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A Tale as Old as Time: A Brief History of Marijuana

With each passing year, the legality of marijuana continues to expand in the United States. 11 states and D.C. have legalized the consumption and sale of marijuana and many more are likely to follow. 

This is a turning point that’s been a long time coming for the United States, who for a long time strictly enforced drug laws that prohibited the possession of cannabis products. This turning point is a good time to look back at the history of marijuana and see how it has all led back to today.

Ready for a quick overview? Read on and we’ll walk you through everything you should know.

Ancient History

Just how long ago were humans using marijuana recreationally? About as far back as you might be able to assume. The first recorded references of marijuana usage, albeit for medical reasons, dates back to 2700 B.C. That mention is within a Chinese medical manual, where marijuana was being used to treat gout, malaria, and a wealth of other ailments and diseases.

Usage in other countries around the world around this time also existed, or at least we can assume this form various documents that have been discovered over the years by historians. The Egyptians, for example, were known to use it to treat inflammation, a use we still adhere to today.

Recorded instances of the use of marijuana in a recreational sense can be found in Arab writing sometime between 800 A.D. and 1000 A.D. Writings about the intoxicating nature of the substances became more commonplace around this time.

Many Muslim people at the time would use marijuana as alcohol was banned by the Koran. Indians also used the drug for it’s more mind-bending effects, mixing it into alcoholic drinks they were serving at the time.

The use of marijuana continued both medically and recreationally throughout much of early history. 

Marijuana in America

What about the history of the famed substance making land here in the New World? The earliest records of marijuana in America date back to about the mid-1500s when the Spanish brought cannabis products over from Spain. 

This intention of this transfer actually had little to do with marijuana initially. What the Spanish really intended to do was grow the crop to produce hemp. hemp could then be used for clothes, bags, and the rigging of ships, an important task at the time.

In fact, hemp rope was so popular creation for sailors at the time that hundreds of thousands of pounds were produced every year. You can’t blame the Spanish for bringing some of that over to America with them. 

Of course, the Spanish weren’t the only ones bringing marijuana into America with them. There was also the Africans. Slaves being transported to Brazil would often bring cannabis along with them. When working in Brazil, many slaves would grow marijuana and smoke it recreationally. 

As the slave trade began to become more popular in America, the practice sometimes continued.

Eventually, the production of hemp was overtaken by the production of cotton. Hemp had gone out of style with the switch from sailing ships to steamships. Cotton became one of the key crops to grow. Hemp production declined greatly. 

It wasn’t until cannabis began being carried over the Mexican border that the intoxicating aspects of the cannabis plant began to become more popular in America.

Popularization & Enforcement

Sometime during the 1920s, marijuana really began to catch on with Americans. Some theorize that it might be due to prohibition, which pushed many who could no longer drink to find another substance to utilize.

Jazz clubs became reefer hotbeds and some songs were even written about the drug. However, the American government quickly began to try to come down on the use of the drug, portraying it as highly addictive and potentially dangerous.

In the 1960s, marijuana became one of the key components of the counter-cultural movement, symbolizing rebellion against authority, and the law. All sorts of paraphernalia came to popularity during this time, including the bong and the weed pipe.

This led to even further implementation of extreme measures from the US government, who classified marijuana as a Schedule I drug under The Controlled Substances Act of 1970. 

This meant the government enforced laws against marijuana with the same degree of punishment as they did heroin! There was no accepted medical use for marijuana at this time. Strict laws and mandatory sentences were put in place. 

Colombia became the main importer of marijuana into the United States, though the strict drug laws pushed many to take to domestic cultivation as opposed to importation. Marijuana began to be grown secretly and away from the law in much of California.

In the late 90s and early 2000s, the medical use of marijuana became more commonplace in certain states. The application of cannabis products for various ailments eventually worked its way into the public consciousness.

States continued to expand medical marijuana laws and eventually recreational marijuana laws. This is about where we are today with marijuana in the United States.

A Broad History of Marijuana

There’s never been another substance that has taken the attention of world culture like marijuana.

The history of marijuana traces back far before modern times, but many of the uses that were around thousands and thousands of years ago are still applicable today. The above information can help you understand the role that cannabis products have played across many centuries.

Have more questions about marijuana and cannabis? Keep scrolling our blog for more information.

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