The following historical references do not capture the entirety of our history with cannabis, they are snapshots that illustrate a pattern of use similar to how cannabis is used today. For over 12,000 years, different cultures have used cannabis for medicine, clothing, religious ceremonies, recreation, construction and countless other purposes.
10,000 BC Taiwan - Hemp (cannabis sativa) was used to reinforce clay pottery.
2,900 BC - Emperor Fu Hsi decree that cannabis restores balance to the body. Cannabis, by this time, was used to relieve pain related to rheumatoid arthritis and menstrual periods.
700 BC - Evidence of use of cannabis for its psychoactive properties was found in the Tombs of Yanghai in baskets at the head and feet of a shaman who existed during the Han dynasty.
200 BC - Chinese physician Hua Tuo was known to use a mixture of cannabis and alcohol as an anesthetic for surgery.
100 BC - Hemp was used to produce paper and extracted cannabis oil which was used to treat earaches.
1 BC - pharmacists recommended cannabis for over 100 different medicinal uses from improved judgment to a sleep aid.
By 1500 BC, a drink referred to as "Bhang" was being consumed in India to relieve anxiety.
The Atharvaveda, a religious and spiritual set of books related to Hinduism, contains suggestions for daily living as well as prayers and chants. Within those texts are mentions of the use of Bhang, a cannabis derived milk-like drink, for becoming one with the Hindu god Shiva.
At the same time in Egypt, 1534 BC, documents referenced cannabis being used to alleviate painful contractions from pregnancy and treating eye disease.
In 1533 AD, King Henry VIII commanded landowners to grow cannabis or they would be subject to fines. At the time two of the most important cannabis products were sail cloth and rope.
In 1842 AD, an Irish physician named William O'Shaughnessy popularized the use of cannabis for medical purposes including reducing painful menstrual cramps, reducing the severity of muscle spasms and reducing the severity and the frequency of epileptic seizures.
Early U.S. History
In 1762, Virginia farmers were rewarded for growing hemp while those who did not were penalized. In fact, throughout the 19th century, cannabis plantations could be found throughout New York, Kentucky, Nebraska, California, South Carolina Mississippi and Georgia.
By 1850, cannabis products were found in general stores as over-the-counter medicine.
Recent U.S. History
1906 - The Pure Food and Drug Act effectively classified cannabis and all other narcotics as poisons requiring a doctor's prescription. Amendments were made to make possession a misdemeanor in many states with other nations following suit into the 1920s.
1916 - The United States Department of Agriculture issued a memo concluding that paper made from hemp pulp was "favorable" and that one acre of hemp would produce as much as four acres of trees. However America stuck with wood pulp perhaps due to the influence of those established in the industry such as William Randolph Hearst and DuPont Corporation.
During prohibition, since alcohol was managed via the black market. This also led to consumer experimentation with the now also-illegal cannabis.
1930 - Harry Anslinger was picked to lead the new Federal Bureau of Narcotics and immediately began his campaign to demonize weed creating scary stereotypes largely based on his own racism.
1937 - Henry Anslinger drafted the Marihuana Tax Act making possession or transfer of cannabis illegal. Despite objections from the American Medical Association, the act was passed and brought an end to over-the-counter cannabis medications. Five years later it was also removed from the US Pharmacopeia which removed the last of its medical legitimacy.
War On Drugs
A 1944 New York City Mayor LaGuardia investigation and report found claims of scaremongers to be unfounded, specifically that it does not cause physical addiction, does not lead to harder narcotics and is not a determining factor for crime. Despite this, seven years later, Congress passed the Boggs Act that introduced strict mandatory and minimum sentencing for possession.
In 1968, the United Kingdom issued the Wootton Report finding that "cannabis, in moderate doses, has no harmful effects" and is safer than alcohol.
Starting around 1969, President Richard Nixon, created the “War on Drugs” as a strategy to undermine and imprison blacks and hippies, who he believed were his political rivals.
In 1970, congress passed the Controlled Substances Act classifying cannabis as a Schedule 1 drug, a designation for intoxicants with no medical uses and the highest potential for abuse. This was supposed to be a temporary classification until further research could be conducted. So the National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse conducted its research and found it did not lead to use of harder drugs, caused no significant damage to mind or body and should be considered for legalization. Furious their findings didn't support his agenda, Nixon denounced the report and dismissed its findings.
Cannabis is still listed as a Schedule 1 drug, implying it has no medicinal value and has proven to be dangerous. However, the United States government holds a patent on some cannabinoids found in cannabis due to their medicinal uses. And for all its years of use there has never been a case of overdose. In addition, more than two-thirds of US states have voted to make cannabis available either medicinally or recreationally.
Despite this, thousands are arrested every year for mere possession and millions languish in prison, absorbing resources and not contributing to collected taxes.
In California, citizens with past convictions for cannabis use are being offered a process to overturn convictions and clean their record of minor offenses. With the seventh largest economy in the world not only decriminalizing but embracing cannabis the rest of the United States is likely to follow.
- Support reform legislation efforts by the Senate
- Ask your Congressional Representative to join the Cannabis Caucus
- Support Veterans’ access to Medical Marijuana