Often forgotten in the debates of today, the origins of drug prohibition show us the ethos behind a mentality which was happy to stigmatise entire groups of people, to the point of creating laws against them by proxy. Rather than directly attack immigrant or subjugated groups, it was far too easy for those in power to attack their source of fun, especially when they were worried that such substances tended to break down barriers between humans, and perhaps even lead to interracial relationships. South Africa played home to some of the worst segregation the planet has ever seen, and it’s in that very same nation that cannabis was being attacked, long before Europeans or Americans decided to crack down on its use.
The first video below tells us the history of cannabis demonisation in Africa, while the second tells the tale of Chinese immigrants in America, and their connection with opium. Finally, to round off our wonderful history lesson, I give you Mexicans and ‘marijuana’, or ‘cannabis’ as it’s known, when not uttered by somebody trying to form a link between a narcotic and an ethnic group.
Oh, but don’t fear, it’s not like the very people in charge of enforcing these laws are racist, right? Prohibition was built on racism, and despite racism no longer being acceptable in most places, society has forgotten that it’s not ok to stigmatise and punish people simply for how they are or what they do. People need to be reminded of this fact, and have parallels drawn for them in order to highlight the absurdity of their inherently prejudiced thinking.
To this day we see a disproportionate number of ethnic minorities arrested for drug offences, and you have to wonder if this plays a part in an apparently racist institution not being so quick to call bullshit on the war on some users of some drugs.
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