The history of marijuana in the United States is long and winded. To understand it better and know how we got to where we are now with regard to the use and all the restriction surrounding the use of marijuana, you should understand that there are basically two forms of cannabis – when used as a drug for medical purposes or recreation, it is referred to us marijuana and when used for rope, paper or cloth, it is called hemp. Our focus in on marijuana and below is its brief history in the United States:
Domestic production of hemp encouraged – 1600 – 1890s
During the 17th century, the production of hemp was encouraged by the government due to the increase in the demand for rope, clothing and sails. In 1619, the Assembly in Virginia passed laws which compelled every farmer to produce hemp, a material that was later to become a legal tender in Penn.
However, domestic production saw reduction after the Civil War since a lot of imports replace hemp in the domestic markets. Towards the end of the 19th century, people started to use marijuana in quite a number of medicinal products, some of which were sold openly in the pharmacies. This is also the time when hashish as the trend in France and it soon found its way into the United States.
Recreational use introduced by Mexican Immigrants – 1900 1920s
Following the influx of Mexican immigrants into the United States, recreational use of the marijuana leaves started in the United States. It then became associated with the Mexicans and there were a lot of warning about the marijuana menace since a lot of crimes became associated to it and the Mexicans who smoked it in their large numbers.
Uniform State Narcotic Act – 1932
Due to the rising use of marijuana and its association with lots of crimes and other social evils in America, the Uniform State Narcotic Act was passed and this compelled the state governments to be responsible for controlling the marijuana related problems within their jurisdictions.
Marijuana Tax Act – 1937
Following concerted campaigns against marijuana, which was now referred to as the “evil weed”, the Marijuana Tax Act was passed by Congress and this effectively criminalized marijuana in the United States. The tax restricted its possession to only individuals who paid excise tax particular industrial and medical uses.
Stricter Sentence Laws -1960s
The Narcotics Control Act was passed and this stipulated mandatory sentences for drug offenses, with marijuana being one of them. However, the bulk of these laws were later repealed in 1970 and marijuana was effectively differentiated from other drugs. The mandatory sentences for possession of small amounts of marijuana were also removed.
Medical use of marijuana legalized in California
California was the first state to legalize the medical use of marijuana in 1996 after the voters passed proposition 215 which allowed marijuana to be sold to and used by AIDS and cancer patients as well as other serious and painful conditions. Though the law was in contradiction with the federal laws that regulated the use and possession of marijuana, it set the pace to what is currently being witnessed where several states are legalizing the use of medical marijuana seeds, cannabis flowers and licensed production.