History of Cannabis in America
Cannabis was one of the largest agricultural crops in the world up until 1883. For thousands of years prior to that date, cannabis hemp was the main plant used to create strong fabrics used for sails, ropes, clothing, and thousands of other products throughout history all over the world. The majority of medicine, paper, lighting oil, and fabric produced prior to 1883 was made from the Cannabis hemp plant. The Columbia History of the World states that the oldest relic of human history is a scrap of hemp fabric dating back to approximately 8,000 B.C.
Hemp seed uses include producing the following products from the nut: bread, granola/cereal, hemp milk, protein powder. The Oil can be used for fuel, lubricants, ink, varnish, paint, dressings, margarine, body products, cosmetics and more. The Cake can be used for animal food and flour.
Hemp Stalks can be used for animal bedding, insulation, concrete, fiberboard, mulch, rope, netting, canvas, carpet, fabric, shoes, bags, filters, cardboard, paper products, and biofuel/ethanol.
Benjamin Franklin used cannabis to start one of America’s first paper mills. Fifty percent of the medicine marketed in the latter half of the 19th century was made from Cannabis. Trees have been used for paper only since the mid-1800s. Before that, paper was made from annual crops like Papyrus and Hemp. The Cannabis hemp stalk is prolific, strong, and sustainable. Cannabis has been used to create homes in other countries. The cellular composition of wood is similar to Cannabis.
While other agricultural crops destroy topsoil, Cannabis actually cleans the soil of heavy metal contaminants, gradually purifying the Earth. Cannabis grown for smoking is different from that grown for fiber. Hemp varieties of Cannabis contain virtually no THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). Trying to smoke hemp will leave you with a huge headache and no psychoactive effect. It does not deplete the soil of nutrients, and it’s deep root system prevents erosion. Hemp provides four times more fiber per acre than trees. Hemp plants grow six to sixteen feet tall in 110 days.
Cannabis is a renewable resource, it is easily biodegradable, and it requires very little fertilizer. The Cannabis plant has very little predators, hardly needing pesticides. It is a low maintenance, easy to grow plant. Hemp offers a solution to deforestation, as it is a quickly growing, fibrous plant that can produce sustainable paper, fuel, food and fabric, and aids in regeneration of destroyed topsoil.
In the early 1930’s the massive array of uses of cannabis were starting to become widely known. By that time, 25,000 uses of Hemp cellulose had been found, creating products ranging between dynamite and cellophane.
Cannabis is found in humanity’s earliest medical texts. The United States Constitution and The Declaration of Independence were both drafted on hemp paper. Covered wagons used in early migrations to the west in American history were made of hemp canvas. The world “canvas” itself has origins from the word Cannabis.
In 1930, a man named Harry Anslinger became commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics upon its inception. He incited and proliferated the preexisting fear of crime and minority races by creating propaganda such as “Reefer Madness” a film intended to scare the public, that conveyed false stories of Cannabis being brought into our country from Mexico. Widely aired videos depicted blacks and Mexicans as being made crazy and murderous from being high on Marijuana. This film instilled in Americans these warnings about the effects of marijuana: “dangerous hallucinations” “sudden, violent, uncontrollable laughter” and “acts of shocking violence...ending often in incurable insanity.” This is why it became referred to as “marijuana” to associate the plant with Mexico, to be seen as a negative connotation. “This, the Mexicans make into cigarettes, which they sell at two for 25 cents, mostly to white high school students.” Mr. Anslinger was quoted stating to Congress.
It is speculated that hemp’s potential for products grown sustainably by individuals posed a direct threat and competition to larger, industrial sources of fabric. In 1937 The Marijuana Tax Act was instated, essentially making growing Cannabis illegal. The only way you could grow hemp is if you were given a stamp, and the government gave out very few stamps at that time. It became highly illegal, putting people in jail for years for as little as four joints.
The government made all Cannabis illegal in 1937 with the Marijuana Tax Act, lumping industrial hemp and Cannabis grown for smoking in the same legislature.
Shortly thereafter in 1942, The United States Department of Agriculture released a “Hemp for Victory” campaign, encouraging farmers to grow the plant for war supplies such as parachutes, sails and rope.
After World War Two, in 1948, congress recognized that Cannabis didn’t make people violent, it actually made them pacifists. Communists used Cannabis to weaken America’s will to fight, so congress voted to keep Cannabis illegal for the exact opposite reason it had originally stated.
In the 1960’s, the use of Cannabis became prevalent and a symbol of the counterculture movement in protest of the war in Vietnam.
On July 4th, 1970, marijuana activists responded to “Honor America Day” at the Lincoln Memorial by arranging a protest called the “Honor America Day Smoke-In”
In 1973, Oregon became the first state to decriminalize Cannabis.
In 1976, a man named Robert Randall became the first patient to be legally prescribed Cannabis to treat his glaucoma after winning a landmark case.
In 1996, California voters approved a Proposition 215 making medical cannabis use legal.
In 2006, the Food and Drug Administration issued a controversial statement rejecting the medical use of medical marijuana, declaring there was no scientific evidence supporting the use of the drug for medical treatment.
In 2012, Colorado and Washington state legalized recreational use of cannabis.
In July 2014, The New York Times published a piece calling for a repeal of the federal government’s ban on cannabis called “High Time: An Editorial Series on Marijuana Legislation.”
In that same month and year, a special strain of cannabis was named after a girl whose seizures were reduced significantly with the use of the plant. A bill was introduced, amending the Controlled Substances Act to exempt plants like this specific strain of the plant “Charlotte’s Web.”
In November of 2016, California voters finally agreed to pass Proposition 64, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA). The state has a challenging task now of untangling regulations for legal sale of cannabis while it remains illegal on a Federal level. Sale of recreational cannabis will begin in California in January of 2018! I feel incredibly grateful personally that we are now in a time of learning the truth about cannabis and it’s political suppression, and what it can do to improve American individuals’ health and quality of life.
George Washington is documented stating “Make the most of the Indian Hemp Seed, and sow it everywhere!”
Napa Valley, California