Brief History of Marijuana

Marijuana is probably one of the oldest medicinal plants in human history

There is evidence of its medicinal use civilization after civilization and yet the social boom we have experienced over the last century has coincided with its period of criminalization. As the results of more and more research are revealed, we are beginning to understand their scientific value. Here is a brief history of marijuana with everything we know to date, a chronology with all the historical evidence of Mary.

2900 B.C. – Marijuana is recognized in China as a medicinal herb

The Chinese Emperor Fu Hsi refers to Marijuana as a balanced folk medicine that possesses Yin and Yang.

2700 B.C. – Marijuana in the East

Another Chinese Emperor, Shen Nung, discovers the healing properties of marijuana, ginseng and ephedra.

1500 B.C. – The first written reference in Eastern culture

The first known written reference to marijuana is found in a Chinese pharmaceutical encyclopedia.

1450 B.C. – The first appearance of marijuana in the Old Testament Bible

The original Hebrew version of Exodus describes a sacred ointment (30:22-23) containing over 3 kg of kaneh-bosm. Kaneh-bosm (or fragrant hemp) has been identified as cannabis infused with olive oil and other aromatic herbs.

1213 BC – Cannabis in Ancient Egypt

Cannabis pollen is found in the grave of Ramses II. Egyptian doctors prescribed cannabis for glaucoma, against inflammation and as enemas.

1000 B.C. – Cannabis in India

Bhang is a cannabis drink mixed with milk that was used in India as an anaesthetic and mucolytic in addition to treating other diseases. This is the beginning of the medical use of marijuana in India.

700 BC – Marijuana Use in the Middle East

In the book Venity of the Zend-Avesta, the sacred Persian texts find written evidence from 700 BC referring to Bhang (the Indian drink made of milk mixed with cannabis) and listing Marijuana as the most important of the 10,000 medicinal herbs.

600 BC – Cannabis in India as a treatment for lepers

In one of the most important medical books of the Indian culture Sushrita cites again cannabis as a mucolytic and treatment for lepers.

200 BC – Medical Cannabis in Ancient Greece

In ancient Greece, cannabis was used as a remedy for ear infections, oedema and inflammation.

1 A.D. – Marijuana in Chinese Medical Books

In a huge compendium of Chinese medicine compiled in 1 AD (Pen Tsai Ching) there is a pictogram (Chinese character 麻) of the cannabis plant. It reminds one of the cannabis leaf as if it were being dried under the roof of a hut. In this book, marijuana is recommended to treat more than 100 pathologies.

a brief history of cannabis

cannabis history
30 A.D. – Jesus Uses Cannabis Ointments

In the New Testament of the Bible it is mentioned that Jesus anointed his disciples with a very powerful psychoactive substance. In fact, there are theories that Jesus healed the sick with the oil referred to in the Old Testament. Christ means the “anointed one” and Christ was supposedly anointed with Chrism the super potent cannabic oil that other priests also used to have visions and talk to Yahweh. Cannabis residues have been found in pots in Judea and Egypt in a context not only of medical but also of psychoactive use.

70 A.D. – Cannabis in Ancient Rome

Pedanius Discorides, a Greek physician who was a doctor in the Roman army had studied many herbs and medicinal plants which he compiled in his book “De Materia Medica”. Despite having published this book so early in history, it was a reference for medicine until the early 16th century. This book includes female and male cannabis plants, sour cannabis and kannabis emeros respectively. Discorides claimed that hemp had therapeutic uses besides making rope and tissue to treat earaches and even eliminate sexual desire. In 79 a Roman sage wrote that the roots of the hemp plant boiled in hot water are capable of relieving joint pain, gout and other intense pains.

200 A.D. – The use of anaesthetic cannabis in Chinese medicine

The renowned Chinese surgeon Hua To, who performed operations on organs as complex as the intestines, used a mixture of liquor with cannabis resin (ma-yo to anaesthetize patients and eliminate pain during his operations.

800-900 A.D. – The dilemma of Cannabis in the Middle East – medicine or poison?

In Roman times cannabis was used medicinally in the Middle East as a remedy for a wide variety of diseases from simple migraines to serious infections such as syphilis. However, a contemporary Arab physician Ibn Wahahiyah wrote warning of the potential effects of hashish which he described as a lethal poison.

1500 A.D. – Muslim Doctors Use Mary to Reduce Sexual Desire

In the early 16th century when Islam was spreading in India, some Persian doctors studied the effects of cannabis by focusing on late effects. Among others they used cannabis to inhibit sexual desire.

1538 A.D. – Cannabis in the Middle Ages

During the middle ages cannabis was part of any apothecary as one of the most important medicinal herbs. William Turner, the British naturalist who is considered the first botanist praises cannabis in his book “New Herball” published in 1538.

1578 – The uses of Marijuana in Traditional Chinese Medicine

A large compilation of Traditional Chinese Medicine (Ben Cao Gang Mu 本草纲目) describes various uses of Mary including relief from nausea, parasitic infections and bleeding. In China during this time Mary was used as a very popular remedy to treat diarrhea and anorexia by stimulating the appetite.

1600 A.D. – Shakespeare could have smoked marijuana

In the garden of Shakespeare’s house, 24 fragments of smoking pipes were found buried. They have been analysed and found traces of nicotine, Peruvian cocaine and cannabis. Thackeray, a manuscript that was never published, suggests that Shakespeare liked to use cannabis as a stimulant and for its psychoactive effects.

marijuana history

1611-1762 – Mary arrives and is cultivated in North America

The Jamestown colonists brought the cannabis plant to North America in 1611. Throughout the colonial period, hemp fibre was one of the most important exports. In 1762 the State of Virginia gave subsidies to hemp farmers and imposed fines on those who did not grow hemp.

1621 – Cannabis to treat depression

In “Anatomy of Melancholy” by Robert Burton, cannabis is mentioned as a possible treatment for depression.

1799 – Napoleon’s troops bring marijuana from Egypt to France

Napoleon invades Egypt with troops that include a scientific team. Besides the discovery of the Rosetta stone the team brings to France cannabis to be later investigated for its sedative and analgesic principles so it starts to be accepted in western medicine.

1840 – Queen Victoria and Medical Marijuana

Cannabis is reintroduced into British medicine thanks to William O’Shaughnessy, an English war surgeon who had served in India. In Victorian times it was used in countless treatments for different diseases. Among others, Queen Victoria used marijuana to relieve her menstrual cramps. During this time cannabis became popular and “normal” in Western medicine again.

US pharmacopedia

1850 – Cannabis appears in the American Pharmacopedia

American Cannabis Pharmacopoeia

1906 – Cannabis and other medicines must be labelled

In a consumer safety initiative on June 30, 1906, President Roosevelt signed the Wiley Act, a law that would regulate the labeling of products to prevent poisonous or dangerous products from being placed on the market. Cannabis was regulated too.

1915-1928 – The beginnings of Cannabis control and restriction

The first state to pass the anti-marijuana law was Utah in 1915. Gradually, the different American states were united until 1927 when there were 10 states including New York. The restrictive trend spread globally and in 1925 the League of Nations signed a multilateral treaty restricting the use of cannabis to medical and scientific use only. Egypt proposed adding cannabis resins (hashish) to the list of narctics to be dealt with by the convention. Import and export restrictions were imposed on cannabis and in 1928 it was added to the United Kingdom’s Dangerous Drugs Act, after cocaine had been added in 1920.


1930 – American pharmaceutical companies continue to sell drugs with Maria

Despite the restrictions and regulations on cannabis, the growing demand for medicines containing marijuana means that pharmaceutical companies in the United States continue to base their medicines on cannabis as painkillers and sedatives.

1936 – New non-marijuana painkillers and social awareness of marijuana as a dangerous drug

By the end of 1936 all states in North America had put in place restrictive marijuana laws. Medical use began to decrease due to substitution with new active ingredients such as aspirin, morphine, other opium-derived drugs that substitute for marijuana in the treatment of pain in Western medicine. In addition, the film “Reefer Madness” was popularized during this time, which tells the story of the young protagonist’s addictions that end in death, sex scandals and madness. This film had been financed by a religious group and was originally called “Tell Your Children” appealing to the faith of all parents in the country.

1937 – Mary’s tax law

Due to the addiction, violence and criminality of marijuana users in the United States, a motion to regulate its use and accessibility by the people was signed into a Marijuana Tax Act which would register everything from the cultivation to the final marijuana buyer. Although not directly prohibited, the effects were similar. Medical marijuana prescriptions declined as most practitioners found it easier to resort to prescribing other medications than to go through all the red tape involved in prescribing medical marijuana to their patients. In addition, by that time all states were criminalizing the possession and sale of marijuana.

1937 – The first prisoner for marijuana sales in the United States

The first day the federal law went into effect the FBI and Denver Colorado police raided the Lexington Hotel and arrested Samuel R. Cadwell and Moses Baca. The first was arrested for sale, and the second, his client, as a possession of a restricted substance. Caldwell was sentenced to 4 years of hard labor in a penitentiary and a $1,000 fine, and Baca was imprisoned for 18 months. They both served their full sentences.

illegalization of marijuana

marijuana withdrawn from the American pharmacopoeia

1942 – Marijuana is removed from the American Pharmacopedia

1961 – The United Nations draws up a plan for the future of marijuana prohibition

The 1961 United Nations Convention on Narcotic Drugs states in article 49: “The use of cannabis outside the scientific and medicinal field should be discontinued as soon as possible in less than 25 years”. Congress passed that convention in 1967, and three years later the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act was passed, laying the foundation for the federal anti-marijuana laws we know today.

1964 – THC is synthesized for the first time

The main psychoactive component of marijuana was detected in 1964 by Raphael Mechoulam, professor of chemical medicine at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He was also the first to synthesize THC by isolating it from the other cannabinoids.

1968 – President Johnson creates the BNDD The Office of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs

The dramatic increase in the use of marijuana and other illegal drugs in the second half of the 1960s was worrisome. In response, agencies were created to fight drug abuse in the country, including marijuana.

1970 – The Controlled Substances Act classifies marijuana as not accepted for medical use

Congress approves the Controlled Substances Act as a drug abuse prevention measure and qualifies marijuana under heading 1, substances with great potential for abuse, not accepting their medicinal use in treatment in the United States and their use as unsafe without medical supervision.

1976 – Marijuana is decriminalized in the Netherlands

The decriminalization of cannabis is de facto adopted in the Netherlands. In 1980, so-called coffee shops began to emerge in which the purchase of small quantities of cannabis by adults is tolerated informally and then formally in establishments that have acquired a licence.

endocannabinoid system

1990 – Scientists discover cannabinoid receptors

Mile Herkenham Senior Research Fellow at the National Institute of Mental Health and his research team discover the cannabinoid receptor system which helps scientists better understand the pharmacological effects of cannabinoids that occur when THC connects with cannabinoid receptors in the brain.

1992 – The discovery of the first Endocannabinoid

After 28 years of the discovery of THC Mechoulam (the discoverer of THC) with William Devane and Lumir Hanus identify the first endogenous cannabinoid in our brain – the natural version of THC created by the human organism which they call anandamide from the Sanskrit “ananda” which means eternal happiness. Intense exercise stimulates the secretion of anandamide and that euphoric feeling of well-being. The first hypotheses begin to form that the endocannabinoid system is capable of mediating emotions, consolidating memory and coordinating movements.

1996 – California is the first state to legalize medical marijuana

1998 – Alaska, Oregon and Washington join in legalizing the medical use of marijuana

2003 – The first HIV patient in Canada to receive treatment for government-grown marijuana

legalization of marijuana

Towards the legalization of cannabis

2003 – Dutch pharmacies begin marketing medical marijuana

2004 – Britain reclassifies cannabis and reduces penalties

The reclassification of cannabis from B to C is approved, which entails lesser penalties for possession of the drug. In May 2008, it was reclassified under heading B again and the penalties for possession amounted to 5 years’ imprisonment.

2010 – New Jersey becomes 14th state to legalize medical marijuana

2014 – New York is the 23rd state to legalize medical marijuana

2018 – FDA approves first marijuana-based drug

Epidiolex a medication containing pure CBD cannabinoid oils is approved to treat the symptoms of some rare cases of epilepsy in patients over two years old. The approval of this drug is the first sign that all the scientific effort to accurately demonstrate the benefits of the active ingredients of cannabis has its legal reward.

2018- President Trump Legalizes Industrial Hemp

Industrial hemp that does not contain the psychoactive cannabinoid THC is legalized for cultivation and marketing.

2019 – The United States Government awards an investment of $3 million for the study of medicinal CBD emphasizing that none of these dollars will be spent on research into THC-containing byproducts.

2020 – Medical marijuana is legal in 35 U.S. states and recreational use in 11 of those states.

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Know that it is THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, and why it is the active compound that produces psychoactive effects when consuming marijuana.

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