We are here to help change the stigma around cannabis. There once was a time when cannabis was a popular medical substance carried in pharmacies across the U.S. and farmers were even given government incentives to grow hemp. Fast forward a few decades, marijuana drug became classified as a Schedule 1 substance. It is the most restrictive category for substance with “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse (U.S DEA). So what caused such a drastic and negative shift in society’s perception of cannabis?
Growing up you have probably been told by your parents, teachers or other authoritative figures that weed is a drug. And drugs are addictive and bad for you so you should avoid it at all costs. I mean, it made sense for them to think that since weed was super illegal and you could go to jail just for possessing it. If the Government made it illegal then it must be bad, right? Well, unfortunately, you and a large portion of society have been bamboozled.
Diving into history
For thousands of years, the cannabis plant has been used medicinally by cultures all over the world including Indians, Muslims, Greeks, Persians, Romans, and many others. Reports of cannabis use traced back to 2500 years ago in ancient China by Emperor Shen Nung. Mariuana was mainly used medicinally to tret problems like”
- And even libido suppressant
Some other cultures also used THC in marijuana for rituals or religious purposes
Around the 1500’s, cannabis was brought to North America by Spanish colonists. From then until the 1900’s, the cannabis plant was thriving in the U.S. and many other parts of the world like South America and Europe. Back in the day, the government encouraged farmers to grow hemp. In the 1600’s in Virginia, farmers were literally required to grow hemp to be used for producing rope, sails, clothes and a variety of other products. Hemp was even used as legal tender (money) in Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Maryland. In the 1800’s cannabis was also a popular ingredient used in many medicinal products in pharmacies all over the U.S.
The History of Marijuana in the United States
Cannabis has had a long and sometimes tumultuous past in the U.S since the nation was formed. Originally used as a textile material and later a medicinal ingredient. This plant became highly controversial through the years. The marijuana history timeline below outlines this journey
- 1600s: The origins of marijuana in the United States can be elated back to the earliest days of settlement when hemp was grown like any other crop. In the 17th century, the production of hemp variety of the cannabis plant was highly encouraged to make clothing, rope, and sails. In 1619, the Virginia Assembly passed legislation requiring that all farmers grow hemp and some states even traded hemp as legal tender.
- 1700s: George Washington was interested in farming hemp but he also questioned the potential medicinal uses of marijuana in his journals in 1765.
- 1840: Marijuana became widely accepted in mainstream medicine and was an ingredient in many over the counter products.
- 1850: Marijuana was added to the U.S Pharmacopeia. It was used as a treatment for opioid withdrawal, pain, appetite stimulation, and relief of nausea and vomiting
- 1862: Hashish candy was advertised in an issue of Vanity Fair as a pleasurable and harmless stimulant that could cure melancholy and nervousness
- 1906: The Food and Drug Act required that any product containing cannabis be labeled appropriately
- 1900-1930: For three decades, marijuana was an ingredient in a variety of medications. It was marketed as a painkiller but was also used for sedation and to treat muscle spasms. However, during this same time period, Mexican immigrants introduced recreational use of marijuana. Because the drug became associated with the Mexican immigrants, people began to fear the drug, with nit-drug campaigners referring to it as the “Mexican Menace”
- 1914-1925: Twenty-six states passed laws prohibit Marijuana. These laws passed readily and easily with little to no public outcry or political debate.
- 1930s: The Greatest Depression resulted in job loss for many Americans. This created more fear and stigmatization of Mexican immigrants as many Americans worried, they would take away their jobs. This led to more public concern over the dangers of marijuana. The media began to report that research showed that marijuana use was linked to crime and violence. At the same time, Harry Anslinger, commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, began a campaign to criminalize marijuana, claiming that it led to insanity. As a result of his efforts, by 1936, all states have some form of marijuana regulation laws.
- 1936: The film Reefer Madness was released. It depicted marijuana as a drug that could lead to violence, rape, suicide, and psychosis.
- 1937: The Marijuana Tax Act was passed, which restricted marijuana use to only those that could pay a heavy excise tax for specific authorized industrial and medical uses.
- 1942: Marijuana was removed from the U>S Pharmacopoeia and doctors began to discredit marijuana as not have any medicinal use.
- 1944: The New York Academy of Medicine published a report stating that marijuana was only a mild intoxicant. Harry Anslinger responded to this report with a solicited article in the American Journal of Psychiatry that attempted to attack and discredit the information they had previously published.
- 1952: The Boggs Act passed, creating strict mandatory punishments for offenses involving marijuana and a variety of other drugs.
- 1960: Marijuana gained popularity among the counterculture, who considered it a harmless high. Its use was popular among college students, free spirited beats, anti-war activists, hippies, and other youth. President John F. Kennedy and Vice President Lyndon Johnson commissioned reports that found that marijuana did not induce violence or lead to the use of other more dangerous drugs.
- 1965-1970: Marijuana arrests on the state level increased tenfold as authorities began to crack down on marijuana use and distribution.
- 1970: Congress passed the Controlled Substance Act, which placed marijuana as a Scheduled 1 drug, along with LSD and heroin. According to the act, marijuana had not medicinal value and a high potential for abuse, giving it harsher criminal penalties. This law made it difficult for doctors and scientist to study marijuana and its many uses.
- 1970s: Despite federal efforts to strengthen enforcement of strict marijuana laws, states such as Oregon, Maine, and Alaska decriminalized marijuana.
- 1972: The Shafer Committee recommended that personal use of marijuana be decriminalized. But president Richard Nixon ignored their recommendation.
- 1976: The parent’s movement against marijuana began, as more and more parents feared the drug and sought to prevent use in teens. Their efforts were strengthened by the Drug Enforcement Administration and the National Institute of Drug Abuse.
- 1980s-90s: The public opinion of marijuana shifted back to it being dangerous, as many considered it a gateway drug to harder drugs such as cocaine and heroin.
- 1982: First Lady Nancy Reagan started the “Just Say No” campaign
- 1983: The Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) program was established, which brought police officers into school to discuss the dangers of drug abuse. Funding and use of this program were later cut back as research showed that it did not lead to decreased drug use in youth.
- 1986: President Ronald Reagan signed The Anti-Drug Abuse Act. This law raised marijuana penalties and created mandatory sentences, many of which equated marijuana with heroin.
- 1989: President George H.W. Bush declared a “New War on Drugs” and continued anti-marijuana campaigns
- 1996: California voters approved Proposition 215, which legalized marijuana for medicinal use at the state level
- 1998-1999: The Clinton administration spent $25 million on television campaigns that placed anti-drug messages in primetime TV shows
- 21st Century: Marijuana remains illegal under federal law in the United States. But state marijuana laws are continuing to change. More than 20 states now permit the sale of marijuana for medicinal use, whether inhaled or consumed via other methods, or given in a prescription drug. Currently, 2 FDA medications on the market, Marinol (dronabinol) and Cesamet (nabilone), are synthetic cannabinoids used to treat nausea or neuropathic pain.