2900 BC: Chinese Cannabis
Cannabis use dates back over thousands of years. The earliest known use of cannabis for its medicinal properties can be traced back to ancient China. Fu Hsi, a Chinese Emperor credited for bringing civilization to China, stated cannabis was a popular medicine with yin and yang properties. Emperor Fu Hsi referenced “Ma” (the Chinese word for cannabis) as a medicine dating back to 2900 B.C.
1213 BC: Egyptian Cannabis
Egyptians used cannabis for numerous medicinal reasons. Cannabis pollen was found on the mummy of Ramesses II, who died in 1213 B.C. Numerous ancient texts from Egypt reference medical cannabis. The ancient Egyptians used cannabis for hemorrhoid pain relief, sore eyes, enemas, as well as other conditions. Cannabis pollen has been found on other mummies and in ancient Egyptian soil as well.
1000 BC: Indian Cannabis
India drinks Cannabis infused milk called “Bhang” as a medicine. Cannabis was used for medical and religious reasons in ancient India. Ancient texts from India state that the psychoactive properties of the plant were recognized, but doctors still used the plant to help treat a range of ailments. Some of the conditions that cannabis was used for include aches or pains, insomnia, as well as many gastrointestinal disorders.
200 BC: Greek Cannabis
Ancient Grecians also used cannabis as medicine. When the horses of the ancient Greeks would get injured, Greeks would use cannabis to dress the horses’ wounds. For medical purposes, the Greeks used cannabis seeds to get rid of tapeworms, and even used dried cannabis leaves to treat nosebleeds. The main form of use was to drench the cannabis seeds in either water or wine and then use the extract to treat inflammation and pain of earaches.
1300-1400 African Cannabis
Cannabis in the African continent can be traced back to 14th century Ethiopia. It is believed that the tribes eventually possessed the plant after trading and bartering with their Arab neighbors. The tribes chewed the cannabis leaves until they realized they could smoke it. This led to pipe making which would alter African cultures in many ways.
1492-1619: Jamestown Cannabis
Supposedly, Christopher Columbus brought cannabis in the form of hemp rope to America in 1492. However, most credit the Jamestown settlers for bringing marijuana to America in 1611. Hemp was very important to the Jamestown settlers, as it was a major fiber export. All of the settlers in the Jamestown colony were actually required by law to grow cannabis in 1619.
1745-1775: Presidential Cannabis
George Washington indicates in his diary that he had his own hemp farm at his home in Mount Vernon for about 30 years. He was interested in the medicinal uses but he also grew cannabis with high levels of THC. Washington also stated in 1794, “Make the most you can of the Indian Hemp seed and sow it everywhere.” The state of Virginia, where Washington lived, actually imposed penalties on those who did not produce hemp.
1798: French Cannabis
Napoleon invaded Egypt. He noticed many people in the Egyptian lower class were regularly using cannabis, and decided to bring some back to France with him. Once the plant arrived back in France, it was investigated for its pain-relieving effects and started to become more widely accepted in Western medicine.
1906: The Pure Food and Drug Act
The Pure Food and Drug Act was passed which required certain drugs (cannabis included) to be labeled accurately. This meant listing exactly what was used in the product. Before this, many medicines or drugs had “secret ingredient” labels or no labels at all. January 1, 1907 is when the Act went into effect.
1910: Marijuana and the Mexican Revolution
The Mexican Revolution ended, bringing with it an influx of Mexican culture into the United States. This introduced the American culture to recreational cannabis as well as the term “marijuana.” Prior to this time, America had been calling the plant “cannabis.” However, after the Mexican Revolution ended, the term “marijuana” became more popular. As the term and plant became more widely used, “marijuana” started to become viewed in a negative light.
1911-1914: First State to Outlaw Cannabis
State legislatures were facing many moral issues on the ballot and therefore cannabis took a backseat to issues like racetrack gambling, liquor, and prostitution. As a result, Massachusetts becomes the first state to outlaw Cannabis in 1911. It was followed by New York and Maine in 1914.
1913-1918: Pharmaceutical Cannabis Farms
In 1913, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Bureau of Plant Industry proclaimed it had successfully grown their own cannabis equal to the kinds they used to import from India. This was necessary because of WWI interrupting foreign imports/exports. By 1918, 60,000 pounds of cannabis was being produced by pharmaceutical farms, all of which were east of the Mississippi River.
1930: Harry Jacob Anslinger
The Federal Bureau of Narcotics was created in 1930. Its purpose was to outlaw the use of recreational drugs (including cannabis) in America. This operation was headed by Harry Jacob Anslinger, who claimed cannabis made people act violent, irrational, and over sexual.
McWilliams, John C. (1990).The Protectors: Harry J. Anslinger and the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 1930-1962. Newark: University of Delaware Press. p. 183. ISBN 978-0-87413-352-3.
1931: The Great Depression
29 states outlawed marijuana. This was mainly due to the Great Depression, where unemployment was the highest it had ever been. Many Americans were now in competition with Mexican immigrants for agricultural jobs. Around this time, the medicinal and industrial practices for cannabis took a backseat because of the negative stereotypes associated with marijuana and Mexicans.
1936: Reefer Madness
The film Reefer Madness was produced which shined a negative light on cannabis use. The film was intended to scare anyone who watched it about the dangers of marijuana. The original title of the film was Tell Your Children. The Motion Picture Association of America did not allow the depiction of drug use. By not showing cannabis on film, even the subject matter of talking about cannabis seemed inappropriate at the time.
1937: Marijuana Tax Act
Congress passed the Marijuana Tax Act. This basically criminalized marijuana for possession under federal law except for growers, sellers, and buyers who were authorized to use it, while being taxed for it. Once the law was enacted, prescription cannabis sales went down due to physicians not wanting to do the extra work involved with this new law.
1940’s: Hemp for Victory
Hemp played a critical role for the U.S. in World War II as part of its “Hemp for Victory” program. This program rewarded farmers who grew hemp for the war. The U.S. Department of Agriculture would give out seeds and grant draft deferments to those who would grow hemp for the war.
1944: LaGuardia Report
The New York Academy of Medicine issued an extensive report, commonly known as the “LaGuardia Report,” which concluded that numerous claims about how dangerous marijuana is were exaggerated or untrue. This was the first time a study of the effects of smoking cannabis had been done in America.
1951: The Boggs Act
Congress passed the Boggs Act in 1951. This act was the first time cannabis was labeled as a narcotic substance. The act also enforced mandatory prison time for simply possessing marijuana. First time offenders would see 2 to 5 years in prison. The act did not differentiate between cannabis users and sellers for the purpose of their sentencing.
1956: The Narcotics Control Act
The Daniel Act was created which enforced stricter sentencing laws on marijuana possession. Your first offense for possession gave you a minimum prison sentence of 2 to 10 years with a fine of up to $20,000. At this time, the state of Virginia actually had harsher penalties for marijuana users (minimum 20 years) than murderers (minimum 15 years) or rapists (minimum 10 years). Sales of marijuana in Virginia carried a mandatory minimum sentence of 40 years.
Cannabis use did not lead to more harmful drugs or violence according to reports commissioned by Presidents Kennedy and Johnson. Their was a shift in the white upper class which led to widespread usage of the plant. The views of cannabis were suddenly becoming more lenient.
A professor of Medicinal Chemistry at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem was the first to identify delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol. THC is the main psychoactive component in marijuana. Dr. Raphael Mechoulam was also the first to synthesize THC as well.
1970: Controlled Substances Act
The Controlled Substances Act is passed in 1970. This law created five schedules or categories to organize certain drugs under. Marijuana is listed as a Schedule 1 drug which are drugs classified as having a high potential for abuse, no current accepted medical use, and a lack of safety for use under medical supervision. Marijuana is still listed as a Schedule 1 drug to this day.
1973: 1st State to Decriminalize
Oregon becomes the first state to decriminalize marijuana. Possession of one ounce or less would be a violation and not a crime. The punishment for this violation was a fine between $500 and $1,000.
1986: Anti-Drug Abuse Act
The anti-drug abuse act was passed by President Reagan which instituted mandatory sentences for drug related crimes. This new law increased the federal penalties for marijuana possession and dealing and based the harshness of the penalty on the amount of cannabis involved. The 3 strikes rule would be added on later which would give life sentences to repeat offenders of this new law.
1991: San Francisco
On November 5, Proposition P passed with a 79% approval. This was the first medical marijuana initiative in the country. Proposition P asked the state of California and the California Medical Association to restore hemp medical preparations on the list of available medicines in the state and to not penalize physicians for prescribing hemp for medical purposes.
1996: 1st State to Legalize Medical Cannabis
Proposition 215 was approved on November 6th, 1996 by 56% of voters in California. This initiative allowed for patients and their primary caregivers to possess and cultivate marijuana as long as the patients have a physicians recommendation.
2003: U.S. Government Patent
On October 7th, the United States Department of Health and Human Services received a patent for the therapeutic use of cannabinoids. Cannabinoids are naturally occurring compounds with antioxidant properties found in the cannabis plant.
2012: Washington State
Initiative 502 passed by a 56% to %44 margin in November of 2012. This initiative compiled an 81% voter turnout which was the highest in the nation. On December 9th of 2012, legal possession and DUI limits went into effect.
2014: Washington D.C.
Initiative 71 was approved by Washington D.C. voters on November 4th, 2014 and went into effect on February 26, 2015. This initiative allowed for the possession of up to two ounces of marijuana and the possession and cultivation of up to three plants.
If you’d like to join us in celebrating cannabis in Seattle, click the link to find a shop near you!