"Crypto-racism" is a covert form of prejudice toward racial minorities. Rather than speaking out against other races openly, crypto-racists mask their hatred by supporting political positions that disadvantage certain groups. They might be outspoken about tightening immigration laws or cutting social assistance programs that help minorities. (For a comprehensive overview of the term, check out this definition from Diversity Chronicle.)

Does the prohibition of cannabis fit the mould of a crypto-racist agenda? Many opponents to cannabis might be offended by the suggestion, but the roots of pot prohibition in America are steeped in ethnophobia.

Frontline's timeline of cannabis legislation notes that antipathy toward cannabis developed closely alongside growing hostility toward Mexican immigrants following the Mexican Revolution of 1910.

Mexican immigrants flooded into the U.S., introducing to American culture the recreational use of marijuana. The drug became associated with the immigrants, and the fear and prejudice about the Spanish-speaking newcomers became associated with marijuana. Anti-drug campaigners warned against the encroaching "Marijuana Menace," and terrible crimes were attributed to the Mexicans who used it.

The use of "encroaching" conjures images of America besieged not only by an aberrant culture but an alien people as well. Hostility toward Mexican immigrants and the culture associated with them became even more pronounced decades later during The Great Depression. Massive unemployment increased public resentment and fear of Mexican immigrants, escalating public and governmental concern about the problem of marijuana. This instigated a flurry of research which linked the use of marijuana with violence, crime and other socially deviant behaviors, primarily committed by 'racially inferior' or underclass communities.

These observations paint an even clearer picture of cannabis prohibition as a process of racially profiling "undesired/undesirable Americans" as degenerate criminals whose crimes were fuelled by the consumption of marijuana. The "marijuana menace" becomes an anti-panacea for American society: instead of curing all that ailed the country during the Depression, it provided a face and a cause to blame for economic hardships.

If so, perhaps it's time to rethink the justness of cannabis prohibition in light of its roots in intolerance toward racial out-groups. This overlooked aspect of the history of cannabis in America is like finding out that prohibition was based on " Jim Crow laws."

h/t Diversity Chronicle, Frontline