The Marihuana Tax Act of 1937

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The Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 set the stage for cannabis restrictions, but the Marihuana Tax Act of 19...
The Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 set the stage for cannabis restrictions, but the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 marked the start of full-scale prohibition. The law did not explicitly ban cannabis in its wording, but that was clearly the intent. In the 1930s, the Treasury Department, run by the mega-rich Andrew Mellon as Secretary, determined that it could use the taxing power of the federal government to prohibit products he deemed problematic. By creating overly excessive taxes, the laws could create de facto prohibition for everybody but the wealthy. Herman Oliphant, the Treasury’s general counsel, employed this tactic with the National Firearms Act. Passed in 1934, the law attempted to ban or reduce shotguns and machine guns, and challenges to the law went all the way to the Supreme Court, which upheld its legality in March 1937. Two weeks later, Oliphant (along with arch-prohibitionist Harry Anslinger) introduced the Marihuana Tax Act directly into the House Ways and Means Committee, a powerful committee (and the oldest in Congress) with the unique ability to send bills directly to the House of Representatives.