Early marijuana cultivation in America dates as far back as the colonial days, which was mainly grown for its industrial use in textiles and rope. Later in the 20th century, political factors led to the criminalization of the plants in the United States. Currently its legal status is now changing from state to state.
Marijuana wasn’t always used for textiles. Dating As far back as 500 BC, Asia was using it for its medicinal purposes. Burned cannabis seeds were found in the graves of Shamans in ancient burial grounds of China and Siberia dating back to 500 B.C. It was thought that the plant originated from Central Asia before it made its way to Europe and Africa before eventually landing in North and South America. It was used to make paper and clothing as well as for boat sails, and its seeds were eaten as food.
Because the plant grows so rapidly, it was easy to cultivate it for its many uses. Hemp, a lower THC form of the same plant, was commonly grown throughout the Southwest and colonial America. In fact, during the early 1600s, farmers in Virginia, Massachusetts, and Connecticut were required to grow it.
In the 1830’s, Sir William Brooke O’Shaughnessy was and Irish Doctor who studied in India found that extracts from the cannabis plant aided in lessening stomach pain for patients that suffered from Cholera. By the late 1800s, marijuana extract became commonly sold in pharmacies and doctors offices for stomach ailments and for other conditions throughout Europe and America. Scientists who later researched the plant found that THC was the reason for the plants medicinal properties. In fact, two FDA approved drugs are used to treat nausea for cancer chemotherapy patients, and loss of appetite for AIDs patients; Marinol and Syndros.
It wasn’t until the early 1900s during the Mexican Revolution that marijuana was used for recreational purposes. During a surge of Mexicans who introduced it to the United States for its recreational use, the United States banned the plant for racial reasons coinciding with the social unrest and massive unemployment numbers of the Great Depression. The plant was finally banned in 1931. In 1937, it was criminalized nationwide. A marijuana tax was excised on all hemp products for the use, possession, transfer and carrying of any hemp products effectively criminalizing the industrial uses of the plant.
During the “War on Drugs” of the 1970s, a term coined by Richard Nixon, Marijuana was classified as a schedule one drug along with LSD, heroin, and ecstasy. In 1997, the Compassionate Use Act in California was the first state to legalize marijuana for its medicinal purposes for chronic health conditions. Then 30 other states, including Washington D.C., used marijuana for its medicinal purposes. As of June 2019, 11 states have gone recreational including Washington, D.C. These states are Colorado, Washington, Alaska, Nebraska, California, Illinois, Vermont, Maine, Michigan, and Oregon.
Marijuana still remains illegal under Federal Law, but the movement towards decriminalization is making leaps and bounds, one state at a time.