Marijuana has been around for our entire lives. Actually, it has been around for thousands of years! But it was not used to smoke and get high with when it was first discovered. Instead, it had other uses. Let’s dive into the history of marijuana and how it became what it is today.
During the Ancient Times
The history of marijuana begins with its discovery. It was first discovered and used by humans around 500 B.C. This was in Asia, as a herbal medicine). From Asia, marijuana spread to North Africa, then reached Europe around 500 A.D. Most countries used marijuana for medical purposes, but some used it recreationally. For example, China viewed medical marijuana as more valuable than recreational marijuana, but India mainly used it recreationally.
The Muslims also used it for recreational purposes. This is because the Koran (the Islamic Bible) forbid the use of alcohol, but not marijuana. During the 12th century, the Muslims introduced hashish (or hash), which quickly spread throughout Persia (modern-day Iran) and North Africa. Even though marijuana was used recreationally back then, it is believed that the marijuana grown during that time had very low amounts of THC, which is what gets you high in marijuana.
During the Colonial Period
Marijuana started to reach America during the early colonial period when colonists grew it for a good source of fiber. This fiber was used to make paper, clothing, rope, and sails. Seeds were sometimes used as food. The Spanish introduced marijuana to Mexico in 1545, and they began using both medically and recreationally. In 1611, marijuana was introduced to Jamestown, Virginia (the first permanent English settlement in America) as a major commercial crop alongside tobacco.
From Virginia, marijuana spread to Massachusetts, Connecticut, and eventually the rest of the English colonies. By the late 19th century, advancements in medical marijuana had been made, and cannabis extracts were sold to pharmacies and hospitals throughout Europe and the United States to treat stomach problems.
Early Use in the U.S.
Marijuana was used as a major cash crop in the United States. This was until the 1890’s when it was replaced by cotton. Marijuana was then rarely used for the next few decades. There were some patent medicines containing marijuana from this time, but it was a very small percentage. It wasn’t until the 1920’s that marijuana would become popular once again. Mexicans immigrating to the United States during the Mexican Revolution (1910-1920) introduced smoking marijuana recreationally to the American culture.
During the Prohibition of the 1920’s, recreational marijuana gained quick popularity. Many jazz musicians of this time made “reefer songs” which were very popular. Marijuana clubs, known as tea pads, began to pop up all over major cities. The authorities tolerated all of this because marijuana was not illegal during this time, and also because people who went to marijuana clubs were never violent or seen as a threat (compared to alcohol users).
After the 1920’s, the future of marijuana was not looking too bright in the United States. By 1931, marijuana was illegal in 29 states. Then in 1937, the Marijuana Tax Act was passed. This was the first federal United States law that criminalized marijuana nationwide and gave the government full control of regulation. Samuel Caldwell, the first person to ever be arrested for marijuana in the U.S., was arrested on October 2, 1937, only one day after the law had been passed. He was sentenced to four years of hard labor. Besides making recreational marijuana illegal, the law also required importers to pay an annual tax. They were also required to use these stamps:
Industrial marijuana continued to be grown in the United States throughout World War 2. The last legal industrial marijuana farm in the 20th century was planted in 1957 in Wisconsin. During the 1960’s, marijuana was popular among college students and “hippies” and was also a symbol of rebellion against the authority.
In Recent Decades
The Controlled Substances Act, which passed in 1970, repealed the Marijuana Tax Act. In this law, marijuana was classified as a Schedule 1 drug, along with ecstasy, LSD, and heroin. It also classified marijuana as having no medical uses and a high potential for abuse, despite the last few centuries of research and discovery.
Two years after the Controlled Substances Act was passed, a report was released from the National Commission of Marijuana and Drug Abuse that recommended the “partial prohibition” of marijuana and smaller consequences for those who possessed only small amounts of marijuana. The report was titled “Marihuana: A Signal of Misunderstanding.” Government officials ignored this report.
At this time, most of the marijuana in the United States came from Mexico, since it was no longer produced domestically. However, in 1975, the Mexican government decided to eradicate the plant by spraying it with harmful chemicals, raising the fear of the marijuana containing those harmful chemicals. This led to the end of marijuana’s illegal export into the U.S., at least for some time. Mexico criminalized cannabis for decades after this.
After the 1980’s, however, the history of marijuana starts to head on an upwards trend. In the early 1990’s, marijuana became very popular among teenagers. In 1996, California became the first state to legalize medical marijuana. Since then, many other states have legalized medical marijuana. In 2012, Colorado and Washington became the first two states to legalize recreational marijuana. Many other states now have legalized recreational marijuana, including California in January 2018. Today, the world is much more open to cannabis than it has been previously.
History of THC
When it comes to THC, it has came a long way since marijuana was first used. When cannabis was first discovered, it contained very low amounts of THC. Within the last few decades, THC levels have dramatically increased (thanks to new technologies and easier extraction methods). In the mid-1990’s and before, the amount of THC found in marijuana was about 4 percent. A study done in 2014 showed that THC levels are now up to 37 percent, while cannabis concentrates reach 90 percent. This means marijuana is much more potent now than it has ever been in history.
As you can see, marijuana has a long, complicating past. But in modern times, it seems to be more popular and widely accepted. With states across the U.S. and even other nations legalizing it, marijuana might have a bright future! Hopefully you learned something about the history of marijuana, please share this post if you did! Thanks for reading!