Stoner School: History of Cannabis

We get it — history probably wasn’t your favorite subject in high school. Maybe you were whispering to your friends in the back of the classroom, hiding your phone under the desk, or borderline falling asleep; either way, you probably don’t even remember too much of what was actually discussed. 

 

But then again, your teacher probably didn’t cover the history of cannabis. We can, at the very least, speak for ourselves when we say that we could have easily aced our history midterms if the multiple choice questions tested us on weed instead of the French Revolution. But here we are, years later with a career in cannabis, and going back to school — but this time, to teach you about the history of our favorite plant. So grab your notebooks and pens because class is officially in session. 

 

The Origin Story

 

As with most natural medicinal powerhouses, first reports date back thousands of years; however, the happy-go-lucky stoner vibes weren’t really a thing back in ancient times, so marijuana was used in more wholesome, or holy, circumstances such as an ingredient in anointing oil as referenced in the original Hebrew version of Exodus. Or to treat glaucoma and general infections in ancient Egypt. Or, most notably, in ancient China for various pharmaceutical purposes. 

 

In 2900 BC, Chinese Emperor Fu Hsi noted marijuana as a popular medicine, and in 2800 BC, Emperor Shen Nung, the father of Chinese medicine, listed cannabis in his pharmacopeia. By 100 AD, China had discovered more than 100 medicinal uses for marijuana.

 

Cannabis use was first recorded in ancient China, and has since grown into what it is today — but not without a long and controversial history. So, how did weed go from a highly regarded medicine, to an outlawed recreational drug, to the complicated reputation it has today? 

 

Weed in America

 

Given that we’re an American company, we’ve decided to focus today’s ‘class’ on weed in the United States, especially as it pertains to our culture. 

 

Comparatively, marijuana is a relatively quick plant to grow, which is why it was largely used in the early years of America as a material to make clothing, rope, and sails. Back then, hemp was grown as regularly as any other crop. In fact, it was not only encouraged, but was required to be grown by all farmers when the Virginia Assembly passed legislation in 1619. 

 

Yep, you read that right. Farmers were required to grow weed. Other than typhoid fever and malaria outbreaks, the 1600s don’t seem so bad, right?

 

Anyways, as early hemp cultivation began and its uses multiplied, big figures such as George Washington began to question its medicinal uses. By the 1840s, marijuana was widely used as a medicinal treatment — both on its own and as a key ingredient in over-the-counter medications. 

 

Marijuana as medicine was extremely popular and common up until the early 1900s until its reputation took a turn for the worse due to one defining factor of American, and worldwide, history… racism. 

 

The Road to Becoming Illegal

 

In the early 1900s, cannabis wasn’t commonly consumed aside from medicinal purposes to treat pain and muscle spasms as well as promote sedation. But at the turn of the 20th century, as the Mexican Revolution raged on, Mexican immigrants began moving to the United States, and with them, an introduction to the recreational use of marijuana. 

 

In hindsight, we couldn’t be more grateful, but back then, people began to associate marijuana with the Mexican immigrants. This caused people to begin fearing the drug, which kickstarted anti-drug campaigns against marijuana. By 1925, twenty-six states had introduced laws to prohibit weed. 

 

As The Roaring 20’s transitioned into The Great Depression, Americans were fearful of losing their jobs and livelihoods in general, but especially afraid of losing their sources of income to Mexican immigrants. Unfortunately, this only further encouraged a racist agenda, and fed into the stigmatization of immigrants. 

 

With so much vulnerability in the air, the government used this opportunity to incite an all-out war on drugs, encouraging the media to link marijuana use with violence and crime. Harry Anslinger, the commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics at the time and total buzz-kill, spearheaded a campaign to criminalize weed, claiming that it led to insanity.

 

His efforts paid off and by 1936, every state had implemented at least some sort of law or regulation surrounding the distribution and consumption of weed; however, it was not entirely outlawed. To combat this, the Marijuana Tax Act was introduced in 1937, proposing an outrageous tax on marijuana that could only be used for medicinal or industrial purposes. 

 

Quick sidenote: Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong were born in the late 1930s and early 1940s — two bonafide stoners that would later become legends in the world of weed. An important marker in the history of cannabis, in our opinion. 

 

By the 1940s, cannabis was removed from the U.S. Pharmacopeia as doctors no longer considered it as medicinally beneficial. While cannabis activists advocated for its uses and lack of danger, good ol’ Harry Anslinger continually attacked any article, publication, or entity that disagreed with him. Despite advocates’ best efforts, Mr. Ansligner was in a position of power. 

 

In 1952, the Boggs Act was passed, and with it came strict punishments for marijuana offenses. 

 

The People Agree: Weed Isn’t Bad

 

It’s no secret that the 1960s and 1970s were truly a time to be alive — the summer of love introduced the U.S. to hippie culture in 1967; freedom reigned, and with it, recreational use of marijuana skyrocketed. JFK and vice president, Lyndon Johnson, commissioned reports that concluded what we’ve known all along… Weed isn’t bad. And no, it does not incite violence and contrary to popular belief, it’s not a gateway drug. 

 

But with a growing number of pro-marijuana activists came just as many people who were very anti-marijuana. Cannabis-related arrests increased tremendously and authorities began to investigate and crack down on weed distribution and possession. In 1970, the government went as far as to pass the Controlled Substances Act, listing marijuana in the same category as LSD and heroin. 

 

But, given its long history of back-and-forth regulations, weed prevailed and states such as Oregon, Maine, and Alaska decriminalized marijuana and paved the way for doctors and scientists to continue studying the plant’s medicinal uses. 

 

Through the late 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, marijuana continued to have a controversial reputation. The public opinion largely shifted to a ‘weed is bad’ mindset, the infamous D.A.R.E program was introduced, the war on drugs continued on as more and more propaganda depicted weed as a similar drug to heroin, and Americans were given hefty prison sentences for distribution and/or possession of… a plant. 

 

Fun fact: D.A.R.E was defunded due to lack of evidence supporting whether or not it actually prevented students from partaking in drugs. If anything, it actually led us to believe that we’d be offered tons of weed in our adult life, which, unfortunately, is not the case. 

 

All in all, this was a dark time in American history as it pertains to cannabis. However, California voters approved the legalization of medicinal cannabis use in 1996, and things began to look a little brighter for the weed industry — California is forever a trendsetter, and we’re proud to call this state home. 

 

Weed Today

 

As you’re most likely already aware, weed is largely legal today — or at the very least, decriminalized for recreational use. In 2012, Washington and Colorado became the very first states to legalize recreational weed. Oregon and Alaska followed in 2014 before California joined the legal states in 2016. A little late, but we do happen to cultivate the best weed in the country, so we’ll let it go. 

 

As more and more states begin to legalize weed, and federal legalization is still pending, Americans are campaigning against the long historical stigmatization of marijuana. For the most part, it’s no longer thought to be a drug that can even remotely compare to heroin; instead, it’s a natural powerhouse that can truly help people in various ways. As it becomes more mainstream, public opinion has largely changed and the people are taking back their freedom to toke. 

 

Long story short, you don’t need to be in medical distress to enjoy weed. You don’t need to struggle with debilitating anxiety to enjoy weed. Actually, you don’t need to justify marijuana use at all. It’s okay to smoke weed; it’s okay to take edibles; it’s okay to enjoy one of the simplest and most natural pleasures in life. 

 

Now, if only we learned all of this in high school history class. 

 

Happy smoking, friends!