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History of Cannabis, Where It Came From And Its Important Role In America


The benefits of marijuana have been recorded for thousands of years, woven into historical moments that many of us grew up learning about. 

By discussing the unique role marijuana has in history, it’s easier than ever to understand why it’s a valuable resource and medicinal treatment. 

History from all over the world reveals marijuana’ most prized qualities. 

Now, millions of people everywhere know that marijuana helps to restore the body and keep us healthy and happy.

Where does hemp Originate?

the history of marjuana

As a plant, hemp (cannabis sativa) was originally found in Central Asia, through China and Mesopotamia. 

It has been used in various forms for thousands of years, although some of the earliest recorded traces indicate China is believed to be the first country to grow and use marijuana.

Early marijuana use in the west

Marijuana was introduced relatively late in the West, with the earliest recorded cannabis in Europe being around 270 BC and not widely cultivated until the 16th century.

Marijuana, like most traditional drugs, has long been perfectly legal or even encouraged or forced to be grown, as in the United States. 

Marijuana is in American history dating back to the colonial period. 

In 1611, the British settlers in Jamestown, Virginia, cultivated the cannabis plants because the hemp fiber could be used to make sails, and rope, and its by-product could be used to make wooden ships oakum, so marijuana became a considerable commodity and even strategic materials. 

But because cannabis consumes so much of the fertility of the land and has so little economic value, farmers' interest has been limited, and at one point, they have paid fines rather than grow it. 

Only semi-coercive methods could be used from the King of England to the colonial government. 

In 1619, the Virginia Legislative Assembly enacted the first statute applicable to marijuana in the United States. 

The statute required every farmer to grow marijuana. 

Founding father and first president of the US, George Washington grew hemp on his farm. 

Yep, that's right, he grew his own, and he wasn't alone, several prominent figures and founding fathers were also growing hemp at that time. 

John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and Benjamin Franklin all grew hemp. 

In 1762, Virginia again made it mandatory for farmers to grow marijuana. 

The legalization of marijuana in the United States was thus confirmed and strengthened. 

For more than a century thereafter, marijuana was one of the main non-food cash crops in the United States and the main drug for hundreds of diseases, its legalization never being challenged.

Hemp’s Importance In Colonial America

smoke marjuana

Hemp’s industrial uses were highly valuable for European empires sailing the seas and looking for new lands. 

As English settlers arrived in America in the 1600s, King James I and the Virginia Company ordered them to grow 100 hemp plants each to export across the British Empire. 

Sailors brought hemp seeds with them to colonial seaside ports, so it could be grown and used to support large shipyards and navies. 

This continued for over 100 years, and hemp spread throughout the colonies.

Founding Father of the United States, George Washington, grew hemp on all five of his farms at Mount Vernon. 

Several different entries in his journals note that he was learning about the differences between male and female plants, most likely to find the highest THC content. 

One popular fact in American history is that Washington had terrible teeth. The first American president started losing his teeth in his 20s and wore dentures made of hippopotamus ivory, human teeth, and metal. It's thought that with more THC in his plants, he could get more relief from his painful toothaches. Well, that's the story. 

Washington wasn’t the only early president who recognized how helpful hemp could be. Thomas Jefferson was known to use his homegrown hemp for chronic migraines as well as textiles.

Hemp brought by the English colonists grew throughout the United States and was a major crop up until the early 20th century, driving industry in states like Missouri, Illinois, and Kentucky. 

It was used so frequently that it even became a myth that in 1776, The Declaration of Independence was written and ratified on hemp paper. It was written on parchment, but hemp paper was so common at the time that many still believe this myth.

Marijuana became a medical drug

medical drug

In 1839, Shaughnessy began the study of cannabis in Western medicine. 

In 1854, the U.S. Pharmacopeia listed the term "cannabis" as a medicine, noting that if the dose is too large, it could have a "worrisome effect." 

In the decades that followed, drugs containing cannabis resin were widely used as painkillers and sedatives. 

Researchers tried to extract the useful components used for drug preparation, but there was much difficulty in separation and purification. 

In 1898 they managed to extract the first active component, "red oil" (in fact, the marijuana), but it took them some thirty years to reproduce the results finally, they succeeded again in 1931, but the extracted mixture was impure rather than presenting a single component. 

It wasn't until 1940 that the molecular structure was finally identified.

Marijuana has not been used as a pharmaceutical preparation for long, as it was quickly discovered that it did not provide a "stable" effect on treatment. 

Instead, it was found it could cause anxiety, hubris, depression, confusion, and other psychiatric symptoms, as well as increased heart rates and reduced coordination. 

Poor dose control can aggravate symptoms.

As the abuse of marijuana, is to know and to strengthen the side effects of marijuana, in 1913, the California medicines agency by modifying the state hazardous substances Control Act (Toxic Substance Control Act, TSCA) in the form of weed control, became the most active control of marijuana state (but some people believe this period of weed control is the result of racial discrimination because in the United States at that time is was used much lower among white's as opposed to other races. 

So it's though the portion of American society based on traditional Puritan thought may also have played a role.

In 1914, The US Congress approved The Harrison Narcotic Bill to control cocaine and marijuana. 

By 1931, 30 states had banned the use or possession of marijuana through new laws or changes to existing ones. 

In 1937, the Association of Physicians (ACP) in the United States strongly opposed the case; Congress passed a marijuana tax, used for recreational use of marijuana illegal, medical and industrial use to impose consumption tax, despite all the research results showing that marijuana is not an addictive drug. 

Also, there is not enough evidence to prove any correlation between crime and marijuana. 

Marijuana is an addictive drug

During World War II, when Japan cut off the fiber from Asia, the U.S. Department of Agriculture encouraged the cultivation of marijuana for parachutes, tents, ropes, and so on. 

The slogan was "Hemp for Victory," and a special "War Industrial Hemp Board" was created for the occasion.

Twice in 1954 and 1957, the World Health Organization (WHO) made no therapeutic value conclusion on cannabis, again in 1965, the group said "abuse of cannabis caused harm to society, characterized by individual medication can't do its social functions, and easier to make the society and anti-social behavior, and thus caused economic losses to the society. 

But they also pointed out in 1969 that "marijuana is not an addictive drug, it is a dependent drug."

In 1961, the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, adopted by the United Nations, combined cannabis, opium, coca, and its derivatives (such as morphine, heroin and cocaine) with serious Narcotic Drugs.

Current Use in the 21st Century


Marijuana remains illegal under federal law in the United States. However, state marijuana laws are continuing to change. 

More than 20 states now permit the sale of marijuana for medicinal use, whether inhaled or consumed via other methods or given in a prescription drug. 

Currently, two FDA medications on the market, Marinol (dronabinol) and Cesamet (nabilone) are synthetic cannabinoids used to treat nausea or neuropathic pain. 

Other drugs in clinical testing include Epidelix for childhood seizures and Sativex for cancer pain.

blonde woman sitting in the woods blowing marijuana smoke into the air

In 2014, Colorado became the first state to legalize marijuana for recreational use, with Washington, California, and Alaska following shortly after.

California, Massachusetts, Washington, D.C., and Nevada have also legalized it for recreational use, and every passing year, more states follow suit. 

However, because marijuana remains illegal under federal law, it is not only difficult to conduct scientific research on its medicinal benefits, but dispensaries also run the risk of being shut down by the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Public opinion of marijuana has also changed considerably since it first became illegal, as more and more Americans are becoming pro-legalization. The possible rescheduling of Cannabis from a schedule one to schedule three drugs in 2024 could open up a lot more possibilities for studying the plant as well as for industry.


In conclusion, marijuana has a long, complex history full of many different cultural roles. 

From its ancient medical and ritual uses to the period of bans and controversies, all the way to today’s debates on legalization and the growing acceptance of its therapeutic potential. 

It is a fascinating example of how a plant can simultaneously be the subject of scientific study, a source of cultural inspiration, and a field of social discussion. 

Marijuana will continue to be a topic that engages, educates, and divides, constituting a major element of our cultural heritage.