Pot turns man into bat

The federal government’s credibility on marijuana is suspect

Part of the reason that the government has been so ineffective in stopping people from using marijuana just might stem from the ludicrous, biased and often racist arguments it used to make the plant illegal in the first place.

Marijuana has been prohibited under federal law since 1937, when Congress, acting on fears brought up by the DEA’s predecessor, the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, passed the Marihuana Tax Act. Although bureau Commissioner Harry Anslinger told Congress that marijuana was an addictive drug used primarily by Mexicans, “Negroes” and jazz musicians “which produces in its users insanity, criminality and death,” William C. Woodward, chief counselor for the American Medical Association, lobbied against the act, saying, “The American Medical Association knows of no evidence that marijuana is a dangerous drug.”

Woodward, who was later misrepresented on the floor of the Senate as having solidly supported the bill, was told after his testimony that the committee was “sick of hearing [him]” and was advised to “go home.”

The only testimony that supported Anslinger’s claims came from a Temple University pharmacologist who claimed to have injected a cannabis extract into the brains of 300 dogs, one of whom later died. After the law passed, the pharmacologist, James C. Munch, went on the narcotics bureau payroll as its "official expert" on marijuana. Although he was later reprimanded by the bureau for testifying in court that he had once used the drug himself—he evidently told a jury in New York that, "After two puffs from a marijuana cigarette, I was turned into a bat"—Munch still served as the bureau’s pot expert until 1962.