The history of Cannabis is multifold; whether one examines the more recent criminalized history here in the United States or the one where its’ production was encouraged by the government in the 17th century. Yes you read that correctly, in the 17th century, Cannabis and its’ cultivation were not only permitted but mandated by the government. Early settlers were required to grow pot, talk about a stoned age. Notable Marijuana farmers of the time were George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. Various scholars even attest to the Declaration of Independence being originally written on hemp paper; the official site disagrees – but can you really trust the government? Let me clarify, however, there is no evidence to substantiate that marijuana was being recreationally used in the manner that many consume Cannabis today. During this time period Marijuana was cultivated to be used for various medical purposes; in addition, it was grown to be used as textile or fabric in myriad ways – clothing, sails, rope etc. This acceptance lasted through the Civil War; after which, it was replaced by various domestic goods and imported products – with cotton being the main cash crop to take its’ place.
Music in the early 1900’s saw the revival of marijuana and recreational use boomed [consider revising this sentence]. However, the Mexican revolution brought countless immigrants (but really, we took their land...) into the southern United States and xenophobic fears arose. Propaganda emerged demonizing marijuana and instigating fears that Mexicans, “high on reefer,” would have sex with white women… this was seriously part of the reasoning These claims were nothing more than attempts at covering up the truth – criminalizing marijuana meant authorities could now control black and brown bodies. Studies arose in response to these claims – funded by biased parties – linking marijuana to criminally deviant behavior and to, “racially inferior,” communities. These studies, in addition to, various anti Marijuana propaganda being disseminated led to much legislation and the Marijuana tax act of 1937; this act effectively criminalized the use of marijuana outside of certain medically approved situations. Stricter sentencing laws surrounding Marijuana continued through the 1950’s, but was met with harsh resistance by the flower children of the 1960’s. Moving into the 1970’s saw no reprieve to a racially induced hysteria and thus we see the Controlled Substances Act. This act brought forth a classification system whereby the government told people that drugs would be ranked on a harmful scale. However, the scale was biased and aimed at attacking and criminalizing black and brown bodies – without harm as a consideration. The Controlled Substances Act paved the way for the cultural genocide known as the war on drugs. Countless people continued to be imprisoned as casualties of a war aimed at policing their bodies. Moving past the 1970’s and 80’s we see the start of a pop culture movement which aggrandizes the use of marijuana. Stigma and fear start to transition to the background and many states pass medical Marijuana legislations; and several states, as well as, the District of Columbia now practice legal recreational Marijuana use.
Much needs to be done to completely remove the stigma and change archaic laws but the nation seems to be coming full circle. It may be some time before farmers are mandated to grow marijuana again; but I bet it won’t be that long before the next person sparks up in our nation’s capital.