Cannabis History 

Cannabis, family Cannabaceae, has been found on every continent in the northern hemisphere and its use has existed for over ten thousand years. Cannabis “hemp” is one of the oldest crops used for cultivation, as well as one of the most versatile. Its fibers, used for textiles and industrial use, its seed, used for food and fuel, and its hurd, used for paper and building materials, all played a critical role in the growth of civilization.

Early Apothecary History


“The use of cannabis for purposes of healing predates recorded history. The earliest written reference is found in the 15th century BC Chinese Pharmacopoeia, the Rh-Ya.”

Shen Nung (considered the Father of Chinese medicine) discovered marijuana’s healing properties as well as those of two other mainstays of Chinese herbal medicine, ginseng and ephedra.”

In a compendium of drug recipes compiled in 1 AD, based on traditions from the time of Shen Nung, recommends marijuana for more than 100 ailments including gout, rheumatism, malaria, and absentmindedness.


Early US History 



The history of Hemp in North America is older than the United States itself.  Jamestown settlers brought the Cannabis plant, to North America cultivating hemp in Virginia.


It became illegal in Jamestown, Virginia not to grow hemp because it was such a vital resource. Massachusetts and Connecticut passed similar laws 20 years later.


Hemp used for bartering throughout American Colonies.  Hemp was legal tender in most of the Americas. It was even used to pay taxes, to encourage farmers to grow more, to ensure America’s independence.


Use of medical cannabis in the US is well documented.  


Every township in Lancaster County Pennsylvania grew hemp.


Founding Fathers were Hemp Farmers. Hemp was a commodity and medicine that was grown, used and researched by none other than the founding fathers of America; George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin.  Jefferson was one of the first Cannabis Consultants as his journals are full of correspondence about growing, manufacturing, genetics and products.

Declaration of Independence drafted on Hemp paper. The U.S. Constitution was also printed on hemp paper and Betsy Ross sews first American flag out of hemp.


Marijuana plantations flourished in Mississippi, Georgia, California, South Carolina, Nebraska, New York, and Kentucky.  There were hundreds of mills that processed hemp fiber. 


In America, medicinal preparations with a Cannabis base are widely available and become mainstream medicine.  Ropes and sails were made of hemp, of course, paper and textiles, but also paint, printing inks, varnishes, and building materials.

Marijuana had made its way into the United States Pharmacopeia [an official public standards-setting authority for all prescription and over-the counter medicines], which listed marijuana as “treatment for numerous afflictions, including: neuralgia, tetanus, typhus, cholera, rabies, dysentery, alcoholism, opiate addiction, anthrax, leprosy, incontinence, gout, convulsive disorders, tonsillitis, and insanity, among others. Patented marijuana tinctures were sold…”.   In addition, the United States Dispensatory (a less restrictive medical guide that included drugs not recognized in the pharmacopeia) included hemp extract and medical cannabis among its medicines.  

The 1850 United States Census counted 8,327 hemp plantations of at least 2000 acres.


Marijuana was widely used throughout United States as a medicinal drug and could easily be purchased in pharmacies and general stores.


In the U.S. the Pure Food and Drug Act is passed, regulating the labeling of products containing Alcohol, Opiates, Cocaine, and Cannabis, among others.


The Harrison Act in the U.S. defined use of Marijuana (among other drugs) as a crime.

Some 60,000 pounds of cannabis were being produced annually, all from pharmaceutical farms east of the Mississippi.


“As demand for marijuana-based medications accelerated, pharmaceutical firms attempted to produce consistently potent and reliable drugs from hemp. By the 1930s at least two American companies – Parke-Davis and Eli Lily – were selling standardized extracts of marijuana for use as an analgesic, an antispasmodic and sedative.

Following action by the Federal Bureau of Narcotics and a campaign by William Randolph Hearst, propaganda is created against hemp from companies with vested interest in the new petroleum-based synthetic textiles. Even though hemp reinvented itself, thanks to new technology that eased processing and expanded its use, the timber (Hearst) and oil interests (Dupont, Anslinger, Mellon) crushed competition from plant-based cellulose by demonizing marijuana, and paralleling its use to Mexican immigrants and later Black jazz musicians.

Andrew Mellon, The Treasury Secretary, and Head of Bank of Pittsburgh, which loaned Dupont 80% of its money, appoints his niece’s husband, Harry J. Anslinger, to head newly formed Federal Bureau of Narcotics (later becoming the DEA).

When the federal government passed the Marijuana Tax Act in [Oct.] 1937, every state had already enacted laws criminalizing the possession and sale of marijuana. The federal law, which was structured in a fashion similar to the 1914 Harrison Act, maintained the right to use marijuana for medicinal purposes but required physicians and pharmacists who prescribed or dispensed marijuana to register with federal authorities and pay an annual tax or license fee….  After the passage of the Act, prescriptions of marijuana declined because doctors generally decided it was easier not to prescribe marijuana than to deal with the extra work imposed by the new law.

Its decline in medicine was hastened by the development of aspirin, morphine, and then other opium-derived drugs, all of which helped to replace marijuana in the treatment of pain and other medical conditions in Western medicine.

During this same time, DuPont Corporation patents processes for making plastics from oil and coal at the same time The Marijuana Tax Act is passed.  This tax on hemp in the USA, effectively destroyed the industry. 

Harry Anslinger testifies to congress that ‘Marijuana’ is the most violence causing drug known to man. The objections by the American Medical Association and the National Oil Seed Institute are rejected.

William C. Woodward, testifying on behalf of the AMA, told Congress that, “The American Medical Association knows of no evidence that marijuana is a dangerous drug” and warned that a prohibition “loses sight of the fact that future investigation may show that there are substantial medical uses for Cannabis.” His comments were ignored by Congress. A part of the testimony for Congress to pass the 1937 act derived from articles in newspapers owned by William Randolph Hearst, who had significant financial interests in the timber industry, which manufactured his newsprint paper.

Though society knew hemp was harmless, it was unfortunately mixed together with all plants in the Cannabis species, through untrue “yellow journalism” of William Hearst. The Marihuana Tax Act was enacted in 1937 and cultivations of Cannabis sativa (including hemp) was completely prohibited. This prohibition began one of the greatest political mixups in U.S. history and one of the most detrimental decisions for our economy, environment, health and national well being.


World production of hemp peaked at about 832,000 tons of fiber. Popular Mechanics magazine, nearly at the same time as the Marijuana tax act goes into effect, touts hemp as the first “billion dollar crop” and lists over 25,000 uses.  

The following year, Popular Mechanics Magazine reveals details of Henry Ford’s plastic car made using hemp and fueled from hemp. Henry Ford continued to illegally grow hemp for some years after the Federal ban, hoping to become independent of the petroleum industry.


Cannabis is removed from the U.S. Pharmacopoeia and its medicinal use is no longer recognized in America.


No longer recognized in the Pharmacopoeia, hemp still had uses. 

During World War II, Japan cut off our supplies of vital hemp and coarse fibers. The hemp was needed for making, among other things, rope, webbing, and canvas, to be used on navy ships. So a program was started to grow hemp for military use under the banner of “Hemp For Victory”.

The U. S. Department of Agriculture released an educational film which showed farmers how to grow and harvest industrial hemp. Hemp harvesting machinery was made available at low or no cost. From 1942 to 1945, farmers who agreed to grow hemp were waived from serving in the military, along with their sons; that’s how vitally important hemp was to America during World War II. The fields of hemp were termed victory gardens.


The war ends and so does “Hemp for Victory”. After the war, licenses were subsequently revoked.


Hemp is last farmed legally in the U.S., as government confuses Hemp commodity and Medical Marijuana issues and makes it criminal to grow, possess or use any type of Cannabis. 


Cannabis officially put on ‘dangerous’ Drug list.

The University of Mississippi has held a registration from the DEA or its predecessor agency to cultivate marijuana for government use and research activities… [as] the only DEA-registered cultivator of marijuana. The University of Mississippi… supplies marijuana to researchers for studies ranging from chemical research to preclinical toxicology in animals to clinical work on humans.”


Controlled Substances Act Classifies Marijuana as a Drug with “No Accepted Medical Use”.  The industrial cultivation of hemp was banned under the Controlled Substances Act Classified Marijuana as a Drug with “No Accepted Medical Use”.  Cannabis became a schedule 1 drug.

The same year, the US National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) forms.


First evidence suggesting marijuana may help glaucoma patients.


The Nixon-appointed Shafer Commission urged use of cannabis be re-legalized, but their recommendation was ignored. U.S. Medical research picks up pace.


The U.S. federal government created the Investigational New Drug (IND) Compassionate Use research program to allow patients to receive up to nine pounds of cannabis from the government each year. Robert Randall was the first American to receive marijuana for the treatment of a medical disorder.  Today, those surviving patients still receive medical cannabis from the federal government, paid for by federal tax dollars.


New Mexico passed the first state law recognizing the medical value of marijuana [Controlled Substances Therapeutic Research Act]. Over the next few years, more than 30 states passed similar legislation.” 


Scientists Discover First Endocannabinoid.

140,000 tons of hemp fiber are produced by mainly India, China, Russia, Korea and Romania, countries where the cultivation of hemp has never been prohibited.


California (the first U.S. state to ban marijuana use, see 1915) became the first U.S. State to then re-legalize medical marijuana use for people suffering from AIDS, cancer, and other serious illnesses.

The American Farm Bureau Federation, the largest farming organization in the United States with 4.6 million members, passed a resolution unanimously to research hemp and grow test plots.


The American Office of National Drug Control Policy commissioned the Institute of Medicine (IOM) to conduct a comprehensive study of the medical efficacy of cannabis therapeutics. The IOM concluded that cannabis is a safe and effective medicine, patients should have access, and the government should expand avenues for research and drug development.


Alaska, Oregon, and Washington are the next States to Legalize Medical Marijuana and Canada passes proposed regulations, and as a result hemp can be grown commercially in Canada for the first time in sixty years.

DEA arbitrarily bans all hemp foods in order to disrupt the domestic market. Hemp importers and their suppliers sue. Supreme Court temporarily injoins implementation of DEA’s unilateral proclamation.


Alex White Plume becomes first farmer since 1968 to cultivate and sell a hemp crop in the United States. The crop is bought by Madison Hemp & Flax, a Kentucky company.


“More than 2,000 pharmacies in the Netherlands are legally obliged from today [Sep. 1, 2003] to stock medical cannabis and dispense advice to users on the merits of brewing the mixture of dried parts of the hemp plant as a tea”.

US Government Receives Cannabinoids Patent

The US Department of Health and Human Services receives a patent (US 6,630,507 B1) for the therapeutic use of “cannabinoids as antioxidants and neuroprotectants.” 

The abstract says in part: “Cannabinoids have been found to have antioxidant properties… The cannabinoids are found to have particular application as neuroprotectants… in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease…” 


The 9th Circuit US Court of Appeals holds that DEA can not regulate hemp foods.

The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) voted to support access to medical marijuana for people who have a doctor’s recommendation. 

US Dept of Veterans Affairs Relaxes Marijuana Rules for Vets


President Obama signed the U.S. Farm Bill into law. The law allows for the cultivation of hemp in states that have already enacted pro-hemp legislation. For the first time since hemp and marijuana were classified under the same category in 1970, the U.S. government acknowledged a chemical difference in the two. The Bill allows state departments of agriculture and institutions of higher education to cultivate industrial hemp for research purposes.


The Federal Government Removes Obstacle to Marijuana Research.  “A long-standing bureaucratic obstacle to privately-funded medical marijuana research has just been removed, effective immediately”…


DEA Declines to Reschedule Marijuana but Opens Door to Research

DEA announced a policy change designed to foster research by expanding the number of DEA-registered marijuana manufacturers. This change should provide researchers with a more varied and robust supply of marijuana…




As of January 2018;   9 – states – Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont and Washington – the sale and possession of marijuana is legal for both medical and recreational use. Vermont and the District of Columbia have legalized personal use but not commercial sale.  29 –  states and the District of Columbia have passed laws allowing some degree of medical use of marijuana, and 13 – states have taken steps to decriminalize it to some degree.



2017 US Hemp Crop Report, 26,000 acres of Hemp Grown in 19 States; 34 states enacting Hemp Legislation.  


Colorado History 


“On the day the Marijuana Tax Stamp Act was enacted — Oct. 2, 1937 — the FBI and Denver, Colo., police raided the Lexington Hotel and arrested Samuel R. Caldwell, 58, an unemployed labourer and Moses Baca, 26. On Oct. 5, Caldwell went into the history trivia books as the first marijuana seller convicted under U.S. federal law. His customer, Baca, was found guilty of possession…   

Caldwell was sentenced to four years of hard labour in Leavenworth Penitentiary, plus a $1,000 fine. Baca received 18 months incarceration. Both men served every day of their sentence. A year after Caldwell was released from prison, he died.”