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The History of Marijuana

An image of growing marijuana leaves.

While the industry of marijuana is starting to grow all over the world, marijuana has always been a substance that has been used throughout history. It’s no surprise that the marijuana business is booming and will only continue to expand, but most people don’t know the history behind this amazing plant. 


Today we’ll be diving into the actual history of what marijuana was used for and how it’s impacted the world. 


Early History 

Marijuana, a product of the cannabis plant, has been used in cultures for a long period of time. Many ancient historical cultures used the plant as an herbal medicine remedy, and not a way to get high. This started in Asia around 500 B.C. The plant was also gown as a textile commonly used for materials such as ropes. After originally evolving in Central Asia, the plant was then introduced into Africa and Europe, and eventually made its way into the Americas. In these countries, hemp was used to make clothing, paper, sails, and rope, while the seeds were used as a natural food and oil source. 


Due to is ability to easily grow and be cultivated, hemp was widely used throughout colonial America and was used specifically in Spanish missions in the southwest. It was even required for farmers in the 1600 to grow hemp. 


While it would be silly to think that none of these ancient cultures knew about this plant’s psychoactive properties, the early hemp plants had very low levels of THC, which is responsible for the mind-altering effects. It’s possible that our ancestors cultivated a variety of plants into producing higher levels of THC for use in ceremonies or healing practices. 


Medical Marijuana

In the 1830’s, a man named Sir William Brooke O’Shaughnessy found that cannabis extracts could help lessen stomach pain and vomiting in people suffering from cholera. By the late 1800’s cannabis extracts were sold in pharmacies and doctors offices all throughout Europe and the United States as a way to solve stomach problems. Scientists later were able to discover that the THC was the source of marijuanas medicinal properties. It was then discovered that THC was the culprit of the plants mind-altering side effect. Fun fact, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved two drugs with THC that are commonly prescribed in a pill form (Marinol and Syndros) to treat nausea that is often caused by cancer chemotherapy, as well as to treat loss of appetite in AIDS patients. 


Recreational Marijuana

There is a story about an ancient Greek historian, named Herodotus, describing the Scythians (nomadic group who lived in Siberia) commonly inhaling smoke from cannabis seeds and flowers in order to get high. Now, while this is just a story, it is one of the earliest stories relating cannabis as a form of recreational drug use. 


We do see the Hashish being widely used throughout the Middle East and parts of Asia after 800 AD. The Hashish was a purified form of cannabis that was often smoked out of a pipe. Not only was the spread of Islam cirrulating around the area during this time but the spead of cannabis was too. In the Koran, the holy book of the Muslims, it forbids people of the Muslim faith to drink alcohol or partake in any other intoxicating substances, however it did not mention cannabis specifically. But now, cannabis is prohibited in most islamic countries, as it is in the rest of the world. 


Due to the potency of alcohol and tobacco, cannabis was not as popular and therefore was not used as much to get that type of recreational high we all think of. It was not until the early 1900s that marijuana was used as a recreational drug. Only then, in the 20th century, did the criminalization of marijuana in the United States take place. While many countries and states around the globe are now lifting their bans on this plant, there are still a number of places where the consumption of cannabis is illegal. 


Marijuana in the United States 

In 1937, The Marijuana Tax Act was the federal U.S. law to criminalize the consumption and possession of marijuana nationwide. Samuel Caldwell was the first person to be prosecuted under the act, and was arrested for selling marijuana on October 2, 1937, only one day after the act was passed. The only thing that was not criminalized was the production of industrial hemp products. Industrial hemp was widely used and produced during the times of World War II after land in the Philippines (which was one of the major places that sourced of hemp fiber) was affected by Japanese forces. 


Marijuana Legalization and Current Status

In the 1970s, the “War on Drugs” was in its prime and was listed in the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 and was signed into law by President Nixon. The Marijuana Tax Act was repealed and marijuana was now listed as a Schedule 1 drug, as was heroin, LSD, and ecstasy. These drugs were labeled as having no medical use and having high potential for abuse. 


It wasn’t until 1972 that the National Commision on Marijuana and Drug Abuse or the Shafer Commision released a report discussing the misunderstanding surrounding marijuana. It was one of the first reports to recommend that the government lower the punishment and penalties for possessing small amounts of the drug. But, due to the time, Richard Nixon denied the reports suggestions and findings. 


In 1996, California passed the Compassionate Use Act which legalized marijuana for medicinal use for people who were suffering from severe or chronic illnesses. Washington D.C. along with 29 other states and territories then allowed the use of cannabis use for limited medical purposes. 


Looking back at this past year of 2018, the industry has come a long way and many states have now legalized marijuana for recreational use. Colorado and Washington became the first states to do this in 2012. However, cannabis is still illegal in certain circumstances and has been hugely targeted as a controversial political topic. As of June 2019, there are still a handful of states (Wisconsin, Louisiana, South Carolina) that still consider marijuana to be fully illegal. 


While most of us just enjoy cannabis for all of its wonderful benefits, we should be aware of how this small plant has transformed the world we live in today. At Empire Health and Wellness, we have a wide variety of cannabis products for you to choose from! From edibles to pre-rolls and topicals to clones, there is something for everyone. Come by to see us in Modesto, where one of our experienced budtenders will help you find the perfect product for you.