While this isn’t new information to anyone who’s been paying attention to the issue of marijuana reform, it is great to see the New York Times lay out in detail how the origins of marijuana prohibition were based entirely on lies and racism. From the New York Time’s editorial series on marijuana.

The federal law that makes possession of marijuana a crime has its origins in legislation that was passed in an atmosphere of hysteria during the 1930s and that was firmly rooted in prejudices against Mexican immigrants and African-Americans, who were associated with marijuana use at the time. This racially freighted history lives on inĀ current federal policy, which is so driven by myth and propaganda that is it almost impervious to reason. [...]

In 1930, Congress consolidated the drug control effort in the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, led by the endlessly resourceful commissioner, Harry Jacob Anslinger, who became the architect of national prohibition. His case rested on two fantastical assertions: that the drug caused insanity; that it pushed people toward horrendous acts of criminality. Others at the time argued that it was fiercely addictive.

This reminds me of my one criticism of Michelle Alexander’s excellent book The New Jim Crow. The title may give readers the impression that racist drug laws are something new. It is more appropriate to view them as piece of the old Jim Crow regime that was allowed to survive and expand.

Marijuana prohibition was founded in racism, originally used to advantage the objectives of racists, and up to today marijuana laws are still enforced in extremely racially biased ways. More Americans need to learn this basic fact.

Jon Walker is the author of After Legalization: Understanding the future of marijuana policy