So the demonization probably began with the introduction of native practices to the Western Conquistadors.
So the Americas were being colonized and taken over by these Spaniards and of course other English and French and specifically the Spaniards encountered what they considered to be bizarre behaviors of indigenous people. They would eat mushrooms and go into what looked like trances. They would use other types of psycho-active things and to the Spaniards this looked like they were trying to go against the communion with the church, like the wine communion that they use in the Catholic Church and so they really considered this a demonic ritual. And they really were during the inquisition, it was a big policy of the church to go after heretics and that's what they started in the new world in the 1500s. They also brought cannabis along with them but they were using it for hemp to put the ropes and rigging in the sails of their ships that were part of the famous Spanish Armada.
But it's possible that some of that cannabis that was used for fiber and sails may have converted itself into the drug type of cannabis; had higher percentages of the other compounds that can be psycho-activating. And so some of that cannabis might have also become incorporated into indigenous systems of use and again, the demonization starts when these native practitioners are using something that looks kind of unfamiliar. And then, when this then pattern came into the United States at the end of the 19th century or earlier 20th century when waves of Mexican immigrants were coming across the border, this was really like a foreign behavior to a lot of the Americans living in the country. They saw immigrants coming into the country using a foreign substances and also working low wage jobs and so there was certainly laws that were passed in El Paso, Texas at the turn of the century and in other states at the border that were really banning cannabis but really they were targeted at controlling Mexican populations.
Then fast forward to the '20s and '30s and you start having more development of cannabis as an industrial product. I mean, certainly hemp was around the country for a long time. That's why we have places like Hempstown, New York and people with hemp in their last names but it really wasn't until the '20s and '30s that we got industrial strength ability to mass produce cannabis for industrial purposes like making plastics and fuels and anything that you use a hydrocarbon for, you can use a carbohydrate for. Think of it that way. And Popular Mechanics even published an article called New Billion Dollar crop in 1938 but unfortunately it was too late because cannabis was banned or made very, very difficult to access in 1937 and some people believe that this was because of competing interests of petrochemical industries who wanted to do synthetic route rather than naturally occurring fibers and starting materials.
So that could have been part of it too and this was a new deal America where a lot of big businesses were close to the government, and we maybe never know but if you look at the documents of the enforcement of the Marijuana Tax Act which is what the law was called after the '37 act, they really targeted those big farms that were developing hemp for industrial purposes.