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TheStreet Open House

Prohibition 2.0: Marijuana Mimics Alcohol

Stocks in this article: WAG

They Make Nice Neighbors


Al Capone was a legendary bootlegger and made millions trading in illegal alcohol. He also started one of the first soup kitchens in the country in Chicago. As the Depression took hold, Capone's soup kitchen served over 120,000 meals. On Thanksgiving Day in 1930, he fed more than 5,000 hungry people. Since most people drank anyway, they looked more kindly on Capone than they did the government, which seemed to ignore the plight of the poor man and instead picked on them for violating prohibition. It isn't unusual for crime bosses to take care of the little guy.

During the wildfires and then floods in Colorado, it was the dispensaries that supposedly stepped up to help fund rebuilding. The story was told to me by various folks at the Cannabis Career Institute, although we can't confirm the accounts. Portland and New Mexico dispensaries have held toy and food drives. On a personal note, when I lived on 16th street in Manhattan and a store front for pot opened up down the street, neighbors were happy. Their security kept cars from getting broken into overnight. The street was sad to see them go.

Which brings us to the switch from alcohol prohibition to marijuana prohibition. Our wealthy gentlemen mentioned earlier, Mssrs. Mellon and Du Pont, were instrumental in marijuana prohibition. Andrew Mellon appointed his future son-in-law Harry Anslinger as the head of the new Federal Bureau of Narcotics. With the loss of alcohol as his department's main function, he needed a new illegal substance to focus his energies on and save his job and his department. That new focus became marijuana. Mellon Bank was also the financial backer for DuPont, who benefited from his new synthetic products being substituted for hemp products. If hemp was removed from the picture, then DuPont's products would rise in sales.

It wasn't until long after alcohol prohibition was repealed that marijuana prohibition began. Before the pot prohibition, cannabis had been used in America for at least one hundred years as a medicinal product. Hemp had been used as a fabric, rope and even a fuel source. The Marihuana Tax Act of 1937, which made legal marijuana use prohibitively expensive, was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court and overturned in 1969. It was shortly thereafter, in 1970, that the Controlled Substance Act was passed, establishing the modern-day marijuana prohibition.

-- Written by Debra Borchardt in New York.

Disclosure: TheStreet's editorial policy prohibits staff editors, reporters and analysts from holding positions in any individual stocks.
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