How would you like to go to a café, have a cup of coffee, and smoke a joint? This is common in some parts of Europe, such as the Netherlands. However, in the United States, marijuana is illegal. Marijuana can be good for you, yet it can also cause many great dangers. Marijuana, long outlawed by federal legislation, is making major advances toward legalization in the United States. Marijuana is increasingly the cause of much commotion and debate, as the question of legalization becomes more of an issue.
Marijuana has been a cash crop in United States since the colonial days. It was cultivated primarily for the hemp, which was used to make rope. The prohibition of alcohol in the 1920s was the gateway for commercial trade in marijuana for recreational use. By the 1930s there were said to be 500 tea pads for smoking marijuana in New York City alone (McKnight 1). As a result, some 27 states passed criminal laws against the use of marijuana (Solomon 2). During this time, the Federal Bureau of Narcotics submitted a report that suggested that the use of marijuana was directly linked to crime, induced violent behavior, and caused insanity (Lupian 3). Based on the report Congress approved the "Marijuana Tax Act of 1937," which required a one dollar tax stamp to grow, sell, or possess marijuana (Solomon 2). The penalties that accompanied this act were severe. Without marijuana tax stamps, which were never issued by the government, a person could face five years' imprisonment, a $2,000 fine, or both. In Virginia, possession of marijuana carried with it a mandatory sentence of 20 years, higher than first-degree murder and rape (Whitebread 12).
After World War II, individuals' view of marijuana began changing. The Beat Generation, the trendsetters of the fifties, referred to marijuana as "tea."" The hippies of the sixties followed the ideas of the beats but called marijuana "grass.