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Henry Rollins And The Racist Roots Of Marijuana Prohibition


Henry Rollins

Henry Rollins has opinions, and very good ones for most of them. He has a new show called ’10 Things You Didn’t Know About’ on TV network H2, with the intention to uncover crazy new twists behind historical tales, figures, and places.

‘To me, the only way to make history talk, for it to really grab you, is to get as close to it as possible. You need incredible access and a great deal of persistence to get where you want to go. We did it,’ he declared, and this totally sounds like Henry Rollins. You can count on him to be covering wild characters, national treasures, presidential assassinations and America’s most fascinating subjects. According to Rolling Stone, one of the subjects covered during the next season will be weed.

‘If we legalize marijuana, then you’re legalizing a ‘brown person’s drug. And we don’t really let the brown people do what that want in this country, if you look at the history. If marijuana is legal, then your kids will be imbibing in what those ‘jazz jigaboos’ used to get up to,’ says the Black Flag ex-frontman with his usual provocative tone.

He explained his view a bit more to Rolling Stone:

‘America’s connection with hemp is interesting. Harry Anslinger, the guy who said your children will stab you in your sleep if they smoke this stuff [leading to its prohibition in the Thirties], was basically promoting racism and bigotry coming on as good Christian moral ethics. ‘Save America from this thing.’ Really, you should save America from illiteracy and pigheaded ignorance like racism and misogyny and homophobia. That’s your danger; not the weed that Louis Armstrong apparently smoked, like, every day – though he seemed to play a pretty mean horn as far as my record collection tells me.’

Rollins is a straight edge man, right? He doesn’t smoke marijuana (he thinks it is a waste of time) but not only he doesn’t have any problem with people smoking weed but he has strong opinion about the origin of prohibition: it has deep racist roots. During the making of this episode, he discovered that ‘colonial Americans were urged to grow hemp for rope, clothing and sails and that hemp oil was so common it could be purchased from the Sears, Roebuck catalog’! He also visited the Cannabis Cup in Denver and got inside the government-funded grow house in Ole Miss, Mississippi: ‘The visuals are insane,’ he declared, ‘It’s like a Walmart-sized building of hydroponically grown pot. Buckets of hash oil. Duffel bags of weed.’ This should make a lot of people dream for a while.

If you read Harry Anslinger’s Wikipedia’s page, you will learn that there was also financial interests into play and that  Du Pont petrochemical interests and William Randolph Hearst together created this anti-marijuana campaign to eliminate hemp as an industrial competitor. But it is clear that Anslinger always linked racial themes in his anti-marijuana articles, with terrible sentences such as:

‘Colored students at the Univ. of Minn. partying with (white) female students, smoking [marijuana] and getting their sympathy with stories of racial persecution. Result: pregnancy’

‘Two Negros took a girl fourteen years old and kept her for two days under the influence of hemp. Upon recovery she was found to be suffering from syphilis.’

Marijuana prohibition was racist and when you think about it, nothing has changed: ‘According to a 2013 study by the American Civil Liberties Union, blacks across the nation were nearly four times more likely than whites to be arrested on charges of marijuana possession in 2010, despite data that suggested they use the drug at about the same rate.’

It’s probably a very good thing to remind us these sad facts about our democracy, Henry Rollins is right, as always.

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