American politicians aren’t know for having particularly enlightened views about marijuana. But there are still a few politicians who rise above the rest when it comes to America’s draconian cannabis laws.
Here are the seven biggest anti-marijuana politicians in U.S. history:
1. Richard Nixon
Most people don’t have favorable views of Richard Nixon because he was a criminal. But he was unsavory for other reasons too. For instance, one former Nixon advisor said the former president only created the War on Drugs as a way to go after black people and anti-war hippies, since both demographics liked to use marijuana. That’s partially why marijuana is a Schedule I substance, meaning it’s considered more dangerous than cocaine or meth by the federal government.
2. Henry Finger
You could argue Henry Finger is the original anti-marijuana crusader. Finger was a member of the California Board of Pharmacy in the 1910’s. He proposed that the state outlaw marijuana to prevent drug use from spreading among the state’s immigrants. And in 1913, California did in fact become the first state to outlaw marijuana, ironic considering how liberal the state is on the issue today.
3. Harry J. Anslinger
The 1930’s were the era where cannabis became associated with all sorts of crazy claims, like how it turned people into homicidal maniacs and stuff like that. Harry J. Anslinger became the nation’s first commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics during the 30’s, and famously said that marijuana use leads to “insanity, criminality and death.” He heavily influenced the passage of the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937, the first federal bill to criminalize marijuana.
4. Ronald Reagan
The Reagan administration famously touted the “Just Say No” approach to tackling drug use, which most people believe was mostly a failure. But Reagan also signed the Anti-Drug Abuse Act in 1986, which instituted mandatory minimum sentences for drug-related crimes. To be fair though, the bill was actually being pushed hard by Democrats who wanted to use anti-drug punishments as a way to look tougher on crime than Republicans.
5. Hale Boggs
Before Reagan’s mandatory minimum sentences, a different politician had enacted a similar approach. Hale Boggs was a Democrat from Louisiana who proposed a bill in 1951 (known as the Boggs Act) that said the first conviction for marijuana possession would be punished with two to 10 years in prison. The bill was signed, and many were arrested under these harsh penalties. In fact, 500 people were arrested on January 4th, 1952 under the new law.
6. Richmond P. Hobson
Hobson was actually a war hero during the Spanish-American War who would eventually win the Medal of Honor later in life. He became a congressman after his military service, but after he left politics he became one of the biggest prohibitionists in American history. He spoke in favor of banning all drugs, including marijuana and alcohol. Newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst often used Hobson to push his own anti-cannabis agenda.
7. Jeff Sessions
The thing is, most of the people on this list were alive when there were gross amounts of misinformation about marijuana. Sessions however was the Attorney General in 2018, in an era where we have medical studies showing the benefits of marijuana, proof that it doesn’t make people violent or lead to deaths, and where we’re far more aware of the costs of mass incarceration. And yet despite all of that, he continues to bash legal marijuana every chance he gets.