A Brief History Of Medical Marijuana

Cannabis and Medical Marijuana have a long history of use by mankind. It has been valued for hundreds of years for its qualities as:






     • A Source of Fiber

     •Medication and Dietary Supplement

     • A Recreational Drug

They earliest use of marijuana can be traced back to the Chinese in 2700 BC, when it was listed in a compendium of medications.

After beginning in China, the use of marijuana gradually spread into India, Africa, and then into Europe. Marijuana was brought to North America by the earliest European settlers, probably in the form of seeds.

Spanish settlers brought the plant to South America. In both North and South America it was grown on large plantations as hemp for use in rope, clothing, and paper.

It was Widely Accepted as just Another Crop 

Through the 18th and 19th centuries the cultivation of cannabis steadily grew. There is evidence that George Washington and Thomas Jefferson both grew marijuana. In 1619 King James decreed that every colonist in America grow 100 plants specifically for export to England. 

Homegrown Medical Marijuana

Image thanks to Rollorollo69 via Wikimedia Commons


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As the number of colonists increased so did the use of hemp for rope and fabric. Cannabis for medication began in the 1850s when preparations began to appear in American pharmacies. In 1907 states began making laws to prohibit the recreational use of marijuana. It appears that these laws were not intended to restrict medicinal uses.

Then the Restrictions Began 

In the early 20th century many countries began enacting laws to restrict or prohibit the growing and use of cannabis. In the United States, the first laws restricting the sale of marijuana were written in 1906 in the District of Columbia.

In 1925 the International Opium Convention began passing laws regulating the import and export of hemp and any preparations derived from hemp. Interestingly, these laws did not mention the import and export of fibers which continued unabated.

Also in the United States the Marihuana Tax Act passed in 1937 prohibited the production of hemp and cannabis. Some people have claimed that this controversial law was passed in an effort to destroy the hemp industry. The development of new tools and techniques for the production of hemp made it a fast, cheap, and renewable resource for the production of paper. 

A Competitor for Timber? 

This placed it in direct competition with the timber industry which was also a popular source of fiber for making paper. Many wealthy people including Randolph Hearst had large timber holdings and they used their influence to stop the production of hemp.

Throughout the 1930s stricter laws began limiting the use of marijuana, hemp, and cannabis for any purpose. In the 1950s the United States Congress passed laws with mandatory sentences for the possession of marijuana. The first time conviction for the possession of cannabis had a minimum sentence of 2 to 10 years and a $20,000 fine. In 1970 these mandatory penalties were repealed.

Legalization of Medical Marijuana is becoming more widely Accepted

In 1973 Oregon was the first state to decriminalize the possession of marijuana. These new laws make the possession of less than 1 ounce a misdemeanor punishable with a $100 fine. Larger fines were imposed for larger amounts and for cultivation.

California passed the first laws legalizing medicinal marijuana in 1996. When approved by a doctor, patients could grow and possess marijuana for the treatment of anorexia, chronic pain, AIDS, and other chronic conditions.

Gradually other states that began accept medical marijuana. At the time of this writing 21 states have statutes that allow qualified patients to use medical marijuana for the treatment of chronic conditions.



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