100 years of Gaslighting Cannabis

Cannabis gaslighting has been around since the early 1900s.
‘If you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes accepted as truth’ — Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda

I’ve been gaslit. You’ve been gaslit. We’ve all been gaslit. For the last 100 plus years we’ve all been gaslit about cannabis. The gaslighting started in the early 1900s when Mexicans started arriving here to escape the civil unrest of the Mexican revolution. They brought the use of just enjoying cannabis for relaxation and the ‘high’ it gave the smoker. Their term for it was marihuana. The “h” in the middle of the word was based on the way they pronounced it; “mary-ch-juana”. Americans didn’t pronounce the middle part and it became marijuana.

A Little More History

Through the 1800s, cannabis was considered a good crop. It was used for fiber to make sturdy, but soft cloth, paper that never yellowed and rope. It was also used as a drug, although it wasn’t used for recreational purposes. And it was always called cannabis.The gaslighting started then as anti-immigrant sentiment. Thus began the gaslighting of cannabis.

Gaslighting isn’t new. It’s been called a lot of things, but essentially, it’s as Goebbels said; Say it often enough and it becomes ‘fact’. The Nazis were masters at gaslighting, although they were absolutely not the master race. They did have a propaganda manager who was good at his job; Goebbels. During the course of their reign of terror, their gaslit propaganda cost millions upon millions of lives.

Gaslighting: the systematic attempt by one person to erode another person's reality... As defined by Dr. Robert Stern, Author of The Gaslight Effect.After a while though, the baldest faced and boldest lies become just that; lies. And after that same while, people become weary of those lies and see them as the lies they are. Sometimes it’s a matter of days (or hours in this free-for-all social media time) and sometimes it’s a matter of years. In the case of Nazis, it was a matter of a decade or so, but eventually, their lies were outed and the German people (mostly) began to see the lies.

What about the lies we’ve been fed? They’re not as insidious, but in many ways, they’ve been just as harmful to societies all over the world, starting with the U.S.

What Were the Lies?

What lies? Let’s start with a few of the first lies about cannabis. That started over 100 years ago with stories planted to vilify Mexicans coming across the border during the Mexican Revolution. “This axe murderer helped make weed illegal“. There were many stories published with similar themes and headlines. Harry Anslinger the head of the Bureau of Narcotics took these stories and ran. He got the Marijuana Stamp Tax enacted in 1937. This essentially outlawed its use for anything.

Who Opposed the Marijuana Stamp Act?

Even in the environment of lies, only the American Medical Association recommended that cannabis not be outlawed. There were a number of reasons and all the reasons had a medical basis. Today’s AMA, on the other hand, thinks that cannabis shouldn’t be voted in by ballot, but rather after rigorous research. “After vigorous research” is shorthand for ‘no’. How did they get this way? It’s simple; The AMA bought into the gaslighting the U.S. government has been doing for over a century. The AMA was suckered into it, just like most Americans…and then the rest of the world.

How Did Marijuana Gaslighting Start?

Originally, Harry Anslinger didn’t believe that cannabis was bad, harmful or there was anything else bad about it. That was while he was the Commissioner of Alcohol. After that, he became the Commissioner of Narcotics and needed a job. As commissioner, he needed some way to grow his department in the government. Somewhere in the early 1930s, he latched onto a plant that was mostly used by black populations in the American ghettos they inhabited. The campaign was helped along by some producers in Hollywood who wanted to get on the good side of the government.

The Worst Cannabis Gaslighter

This is your brain on drugs

Although Anslinger started the ball rolling, he was abetted by two US Presidents later on. The worst gaslighter of all was Ronald Reagan, but Clinton wasn’t far behind. Reagan had two gaslit philosophies. The “Trickle-Down” economy is so much hooey that it just doesn’t work and we’ve seen the results of that in the past decade and a half. The other was his “War On Drugs”. There has probably never been a more misguided and propaganda policy in our country that was aimed at hurting minorities. Clinton perpetuated the “War” and it’s become part of the landscape of American policy. And the rest of the world picked up on it.

Reagan was no better than Goebbels. And yes, I put him in the same category as Goebbels when it comes to cannabis. I know there are a lot of Reagan fans out there, but without any scientific evidence, but a lot of stigma about people of color, he perpetrated as phony a “War” as Bush did against Iraq in the early 2000s. We could learn from this as a society. We could learn from this as a society. But we won’t. The “War on Drugs” has been a hugely disastrous venture for the U.S. government.


There is nothing new about gaslighting. And there is nothing new about the fact that it doesn’t work. We know it works for a while, but not in the long term. it worked for the Nazis. It worked for Anslinger and it worked for Reagan and Clinton…although they could have been gaslit by someone else he believed. It certainly wasn’t based on scientific evidence. Now we’re beginning to see an end.

More than half the population in the U.S. lives where cannabis is legal either for medicine, adult use (called recreational by many) and more states just authorized the sales of cannabis. We’re seeing an end to this insane, racist and truly misguided prohibition of cannabis. When the hippies in the 1960s started making it a national phenomenon to now, when a huge majority of people in the U.S., cannabis has gone through a huge transition from the 1930s when it was demonized by Harry Anslinger. Maybe this will help the stigma go away along with the prohibition and putting people in jail for the flower of a plant.

The Nazis had their day in the sun for about a decade. Reagan had his place in the sun as well. But it was all gaslighting. And while Anslinger started the gaslit debacle that resulted later in the “War on Drugs” it didn’t work.

Gaslighting can work for someone’s ends for a while. It doesn’t work for long

Some Articles About Nazi Propaganda and It’s Success at Seducing a People

How Hitler Conquered Germany in Slate
The effectiveness of Nazi propaganda during World War II research from Eastern Michigan University
NAZI PROPAGANDA from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
State of Deception – The Power of Nazi Propaganda from the United Nations

Tags: cannabis history, cannabis opposition

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