Marijuana, also called cannabis, has been used for thousands of years. These ancient cultures used it for medicinal and spiritual purposes, not to get high. With many states legalizing marijuana for medical and recreational use, it’s steadily becoming a hot topic.
The use of marijuana has been controversial in the US for decades. A significant part of the population perceives it as an evil substance, which is an anomaly given its long history. Let’s look at how marijuana evolved to what it currently is in the United States.
Marijuana is one of the oldest crops humans cultivated. Although people usually smoke it, you can also eat it, brew it in tea, or add it as an active ingredient in a food or product. Marijuana is only one of the many names people give this pant. There are other names, such as weed, pot, Mary Jane, and so on.
Marijuana has always been considered a beneficial compound with different effects. Dating as back as 2700 BCE, the Chinese utilized it for many purposes, including as a sedative, antidepressant, antibiotic, and anesthetic. Some people in the 19th century used marijuana to treat angina pectoris and gonorrhea.
One of the popular uses of marijuana is for recreation. It has a mind-altering effect due to the active ingredient THC, short for tetrahydrocannabinol.
Some of the other effects people experience with the use of cannabis include:
- Appetite stimulation
- Increased sensory perception
- Distorted time perception
In high doses, marijuana can have adverse effects, such as panic attacks, fear, distrust, anxiety, and psychotic symptoms. Some evidence exists that ancient cultures were aware of the psychoactive properties of cannabis. It’s believed that they cultivated some varieties with higher levels of THC for religious ceremonies or healing exercises.
The use of marijuana dates as far back as at least 5000 years. Per reports, the Ancient Egyptians used marijuana to treat inflammation and glaucoma.
In 2900 BC, the Chinese Emperor Fu Hsi called cannabis a popular medicine. By 100 AD, the Chinese had identified over 100 medicinal uses of marijuana.
In 1000 BC, the Indians made a drink called bhang as an anesthetic and an anti-phlegmatic. This drink contained a mixture of marijuana, milk, and some other ingredients. To date, this drink is still in use.
An Irish doctor studying in India, Sir Williams Brooke O’Shaughnessy, found that cannabis could reduce stomach pain and nausea in people with cholera. Pharmacists and doctors in the US and Europe were prescribing cannabis extracts for stomach problems by the late 1800s.
Furthermore, the English documented several medical uses of marijuana. Some of which include treating gout, rheumatism, childbirth (to promote contraction), joint pain, insomnia, and menstrual cramps.
History of Marijuana in the United States
Marijuana has been a controversial plant in the US over the years. Since the nation’s formation, marijuana has had an interesting history. Below is a timeline outlining its history over the years:
1600s: In the 17th century, people used the hemp plant, a variety of cannabis, to make textiles, sails, and rope. The Virginia Assembly passed legislation requiring farmers to grow hemp in 1619.
1700s: George Washington showed interest in the hemp plant. However, he questioned its possible medicinal uses.
1840 – 1850: Marijuana became an acceptable mainstream medicine and got added to US Pharmacopeia. It was a treatment option for many ailments, including pain, nausea, and vomiting.
1862: The Vanity Fair advertised Hashish as a harmless stimulant great for managing nervousness and melancholy. Hashish is a potent form of cannabis.
1900 – 1930: Marijuana remained an active ingredient in different medications. The Mexican immigrants introduced its recreational use, making people fear the plant.
1914- 1925: Twenty-six states prohibited marijuana.
1930s: Stigmatization of Mexicans and concerns over the harmful effects of marijuana. The Marijuana Tax Act was passed, criminalizing marijuana nationwide.
1940s: It was removed from US Pharmacopeia.
1952: The Boggs Act passed, creating punishment for offenses that involve the use of marijuana.
1960 – 1970s: Marijuana became popular among students, anti-war activists, and the youth. There was also an increase in marijuana arrests in different states.
1970s: Some states like Alaska and Oregon decriminalized marijuana despite federal efforts to enact strict marijuana laws. Parents began movements against marijuana.
1980s – 1999: The public perception shifted to it being a dangerous substance. Different programs like DARE began to raise awareness against the dangers of drug abuse.
In 1989, President George Bush continued anti-marijuana campaigns. From 1998 – 1999, the Clinton administration placed anti-drug campaigns on television.
1996: California approved Proposition 215, allowing the medicinal use of marijuana at state levels.
Marijuana currently remains illegal at the federal level in the US. However, more than 20 states allow for its medicinal use. In 2014, Colorado legalized it for recreational purposes. Some states like California and Washington followed suit shortly. Although the public opinion of marijuana has changed since its illegal days, its legalization will continue to be a controversial topic.