Marijuana prohibition and anti-homosexual laws are two heads of the same snake – laws governing morality. Victimless crimes that are committed in the privacy of your home. The laws for marijuana and homosexuality vary significantly throughout the world. In places such as Malaysia and Saudi Arabia you can get the death penalty for marijuana as well as for homosexuality. While in other parts of the world both cannabis and gay rights are accepted by society. Belgium, Canada, Netherlands, South Africa, and Spain legally recognize gay marriage (including adoption) they also have some of the most lax marijuana laws. Look at the similarity of these two maps of marijuana and gay laws (click to see larger image).
The southern hemisphere on these two maps is almost an exact match. The majority of countries where marijuana is decriminalized (light blue) also allow civil unions for homosexual couples (also light blue). The United States is divided on both maps, the West coast and Colorado having the more liberal laws. Africa has the harshest penalties for morality crimes, in Sudan and several other countries you can get the death penalty for sodomy. The cultural contrast between South Africa and its neighbours really stands out.
In ancient Rome homosexuality was commonplace. Several emperors openly enjoyed sodomy and homosexual and straight relationships were seen as equal. Ancient Greece and Japan were also pretty cool with homosexuality. In 385 BC Plato argued that love between males is the highest form and that sex with women is lustful and only for means of reproduction.
Marijuana was legal in the ancient world, too. While it was used all over the ancient world for fibre the medicinal and recreational effects of marijuana were unknown except for in China, India and Persia. The Arab world was fond of cannabis, they prefered hashish which was invented in Persia in A.D. 1155. Later hashish caught on in India and Europe. In the 1890s 70,000 to 80,000 kg of hashish was legally imported into India from Central Asia each year.
Homosexuality became illegal in Rome during the conversion to Christianity. As Catholicism spread throughout Europe so did harsh anti gay laws. Homosexuality remained illegal in most of the world until the French Revolution in 1771. The Netherlands and Portugal soon followed, they were also pioneers in marijuana legalization. During the 19th and 20th centuries the Western world slowly legalized homosexuality. In 1989 Denmark was the first country to legalize gay marriage. Same sex couples were given a special status called civil union which is basically the same as marriage excluding the right to adoption and the right to marriage in a church. Gay marriage is still a hot political topic today, Canada just legalized gay marriage as well as adoption in 2005.
Napoleon prohibited marijuana for the first time in history in 1798, less than 30 years after France legalized homosexuality. Strangely he found cannabis important enough to invade Russia over during the war of 1812. The first anti-marijuana law in North America came into effect in 1910 in Utah. During that time Mormons who came back from Mexico were smoking marijuana and the church’s reaction led to the ban. Several other states followed but federal marijuana prohibition would not happen until Harry Anslinger came into the picture in 1937. The Canadian version of Anslinger, Emily Murphy, beat him to the punch in 1922 when she convinced parliament to criminalize marijuana possession. By 1961 nearly the entire planet prohibited marijuana with the passing of the UN Single Convention of Narcotic Drugs.
Homosexuality laws originated with Abrahamic religions (Islam, Christianity and Judaism). Marijuana laws were driven mainly by racism but religion played a role as well. Early anti-marijuana laws in North America were created to satisfy Christian and Mormon clergy. Church backed temperance groups like the WCTU, of which Emily Murphy was a member, successfully campaigned for prohibition of alcohol in the early 20th century. The WCTU wanted to have marijuana and tobacco prohibited as well. Temperance created the prohibition mentality and the propaganda that followed. Even today the WCTU website calls medical marijuana a scam and warns of the dangers of hemp agriculture.
No government has the right to legislate morality. Your body and your mind are not the property of the state. Abraham Lincoln summed it up in 1840 when he said, “Prohibition goes beyond the bounds of reason in that it attempts to control a man’s appetite by legislation, and makes a crime out of things that are not crimes. A Prohibition law strikes a blow at the very principles upon which our government was founded.”