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6 Historical Figures Who Attempted to Prevent Marijuana From Becoming Illegal

While today there are many people fighting to decriminalize and legalize marijuana, that wasn’t the case in the past. For many years there were very few people fighting efforts to make marijuana illegal. But there were some people who attempted to prevent the ridiculous marijuana laws we have today.

Here are six people who attempted to prevent marijuana from becoming illegal:

1. Fiorello LaGuardia

Fiorello LaGuardia was a mayor of New York (hence the airport named after him) during the 1940’s. He also strongly opposed the Marihuana Tax Act, the first law to outlaw cannabis. LaGuardia even assembled his own commission to study marijuana to prove that smoking cannabis didn’t cause drug addiction, madness and sexual deviancy, which the U.S. government claimed where side effects of marijuana.

2. Timothy Leary

Leary was a well-known activist who is often associated with drug use and the 1960’s counter-cultural movement. He also is the first person to help overturn marijuana prohibition. Leary was arrested for marijuana possession under the Marihuana tax Act, and challenged the law in court. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court, who ruled that the Marihuana Tax Act was unconstitutional. Unfortunately, this led to Congress creating the Controlled Substances Act, which was even worse.

3. Raymond P. Shafer

Shafer was a former governor of Pennsylvania who was appointed by President Richard Nixon to lead a commission on marijuana and drug abuse. Shafer and his commission actually issued a report recommending that the U.S. government decriminalize marijuana. The Nixon administration and Congress ignored the recommendation.

4. Roger O. Egeberg

Egeberg didn’t 100 percent oppose making marijuana illegal, but he did raise question over the validity of whether it should be listed as a Schedule I narcotic, meaning it would be considered the most dangerous. Egeberg wrote in a letter to Congress that many people questioned whether cannabis was deserving of a Schedule I or even Schedule II status, and recommended that Congress be open to lowering its classification after scientific studies were conducted. 50 years later, and Congress has still not listened Egeberg.

5. Stuart McKinney

McKinney was a moderate Republican in the 1970’s and 1980’s who introduced a bill to reschedule marijuana from a Schedule I controlled substance to Schedule II, which would make it eligible to be prescribed by physicians. His proposal received 84 co-sponsors, including future Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. However it didn’t receive enough support and died in committee.

6. Francis L. Young

Young was a Chief Administrative Law Judge for the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) in the 1980’s. In 1988, Young ruled that marijuana did not meet the criteria to be considered a Schedule I controlled substance and should be re-scheduled. However, the then-head of the DEA John Lawn overruled him, and nothing more could be done.


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