeline of America’s legal policies on marijuana:

Tell Us: Should the Government Legalize Marijuana?

1. In the 1930s, fears about the dangers of marijuana were rampant. During this decade, 29 states outlawed the drug, the federal Narcotics Bureau was established, and the 1937 tax law came into practice. Caldwell was the first person to be arrested under the new law.

2. In 1951, a law called the Boggs Act was passed affixing mandatory prison sentences for narcotic offenses. The penalties were harsh: Two to five in federal prison for a first offense, five to ten years for a second violation, and 10 to 20 years for a third. 

3. Pushback against prison time for marijuana began in the 1960s. By 1973, Oregon passed a law reducing the penalties for marijuana possession.

4. While the 1980s saw an increase in federal drug law enforcement, change was in the air. By the 1990s, states began following Oregon’s lead. California passed a law allowing medical use of marijuana. By 2013, more than half of the states had similar compassionate use laws in effect.

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America's changing marijuana laws history is illustrated by the stories of two men. While the federal government continues to criminalize all use of marijuana, the enforcement of those laws has eased dramatically since the 1930s.
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2015-12-29
Sunday, 29 Mar 2015 07:12 PM
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