Cannabis Throughout History
Cultivated, Consumed, And Utilized By Humanity For Thousands Of Years
Despite cannabis’ relatively recent status as a Schedule 1 Drug and even with the War on Drugs going on, it is important to remember that this powerful plant has actually had a long history with humans that dates back to ancient times. As you will find from reading several of the historical points listed further in this section, cannabis was indeed used as a versatile source of textile goods as well as medicine that was and still is useful for treating many ailments. It was also a legitimate part of the Western Pharmacopeia that was even produced by many farmers in America until racist driven propaganda drove hemp and the cannabis plant into unjust prohibition. Much of this will indeed be detailed.
It is also important to note that while the history of cannabis is fascinating unto its own, these clues and records from the past indeed served the scientists and researchers that continue to discover and spread knowledge on the medical potential of the plant itself. Much of these old findings from the ancient world actually give us the initial clues, ground, and frame from which we now build upon our overall understanding of cannabis.
While much of what is listed below involves the plant’s medical usage throughout the world, keep in mind that all the while it was used as a medicine, it’s versatile hurd, pulp, and stock was utilized to make countless every day textile goods such as fiber for rope, clothing, and other cloths; food; building material (for Henry Ford’s cars even), paper, and more! Eye opening stuff for sure, and the next few pages illustrate a comprehensive chronology of cannabis history!
8,000 BCE (probably even earlier): Evidence of hemp’s earliest mass cultivation comes from various parts of Asia and Mesopotamia (modern day Turkey). Ancient Taiwanese pottery suggests that humans used the hemp cord for various purposes including cloth as far back as this era. It has been suggested that Hemp was one of the first agricultural crops to be grown.
6,000 BCE: The people of ancient China begin to process cannabis seeds and oil for food.
4,000 BCE: Various hemp textile goods are produced and utilized in China, Turkestan, and Central Asia.
2700 BCE: Chinese Emperor Shennong (considered the father of Chinese medicine) writes and experiments with cannabis (oftentimes on himself) for a variety of ailments. His findings would later be compiled into multiple herbal medicine compendiums throughout the history of mankind - cannabis was a significant component of these herbal practices.
2000 BCE: People in India begin to mix cannabis and milk to make Bhang, a drink used as an anesthetic (pain reliever) and anti-phlegmatic (used to treat apathy and depression). The Atharva Veda of this culture which was later written several centuries later even states that cannabis is one of the five sacred plants of India. In addition to its medicinal use to help treat anxiety, it was also a ritual offering to the Hindu god Shiva.
1500 BCE: Scythians cultivate hemp to make fine cloth.
1200 BCE: Egyptians utilize cannabis to treat glaucoma and inflammation. Modern scientists have also found evidence of cannabis in the tomb of Ramesses II who died in 1213 BCE.
600 BCE: People from what is now Southern Russia begin to use hemp.
500-400 BCE: A Scythian Urn containing cannabis leaves and seeds dating back to this time was unearthed near Berlin; historians suggest that this is evidence that the Scythians introduced hemp products to Europe around or before this century. Also during this time, Herodotus the great historian reports that the Scythians used cannabis for both ritual and recreational purposes.
200 BCE: Greeks begin to utilize hemp for rope and cannabis as a medicinal remedy for earache, edema (swelling), and inflammation.
100 BCE - 1 CE: The first evidence of hemp paper comes from China in this era. The Pen Ts’ao Ching, a medical compilation of herbs, recipes, and remedies based off of the teachings and writings of Emperor Shennong is published. It names cannabis as one of the most useful and versatile medicines that may be utilized for hundreds of ailments and maladies including rheumatic pain, intestinal constipation, disorders of the female reproductive system, malaria, and more!
1-100 CE: Pliny the Elder writes “The Natural History” and discusses hemp rope and cannabis as an analgesic (pain reliever). The Greek physician Discorides publishes the book, “De Materia Medica,” or “On Medical Matters” and recommends cannabis to treat earache, amongst other ailments. In 79 CE, the historian Pliny the Elder writes that the roots of the cannabis plant, when boiled in water, may be used to ease cramped joints, gout, and violent pain.
200 CE: It is reported that the Chinese surgeon Hua T’o used cannabis resin combined with wine as anesthetic for surgery.
500-600 CE: Jews utilize cannabis for textile purposes; this is directly stated in the Shulchan Aruch (the Code of Jewish Law), and the Talmud.
800-900 CE: Cannabis is used in the Arabic world to treat a variety of ailments including migraines, syphilis, and as an analgesic and anesthetic. Arabs also find it useful as a paper, and last but not least, for making and consuming hashish for recreational purposes. Vikings take the hemp rope and seeds to Iceland.
1000 CE: Hemp rope begins to be utilized on Italian ships.
1100-1200 CE: The practice of eating Hashish spreads throughout the Middle East - Iraq, Bahrain, Egypt, and Syria. In the collection “1,001 Nights,” the “Tale of Two Hashish Eaters” is included and tells a story involving hash’s intoxicating properties.
1300-1400 CE: Cannabis is introduced to the Mozambique coast of Africa by Arab traders. Historians also state that evidence of cannabis use was found in Ethiopian pipes which suggest that the plant was also spread to the rest of Africa from Egypt.
1500 CE: In 1578, a medical text by Li Shizhen, “Bencao Gangmu Materia Medica” or the “Compendium of Materia Medica,” is published and considered to be the most complete and comprehensive medical book written in the history of traditional Chinese medicine up to then. In it, cannabis is described as versatile and useful for treating vomiting, parasitic infections, and hemorrhage. King Henry VIII of this century also fines farmers if they do not grow hemp for industrial use. In Brazil, Angolan slaves bring cannabis with them and are permitted to grow the plant amongst sugar canes in plantations. The Angolans smoked the plant in between harvests. The Portuguese physician Garcia da Orta also investigates and reports on cannabis’ medicinal effects.
1600 CE: England begins to import hemp from Russia, and the French and British begin to cultivate cannabis for hemp in the American colonies of Port Royal, Virginia, and Plymouth. Jamestown settlers also begin to cultivate hemp for building purposes. “The Anatomy of Melancholy,” a medical textbook by English clergyman and scholar Robert Burton is published in 1621. He details cannabis’ potential use to treat depression. In 1652, the renowned herbalist Nicholas Culpeper publishes “The English Physitian.” In it, he states that hemp extract, “allayeth inflammations in the head...eases the pains of the gout...knots in the joynts, and the pains of the sinews and hips.” Hashish also becomes a major trade item between Central Asia and South Asia.
1700 CE: Both US Presidents George Washington and Thomas Jefferson grow hemp for textile purposes at Mount Vernon and Monticello respectively.
1800 CE: Hemp plantations flourish across America. Early in this century, Sir William O’Shaughnessy MD serves in India as an army surgeon. He later introduces cannabis into British medicine in 1842 by publishing several papers on cannabis use as a medicine in several esteemed journals of the time. He details and practices it’s use to treat muscle spasms, rheumatism, convulsions from tetanus, rabies, and epilepsy. It was also used as a sedative for sleep, and it is even used by Queen Victoria to treat her menstrual cramps. Additionally, the French doctor Jacques-Joseph Moreau reports that cannabis suppresses headaches, increases appetites, and aids with sleep.
1850: Cannabis, or hemp extract, is added to the US Pharmacopeia - then an official public standards-setting authority for prescription and over the counter medicines. The publication listed cannabis as useful for treating neuralgia, tetanus, typhus, cholera, rabies, dysentery, leprosy, incontinence, gout, convulsive disorders, tonsillitis, uterine bleeding, excessive menstrual bleeding, and more. Additionally, it suggests usefulness in treating alcoholism and opiate addiction. During this time, tinctures of cannabis extract were often utilized as a versatile medicine.
1850-1900: In 1889, an article is published in The Lancet, one of the world’s leading medical journals, by Dr E.A. Birch exploring cannabis as a possible medication for opium withdrawal. He also describes the anti-emetic, or anti-nausea effects of cannabis. At the end of the century, from 1893-1894, the Indian Hemp Commission is established to examine the use of cannabis in India. It finds and reports more beneficial effects when regarded as medicinal in character, and few negative effects when used in moderation.
1900-1930: In 1916 the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) chief scientists Jason Merrill and Lyster Dewey develop hemp paper. They concluded it was favorable than paper made from wood. In 1919 the 18th Amendment to the US Constitution put Alcohol into prohibition until 1933. Coincidentally, interest into smoking both cannabis and hashish began to grow in the US. Even jazz musicians and performers embraced its use in the nightlife. By the 1930s the US pharmaceutical firms Parke-Davis, Eli Lilly, Grimault & Company, and more, were marketing cannabis extracts and cigarettes as useful for being analgesic (pain relieving), anti-spasmotic, and sedative. By 1936, however, new medications such as aspirin, morphine, and other opium-derived drugs began to replace cannabis for various medical conditions in Western pharmacopeia. Additionally, some states begin to ban the recreational use of cannabis as well. In other parts of the world, Greece, Lebanon, Britain, and Yarkand China begin to crack down on the hashish trade and ban it’s use. Last but not least, Harry J Anslinger becomes appointed to be the first commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics - he was pivotal in helping to bring about prohibition as his mission was to rid the US of all drugs, cannabis included.
1936, 1937: In 1936 the anti-marihuana morality and propaganda film, “Reefer Madness” is shown in theaters across the US. With the combination of yellow journalism spread by William Randolph Hearst in his newspaper (whose lumber investments were threatened by the Hemp plant), the propaganda spread by the aforementioned film, alongside racist Mexican and Black associations with the drug, hemp and cannabis became associated with a type of wild Mexican tobacco and labeled the word Marihuana. In 1937 the Marihuana Tax Act is passed despite opposition by the American Medical Association (who to this day supports research on medical cannabis). Dr William C. Woodward, testifying on behalf of the AMA stated that “The American Medical Association knows of no evidence that marijuana is a dangerous drug,” and furthermore warns that prohibition “loses sight of the fact that future investigation may show that there are substantial medical uses for cannabis.” Despite this, the tax act criminalized the possession and sale of marihuana, which included cannabis extracts and even hemp derived products. This same year the first marihuana seller, “criminal” Samuel Caldwell (58 at the time) was convicted and sentenced to four years of hard labour in prison for selling two cannabis cigarettes. He died a year after release.
1938: New York City Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia assigns the New York Academy of Medicine to investigate the claims on which the prohibition of marihuana is founded on. The “LaGuardia Commission Report” is subsequently published and finds that marihuana is not addictive and does not lead to insanity or violent crime. The Federal Bureau of Narcotics at the time confiscated mass amounts of the reports and destroyed them.
1942: Cannabis and Marijuana are officially removed from the US Pharmacopeia thus removing it from therapeutic legitimacy in the accepted medical community. Despite this, due to a WWII wartime need for hemp rope and various other hemp products, the United States Department of Agriculture released the short film “Hemp for Victory” which called upon farmers in America to grow as much as possible in order to help the war effort. More bizarre, US scientists working at the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the CIA’s wartime predecessor, begins work on a chemical substance that could work as a pseudo-truth serum by breaking down the mental defences of enemy spies and POWs. Their research included potent marijuana extract and this concoction was given the code name TD - Truth Drug.
1951: US Congress passes the Boggs Act (named after the sponsor Rep. Hale Boggs (D)); this law established mandatory 2-5 year minimum prison sentences for simple possession of drugs on a first offense (this was later reduced decades later). Marijuana was at the top of the list of offending drugs. During the 50s decade, the “Beat generation” embraced smoking cannabis as a recreational pastime. Writers of this movement Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg make multiple references to it in their works.
1960: College kids of the 60s as well as “Hippies” explore and embrace marijuana for recreational use and adopt it as a counter culture symbol. Even American soldiers in Vietnam would later embrace smoking cannabis for recreational purposes. Additionally, Czech researchers investigate and document the antibiotic and analgesic effects of cannabis.
1964: Delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ9-THC) is first identified, isolated, and synthesized by Dr Raphael Mechoulam, Professor of Medicinal Chemistry at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, alongside his team. The discovery was described as “Isolation, structure, and partial synthesis of an active constituent of hashish.” Their team primarily experimented with monkeys throughout the 60s and this research led to a publication, “Marijuana Chemistry” by Dr Mechoulam in 1970.
1968: The University of Mississippi becomes the first official cannabis grower for the Federal Government. As the only Federally registered cultivator of marijuana in the US, the University of Mississippi supplies marijuana to researchers for studies ranging from chemical research, preclinical toxicology in animals, and even to clinical work on humans. This same year, the Wootton Report, written by the UK government’s advisory committee on drug dependence, finds that “the long term consumption of cannabis in moderate doses has no harmful effects,” and that “Cannabis is less dangerous than opiates, amphetamines, and barbiturates, and also less dangerous than alcohol.”
1970: US Congress passes the Controlled Substances Act and the law is signed in by President Nixon. This places cannabis into Schedule I drug classification with “No accepted medical use” amongst heroin, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (ecstasy), methaqualone, and peyote. This scheduling categorizes cannabis as worse than cocaine, methamphetamine, and morphine. This same year, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) is formed. Huge fields of cannabis are cultivated for hash production in Afghanistan. Unregulated and uncontrolled, Afghan law enforcement begins to crack down on farmers.
1971: Following the passing of the Controlled Substances Act, President Nixon declares the infamous and ongoing “War on Drugs.”
1972: The National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse, also known as the “Shafer Commission” recommends decriminalizing marijuana. Angered by the findings of the commission, Nixon has copies of it destroyed and decides to go full forward with his War on Drugs.
1973: The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) is established. They are formed with the merging of the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs (BNND) and the Office of Drug Abuse Law Enforcement (ODALE). Nepal bans cannabis shops and hashish exports. The Afghanistan government also makes hashish production and sales illegal.
1974: The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) becomes the only administrator of a contract to grow cannabis for research purposes; they work closely with the University of Mississippi to cultivate cannabis for the US Government. The aim of their research was primarily to study the negative effects of marijuana. Additionally, the pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly produces a synthetic cannabinoid called Cesament (which would later be renamed to Nabilone) for the treatment of nausea and vomiting in chemotherapy. Pfizer would also begin production of CP-55940, another synthetic cannabinoid which was used to study a variety of THC’s therapeutic and protective effects on the brain.
1976: Judge James Washington rules that a Washington DC man, Robert Randall’s use of cannabis for his glaucoma constituted a medical necessity and that he was free of criminal charges in the court case US vs Randall. The US Federal government creates the Investigational New Drug (IND) Compassionate Use research program to allow medical patients to receive cannabis from the Federal government, paid for by federal tax dollars, and Robert Randall is the first recipient of government grown cannabis. At the same time, the US FDA and DEA continues to list marijuana as a schedule I drug with no accepted medical use. Cannabis is also decriminalized in the Netherlands which leads to a mini boom of cannabis cafes in Amsterdam
1977: In his book, “The Dragons of Eden, Speculations on the Origin of Human Intelligence,” the renowned scientist Carl Sagan suggests that cannabis may have been the world’s first agricultural crop and writes, “It would be wryly interesting if in human history the cultivation of marijuana led generally to the invention of agriculture, and thereby to civilization.”
1978: The US Federal Government and NIDA begin to supply medical cannabis to seven patients under the Investigational New Drug Applications (IND) Compassionate Use Program as part of a lawsuit settlement by the Department of Health and Human Services. During President Carter’s administration, he and his assistant for drug policy, Dr Peter Bourne, push for the decriminalization of marijuana, with the president himself asking Congress to abolish federal criminal penalties for those caught with less than one ounce of marijuana.
1980: A drug mimicking THC known as Marinol (Dronabinol) is synthesized and used to experiment on patients with various cancers. Its purpose is to treat the nausea and vomiting associated with cancer and cancer chemotherapy. Over the next five years, experiments across six states find that smoking marijuana is still superior to marinol in terms of relief and efficacy. Within this time, UniMed purchases the patent to Marinol for the treatment of nausea. By this time, Morocco and Pakistan had grown into two of the largest hashish producing and exporting countries.
1985: Marinol is approved by the FDA for the purposes of treating nausea. In 1992 it would also later be approved for anorexia associated with HIV/AIDS Wasting syndrome.
1986: President Ronald Reagan signs the Anti-Drug Abuse Act which reinstated mandatory minimums for possession and distribution and launches an “International War on Drugs.”
1988: DEA Judge Francis Young makes the recommendation that marijuana be rescheduled to Schedule II, which would allow doctors to prescribe smoked marijuana to patients in need. The following year, the DEA administrator Jack Lawn overrules Judge Francis Young and denies the rescheduling of marijuana. This year, the first evidence of cannabinoid receptors is discovered - unique receptors that respond to endogenous cannabinoids (compounds produced within our own bodies) is discovered by researcher William Devane working in the lab of Alynn Howlett at St Louis University. He would later work with Dr Mechoulam and his team over many years to help map out these complex set of receptors.
1990: Scientists at the National Institute of Mental Health, lead by Miles Hirkenham, heavily study cannabinoid receptors in several mammals including humans. This major breakthrough would inevitably lead to a storm of research that would begin to explain how cannabis works on a molecular level. Scientists were able to clone these receptors in both cell culture dishes (in vitro) and in mammalian models (in vivo) in order to further study and test how they work. Over the next few years, CB1 receptors located in the brain, spine, central nervous system, lungs, vascular systems, the muscles, gastrointestinal tract, and reproductive organs; and CB2 receptors located in the immune system, one’s spleen, bones, and on the surface of the skin - these would all be mapped out.
1991: San Francisco passes the first medical marijuana initiative in the US with an overwhelming 79% vote on November 5, 1991. Proposition P called for the state of California’s Medical Association to restore hemp medical preparations to the list of available medicines in the state, and to not penalize physicians from prescribing hemp preparations for medical purposes.
1992: Dr Raphael Mechoulam, in collaboration with the National Institute on Mental Health (NIMH) discover a special internal naturally occurring neurotransmitter that mimics THC and that also binds to the cannabinoid receptors - described as an almost inner cannabis produced within one’s own body and subsequently classified as an “endocannabinoid.” Responsible for helping to produce “feel good” compounds within one’s body such as dopamine; Mechoulam and his group call this compound “anandamide,” derived from the Sanskrit word meaning bliss. This same year, the IND Compassionate Use program is cancelled due to a major surge of applicants from the growing number of HIV/AIDS patients. 13 patients were grandfathered into the service and would continue to receive government grown cannabis.
1995: The second petition to reschedule marijuana is filed by Jon Gettman, former director of NORML. The 275 page petition is filed with the DEA and requests that marijuana and THC be moved from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act because neither has the high potential for abuse required under the law for its prohibited status. This same year, Dr Mechoulam and his group discover the second major endocannabinoid, 2-arachidonoylglycerol or 2AG for short; this compound binds to both the CB1 and CB2 receptors to help trigger a cascade of physiological responses.
1996: Voters in California pass the very first state medical marijuana initiative by 56%. Officially known as Proposition 215 The Compassionate Use Act, it permitted patients and their primary caregivers, with a doctor’s recommendation, to possess and cultivate cannabis for the treatment of AIDS, cancer, muscular spasticity, migraines, and several other disorders. It also protected these individuals from punishment if they recommended marijuana to the patients.
1997: The National Institute of Health (NIH) calls for more research into medical cannabis. They concluded at the time that scientific evidence was insufficient to definitively assess cannabis’ therapeutic potential and advised that the traditional scientific process should be allowed to evaluate the drug’s use for certain disorders. The American Office of National Drug Control Policy commissioned the Institute of Medicine (IOM) to conduct a comprehensive study on the medical efficacy of cannabis. They concluded that the plant is a safe and effective medicine and that the government should expand research into it and for its development into a drug. The Federal government ignores the recommendation and the Clinton Administration continues the ongoing War on Drugs.
1998: Voters in Alaska, Oregon, and Washington legalize cannabis for medical use. The UK House of Lords Committee also recommends legalizing medical cannabis. Lord Perry Walton, chairman of the inquiry stated, “We have seen enough evidence to convince us that a doctor might legitimately want to prescribe cannabis to relieve pain, or the symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis (MS), and that criminal law ought not to stand in the way. Far from being a step towards general legislation, our recommendation would make the ban on recreational use easier to enforce. Above all, it would show compassion to patients who currently risk prosecution to get help.” The UK’s GW Pharmaceuticals company receives the license to produce Sativex, a near 1:1 ratio of CBD and THC plant extract spray for the treatment of pain and spasticity in Multiple Sclerosis (MS). The medicine begins production the following year.
1999: Initiatives in Hawaii and North Dakota to legalize hemp farming fail to go through. Voters in Maine make it the fifth state to legalize medical cannabis. Additionally, Health Canada announces official funding for research into medical cannabis. Marinol is also reclassified to Schedule III in order to increase its availability to patients despite the marijuana plant itself remaining in Schedule I with no accepted medical use. Last but not least, the US Department of Health and Human services files the patent US 6630507 B - “Cannabinoids as antioxidants and neuroprotectants.”
2000: Voters in Hawaii, Colorado, and Nevada legalize medical cannabis.
2001: The UK’s Home Secretary, David Blunkett proposes relaxing the classification of cannabis from Class B to Class C. Canada adopts federal laws in support of medical marijuana, and by 2003 would become the first country in the world to approve cannabis for medical use nationwide. The Bush Administration intensifies the War on Drugs and focuses on California and other states that passed medical marijuana laws.
2002: The only study conducted on the IND Compassionate Use Program finds that marijuana improves the quality of life for medical patients and concluded that, “cannabis smoking, even of a crude, low-grade product, provides effective symptomatic relief of pain, muscle spasms, and intraocular pressure elevations…” and that “clinical cannabis patients are able to reduce or eliminate other prescription medicines and their accompanying side effects.” Additionally, in the court case Conant v. Walters, the US Court of Appeals prohibited, “the federal government from either revoking a physician’s license to prescribe controlled substances or conducting an investigation of a physician that might lead to such revocation, where the basis for the government’s action is solely the physician’s professional ‘recommendation’ of the use of medical marijuana.”
2003: Jari Dvorak, a Canadian HIV patient, 62 at the time, became the first Canadian patient to receive government supplied cannabis. The program was created in response to an Ontario court order for the Canadian government to have a legal supply of cannabis available to authorized patients.
2004: Voters in Montana and Vermont legalize cannabis for medical use. Cannabis in the UK is moved to Class C which carries lower penalties for possession.
2005: Cannabis seed distributor and activist Marc Emery, who had been on the FBI’s most wanted drug list for years, is indicted by the US Government. Under their pressure, Canada would later have to extradite Mr Emery in 2010 where he would be sentenced to five years in prison for “conspiracy to manufacture marijuana.” Federal agents would also execute one of the most widespread state raids and would shut down 11 medical cannabis dispensaries in San Diego, and 2 in San Marcos. No arrests were made, but an undisclosed amount of money and cannabis was seized without return or compensation. Authorities stated that the investigation was aimed at determining how much marijuana was being sold and who was supplying it. In Canada, GW Pharmaceuticals’ Sativex wins conditional approval from Health Canada for the treatment of MS, and qualified patients throughout the nation would be allowed to obtain a prescription for the medicine.
2006: Voters in Rhode Island legalize medical cannabis despite opposition from their state governor; the state legislature overrode Governor Carcieri’s veto against the measure. This same year the FDA confirms opposition to medical marijuana and issues a statement, “there is currently sound evidence that smoked marijuana is harmful. A past evaluation by several Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) agencies concluded that “no sound scientific studies supported medical use of marijuana for treatment in the United States, and no animal or human data supported the safety or efficacy of marijuana for general medical use…”
2007: Voters in New Mexico legalize cannabis for medical use. Mary Ellen Bittner, then the Administrative Law Judge of the DEA, issues a ruling that stated Professor Lyle E Craker PhD should be allowed to cultivate medical cannabis at the University of Massachusetts for research purposes.
2008: The American College of Physicians (ACP) publishes the paper, “Supporting Research Into the Therapeutic Role of Cannabis,” and makes official their stance on medical marijuana. Dr Ethan B Russo also publishes his article, “Phytocannabinoids and Genetic Analyses of Ancient Cannabis from Central Asia,” in the Journal of Experimental Botany; in it he describes and discusses the discovery of more than 2lbs of cannabis found buried in the tomb of an ancient Chinese shaman, as well as the use and application of cannabis as a medicine in ancient cultures. Voters in Michigan would also make it the 13th state to legalize cannabis for medical use. Interestingly, the UK reschedules cannabis from Class C to Class B, increasing penalties for possession - under Class B, offenders could face up to 5 years in prison for simple possession.
2009: Then US Attorney General Eric Holder announces that DEA raids on legitimate state approved medical marijuana dispensaries would stop. The US Department of Justice (DOJ) issues what is known as the Ogden memo, which intended to “provide clarification and guidance to federal prosecutors in States that have enacted laws authorizing the medical use of marijuana.” This memo stated that legal medical marijuana patients would not be prioritized for prosecution. Despite this, the number of raids on cannabis dispensaries and collectives would rise. Also this year, the American Medical Association (AMA) would make clear it’s position on medical marijuana in a policy statement that read, “Our AMA urges that marijuana’s status as a federal Scheduled I controlled substance be reviewed with the goal of facilitating the conduct of clinical research and development of cannabinoid-based medicines, and alternate delivery methods.”
2010: Voters in New Jersey, Arizona, and Washington DC legalize cannabis for medical use. Voters in South Dakota, however, reject a measure to legalize medical cannabis in their state. This year, the California Supreme court affirms their ruling that possession limits on cannabis are unconstitutional. The US Department of Veteran Affairs also relaxes their marijuana rules. In the Veteran’s Health Administration (VHA) directive, they state that vets who participate in legal medicinal marijuana programs will not be disqualified from, “substance abuse programs, pain control programs, or other clinical programs.”
2011: Voters in Delaware legalize cannabis for medical use. The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) rejects a request to reclassify marijuana out of Schedule I; it was ruled that, “marijuana has no accepted medical use,” and that it should remain illegal under federal law - regardless of conflicting state legislation allowing medical marijuana. In Israel, the government arranges to cultivate and supply medical cannabis for research purposes.
2012: Voters in Colorado and Washington make them the first states in the US to allow the recreational usage of cannabis. Voters in Connecticut and Massachusetts also legalize cannabis for medical use. Last but not least the country of Uruguay legalizes cannabis for recreational use.
2013: Voters in New Hampshire and Illinois legalize cannabis for medical use. CNN airs Dr Sanjay Gupta’s Weeds which focuses on the medical effects of cannabis - in it, the story of an epileptic infant child named Charlotte Figi is told, and it depicts her use of Cannabidiol (CBD) to significantly reduce her seizures and save her life. The Justice Department announces that it will no longer challenge state marijuana laws.
2014: Voters in Maryland, Minnesota, and New York legalize cannabis for medical use, making them the respective 21st, 22nd, and 23rd states to do so. The US territory in the Pacific ocean, Guam, also legalizes medical cannabis. Federal guidelines to allow banks to provide financial services to legal marijuana sellers would be issued. The Obama administration also includes a provision, known as the Cole Memo, in the nation’s spending bill that prevents the Justice Department from interfering in states that have legalized medical cannabis.
2015: The Governor of Puerto Rico, Alejandro Garcia Padilla, signs an executive decision to legalize medical cannabis. The Obama administration makes research into cannabis easier by redefining complex review processes involved with the FDA and the Department of Health and Human Services.
2016: California voters pass Proposition 64 legalizing the recreational use of cannabis. Voters in Nevada, Maine, and Massachusetts, also legalize the recreational usage of cannabis while voters in Florida, North Dakota, and Arkansas legalize cannabis for medical use.
2017: DEA head Jeff Sessions of the Trump administration attempts to revitalize the War on Drugs and denies the medical efficacy of cannabis. Congress would initially block attempts to remove patient protections for cannabis users (the Cole memo) but would later rescind it in 2018. Medical patients from various states, including an epileptic 11 year old girl, a former NFL New York Jets player, and more, file to sue the Federal Government for blocking safe access to life-saving medicine.
2018 Multiple states including California and Nevada begin to implement recreational cannabis laws. More and more states legalize cannabis for medical cannabis usage throughout the United States. The US Hemp Farm bill is passed removing hemp from its status as a narcotic and changing it to an agricultural product. The bill also made it legal to distribute hemp derived pure CBD nationawide.
2019 Despite consumer excitement over the legalization of cannabis for both recreational and medical purposes, and with a large majority of states decriminalizing and allowing for medical use, the industries of many of the states proceed with mixed and lukewarm results. Although profitable for the state governments and for a few fortune business owners across the globe, much of the industry infrastructures encounter growing pains ranging from heavy taxation, lack of quality supply or product in general, overly stringent regulation, and lack of proper education and guidance for startups and businesses making the legal transition. On the other hand, most states begin to allow farms to cultivate hemp for both CBD and textile purposes in masses (hundreds to thousands of acres legal in virtually the entire nation). This gives much needed hope to struggling farmers and their families, and the legalization of hemp has born a surprisingly exciting, new, and open industry for the entire country.
2020 and On…
The future of cannabis remains to be written and the wild journey of the plant continues to be just that - an exciting and turbulent hot topic throughout the world. It continues to carry an air of infamy and notoriety with the ongoing worldwide prohibition as its supporters are fueled by misinformation and a lack of attention and education by the mainstream media - most people’s conventional understanding of this powerful herb is consequently flat out wrong. It is the hope of the author that this article serves to provide an eye opening and educational reference to help combat the ignorance surrounding cannabis that is hurting society in ways that it doesn’t even perceive.
Cannabis Education and Research Director
References and Resources
The Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica.
Britannica.com. 2018 Mar 13, online encyclopedia page.
Staff of History.com.
Staff of the National Cancer Institute.
Cancer.gov. 2017 Nov 30, online page.
LiveScience.com. 2017 May 18, online article.
Duvall, Chris S.
Oxford Research Encyclopedia. 2017 Mar, online page.
Bridgeman, Mary Barna, et al.
Pharmacy and Therapeutics. 2017 Mar, 42(3): 180-188.
MedicalDaily.com. 2016 Jan 21, online article.
National Geographic. 2015 June issue.
Van Patten, George F (aka Jorge Cervantes)
2015 Copyright. Van Patten Publishing, USA
LiveScience.com/health. 2014 Oct 17, online article.
The Staff of MedicalMarijuana.Procon.org.
MedicalMarijuana.Procon.org. 2013 Aug 08, online article.
Gumbiner, Jann Ph.D.
Psychology Today. 2011 May 10, online article.
HowStuffWorks.com. 2011 Dec 7, online article.
Stack, Patrick and Suddath, Claire.
Time. 2009 Oct 21, online article.
The American College of Physicians.
The American College of Physicians. 2008, online page.
Schaffer, Raymond, et al.
(Conclusions of the La Guardia Report)
Mayor’s Committee on Marihuana, the New York Academy of Medicine.
The City of New York. 1944. (Rehosted on DrugLibrary.org)