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Cannabis History: The Complicated story of Cannabis in the United States

cannabis history
Written by John King

Cannabis history goes for a long way backwards… For many thousands of years, cannabis has been utilized medicinally and recreationally to enhance human life. In fact, mammals such as horses, dogs, cats and humans share an endo-cannabinoid system which suggests an evolutionary or even intelligently-designed purpose to cannabis.

Overall, the history of cannabis is quite colorful. Research in Israel and many other countries have found receptors in every cell that can use cannabis effectively.. For example, in 1949, a telegram was dispatched touting cannabis as a cure for epilepsy. In more modern times, the Stanley brothers from Colorado have proven beyond all doubt that the cannabidiol compounds can greatly arrest epilepsy, thanks to a little girl named Charlotte. Once called “Hippie’s Disappointment”, a strain of very low THC content cannabis was found to instead be a blessing of bountiful benefits to suffering patients due to the high CBD component of the strain.

Quickly renamed “Charlotte’s Web”, this strain and many others have proven themselves to be invaluable to suffering patients. This is just one famous example, but thousands of studies have confirmed the value of cannabis. So why all the flak and discrimination against such a useful plant? Much of it stems from the political and traditional prejudices regarding cannabis. All the ramifications and historical events involving this plant are still not widely known or accepted.

cannabis history

The International Church of Cannabis – Denver, Colorado

Yet, such discussions are becoming more prevalent as time goes on, from churches in Denver being divided over the issue, to heated arguments among doctors, and debates in political circles all over the world. Many people are not accepting the rote propaganda against cannabis anymore. The evidence for the plant’s usefulness is overwhelming, yet cannabis still remains a Schedule 1 “drug”, which carries with it the idea that it has NO medicinal value whatsoever! This persistent stigma could not be further from the truth.

The U.S. government even holds a patent on the plant, proving the inherent hypocrisy of such a position! The persecution of cannabis and users of the plant have been many since the late 1930’s. In 1937, for example, politicians soundly rejected cannabis over the objections of the bird-seed lobbyists. What is not widely known, however, is that the session took place on a Friday afternoon, when many of the politicians were not even present for the discussion! Cronyism crept in, and powerful men such as DuPont, Hearst and Anslinger saw the plant as direct competition to their chemical plastic and paper industries.

Such rejection carries forward to this day, despite the fact that one acre of hemp is better in many ways than forty acres of trees. Other powerful men such as Henry Ford, recognized the inherent benefits of the cannabis plant. Mr. Ford even manufactured an automobile body comprised of hemp, and that ran on hemp fuel! Virtually indestructible, this automobile body should have proved the potential of hemp-derived polymers, yet the stigma persisted through the “Reefer Madness” paranoia of the public. Preachers and churches also jumped on the bandwagon, exclaiming that marijuana was the “devil’s weed” and extolling against any mind-altering substances.

In later times, even the American Medical Association recommended that Richard Nixon be more accepting of cannabis as a whole. However, President Nixon rejected the report. Many other examples of ignorant, even deliberate, actions against cannabis continued through the years. Popular Mechanics magazine even published a story touting cannabis as a breakthrough for mankind and a multi-million dollar cash crop, but to no avail. So cannabis has had a long history of controversy in many circles, food, fuel, fiber and medicine.

cannabis history

A special tax stamp from the Hemp for Victory campaign

Cannabis was sold as a medicine in the 1890’s, yet since the 1930’s such use was strongly prohibited. Despite some bright points of acceptance such as the “Hemp for Victory” campaign by the USDA, generally cannabis was at least publicly rejected by the masses throughout history. Privately, though, enthusiasts in jazz clubs, beatnik joints and even Woodstock, realized that this beautiful plant was desired both medicinally, recreationally, and even spiritually! Musicians, for example, would exclaim that their creativity was enhanced, saying that you could “hear colors and see sounds”.

Sadly, in most political and traditional circles, the dichotomy of disrespect for cannabis continued unabated. Even though Israeli doctors discovered the endo-cannabinoid system over two decades ago, there is still a high level of ignorance and even fear surrounding the cannabis plant. Despite CBD being present even in a mother’s milk, there are stubborn strongholds of prejudice remaining against the multi-purpose plant.

This reporter highly suspects such resistance is futile, however. The majority of states have bowed to reason and protest from pundits in-the-know, and politicians have no choice but to grudgingly give ground to the hemp movement. The future looks bright for all forms of cannabis, although its history was bleak! Even in spiritual and religious circles, the debate goes on. Proponents of pot proudly proclaim that Bibles were once printed on hemp paper, and Genesis 1:29 remains a frequently quoted verse. Churches in Denver found themselves on both sides of the argument, resulting in many newspaper articles and detailed debates.

There is even a Church of Cannabis, who believe that if you do not choose to reject the Creator, you certainly cannot reject the creation of such a blessed plant. “Devil’s Weed”, indeed! Such propaganda is being discounted daily by devotees. Instead, they see cannabis and the bodily system which embraces it, as being Divinely inspired. So does this reporter.

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About the author

John King

Born and raised in the Ozark boonies of Missouri, he's a country boy Irish rocker mix.
He enjoys activism, cannabis and living healthy, body soul and spirit in Kansas City!