Now that everywhere you look, you see hemp or marijuana products, and many of your friends are freely and happily using cannabis products, you probably wonder why they were illegal for so long.
For many years, the usage of marijuana and hemp has been a polarizing issue. Some people support completely legalizing it, and others stand their ground in opposing it.
States and countries have regulated marijuana and hemp differently, some legalizing them for medicinal, industrial, and recreational uses while others continue to see them as illegal substances.
Initially, legislation was passed for tax purposes, but possession and usage can now result in criminal charges and sentences. If you want to know more about the history of marijuana/hemp, why cannabis was made illegal, and where we stand today, keep reading because this article will cover all the topics mentioned above.
Fun Fact: The primary distinction between marijuana and hemp is the THC level. According to research, hemp looks so much like marijuana that evaluating the THC concentration is the only way to tell the two apart.
The early history of marijuana/hemp
To discuss the origins of marijuana/hemp, we step back in time. The exact place cannabis originated from is unclear. However, we know it was somewhere in central Asia or western China.
The first use of cannabis that has been evidence-backed was in Emperor Shen Nung’s pharmacopeia, where it was utilized for medicinal purposes. The Chinese weren’t the only ones who used cannabis for therapeutic purposes. It was also referenced in the literature of the Indian Hindus, Assyrians, Greeks, and Romans. Evidence shows that marijuana was an anesthetic during surgery in ancient China and was regarded as a sacred plant in India and used in religious rites.
The official introduction of cannabis to western medicine was back in 1841 when William Brooke O’Shaughnessy wrote about various medicinal applications of cannabis after living in India.
Fun Fact: According to the North American Industrial Hemp Council, you can use hemp to make more than 25,000 products. These include everything from ropes to textiles to building materials for homes.
Besides the recreational and medical use of marijuana, hemp was frequently used as a fiber supply for clothes, rope, and paper. Farmers were encouraged, and in some circumstances, required, to produce hemp in the American colonies. In 1619, King James I ordered every property owner in Jamestown to have 100 hemp plants for export.
Fun Fact: Even President George Washington farmed hemp. Cannabis was classified in the United States Pharmacopeia from 1850 to 1937.
The criminalization of marijuana/hemp
So if marijuana/hemp was so welcomed and widely used, what happened in 1937 that led to its criminalization? 1937 was the year when the Marihuana Tax Act was imposed. (Thumbs down)
There are many theories about why the public attitude shifted regarding hemp from the early 1900s and leading up to the 1930s Marihuana Tax Act. According to one of the theories, as new industries such as timber and cotton started developing in the 1930s, they needed to eliminate their main competitor, the hemp industry, so they began spreading misinformation campaigns regarding the plant.
During this time, racist stereotypes about marijuana and its supposed risks would propagate. ‘Marihuana’ use was associated with immigrant workers, who allegedly took up the locals’ job opportunities. By the 1930s, government drug fighters, led by Harry Anslinger, used misinformation and conspiracy to instill public dread. Anti-hemp propaganda was intense in the media, even in newspapers such as The New York Times. After 1937, you could cultivate hemp only if you received special government Tax Stamps.
After the Marihuana Tax act, it all went downhill for the entire cannabis industry. More and more harsh laws followed, such as The Boggs Act in 1951, the Narcotics Control Act, and the Controlled Substance Law, which were imposed in 1970. President Nixon’s War on Drugs, which began in the 1970s, entrenched marijuana and hemp’s criminal status. This program aimed to reduce drug usage and distribution, which had a tremendous impact on communities of color, who were unfairly targeted and often detained. The cannabis industry was done for good, or so we thought.
The current state of marijuana/hemp legalization
Things started to take a turn for the better for the cannabis industry around the late 1990s. In 1996 California State legalized the use of medical marijuana. Since then, marijuana/hemp’s popularity and users have been growing steadily.
On Election Day 2012, citizens in Colorado and Washington passed initiative proposals to legalize recreational cannabis use and sale, making the states the first in the United States to do so. Despite marijuana remaining illegal at the federal level, nineteen additional states, Washington, D.C., and Guam legalized the substance over the following ten years as support for legalization grew dramatically.
Marijuana is classed as a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act at the federal level. Its cultivation, distribution, and possession are all illegal under federal law. States that have allowed recreational or medical marijuana have directly opposed the federal government, causing conflict between states’ rights to develop their own laws and the federal government’s power.
In 2018 the Farm Bill decriminalized hemp, legalized hemp cultivation, and hemp and hemp seeds were removed from the DEA’s list of controlled substances. According to the bill, hemp could contain no more than 0.3% THC for it to be considered legal.
There have been continuous nationwide initiatives to legalize marijuana and hemp, including the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act in 2019.
As you can guess already, the legality of marijuana/hemp is still a gray area, so if you’re planning to consume them, you should research and find out the specific rules of the state you live in. Rest assured the various products we offer such as our Delta 8 THC and Delta 9 THC will only be shipped to locations where state law allows its purchases!
Future of marijuana/hemp
It’s safe to say the marijuana/hemp future looks quite bright, considering the booming cannabis industry we currently have. President Biden’s proclamation on Oct. 7, 2022, featured a request for the secretary of health and human services and the attorney general “to start the administrative process to evaluate how marijuana is scheduled under federal law.”
Legalizing marijuana and hemp may also have various economic and societal benefits. These include a more significant tax income, employment development, and lower enforcement expenses for marijuana and hemp regulations. It can also aid in reducing the social damage generated by the criminalization of marijuana and hemp.
This article was a quick overview of marijuana/hemp’s history, from its early usage to criminalization, the current legal environment, and ongoing legalization attempts. To properly understand the current legal environment and ongoing initiatives to legalize marijuana and hemp, it is critical to understand the history and reasons for their criminalization. Thanks to the 2018 Farm Bill, millions of Americans can now freely introduce hemp into their lives.
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