The origins of the War on Drugs in the US go back more than a century and are mired in complicated history. However, the story of the ban on cannabis in America can be easily traced to one individual: Harry J. Anslinger, who spent three decades as the head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, the forerunner of the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Not only was Anslinger the loudest and most influential proponent of the ban in the 1930s, but he was also an architect of the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 that federalized the ban.
As the government’s number one anti-drug crusader, Anslinger led a vitriolic campaign against cannabis, promoting his proposed ban with a blend of sensationalism, racism, and propaganda. His tactics worked, and the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 kicked off nearly a century of persecution against pot smokers – one that still hasn’t ended in some parts of the country.