Did you know one of the earliest recorded uses of marijuana dates back to 2737 BC? That's right, Chinese legend states Emperor Shen Neng prescribed cannabis tea as an herbal remedy for gout, malaria and other diseases.
In the 1600s, early American colonists from Virginia, Massachusetts and Connecticut were actually required to grow hemp for exportation to England. Then, from 1850-1937, the marijuana plant was heavily used in US pharmacopeia as medicine for over 100 different illnesses and diseases. Unfortunately, Marijuana's presence in the medical space began to decline in the 1910s-1920s as Mexican immigrants migrated to America during the Mexican Revolution, and introduced the recreational consumption of marijuana to America.
When the Great Depression began, the economic sufferage created resentment towards cheap labor workers and the "evil weed" associated with them. High unemployment rates and government-funded smear campaigns painted cannabis as a dangerous drug and tied the plant's popularity to the influx of Mexican immigrants; creating public unrest towards the minority group. By 1931, 29 states had outlawed marijuana entirely.
The first federal attempt to criminalize marijuana came in 1937 in the form of the Marijuana Tax Act, set to impose a tax on the sale, possession or transfer of hemp products. President Nixon, in 1970, announced a "War on Drugs" by signing the Controlled Substance Act which classified marijuana as a schedule one drug-the same as heroin, LSD, and ecstasy. Two years later, a study from the National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse recommended "partial prohibition" and lower penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana. However, Nixon and other government officials ignored these recommendations.
Despite marijuana's federally illegal status, California became the first state to allow cannabis use to treat severe or chronic illnesses by passing the Compassionate Care Act in 1996. Thirty states plus Washington, D.C., currently have laws allowing the use of medical marijuana. As of January 2019, ten states plus Washington, D.C., allow adults to light up for recreational purposes.
Though marijuana's legality remains in a gray area on a federal level, the majority of Americans believe the plant has valuable medical benefits and are in favor of legalizing cannabis for adult use.
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