We've all been there; you're completely blasted from a bong hit and your mind starts wandering. The most recent time I enjoyed an occasion like this I couldn't help but wonder how is it possible that such a magically awesome plant like marijuana became illegal. What kind of cruel system put anti cannabis laws into place? Who was responsible for turning the government against marijuana?
The origins of cannabis
I've managed to find the origins of cannabis use and the origins of cannabis becoming illegal. I know history class can be a bore, but this is one history lesson you don't want to miss.
Medicine and spiritual purposes
A professor of geography at the University of Kansas, Barney Warf, explained that cannabis use originated in Asia thousands of years ago. He says, "For the most part, it was widely used for medicine and spiritual purposes, during pre-modern times." Marijuana was used to ease toothaches and pain during childbirth. Warf goes on to say that "The idea that this is an evil drug is a very recent construction...and the fact that it is illegal is a historical anomaly." Cannabis has in fact been legal in several regions in the world for most of its history.
Origins of cannabis evolved in central Asia
It's believed that the origins of cannabis evolved in central Asia. Hemp and psychoactive marijuana was commonly used in ancient China. It was recorded that marijuana's medicinal use goes back as far as 4000 B.C. Back then it was typically used as an anesthetic during surgery. In the writings of Chinese emperor Shen Nung, dating back to 2737 B.C., he referenced to a cannabis product as well. It focused on its medicinal use for gout, malaria, rheumatism, and even absent-mindedness.
The Indians, the kind from India, and Muslims used it simply recreationally. Since alcohol consumption was banned by the Koran, it was popular with Muslims. In the 12th century the Muslims made hashish popular in parts of Northern Africa and Iran.
It was the Spanish (god bless them) that brought marijuana to the "New World" in 1545. By the year 1611 the English brought it to Jamestown where hemp became a major commercial crop as a source of fiber. Marijuana was being used medicinally in America by the late 1800s.
In 1910, after the Mexican revolution, many Mexican immigrants brought recreational marijuana with them when they came to the United States. This uncontrolled immigration caused some of the first legal attacks on marijuana. By 1913 California quietly prohibited marijuana. Which is kind of ironic since California was one of the first states to decriminalize marijuana.
Outlawed in 30 states
Marijuana was outlawed in 30 states by 1930. The reason for it being outlawed in southwestern states was purely out of racial prejudice against Mexicans that used it. In the other states where it had been outlawed, the reason was that people feared heroin addiction would lead to marijuana use (what? Yes really). Today the myth is exactly opposite of that: marijuana is considered a "gateway" drug.
Even with these new laws coming into place, marijuana remained popular in the New York area, New Orleans, and Southwestern states. The main users in each area were certain ethnic groups that went there to work or have a good time. Jazz musicians went to New Orleans and used it, and Mexican laborers and African-Americans that came from the South and went to New York took it with them. It was this association of marijuana use with ethnic groups that provoked the antagonism of lawmakers that were upper class and Caucasian.
Federal Bureau of Narcotics
In that same decade the Federal Bureau of Narcotics was founded. Harry Anslinger was the director and he made it his mission to outlaw cannabis use. He was foul by spreading rumors of rampant insanity and murder by those using marijuana. Anyone recall Reefer Madness? Anslinger succeeded in getting the Marijuana Tax Act passed, thus criminalizing the use of cannabis unless proper taxes were paid. This law also outlawed the use of hemp for cloth and rope.
In the 1950s the two laws that were passed brought the USA into its current philosophy of outlawing addictive drugs and arresting drug users. The Boggs Act of 1952 set mandatory sentences for drug convictions. The Narcotics Control Act of 1956 prevented trafficking of drugs like marijuana.
Perception of marijuana
Although the perception of marijuana is finally starting to change in today's world, we still have a long way to go. A plant that was used for thousands of years became illegal in society due to skewed ideas and racism. It's a sad story that a plant with such medicinal potential was suppressed. Thankfully things are starting to look up with increasing studies taking place on the medicinal benefits of cannabis.
Enjoyment of marijuana
And when you look around, you will find more and more people supporting the idea of a society where the enjoyment of marijuana is as normal as having a coffee...