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The Racist Origins of Cannabis Prohibition

by The Cannabis Geek

The Racist Origins of Cannabis Prohibition
4 votes, 4.00 avg. rating (82% score)


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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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Steven Spray May 10, 2012 at 9:45 am

"Die swart gewaar" @6:10 loosely translates to "The black aware". That's not even borderline racist, how could people have talked like that just a couple of decades ago? I just loved the first video as it was made by such normal looking, "elderly" South Africans, wow! Yes, the Internet is changing the way we do politics, science and of course religion, hail Google!


Daniel May 10, 2012 at 3:20 pm

Great post – thank you!

@Steven Spray – Just one little correction, its “die swart gevaar” not “gewaar” and translates to “the black threat”

We are really trying hard to change the laws here in South Africa so thank you for the support!


Bereket Tafari May 10, 2012 at 3:49 pm

Free Di Ganja Herb!


Dirk Richter Lombard May 10, 2012 at 4:22 pm

@Steven Spray: ACTUALLY its the "swart geVaar", which directly translates to "The Black Danger". It's closer to fearmongering propaganda than racism IMHO.The people that used it was either racist hoping to instill fear or just sincerely afraid or a violent uprising from he black majority in South Africa. I'm glad that we made a peaceful transition and that the oppressive regime has ended. Yet, we still see remnants of their laws today. Great blog post. Thanks for putting it all together and supporting DC and their great documentary about the history of Cannabis (Dagga) in South Africa. Peace and Pot.


Joe Nethippie May 14, 2012 at 5:18 pm

They are afraid of psychedelics and hemp since the huge creativity and changes in the 60s. That's why the make a war on helpful tools of change. THe reuslts: drug cartels, street gangs, violence, cartels spreading dangerous and harmful substances, more abuse, adulteration causing deaths. Lots of resources and lifes wasted in the war on drugs. Wide areas in the grip of drug cartels spreading fear and death, just like alcohol prohibition strengthened mafia. The war on drugs is a precondition for high profits for drug cartels. This vicious cycle can never be broken before the stupid laws abolishing hemp and acid are repealed. The rulers are afraid! A murder will get a stipendium for a University, any criminal. Someone caught taking acid can't. They are afraid of letting him study. Thar was reported recently. They fear the change it could bring. They fear for their power. Let a new hippie wave arise, changing the world to a better and more peaceful and loving place, chasing those bastards of power gamblers away!


lou cypher May 15, 2012 at 4:13 pm

…cannabis prohibition has racist undertones but racism was just a marketing tool to sell prohibition. The root of cannabis prohibition, yesterday and today, is protection (control) of market share of the ‘holy’ trinity. Not sunday school trinity but human trinity…finance, spirituality, sociology. Marketing campaigns may come and go out of favor but the ends are still the same.


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