A Brief History of Cannabis
The history of marijuana spans thousands of years, dating back to its original cultivation in the ancient world. In fact, burned cannabis seeds have been found in tombs dating back to 3000 B.C.
History of Marijuana
Cannabis comes from Central Asia. It acquired one of its more common names from a region called the Hindu Kush in the mountains of Northern India. To this day, many strains claim an “Afghani” lineage, referring to the timeless style of growing marijuana perfected in Afghanistan’s highlands.
The very first cannabis plants are thought to have originated near Mongolia, in the vast plains of Siberia. As nomads migrated through these lands, cannabis slowly dispersed into the greater world.
Marijuana had many uses to its first cultivators. Out of this period, our understanding of the plant developed to include the manufacture of hemp. These civilizations were the first to use hemp to make rope, clothing, linens, and a variety of other products.
Many cultures throughout history have appreciated the marijuana plant. Traces of cannabis have been found in civilizations throughout time and across the planet, including cultures you wouldn’t expect to have appreciated cannabis. For example, there is evidence that cannabis was smoked by certain Emperors of China, as well as Scandinavian Vikings and Islamic Sultans.
Cannabis in the Americas
The cannabis plant did not always have the same negative stigma attached to it as it does today. In colonial America, for example, farmers in Virginia and Massachusetts were required to grow hemp as a cash crop due to its plethora of uses. However, it was not until later that use of cannabis for its psychoactive and healing effects became widespread in America.
The history of marijuana in America is complicated. For a long time, there were no restrictions on the sale, use, or consumption of cannabis. Before 1910, there simply weren’t enough people using cannabis for it to attract the attention of federal authorities.
During the beginning of the 20th century, however, cannabis consumption began to grow as trade opened up with the rest of the world at an unprecedented rate. Along with opium, the public began to consider marijuana as a “poison”, and it was eventually regulated for the first time under a series of laws known as the “poison laws”.
In 1937, the “Marihuana Tax Act” was passed, which prohibited the possession and sale of cannabis for anything other than medical or industrial use. At the same time, anti-marijuana sentiment and general misinformation about the plant was extremely pervasive, even though the popularity of cannabis continued to grow through illicit means. Regulation of cannabis by the Congress of the United States has only continued since then. This increase in government interference defines the worldwide history of marijuana during this period.
In the 1970s, the legal status of cannabis was reexamined as the old laws were said to be outdated. Unfortunately, this process only resulted in stricter controls being placed on the sale of marijuana. However, redefining the relationship between the government and marijuana has enabled states to pursue their own destiny with regards to the plant, and many states have recently opted for recreational legalization.
Political winds in the United States seem to be moving in the direction of legalization, though history proves that progress is not a straight line. As more states and countries begin to legalize cannabis, the economic benefits will likely change people’s preconceptions about an otherwise remarkable industry.
Ex-President of Mexico Vicente Fox Claims Jeff Sessions 'Doesn't Know About [Marijuana] History’
Vicente Fox has made quite a post-presidential career for himself, but perhaps not in the way one might expect. The former Mexican President has had some choice words for U.S. President Donald Trump, but Fox has primarily delivered his messages vis-à-vis often hilarious and—parents be forewarned—profanity-filled videos and tweets.
While Fox has focused most of his rhetoric and defiant criticism on Trump’s much-promised, often overhyped border wall between Mexico and the U.S., Fox has saved some of his disdain for (current) U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions over another subject of historical friction between the two nations: Marijuana.
An Age-Old Antipathy: America and Marijuana
According to historian John Charles Chasteen, writing in the book “Getting High: Marijuana Through the Ages,” marijuana came to the U.S. from Mexico, brought both by United States troops returning from the border raids to capture Pancho Villa in the early 20th century, and simultaneously by Mexican laborers migrating north.
Many subsequent historians link the successful cannabis prohibition movement of the 1930s with the nakedly racist anti-Mexican sentiments of the time. That said, marijuana didn’t have an easy time of it back in Mexico, either; if you are curious about marijuana’s complicated back story there, we heartily recommend you read this fascinating excerpt of Chasteen’s book.
A New Marijuana Prohibition, or Seizing the Winds of Change?
In a fascinating twist, the debate that’s fueling Fox’s angry comments towards Sessions can be framed as a then-versus-now sort of face off. On the one hand, Sessions’ hardline stance against cannabis can be characterized as consistent with the age-old “morals” argument: Cannabis has no medical use and is a “corrupting” product. As of this writing, the Department of Justice is preparing to renew efforts to curtail cannabis here in the States.
On the other hand, Vicente Fox, addressing the National Cannabis Industry Association’s annual conference this past June, frames the debate as a trade issue: “This product cannabis has to be integrated into NAFTA,” Fox said. “It has to have the trade potential of moving without barriers, without taxes and limits, only complying with the law, the consumer and his health.”
Cannabis, it should be pointed out, only recently became legal for medical use in traditionally conservative Mexico, and is not yet legal for recreational use in Canada (though that’s expected to change shortly).
Cannabis: Will We Take a Step Forward or a Step Back?
Which side will win? Both nationally and globally, the wind is at cannabis’ back; industry observers expect legalization to continue on both fronts, though predicting decriminalization on the federal level here in the U.S. would be premature (particularly given the current political climate, including President Trump's inconsistent statements on cannabis and states' rights).
With the nation caught in a political balancing act—“conservatives” pitted against “progressives,” with ever-diminishing constructive dialogue between the two—it’s tempting to imagine cannabis potentially playing a role in reconciliation. After all, relief of chronic conditions like pain or insomnia isn’t dependant on a political point of view. And cannabis has a potentially significant role to play in the current healthcare debate. (Notably, a bipartisan Congressional Cannabis Caucus has emerged.)
It should go without saying—but, ah heck, we'll say it anyway— regardless of your political persuasion, aren't we all in favor of personal responsibility, the rights of individuals to make their own decisions, and access to this medically significant, recreationally enjoyable, all-natural plant?
And, of course, what is more American than freedom? If we want America to be great again, isn't it about time we make cannabis legal again?