colonial people harvesting cannabis plants

Cannabis Through U.S. History

The history of cannabis can be traced back to 2900 B.C. while the earliest written reference dating back to the 15th century. Cannabis was believed to hold medical properties with the Chinese, Egyptians, Romans, and some even suggest it was used by historical religious figures.

1611

Welcome to America

Hemp plants were brought to North America by Jamestown settlers.

1611

1762

Bounty-ful

Virginia awarded bounties for hemp culturing and manufacturing while simultaneously imposed penalties for individuals that did not.

1762

1850

US Pharmacopoeia

Cannabis made it as far as being added in 1850 to the US Pharmacopoeia, an official publication containing a list of medical drugs, their effects, and the directions for their use.

1850

1910s

Enter Prohibition

Prohibitionist sentiments swept across America leading to not only a ban on alcohol, but also on cannabis… starting in Massachusetts and spreading through sixteen other states across the US.

1910s

1918

That’s a Lot of Hemp

By 1918 the domestic cannabis production reached 60,000 pounds produced annually. However, the opposition continued to grow.

1918

1930

Mr. Harry J. Anslinger

Harry J. Anslinger was appointed Commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics. He believed cannabis was not a problem and stated that “there is no more absurd fallacy” than the idea that cannabis contributed to violence in people. However, Anslinger’s opinions changed completely when the prohibition of alcohol ceased. He stated, “There are 100,000 total marijuana smokers in the US, and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos, and entertainers. Their Satanic music, jazz, and swing, result from marijuana use. This marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers, and any others.”

1930

1936

Reefer Madness!

Reefer Madness came to cinemas across the nation in 1936, promoting the idea that not only was cannabis addictive but it also causes psychosis. The film was financially supported by a small church group and was originally intended to be used as a scare tactic aimed at parents.

1936

1937

Marihuana Tax Act

The Marihuana Tax Act of 1937, written by Anslinger, was passed and imposed tax on the sale of “cannabis, hemp, or marijuana.”

1937

1942

Pharmacopeia No More

Cannabis was removed from the US Pharmacopeia in 1942.

1942

1950s

Drug Sentencing

Enactment of federal laws (Boggs Act, 1952; Narcotics Control Act, 1956) set mandatory sentences for drug related offenses, including cannabis. A first offense cannabis possession carried a minimum sentence of 2-10 years with a fine of up to $20,000.

1950s

1970

Congress passed the Controlled Substance Act which established five schedules to classify drugs. Also, NORML (National Organization for the reform of Marijuana Laws) was founded.

1970

1972

Cannabis is Scheduled

Cannabis is labelled as a Schedule 1 drug, the same schedule as heroin and LSD. Cannabis was deemed to have “no medical use.”

1972

1980s

Drugs are Bad, Mkay?

In 1986 President Reagan signed the Anti-Drug Abuse Act, instituting mandatory sentences for drug-
related crimes. In 1988 an amendment established a “three strikes and you’re out” policy, requiring life sentences for repeat drug offenders, and providing for the death penalty for “drug kingpins.”

In 1984, D.A.R.E. created and implemented a middle-school curriculum. In 1989, D.A.R.E. introduced a high school curriculum.

1980s

1996

Go California!

California becomes the first state to legalize medical cannabis.

1996

2012

Going Recreational

Colorado and Washington are the first states to legalize recreational cannabis.

2012

2017

Progress

Medical marijuana is legal in 29 states and Washington D.C., Puerto Rico, and Guam. Eight states have legalized recreational cannabis.

2017

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