Editor’s note: Welcome to Room 420, where your instructor is Mr. Ron Marczyk and your subjects are wellness, disease prevention, self actualization, and chillin’.
It’s important to understand the rationale used in 1937 to outlaw marijuana. The misinformation sold to the public was that marijuana use caused homicidal insanity in the user even if used only once!
No real hard scientific studies with evidence were presented to support this claim in 1937; only lurid, sensational news stories that whipped up prejudice and shut down any rational public debate. Government, guided by a hidden industry agenda, led a public health campaign to spread the alarm that marijuana had to be wiped off the face of the earth to save the youth of America from insanity.
From the DuPont 1937 Annual Report:
“The revenue raising power of government may be converted into an instrument for forcing acceptance of sudden new ideas of industrial and social reorganization.” (Source)In addition to marijuana prohibition, the other big independent social agenda of the day was the first attempt at psychosurgery as a cure for insanity.
No effective psychiatric treatment or meds existed at this time; in 1937, large numbers of psychiatric patients were warehoused in state psychiatric hospitals without any effective treatments. Ironically, medical marijuana, the best medicine for the mind, was outlawed for physician use. If only these distressed patients could have been treated with medical marijuana, how many could have been saved from the fate that awaited some of them?
An immediate solution was needed; at that time lobotomies were being touted as the miracle solution. This new medical experiment seemed like an easy fix to treat thousands of patients.
At the same time, but independent of this, marijuana prohibition was sold to prevent insanity as lobotomies were really starting to take off to cure the insane.
What other parallels between lobotomies and marijuana prohibition existed in 1937?
Both were social experiments that dealt with insanity or madness, what we would today call mental illness.
Both used pseudo science to support their claims, and neither was put through any peer review process that the scientific method demands before undertaking such radical social solutions on a grand scale.
Both were considered miracle cures for the treatment and prevention of insanity that, in time, killed thousands of patients they were supposedly trying to help.
We don’t lobotomize people anymore because it doesn’t work, has no evidence to support it, and is just a stupid idea.
Marijuana prohibition is the same: there is no evidence to support it, and it is just a stupid idea … but today we are still stuck in a 1937 time warp of illogic.
The lack of scientific evidence supporting lobotomies or prohibition of medical marijuana is an example of science and government going totally off the rails; both went utterly, horrifically wrong. However, marijuana prohibition is alive and is still with us today, still imprisoning and killing people, as prohibitionists still stuck parroting the same 1937 misinformation in updated versions. Both experiments are failures.
Even though it was used for millennia as a medicine, marijuana was outlawed in 1937 and deemed extremely dangerous, even under a physician’s care. However, at the same time, lobotomies were sanctioned to be performed in a doctor’s office as an outpatient office visit until the 1960’s.
The 1937 Lobotomy Back Story: Science? What Science?
Remember, in 1937 conditions such as learning disabilities, depression, anxiety disorders, PTSD, bipolar, or schizophrenia didn’t exist. If you showed symptoms of any of the above you could be involuntarily hospitalized as being insane, and if you didn’t improve you were a candidate for a mandated lobotomy, no consent forms needed.
“A 1937 report detailed that in the United States there were then 477 psychiatric institutions, mostly understaffed and underfunded, with a total population of approximately 451,672 patients, almost half of whom had been residents for a period of five years or more occupying 55 percent of all hospital beds. With no effective medicines (except medical marijuana) an answer was needed.” (Source)
The parallels that supported lobotomy and prohibition are of the same mentality; both were aimed at controlling human behaviors in disadvantaged social out groups who needed to be controlled and removed from society.
The new breed of psycho surgeons didn’t think the brain was any more complex than the stomach, and believed that all mental disorders could be corrected by simply cutting nerve pathways between the amygdala and the cerebral cortex, which would disconnect emotions from reaching consciousness.
Imagine being conscious but being unable to feel or experience any emotions at all: the post lobotomy patient has a totally flat affect. The procedure often left patients apathetic and childlike.
The first attempts at psychosurgery, drilling through the skull and cutting into the brain, severing neural pathways, proved to be too cumbersome of a procedure with a high death rate. What was needed was a type of express procedure that in short order evolved into the ice pick lobotomy method.
Lobotomies were prescribed at that time as a popular treatment for curing gays of their sexual deviancy that society did not approve of, just like marijuana use.
In Europe in 1936, Egas Moniz published his first report of performing a prefrontal leucotomy (cutting into the white matter of the brain) on a human patient, and subsequently devised the lobotomy. He judged the results acceptable in the first 40 or so patients he treated, claiming,
“Prefrontal lobotomy is a simple operation, always safe, which may prove to be an effective surgical treatment in certain cases of mental disorder.”
“The hypotheses underlying the procedure might be called into question; the surgical intervention might be considered very audacious; but such arguments occupy a secondary position because it can be affirmed now that these operations are not prejudicial to either physical or psychic life of the patient, and also that recovery or improvement may be obtained frequently in this way”
Imagine this dude sticking an ice pick into your brain for your own good, but at the same time marijuana was deemed extremely dangerous to your brain. Today, marijuana prohibition is built on this premise. Imagine if these patients were treated with medical marijuana instead of lobotomy; this would have made for an interesting study.
The first prefrontal leucotomy on American soil was performed at the George Washington University Hospital on 14 September 1936. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lobotomy
Warning: very graphic video
“The most notorious lobotomist was Dr. Walter J. Freeman, who perfected the ice pick lobotomy. He jammed an ice pick through each eye and into the brain and performed a primitive lobotomy. According to records, he did this to over 4,000 patients around America, and it is estimated that nearly 30 percent to 40 percent were homosexuals. He believed deeply this was the only way to cure homosexuality.” (Source)
“After experimenting with novel ways of performing these brain surgeries, Freeman formulated a new procedure called the transorbital lobotomy. This new procedure was performed by inserting a metal pick into the corner of each eye-socket and moving it back and forth, severing the connections to the prefrontal cortex in the frontal lobes of the brain.”“This method did not require a neurosurgeon and could be performed outside of an operating room without the use of anesthesia by using electroconvulsive therapy to induce seizures. The modifications to lobotomy allowed Freeman to broaden the use of the surgery, which could be performed in the overpopulated, understaffed state mental hospitals throughout the United States.”
The Freeman-Watts Standard Procedure was used for the first time in September 1936.
With the patient rendered unconscious by electroshock, an instrument was inserted above the eyeball through the orbit using a hammer. Once inside the brain, the instrument was moved back and forth; this was then repeated on the on other side. The ice-pick lobotomy, named as such because the instrument used resembled the tool with which ice is broken, is therefore also known as the transorbital lobotomy. The photograph at the right shows Freeman performing the procedure on an unidentified patient.
Freeman began traveling across the country visiting mental institutions in his personal van, which he called the “lobotomobile.” He toured the nation, performing lobotomies and spreading their use by educating and training staff to perform the operation.
Freeman’s name gained popularity despite the widespread criticism of his methods following a lobotomy on President John F. Kennedy’s sister, Rosemary Kennedy, which left her with severe mental and physical disability. A memoir called My Lobotomy, written by former patient Howard Dully, documented his experiences with Freeman and his long recovery after undergoing a lobotomy surgery at 12 years old by Freeman.
Walter Freeman charged just $25 for each procedure that he performed. After four decades, Freeman had personally performed as many as 3,400 lobotomy surgeries in 23 states, despite the fact that he had no formal surgical training. Many of his patients died from cerebral hemorrhage.
In the United States, approximately 40,000 people were lobotomized. Many were women, gays and retarded children. By the late 1960s, the practice of lobotomy quietly ceased in the U.S.
When lobotomies ended, there was no grand announcement made to the public. The word quietly went out to hospitals to discontinue it; broadcasting this to the public would only point out how disastrously wrong medical science had been for 30 years, even with the backing of a Nobel prize.
Thousands of patients paid the price due to this ignorance. Lobotomies have stopped, but today we still live with marijuana prohibition, which is as wrong as involuntarily having an ice pick in jammed into your brain.
Being gay was considered a sickness in the DSM up until the 1960s, when it was declassified. Today in 2013 the cannabis culture demands the same respect and treatment by physicians, police, and the government that LGBT culture has gained today.
Marijuana Prohibition Severs the Patient-Medicine-Physician Relationship in 1937.
Again: Science? What Science?
Just as a lobotomy severed areas of the brain that were intimately connected, cannabis prohibition severed the intimate connections that humans shared with this plant over millennia. Prohibition outlawed physicians from using a safe, effective frontline plant medicine that had been used for more than 5,000 years.
This severing of the patient-medicine-physician relationship and all interactions between plant and human is similar to being lobotomized from a plant that humans most likely co-evolved with and has also been part of the human experience–being cut off from nature itself.
With no medical evidence and misinformation that it was a major health threat to the general population, prohibition was sold to protect the mental welfare of the country. Marijuana was portrayed as an “insanity plague” to be destroyed, to save and protect the mental sanity of society which is so perfectly portrayed in the film Reefer Madness.
While SAM might not be attempting to repeal legalization, its plan for the nation is to force marijuana users who are arrested to undergo “treatment” for their addiction. If they comply and their urine is clean, then after a year they have no criminal record. Non-compliance or dirty UA means incarceration. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.
Prohibition gave the whole country a prophylactic lobotomy in an effort to clean society of marijuana, an invented word which has the feel of describing something of a guttural, primitive, nature that needed to be cut out of society, to “eliminate the evil.”
When it was learned that smokable marijuana was being enjoyed by two major subcultures in the US — Black musicians and Mexicans who were in revolt at home — this only further reinforced the perception of a type of sexual insanity which needed to be ethnically cleaned from society.
THE MARIJUANA TAX ACT OF 1937 By David Solomon
“The popular and therapeutic uses of hemp preparations are not categorically prohibited by the provisions of the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 directly. The apparent purpose of the Act is to levy a token tax of approximately one dollar on all buyers, sellers, importers, growers, physicians, veterinarians, and any other persons who deal in marijuana commercially, prescribe it professionally, or possess it.
Fines and jail sentences were further increased to the point of the cruel and unusual in subsequent federal drug legislation that incorporated the Marijuana Tax Act. It is now possible under the later version of the Act to draw a life sentence for selling just one marihuana cigarette to a minor.
One might wonder, too, why a small clause, amounting to an open-ended catchall provision, was inserted into the Act, authorizing the Secretary of the Treasury to grant the Commissioner (then Harry Anslinger) and agents of the Treasury Department’s Bureau of Narcotics absolute administrative regulation and police powers in the enforcement of the law. The message becomes entirely clear when, having finished the short text of the Act itself, one proceeds to the sixty-odd pages of administrative and enforcement procedures. And the infamous Regulation No. 1:
That regulation, not fully reproduced here, calls for a maze of affidavits, depositions, sworn statements, and constant Treasury Department police inspections in every instance that marijuana is bought, sold, used, raised, distributed, given away, and so on.
Physicians who wish to purchase the one-dollar tax stamp so that they might prescribe it for their patients are forced to report such use to the Federal Bureau of Narcotics in sworn and attested detail, revealing the name and address of the patient, the nature of his ailment, the dates and amounts prescribed, and so on.
If a physician for any reason fails to do so immediately, both he and his patient are liable to imprisonment-and a heavy fine. Obviously, the details of that regulation make it far too risky for anyone to have anything to do with marijuana in any way whatsoever.
Regulation No. 1 was more than an invasion of the traditional right of privacy between patient and physician; it was a hopelessly involved set of rules that were obviously designed not merely to discourage but to prohibit the medical and popular use of marijuana.”
Similar to a Lobotomy…
Prohibition severed all future avenues of medical research, ironically for mental health itself. This censorship of medical marijuana knowledge is directly responsible for thousands of deaths since 1937.
Prohibition severed research and production of all earth friendly hemp products worldwide from food, fiber, fuels, building materials and hemp plastics which are a direct benefit to humans everywhere.
The meaning of the word ignorance literally means to ignore overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
If history shows the terrible mistake that was made about lobotomies, maybe they were also that wrong about prohibiting medical marijuana?
1937 IS OVER –Today independent medical peer review will be the downfall of marijuana as schedule 1 and open the doors wide to legalization, so why isn’t it happening?
The Drug Enforcement Administration’s own top administrative law judge, Francis L. Young, dismissed the drug warriors’ untrue propaganda when he ruled in 1988 that, “in strict medical terms marijuana is far safer than many foods we commonly consume. It is physically impossible to eat enough marijuana to induce death.”
Editor’s note: Ron Marczyk is a retired high school health eduation teacher who taught Wellness and Disease Prevention, Drug and Sex Ed, and AIDS education to teens aged 13-17.
He also taught a high school International Baccalaureate psychology course. He taught in a New York City public school as a Drug Prevention Specialist.
He is a Registered Nurse with six years of ER/Critical Care experience in NYC hospitals, earned an M.S. in cardiac rehabilitation and exercise physiology, and worked as a New York City police officer for two years.
Currently he is focused on how evolutionary psychology explains human behavior.