June 13, 2019

The History of Marijuana Use Throughout Time

June 13, 2019
stigma of recreational marijuana use

Cannabis is now entering the mainstream, with legalization spreading rapidly across the globe. We don’t just smoke it, we smoke it in bongs, pipes, joints, we vape it, eat it in cookies, mints, honey, butter, drink weed tea, basically consume it using any possible method we can think of.  But this golden age of cannabis hasn’t always been upon us, marijuana has taken a long journey to get to where it is today. 

The First Users of Marijuana

Cannabis was mostly used medicinally after its discover was made, reports as far back as 2727 BC indicate it was used by Chinese emperor Shen Nung, and by 500 BC was a commonly used herb in Asia.

It’s uses were mainly medicinal, being used to treat things such as; inflammation, gout, depression, and used as a pain killer. But it wasn’t only used for its medicinal purposes, there were also cultures who used it for its psychoactive properties.

Surprisingly though, marijuana wasn’t being smoked until around the 13th century, where hashish smoking had become increasingly common in the Middle East. Prior to this time, cannabis was consumed by eating it.

The practice of smoking weed spread rather quickly and became a major trade item between central south Asia and southeast Asia.

Marijuana’s History in the USA

Marijuana wasn’t always demonized. Early colonists grew hemp, using it for textiles, rope, and even paper.

It wasn’t just a plant grown by some farmers, it held immense agricultural importance as American colonies established themselves. In 1619 a law was passed in Virginia which required every farm to grow hemp. During this time, hemp was used as a type of currency In Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania.

As cotton and other, more comfortable fabrics came into play, hemp was pushed out of popularity. The population of hemp plants withered, but a new variation of the plant began to emerge; marijuana.

The Criminalization of Weed

In the early 1900’s marijuana was starting to find its medicinal use in the US. 26 US states took action to limit marijuana consumption, but it was not included in the Harrison Narcotics Tax Act of 1914. The act prohibited drugs such as heroin and opium, but marijuana was left out.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation had its sight on weed, and in 1937 campaigned against marijuana, eventuating in the ‘Marihuana Tax Act’ which restricted the importation, cultivation, possession and distribution of marijuana.

Marijuana enjoyed a few decades of relaxed regulation laws, but in 1970 was scheduled as a class 1 narcotic.

During this time, marijuana users needed to keep the practice under the radar, in fear of prosecution. Smoking weed in a joint became a common practice, and gained a lot of popularity, as it could easily be disguised as a tobacco cigarette.

The Golden Age of Weed

The 60s and 70s saw the hippie movement, a counterculture going directly against societal norms. It was a time of self discovery, and marijuana was the bread and butter of this era.

Despite the laws against cannabis during this time, weed was smoked by many of whom were protesting war and injustice. Although governments were trying their best to demonize marijuana, the colorful and loving characteristics of the hippie culture did a good job of countering the propagated misperceptions of weed.

It was In this golden era that the bong, or water pipe was born.

The War on Drugs

In June 1971, President Nixon declared a war on drugs, enforcing harsh sentences for simple possession of marijuana and other drugs.

But Nixon had an ulterior motive behind the heavy new law. Nixon had two main enemies, the anti war movement on the left and black people. He saw the law as a way of disrupting these communities. By targeting hippy pot smokers and black heroin users, he had a political weapon against these communities, a way of vilifying and discrediting them in the public’s eye.

The War on drugs spiraled out of control and by 1997, there were 400,000 people behind bars for drug possession charges, compared with 50,000 in 1980.

Legalization of Marijuana

In 1996 California legalized marijuana, becoming the first US state to do so, making it legal for patients to use marijuana as medical treatment.

Over the years many more states followed in California’s footsteps, and as of 2018, 30 US states have legalized marijuana (in some form).

Legalization of marijuana is gaining popularity across the world, and a number of countries, including Canada have now lifted their ban on marijuana, giving rise to a new golden age of weed.


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