The Blog

An article published in the Cheyenne State Leader in 1913 reveals the racist attitudes and propaganda surrounding the use and effects of marijuana at that time. (Wyoming Newspaper Project)

Article published by Cheyenne State Leader (1913) Wyoming Newspaper Project

The United States is the largest consumer of cocaine, heroin, ecstasy, and marijuana in the world. The United States also holds the world’s largest prison population, with almost 25% of the world’s prisoners, despite only making up about 4% of the total world population. Drugs have always been deeply rooted in America’s history, and, unfortunately, so has racism. Black and Latino Americans make up almost 80% the federal prison population and nearly 60% of state prison populations for drug transgressions. The numbers alone propose a problem in our nation’s past and current drug policies and legal attitudes, as a study conducted by Duke University professor of psychiatry Dr. Dan Blazer found that White Americans were more likely to abuse drugs than Black and Latino Americans. While many prominent political figures fail to acknowledge the explicit problems in our current criminal justice system, many social and political forces have been pushing to ameliorate our failing policies. Of the many proposed plans, the legalization of drugs has been a continued suggestion.

Learning from the United States’ disastrous Prohibition era, offering to legalize and regulate the sale and consumption of certain drugs as a solution is not a radical idea. Politicians on both sides of our bipartisan system have supported the legalization, or at least the decriminalization of, nearly harmless, marijuana. Eight states so far have legalized weed’s recreational use and commercial sale (Colorado, Alaska, Oregon, Washington, California, Nevada, Maine, and Massachusetts), and thirteen more states have decriminalized it (Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island, and Vermont). While altering the legality of marijuana may be a small feat in reforming our criminal justice system, it is without a doubt a step in the positive direction.

The prohibition of cannabis was unequivocally enacted under unscientific and misinformed foundations. Harry Anslinger, the man responsible for the illegality of marijuana, was a fierce prohibitionist. In 1930, President Hoover appointed Anslinger as the first commissioner of the newly created Federal Bureau of Narcotics. From this point on, Anslinger began tackling drugs utilizing falsified information and with little regard to scientific and psychological studies. Anslinger often cited a fear-inciting story of the murderous effects of drugs (which is speculated to be fabricated or at least not completely accurate). In addition, Anslinger declared drug addicts to be “infectious,” stating that one addict worked to create seven others, according to the book Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drug written by Johann Hari. Anslinger progressed to utilize racism to shake up the American public to follow his zealous anti-drug ideology. It is often a point of contention, however, if whether Anslinger’s racism is what led many of his cruel declarations of drugs (being that many illicit substances came from the Middle East, Asia, and the Americas), or if it was his hatred for narcotics themselves that led him to use racism as a medium to shake up the American public. Nonetheless, racism became a prominent medium of anti-drug policies.

Anslinger’s vicious attacks on marijuana led to some of his most racist declarations. Unable to find instances of marijuana that could lead to mass fear in the public, Anslinger began using deep racism and xenophobia already ingrained in American society. Associating marijuana with people of color, Anslinger declared “reefer makes darkies think they’re as good as white men.” He went even further asserting that the outlawing of marijuana was primarily due to the “effect on the degenerate races.” As Mexican immigrants began arriving in the United States to meet demands for labor, many brought marijuana with them, as it was a traditional part of Mexico’s social environment (much like what cigarettes were for White Americans mid-20th century). It is also worth noting that hemp had been used in American and European cultures for centuries. In Herodotus’ Histories, it is mentioned as a bathing agent,

“The Scythians put the Seeds of this HEMP under the bags, upon the burning stones; and immediately a more agreeable vapor is emitted than from the incense burnt in Greece. The Company extremely transported with the scent, howl aloud; and this Manner of purification serves instead of washing: For they never bathe their bodies in water” (381).

Neglecting historical reality, anti-drug advocates began using marijuana to demonize Mexicans. Anslinger stated that marijuana consumption caused Mexicans to rape and murder white Americans. Newspapers all over the country ate the xenophobic rhetoric:

“Was it marijuana, the new Mexican drug, that nerved the murderous arm of Clara Phillips when she hammered out her victim’s life in Los Angeles? … THREE-FOURTHS OF THE CRIMES of violence in this country today are committed by dope slaves— that is a matter of cold record.” – Annie Laurie, columnist – Hearst Newspapers

The Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 used the frequented schema of men of color harming white women. As explains, “During hearings on marijuana law in the 1930’s, claims were made about marijuana’s ability to cause men of color to become violent and solicit sex from white women.”

Evidently, the legalization of marijuana has actually taken far too long. Positive effects of regulating and taxing the commercial sale of marijuana have been seen in states and cities that have legalized recreational marijuana. Colorado has experienced an incredible decrease in crime and sharp increases in tax revenue for public education. As a man of color, the legalization of a substance that has been historically used to criminalize us, demonstrates that as a society, we are moving towards having a nation that protects the humanity of all its inhabitants.

(If one is curious about how marijuana consumption affects the body, a simple Google search and a critical comparison between alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana will help).


Photo by Victoria Robson

As Columbia Ballet Collaborative’s performers extended their bodies in beautiful shapes at their 2016 Fall Performances, it’s easy to see the elegance, strength, and fluidity ballet dancers are known for.  While students of Columbia University and Barnard College comprise CBC, they proved that dedicating themselves to academia does not make them any less dancers. They commanded the stage at Manhattan Movement and Arts Center on November 18th and 19th with an air of professionalism. Yet they kept a youthful, fresh take on ballet, melding the traditional to modern with impeccable technique and a focus on the articulations in the music to produce more profound pieces. Their fall performances offered six pieces filled edgy and creative choreography.

The opening piece, “Symphony in G,” choreographed by Amy Hall Garner, showcased the lines of the dancers. Dressed in simple black and pancaked skin colored pointe shoes, the dancers played off the the trills and fermatas of Mozart’s music with quick footwork and moments of soaring through the air. Solos and pas de deuxs were precise and outlined each dancer. With Garner’s close attention to the nuances in the music, the piece was as if the music came to life, that the music was made for the dancers. This high energy choreography not only set the scene with beautiful technique, but also the avant garde direction for the rest of the show.

Add a little heavy metal and pure expression of the music and you’ll get “A Single Marble Block,” a fierce student-choreographed piece by Sadi Mosko CC’17 featuring movement in the dancers as well as across the stage. It began with the howling wind paired with shaking motions and isolations from the dancers. She played with the sound and bass of Pink Floyd’s “One of These Days” as well as light to create an intricate and eccentric piece. Between bursts of light, the dancers reacted to each other as they traveled from corner to corner as a unit, or perhaps as a ‘single block,’ breaking apart at times, offering deep contrast to the unity.

“No Mud No Lotus,” choreographed by Ursula Verduzco, was truly a stunning piece with a beautiful message. It began with a downpour of rain and crashing thunder where in the spotlight, individuals danced against the rain. The sense of conflict depicted from the expressive dancers and the sultry music and thunder fell away as the piece went on. It transitioned into a light and harmonious dance where the performers bourreed and pirouetted with the smooth picks of the guitar that mimicked the sound of rain. Their colorful costumes brought a swirl of hues in the enlivened dance. The piece ended in the same thunderstorm at the beginning, but with the dancer loving the rain this time. A little shift in perspective -no mud no lotus- is sometimes all you need.

Contrasting with the fluidity of the previous piece, Andrew Harper pushed the boundaries in his piece, “Lost in Space.” It was innovative and fun to say the least. Each dancer, dressed in everyday clothes, seemed to resemble us in life. Dancers were plugged into earphones where sometimes their music synced up and other times the individual voices sang out slightly different from the rest. The dancing was more freeform and expressive in individuality. The music, “American Pie,”  and moments of individual expression alludes to the uniqueness of members in a community. They follow their own beat. But, there are also moments where the voices come together to create a powerful unity between the dancers.

“Moonlight & Sonatas,” choreographed by Kevin Jenkins, featured two pairs in an elegant derivation of classical ballet. The dancers built contrast between sharpness during quick movements with smooth slows. With their impeccable technique and partnering, the dancers created an illusion of slipping out of control, only to join into flowing, free releases of tension. They created beautiful imagery and gave attention to even the slightest hand flicks, letting the movement reverberate through the body. In the intimate theater, the audience could hear the breaths of the dancers, confirming the difficulty that they make look easy.

The last piece ended the show with a display of intricate footwork and showed just how incredible the dancers in CBC are. “Us,” choreographed by Miro Magloire, took three of Bach’s preludes and fugues and showcased something different with each: gracefulness and repetition, unity and technique, and quick mirrorings with crisscrossing and weaving movements. They played on shapes, repetition, and footwork, creating a dynamic piece. It’s difficulty was evident yet the dancers were pleasant and never fatigued, always expressing themselvesto the fullest. It perfectly closed the show by leaving the audience wowed.

CBC’s fall performances were refreshing and impressive. Ballet dancers are incredible, and dancers in the Columbia Ballet Collaborative are no exception, as they showcased a new take on the traditional ballet in their stunning fall performances. Take innovative choreographers and strong, graceful dancers, and you’ll create beautiful art.

Haley So is a freshman in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. Although a lover of science and math, she can’t live without a little art, ballet, or music.

Photo by Em Watson, American Theater

The Lion met with Rachel Chavkin, a Columbia School of the Arts graduate, to discuss her direction of a new musical on Broadway: Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812. The show is based on a 70-page snipped of Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace and includes both period and modern stylistic setting.

The show itself is completely immersive as the cast performs all around you, or even right next to you! And in parts of the show, members of the audience are asked to help with everything from passing letters to providing background sounds for the musical numbers. In addition, the seating is unlike anything else on Broadway with the Imperial theater redesigned to feel like a Russian club. Several seats have been removed to make way for tables and lamps to create this atmosphere. Seats range from being in the standard orchestra and rear mezzanine sections of the theater to sitting right on the stage.

The show has an open run and is performed 8 times per week at the Imperial Theatre. The show offers both a mobile lottery and rush tickets for only $39, a great deal for people interested in seeing the show for less. This is one of the most immersive shows I have ever seen and it’s definitely something to check out! When we sat down with Rachel, we talked about her experience in theater and her journey in helping to develop productions such as The Great Comet.Continue Reading..

Remi Free/Senior Graphics Editor

In an announcement from Columbia School of General Studies Dean of Students Tom Harford, Nicole Orttung, a fourth year in the Dual BA Program Between Columbia University and Sciences Po has passed away.

From part of the email:

Dear Students,

It is with sadness that I write to share with you the news of the the passing of GS undergraduate student, Nicole Orttung. Born in Prague, Czech Republic, and raised in Arlington, Virginia, Nicole was in her fourth year of the Dual BA Program Between Columbia University and Sciences Po, studying Euro-American relations and political science.

We send our heartfelt condolences to Nicole’s family and friends.


Dean Harford also noted that CPS will be hosting a walk-in group counseling session tomorrow, November 29th from 6-8PM in Fairholm Lounge, 503 West 121st Street.

A link to the full obituary can be found here.

Interested in making the next billion dollar app, but don’t have a good idea yet? To help you get started, The Lion team sat down and came up with a few ideas for start-up websites for the Columbia community that would generate a lot of hits and a lot of general happiness.

If you make one of these sites a reality, let us know by commenting below or emailing

Alright, let’s be honest – how many times have you thought, “I really wish Starbucks/Koronet’s/Chipotle/Absolute could deliver food to my door?” Well, with ColumbiaDelivers, your wish would become a reality. You’d pay a ColumbiaDelivers employee to run and get your food for you. In addition, the service would only hire Columbia students – that way, you could get food ACTUALLY delivered to your door. None of that “meet me outside my dorm” crap. None of that “I literally gave you my address, the name of the residence hall, my exact GPS coordinates, and an iPhone map with turn-by-turn directions to my building and you still couldn’t find me?” nonsense. You pay from your dorm room, you get food delivered to your door, and the delivery person gets paid. Everyone’s happy!

Flyering is an archaic practice that is too widely practiced on this campus. Why do clubs still insist on wrecking their members’ print quotas and the printers around campus to print hundreds of flyers that ultimately no one will care about? ColumbiaFlyers brings this practice to the modern age – it allows clubs to upload their flyers to a website that ultimately no one will care about. Does the end result change? No. But is the process satisfyingly more modern? Hell yes.

How many people have used and experienced issues with sites like GrubHub and Seamless? Obviously, the answer is everyone. The reason for this is that those sites aren’t optimized for the Columbia experience. ColumbiaIsHungry is a website designed to get rid of all those issues. It will have all the restaurants that deliver to Columbia listed with accurate wait times (15-30 minutes? Add “1 hour and” to the start of that and you’re getting on the right track) and will provide a smooth interface through which you can satisfy your munchies. The ColumbiaIsHungry team will also be responsible for trying their hardest to work out special student deals and promos available only through the website to Columbia students. The Lion has already had success with finding a solution to our food problems – this could be the next Sandwich Ambassador Initiative.

There are certainly social issues that should be dealt with on Columbia’s campus. Calling these things “problematic” and walking away, though, is certainly not going to help anything. So for all those students committed to pointing out the problematic, for incorrectly characterizing things as microagressions, and for anyone who literally does not get that empty criticism doesn’t accomplish anything – this one’s for you. Simply upload your concern to IAmAtColumbiaAndIWouldLikeToReportSomethingProblematic, and your comment will vanish into the depths of the Internet, just like it was meant to. Alternatively, you could write a post for The Lion voicing a non-empty criticism of a real campus issue!

You know the feeling. You’ve been sitting in Lit Hum for an hour and a half and you haven’t come up with jack shit. Your professor keeps track of participation. You need to say something profound to get your points for the day. Why not sell out? For a small fee, you can contract someone who knows more about that book you didn’t read than you do to come up with an insightful comment that will add to any class discussion! For anyone skeptical of this website’s purpose – namely, people who think, “Oh, you’re missing the point of the Core!” – you’re so wrong. This is the exact balance between literature and capitalism that our school strives to create.

Any other startup ideas? Throw them in the comments below, or email a piece about your idea to