It was used as a food, medicine, fiber, and magical religious sacrament. It’s role in ancient societies were multiple. Marijuana or hemp was discovered in Central Asia around 500 BC, then was introduced to Africa, Europe, and then the Americas. It has a long history of human use. Most cultures in history did not use it for the purpose of getting high. In America hemp dates back to the early colonist, who grew it for rope making, textiles, clothing, sails, and paper. The seeds of the Hemp plant were also used as food. Because it grows quickly, the ease of cultivating, and its many uses it was grown throughout the early American colonies. In the early 1600’s the farmers in the American colonies of Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Virginia were required to grow Hemp.
The early plants did not have high levels of THC (the cannabinoid attributed to the high effect), however there is evidence that ancient cultures knew about the psychoactive properties of the plant. They may have even cultivated varieties for higher levels of THC to use in healing practices and religious ceremonies. They have even found burned marijuana seeds In the graves of Chinese Shamans and Siberian religious leaders.
The war on marijuana began with the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937. The federal government of the US set out to criminalize marijuana nationally. This Act imposed an excise tax on the possession, transfer, and sale of all Hemp products, which effectively criminalizes the entire plant, except what was for industrial use. They continued to grow Hemp for industrial use in the US through World War II. Its domestic cultivation was encouraged after the Philippines fell to Japan. The Philippines were a major source of imported Hemp fiber until then. A field of Hemp planted in Wisconsin in 1957 is the last field planted in the US. Due to political and racial factors in the 20th century marijuana was criminalized, but that is changing rapidly in the 21st century.
An Irish doctor studying in India discovered a marijuana extracts helped people suffering from vomiting and stomach pain caused by cholera. By the late 1800’s pharmacies and doctors in Europe and the US sold marijuana extracts to treat all sorts of ailments, including stomach issues and pain. Later it was discovered THC was the source for marijuana’s medical properties. THC interacts with the areas of the brain that lessons’ nausea and increase hunger.
Recreational marijuana wasn’t widely used in the US until the early 1900’s, when the Mexican Revolution introduced the practice of smoking it to the US population. During the Great Depression unemployment and social unrest fueled resentment and public fear of recreational marijuana smoking and Mexican immigrants. By 1931, twenty-nine states had outlawed marijuana.
Cannabis is, however, still illegal under US federal law, but the ever changing legal status is a subject of ongoing controversy. As more states legalize medical and recreational marijuana, the tide appears to be shifting. New studies are coming out almost daily that prove the medicinal and healing properties of marijuana. As the sigma of marijuana is lifted and more states legalize, it is only a matter of time before the federal government in the US must re-evaluate the legal status of marijuana. We must continue to educate people on the benefits of this miracle plant, if we do the pressure will become overwhelming and the US government will be forced to change their out-of-date laws and legalize.