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50 Years Ago, Allen Ginsberg Wrote A Blistering Takedown Of Marijuana Prohibition

It's no surprise that the Beat Generation - post-World War II American writers who celebrated non-conformity - dabbled with marijuana and questioned the validity of prohibition. But one stood out from the rest as the most outlandish yet eloquent supporter of marijuana legalization. Allen Ginsberg - who was born 90 years ago today - was known to arrive at pot protests in the 1960s wearing apparel that made his attitude toward cannabis clear.

He also wrote more sophisticated pleas for legalization, such as "The Great Marijuana Hoax: First Manifesto to End the Bringdown," which The Atlantic Monthly published in 1966. The manifesto accuses the U.S. Narcotics Bureau (the DEA's precursor) of upholding marijuana prohibition for the sake of job security instead of public safety.

"[Since] the agents of this Bureau have a business interest in perpetuating the idea of a marijuana 'menace' lest they lose their employment, it is not unreasonable to suppose that a great deal of the violence, hysteria & energy of the anti-marijuana language propaganda emanating from this source has as its motive a rather obnoxious self interest, all the more objectionable for its tone of moralistic evangelism."

Ginsberg also took issue with labeling cannabis as a narcotic. "I have termed [it] an herb, which it is - a leaf or blossom - in order to switch from negative terminology and inaccurate language."

Marijuana appeared in Ginsberg's poetry as well. In the stream-of-consciousness monologue "America" (1956), Ginsberg wrote "I smoke marijuana every chance I get" and "My national resources consist of two joints of marijuana."

Check out this recording of Ginsberg reading the full poem.

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