“Don’t believe everything you read on the internet.” – Abraham Lincoln
When our society hears the word “cannabis,” it very likely triggers a lot of visceral responses; assuming most people know what you are referring to when you say it. It is more likely that they are familiar with the term “marijuana.”
The history of cannabis is unlike any other I have learned about, mainly because everything I learned about cannabis was almost entirely wrong. If you were like me growing up, you were told about the dangers of drugs and how drugs result in unfortunate death or an impaired quality of life. If you were like me growing up you were also taught, or assumed, that drugs only concerned a certain people, culture, or place. One of the drugs that was talked about the most for me in this regard, was “marijuana.” What if I told you that the cannabis plant was not only a part of your history, but a part of almost every piece of human history until the 20th century? In fact, if you live in the United States, there is a thought that we would not have won the Revolutionary War without it.
The first known records of the cannabis plant being utilized for medicinal and healing purposes date back to 4500 BC. This tradition continues through time, over continents and across people, to where it was eventually introduced to North America in the 1800s. During its journey to America it had developed many other uses: as a textile used in clothing, rope, money, and even the background of the words of the Declaration of Independence. Approaching the 20th century, cannabis was the most common ingredient in almost ALL over-the-counter medications. It seemed that cannabis was here to stay, that is until the early 1900s.
Associated with Mexican immigrants and the African American community in the mid 1900s, cannabis (then given the name “marijuana” to affiliate it with the outsiders of society) was an easy target for racist and xenophobic propaganda. Just as cannabis was passed from culture to culture and generation to generation, so were stories surrounding the effects of this medicinal plant and the peoples it was unjustly connected to. In 1937 the Federal Marihuana Act would pass and in 1941 cannabis was officially removed from the United States Pharmacopeia.
Since that time, despite multiple in-depth scientific reviews failing to prove the dangers of cannabis (including the LaGuardia Report and the Schaefer Committee), the war raged on and in many cases still does. Millions of people, for thousands of years, have used cannabis for a variety of health conditions. While there is a legalization ‘light at the end of the tunnel,’ we have a long way to go before we can tell a different story for the future.
“Marijuana in its natural form is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man. By any measure of rational analysis marijuana can safely be used within supervised medical care.” – DEA Chief Administrative Law Judge Francis L Young
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