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The History of Cannabis

Take a trip back in time to follow the timeline of cannabis back to its roots.
  • 6000 B.C. Seeds

    Cannabis seeds used for food in China.
  • 4000 B.C. Textiles

    Textiles made of hemp are used in China.
  • 2727 B.C. Medicine

    First written record of cannabis use as medicine in China.
  • 500 B.C. Hemp in Northern Europe

    Hemp is introduced into northern Europe by the Scythians. An urn containing leaves and seeds of the cannabis plant, unearther near Berlin, is dated to about this time.
  • 430 B.C. First Recreational Use

    Herodotus reports on both ritual and recreational use of cannabis by the Scythians.
  • 100 B.C.The Spread of Hemp

    Hemp spreads throughout Northern Europe.
  • 100 – 0 B.C.

    The psychotropic properties of cannabis are mentioned in the newly compiled herbal Pen Ts’ao Ching which is attributed to an emperor circa 2700BC.
  • 1271 – 1295 Marco Polo

    Journeys of Marco Polo in which he gives second-hand reports of the story of Hasan ibn al-Sabbah and his “assassins” using hashish. First time reports of cannabis have been brought to the attention of Medieval Europe.
  • 1619 Hemp

    The Virginia Assembly passed legislation requiring every farmer to grow hemp. Hemp was allowed to be exchanged as legal tender in Pennsylvania, Virginia, & Maryland.
  • 1753 Carl Linnaeus

    It is formally christened Cannabis sativa in 1753 by Carl Linnaeus, although the debate on the correct classification of the varieties still rages today
  • 1793 Taxing Cannabis

    The British impose regulation and begin collecting taxes on all forms of cannabis in India.
  • 1794Agricultural Hemp Products

    Hemp becomes one of the most important agricultural products in the US. George Washington declares “make the most you can of the Indian Hemp seed and sow it everywhere.”
  • 1840Medicinal Cannabis

    In America, medicinal preparations with a cannabis base are available. Hashish is available in Persian pharmacies.
  • 1890s Civil War Era

    After the Civil War, marijuana is sold in many over-the-counter medicinal products, and hemp is still a common element in clothes manufacturing.
  • 1906 Pure Food & Drug Act

    The Pure Food and Drug Act is passed, requiring any product with cannabis in it be labeled appropriately.
  • 1920s Mexican Revolution

    After the Mexican Revolution, Mexican immigrants migrate to the United States. Recreational use of marijuana spikes, and the drug becomes associated with the immigrant population.
  • 1930 Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN)

    The Federal Bureau of Narcotics is established, and the federal criminalization of marijuana looms.
  • 1931 Outlaws

    The list of states outlawing marijuana rises to 29 as fear and resentment of Mexican immigrants increases during the Great Depression.
  • 1936 “Reefer Madness”

    “Reefer Madness,” the propaganda film intent on scaring middle class white citizens into fearing marijuana use is released.
  • 1937 Marijuana Tax Act

    After a lurid national propaganda campaign against the “evil weed,” Congress passed the Marijuana Tax Act. The statute effectively criminalized marijuana, restricting possession of the drug to individuals who paid an excise tax for certain authorized medical and industrial uses.
  • 1944 La Guardia Report

    New York Academy of Medicine issued an extensively researched report declaring that, contrary to earlier research and popular belief, use of marijuana did not induce violence, insanity, or sex crimes, or lead to addiction or other drug use.
  • 1940s Hemp for Victory

    During World War II, imports of hemp and other materials crucial for producing marine cordage, parachutes, and other military necessities became scarce. In response the U.S. Department of Agriculture launched its “Hemp for Victory” program, encouraging farmers to plant hemp by giving out seeds and granting draft deferments to those who would stay home and grow hemp. By 1943 American farmers registered in the program harvested 375,000 acres of hemp.
  • 1951-1956 Stricter Sentencing & Laws

    Enactment of federal laws (Boggs Act, 1952; Narcotics Control Act, 1956) which set mandatory sentences for drug-related offenses, including marijuana.

    A first-offense marijuana possession carried a minimum sentence of 2-10 years with a fine of up to $20,000.

  • 1960s More Scientific Proof

    Recreational use of marijuana increases and creeps into upper-class America. But its effects are scientifically studied and shown not to induce violence such as “Reefer Madness.”
  • 1968 Creation of the Bureau of Narcotics & Dangerous Drugs

    This was a merger of FBN and the Bureau of Dangerous Drugs of the Food and Drug Administration.
  • 1970s A Different Drug

    Many mandatory minimum sentences for marijuana are repealed, and for the first time marijuana is differentiated from other more harmful drugs.
  • 1973 DEA is Formed

    Merger of the Bureau of Narcotics & Dangerous Drugs (BNND) and the Office of Drug Abuse Law Enforcement (ODALE) founds the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
  • 1974 High Times is Founded

    The popular magazine, High Times is founded.
  • 1986 Ronald Reagan

    President Ronald Reagan promises to get tough on marijuana use and introduces new federal minimum mandatory sentences.
  • 1989 Bush’s War on Drugs

    President George Bush I declares a new War on Drugs in a nationally televised speech.
  • 1996 Proposition 215

    California’s Proposition 215 allows marijuana to be used as a painkiller for various diseases including AIDS and cancer (Medical Use).
  • 1998 Cannabis Laws & Patient Protections

    Numerous states pass medical cannabis laws and patient protections: Alaska, Oregon, Washington and Arizona (though again, the legislature failed to implement the will of the voters who approved a second Medical Cannabis Initiative).

    A legislative effort in Oregon is successfully made to place a ‘cannabis re-criminalization’ initiative on the ballot, which fails, 32%/68% as Oregon citizens prove they really like their so-called cannabis ‘de-crim’ laws.

  • 1999 Maine Medical Cannabis Initiative

    Miane voters approved a medical cannabis initiative.
  • 2000 Nevada & Colorado Medical Cannabis Initiative

    Nevada and Colorado voters approved medical cannabis initiatives. Hawaii legislature passed medical cannabis legislation.
  • 2004 Montana Medical Cannabis Initiative

    Montana voters approved a medical cannabis initiative. Vermont’s legislature passed medical cannabis legislation.
  • 2006 Rhode Island Legislature

    Rhode Island legislature passed medical cannabis legislation.
  • 2007 New Mexico Legislature

    New Mexico legislature passed medical cannabis legislation.
  • 2008 Michigan Medical Cannabis Initiative

    Michigan voters approve medical cannabis initiative. Massachusetts voters approve a cannabis decriminalization initiative.
  • 2010 Arizona Medical Cannabis Initiative

    Arizona voters approve medical cannabis initiative for the third time since 1996. District of Columbia City Council passed medical cannabis legislation. New Jersey legislature passed medical cannabis legislation. Voters in California narrowly defeat a cannabis legalization initiative, 53%/47$.
  • 2011Delaware Medical Cannabis Initiative

    Delaware legislature passed medical cannabis legislation. Connecticut legislature passed cannabis decriminalization legislation. June 23, NORML gets the first ever cannabis legalization bill introduced into the US Congress.
  • 2000-2011 Decriminalization Begins

    More than a dozen states vote to decriminalize marijuana for medical uses. But because of federal laws, marijuana use and possession still remain chargeable offenses.
  • 2012 Legal Recreational Use

    Washington and Colorado become the first two states to legalize recreational use of marijuana for some adults.

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