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Specific issues, such as the controversy surrounding the use of marijuana have throughout recorded history increasingly been looked at from different points of view. Our beliefs concerning the non-medical use of drugs, more specifically marijuana, have largely been dependent on what type of information is available for us, and whom we are receiving it from. The beginning of the marijuana controversy throughout North America, in reality, did not even surface until the early 1920s. In 1922, Emily Murphy, Canada's first female judge and respected figure, generated awareness when she wrote, "The Black Candle", Canada's first book on drug abuse. Since then, attitudes concerning the use of marijuana have been constantly changing, and thus have created ongoing arguments between two opposing forces within North American culture. Through an assessment of the material provided, this paper will focus on and explain how attitudes towards the use of marijuana have evolved over time.
In her article, Murphy includes a variety of evidence concerning the use of marijuana. Her evidence consists of information provided by doctors, authority figures, fictitious literature, and writers who chose to express their feelings towards either marijuana or hashish. The conclusive evidence reported by her sources basically says that marijuana produces "trance like symptoms" , "a staggering walk" , "acute mania" , "paranoia" , "a tendency to commit violent crimes" , and that "it can also cause death." This type of evidence, which was basically the only evidence available at this time, surely would have been believable coming from a judge, thus creating fear throughout society. However, at this stage in time there had not been any scientific experiments performed on the side effects of marijuana, and, as a matter of fact, the first experiment was not conducted, in reality, until 1939. It has also been suggested that the extreme side effects, mentioned in Murphy's book, as well as many others, could have been attributed to indulging too heavily in the drug, thus qualifying as an overdose. Nonetheless, and most importantly, public opinion throughout the early part of the 20th century would have been in favour of Murphy's view, in other words, marijuana was regarded as dangerous.
Murphy's book is somewhat skeptical to some of us today; however, it was taken to be very serious throughout the early part of the 20th century. What may have partially influenced her decision to write a chapter on the use of marijuana was, most likely, the problems involving the Chinese and opium in Vancouver. Opium was quite common from the mid to late 19th century throughout Canada. It was sold in the form of laudanum, and people used it for medical and non-medical purposes. Towards the end of the 19th century there were many Chinese people immigrating into British Columbia to work on the railroads, and had brought their opium "habits" along with them. Prior to the surfacing of Chinese immigrants, the use of laudanum was common, and up until then, acceptable in the non-medical sense as well. Unpredictably, opium users increasingly began to acquire a bad reputation and were seen as having a disease of the will, owing to the fact that the Chinese used it and were considered to be racially inferior. In 1907, racism eventually led to riots aiming to stop immigration into Vancouver, and causing millions of dollars in damages throughout Chinatown.
Upon arrival, the government official hired to assess the damages done to Chinatown was presented with requests to compensate opium factories, in which authorities had no idea about. This ultimately led to the prohibition of opium and all of its derivatives in 1911, and a halt in Chinese immigration from 1923 to 1946. The racial attitudes towards the Chinese throughout the early part of the 20th century were views held by the majority and, most likely, Emily Murphy as well.
In "The Black Candle" Murphy refers to the convention held at The Hague in 1912, when Italy suggested a study of marijuana, claiming that its use would increase as the opium traffic was suppressed. Information suggesting a climbing usage of another drug would have certainly caused concern
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Emily Murphy, Harry Anslinger,
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United States, Canada,
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marijuana, drug, the 20th century, opium, Emily Murphy, United States, Canada, bad reputation, Harry Anslinger, violent crimes, Black Candle, public opinion, Treasury Department, information, drug abuse, hashish, New York, hemp, drug prevention, drug policy, Controlled Substances Act, awareness, New York city, Chinese immigrants, scientific evidence, side effects, hemp seed, harmful, Chinese people, racial, recorded history, acute mania, narcotics, American culture, North America, British Columbia, scientific studies, Arabian Nights, South Carolina, immune system, long term, memory loss, spiritual growth, mental disorders, Police officers, The Black Candle, York Academy, Chinatown, arrests, cocaine,