GENIFER M Jewelry is going all out to try and “demystify cannabis.”
The company has created the nation’s first line of “cannabis-inspired” jewelry, and offers a full product line – from inexpensive to extravagant – at select stores and on their website.
“It’s time to clean up the mistakes of the past,” said Genifer Murray, co-founder of GENIFER M Jewelry. “Doctors, health advocates, and politicians are all calling for the legalization of cannabis.”
According to Murray, the first step in understanding cannabis is to understand its history in America.
For many years, cannabis was an accepted part of society. And the reasons it became illegal and stigmatized have some very dark motivations.
Murray believes that once people understand this history and come to terms with the rather dark reasons that the plant became illegal, they will be more likely to accept cannabis as legitimate and beneficial product.
For hundreds of years, cannabis was used for a variety of purposes. From the 1600’s until the early 1900’s, hemp was widely used for industrial purposes such as paper, building materials, rope and more. Marijuana was a common medicinal treatment.
The Mexican Menace
In the early 1900’s, Mexican immigrants introduced the recreational use of marijuana to America. Fear and prejudice about the Spanish-speaking newcomers became associated with marijuana. Anti-immigration campaigners warned against the encroaching “Marihuana Menace,” and terrible crimes were attributed to marijuana and the people who used it.
During the Great Depression, massive unemployment increased public resentment and fear of immigrants, escalating concerns about marijuana. A flurry of “research” linked the use of marijuana with violence, crime and socially deviant behaviors.
After a lurid national propaganda campaign against the “evil weed,” Congress passed the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937, effectively making possession of cannabis illegal throughout the nation, excluding some medical and industrial uses.
The Nixon Years
In 1970, Congress passed the Controlled Substances Act, which established categories into which drugs were placed depending on their medical usefulness and potential for abuse.
President Richard Nixon ramped up the “war on drugs” and pushed to have marijuana classified as Schedule 1 – the most restrictive category, despite a report from the Shafer Commission, an investigative body Nixon appointed, which recommended marijuana be decriminalized.
But this “war” had a deeper, more sinister end game. Nixon aide, John Ehrlichman, later admitted:
“You want to know what this was really all about? By getting the public to associate hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”
The Reagan Years
In the 1980’s, the Anti-Drug Abuse Act, instituted mandatory sentences for drug-related crimes. The law raised penalties and established a “three strikes and you’re out” policy, requiring life sentences for repeat offenders. Prisons swelled with inmates serving drug sentences, often for just possessing small amounts of marijuana.
Starting with the Nixon policy in 1973, after 50 years of stability, the rate of incarceration in the United States began a sustained period of growth. In 1972, 161 U.S. residents were incarcerated in prisons and jails per 100,000 population. By 2007, that rate had more than quintupled to a peak of 767 per 100,000. In absolute numbers, the prison and jail population had grown to 2.23 million people, yielding a rate of incarceration that is by far the highest in the world
These rates and levels of imprisonment are destroying families and communities, and widening opportunity gaps—especially in terms of race.
Michelle Alexander, a legal scholar, published a powerful and influential critique of the U.S. criminal justice system in 2012, showing how the war on drugs has disproportionately and unfairly harmed African Americans.
John Pfaff, a Fordham law professor and crime statistics expert, points out that the proportion of state prisoners whose primary crime was a drug offense rises sharply from 1980 to 1990, when it peaks at 22 percent.
A New Awakening
In 2013, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Chief Medical Correspondent for CNN, produced the first of a series of documentaries on cannabis. These reports restarted a conversation about the benefits of cannabis, and helped usher in a change in public perceptions. Genifer Murray was one of the first to introduce Dr. Gupta to the medical uses of cannabis.
Murray was known for having been the first to test the “Charlotte’s Web” strain of cannabis that was useful in treating epilepsy.
So why did this jewelry company join the movement to end the old “myths” about cannabis?
Murray says that the company holds its core values deeply, and stands not only for cannabis legalization, but a “reckoning” of the past’s mistakes and how the government lied about marijuana to serve ulterior motives. She says that the company’s jewelry line provides individuals with a beautiful way to show their solidarity and support of this new way of thinking.