Happy 420: The History of Marijuana

Posted: April 20, 2010 by Brian in History, Marijuana, Medical
Tags: , , ,

File:Marijuana small.jpg

Smoking cannabis was prohibited almost 100 years ago in California but the Cannabis plant has been around for thousands of years, proving beneficial for everything from medicines to clothing. Let’s take a look back at the history of Mary Jane.

7000-8000 B.C.E.

Dried hemp weed is believed to have been the first plant to be used for woven fabrics.

6000 B.C.E.– 2727 B.C.E.

Cannabis seeds were used as food in China, but by 2727 B.C.E., the Chinese had discovered the use of cannabis as medication and used it to treat health problems.  Later, the grew cannabis on a large scale for food and fiber.

1200–800 B.C.E.

India uses cannabis as medication and also as offering to the God Shiva.  In India, it is called “Sacred Grass”, and is considered one of India’s Sacred Plants.

900–1200 C.E.

Smoking marijuana had become very popular among Muslims who are not permitted to drink alcohol.

1492 C.E.

Christopher Columbus brought Cannabis Sativa to the New World.

1000–1700 C.E.

The use of marijuana spread further. The French and British grew hemp in the colonies of Port Royal, Virginia and Plymouth. In 1619, a law was passed in Jamestown, Virginia Colony, which required farmers to grow hemp. Marijuana also became a major trade item between Central and South Asia during this time.

1797 C.E.

At Mount Vernon, George Washington grew hemp as his primary crop.  Thomas Jefferson grew hemp as his secondary crop at Monticello.

1798 C.E.

Napoleon declared a total prohibition of hemp after realizing much of the Egyptian lower class were habitual smokers of marijuana.

1840 C.E.

Medicines with a cannabis base were available in U.S. pharmacies. Hashish was available in Persian pharmacies.

1906 C.E.

The Pure Food and Drug Act was passed in the U.S. and the Food and Drug Administration was formed. This was the first time drugs had any government oversight.

1908 C.E.

Henry Ford makes his first Hemp-Mobile. The first T-Model was made with hemp plastic and ran on hemp fuel.

1913–1927 C.E.

California passed the first state marijuana law in 1913, but it was largely overlooked because it specifically addressed “preparations of hemp, or loco weed.” Other state anti-marijuana law were passed in Utah in 1915, in Texas in 1919, Louisiana in 1924 and New York in 1927.


Harry J. Anslinger declares war on Marijuana; “Reefer Madness” was released as a tactic to scare young Americans away from using Marijuana;  Roosevelt signed the Marijuana, effectively making growing, selling, and possession of marijuana illegal; on the same day the Marijuana Tax Act went into effect, the man above, Samuel R. Caldwell, was the first man to be convicted and sentenced for possessing and selling marijuana.


Fiorello La Guardia, the mayor of New York, spoke out against the Marijuana Tax Stamp Act, saying the majority of Americans did not want the law and it should be abolished. In 1944, La Guardia’s commission published a report of the findings, scientifically disproving all of Anslinger’s propaganda and outlandish claims about the effects of smoking marijuana.


Anslinger used a new scare tactic by producing propaganda claiming that marijuana was a gateway drug to heroin; In 1951, Anslinger supported an amendment to the Harrison Narcotic Act, introduced by Senator Hale Boggs, that would dramatically increase mandatory drug sentences.  On a roll, in 1956, Anslinger then pushed for even tougher drug laws and got President Eisenhower on board. The Narcotic Control Act put marijuana in the same drug class as heroin and added more severe penalties.


In the 1960s, anti-drug propaganda was widely distributed with the message that smoking marijuana would not only make you lazy and irresponsible, but that you were also out of touch with reality and a threat to national security. Propelled by his success in criminalizing marijuana and adding teeth to drug laws, Anslinger set his sights higher and went to the U.N. In 1961, Using the then-considerable influence of the United States, he convinced over 100 countries to consolidate their drug agreements into a single convention that would make marijuana illegal around the world. Despite the propaganda, marijuana increased in popularity on college campuses across the country. Students spoke out about their marijuana use and gradually changed the public’s perception of the drug. By 1965, an estimated 1 million Americans had tried marijuana.


Nixon launched Operation Intercept. Two thousand customs agents were deployed along the Mexican border in a military-style search and seizure mission to stop the flow of marijuana. Twenty-five year old Vietnam veteran Don Crowe was convicted of selling marijuana to an undercover cop. It was his first offense and the amount of marijuana was under an ounce. He was sentenced to 50 years in prison.  The DEA was born while activists revamped the movement for decriminalization.


The Reagan administration launched its own war on drugs. An average of one person every 38 seconds was arrested for violating marijuana laws.  Judge Francis Law, a DEA administrative law judge, held hearings on the medical benefits of marijuana. He found that marijuana has a clearly established medical use and recommended that it be reclassified as a prescription drug.


The U.S. Federal Government has been resistant to changing marijuana laws. California passed Proposition 215, the first U.S. medical marijuana law, in 1996.

Present Day

On May, 18, 2009, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a dispute over California’s medical marijuana law. Opponents of California’s Compassionate Use Act argue that the law undermines federal drug laws. Last year, a California appeals court ruled that the state’s medical marijuana law does not supersede federal drug laws.  Currently marijuana activists are working for marijuana reform and fighting for medical marijuana laws.  As you all remember, earlier this year, the initiative to legalize marijuana will be on the November ballot, allowing Californians 21 and over to possess up to an ounce of marijuana for personal use.

Mary Jane has come along way, almost to a full circle.  For those who support it, your chance to make history, yet again, will come in November.

Happy 420 all!

  1. Jocelyn says:

    Historic statewide initiative in California to legalize, control, and tax cannabis. Help build national support for the movement. Sign up on the website, join the campaign! taxcannabis.org

  2. writerpro25 says:

    Wow, do you know what kind of weed is in that pic where the bud is entirely blue? That’s awesome, I really wanna smoke some of that. http://stonerdiary.wordpress.com

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