This was also the time of the Mexican Revolution and its accompanying refugee crisis. Americans, uh ... do not have a great track record of keeping their cool when a bunch of new people show up. Through the magic of synergy, racists and party-haters both discovered that the foreign-sounding term "marijuana" was the perfect new word to strike fear into the hearts of the American public -- both of immigrants and of the drug itself. Henry Anslinger, the first head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, led the charge to make cannabis "marijuana" again, with statements like:
"There are 100,000 total marijuana smokers in the U.S., and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos and entertainers. Their Satanic music, jazz and swing result from marijuana use. This marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers and any others."
He pushed Congress to make possession of marijuana a federal crime, which they did in 1937. That law was but the victory lap for Anslinger's rebranding campaign -- by that point, most states had already made marijuana illegal, and many used drug enforcement as a pretense for deporting Mexican immigrants, because like Hollywood, the United States is always recycling old material and hoping the audience doesn't notice.
When the Nixon administration needed a pretense to start cracking down on the antiwar and civil rights movements, John Erlichman realized, "we couldn't make it illegal to be either against the war, or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana, and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities."
Thus, the War on Drugs was born. Erlichman readily admitted that they knew full well they were weaving lies, but on the bright side, "we could arrest their leaders. raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news." At least Kellyanne Conway can claim alternative facts as an American tradition.