The insane history of cannabis in the usa

Wild (Yet Resilient) History of Cannabis Use in the USA

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Insane History of Cannabis Use in the USA.

From early medicinal and industrial marijuana use to the state of today’s medical cannabis industry, the evolution of the legality and social acceptance of cannabis use in the U.S. has been quite volatile. Some may even describe the history of marijuana in the U.S. similar to a game of tug-of-war filled with twists and turns. 

Cannabis Use in American Indian Medicine

The history of the use of marijuana starts with A. cannabinum (i.e. American hemp), historically considered a “sacred root” in American Indian medicine that was turned into tea or burned as incense for diuretic, cathartic, diaphoretic, emetic, and expectorant purposes. The medicinal benefits of it were introduced to the earliest settlers in order to minimize pain and discomfort from swelling and inflammation, throat trouble, headaches, and whooping cough, among other complaints and ailments.

Colonial Marijuana History

When the American colonists arrived in the “New World”, the history of marijuana use began with the cultivation of cannabis for hemp as it was strongly encouraged as a way of making rope, clothing, sails and other industrial products. Hemp fibers were so important in fact that a 1619 Virginia law actually required hemp cultivation on every farm. The crop was even allowed to be exchanged as legal tender in Pennsylvania, Virginia and Maryland. Cannabis was also a major source of revenue for farmers in Mississippi, Georgia, California, South Carolina, Nebraska, New York and Kentucky until after the Civil War.

Early Regulation

When the cannabis plant’s medicinal components were discovered in the late 19th Century, interest in the cannabis plant shifted from its ability to produce hemp to the medicinal benefits of cannabis-derived CBD and THC. Marijuana even became a popular component in medicinal products and was publicly available in pharmacies. The cannabis plant remained unregulated until the “Food and Drug Act of 1906” required the labeling of any over-the-counter medication containing cannabis.

Impact of Mexican Revolution

Our neighbors to the South in Mexico had uncovered the recreational possibilities of marijuana use far before our stately ancestors. As a result of the Mexican Revolution of 1910, an influx of Mexican Immigrants made their way into the U.S., introducing both recreational as well as spiritual uses for a plant otherwise known for only practical purposes.

Great Depression

Because of high unemployment rates during the Great Depression, fear of immigrants reached an unprecedented high. Residents of Mexican descent experienced discrimination not unlike what we see in society today.  Recreational cannabis use was subsequently correlated with immigration and ostracized as behavior in direct opposition to what was presumed to be positive societal behavior. The 1937 Marijuana Tax Act even criminalized marijuana use for citizens that didn’t pay a tax for medical and industrial marijuana.

Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970

Cannabis use was largely tied to the African American hipster culture until the 1960s when it moved into middle-class white America. It was during this time the history of the use of marijuana took a difficult turn. Escalating cannabis use in 1960’s counterculture paved way to the passing of the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970, which classified marijuana separately from other drugs and repealed mandatory penalties for being caught with small amounts of marijuana. The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) was also founded in 1970, an eventful time in marijuana history.

Anti-Drug Abuse Act

After a failed attempt by President Carter's administration to decriminalize cannabis use in the late 1970’s and combat the stigma associated with the cannabis industry, President Reagan signed the Anti-Drug Abuse Act in 1986. The act categorized cannabis use alongside heroine, reinstated minimum fines and raised federal penalties. This ramping up of the War on Drugs was also seen at the state level during this time as well. Marijuana in Florida in the 1980s was particularly looked down upon. The state even become the first in the U.S. to spray marijuana fields with chemicals. But this started to change in the late 1990’s when California and Arizona passed propositions in 1996 to legalize medical marijuana use for people suffering from specific illnesses.

Cannabis Use Today & Recent Medical Marijuana History

Since California and Arizona legalized medical marijuana use in 1996, 32 states and counting have followed in step. Yet, these laws and the cannabis industry as a whole are still in direct conflict with federal law prohibiting the possession of both recreational and medical marijuana use and possession.

Illegal Possession

Some states have very strict laws when it comes to illegal possession. Illegal possession and use of marijuana in Florida, for example carries substantial penalties including hefty fines, addiction treatment, and even incarceration. Marijuana in Florida is considered illegal if you’re not on the Medical Marijuana Use Registry and/or don’t have your MMID card on you when in possession. You also can’t travel across state lines—whether it’s by rail, road, air, water, or by foot—with either recreational OR medical marijuana in Florida. That’s because cannabis use is regulated under provisions of the Controlled Substances Act by federal law. The illegal sale, purchase and delivery of medical cannabis is also a no-go.

Smokable Flower

The legality of smokable flower (loosely referred to as bud, green, tree, herb, grass, reefer and a host of other preferences) is currently up in the air in Florida and states across the country. Although technically constitutional, Florida state legislature has claimed it’s illegal to possess smokable cannabis flower, at least until they determine specific guidelines.

Farm Bill: Giant Game-Changer

The Farm Bill was signed into law in 2018, which has ignited a multi-billion dollar cannabis industry that’s rapidly evolving day-by-day. The bill has sent farmers and entrepreneurs into a full-fledged race to grab a piece of the lucrative market. Some may argue however that the way in which the farm bill was passed was done so to supplement the decline of the tobacco industry instead of being legalized to benefit tobacco farmers. But with the legalization of the growth and cultivation of the cannabis plant, the increase in awareness of the medicinal advantages of CBD cannabinoid receptors, which are innately a part of our natural brain composition, is inevitable. What do you think about the outlook of cannabis use in the U.S.?



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Looking for more information on how to get a medical marijuana card for your pain, check out our related article, 'Can I Get High on Medical Cannabis?'