A Brief History of MMJ

Short Story:  Weed has been used for centuries to cure a variety of ailments.  CBD oil and other tinctures were used as recently as 80 years ago in most countries around the world.

Long Story:


Cannabis is a plant that grows so commonly and easily and heartily that in many areas it is literally considered a weed.  Hence one of its many pseudonyms.  It may (or may not) surprise you that marijuana was used medicinally long before it was considered a “fashionable narcotic”.  Cannabis has been used in medicine, recreation, and industry for thousands of years.  There is evidence of plant remnants as far back as the last Ice Age.  It is mentioned being used as a medicine in the bible.  The Chinese considered marijuana an important herbal remedy over 4000 years ago.  This link has a useful timeline for those interested in a more detailed history.  For the purposes of this brief

history I will focus on the last 2 centuries.


In the 1800’s,  western medicine “re-discovered” marijuana.  The doctors of the modern world began to study the benefits others had known about for millennia. The scientists and scholars began to document this weed’s use for different ailments. It seemed to help with many different symptoms including pain, seizures, insomnia, and stress.  It also helped with diseases of the times such as cholera, gout, tetanus, rabies, etc.  Patented preparations were sold in apothecaries (pharmacies)  in the US as early as 1841.  The U.S. Pharmacopoeia (medicine book) began listing cannabis in 1851 with more detailed preparations of the plant included by 1870. The British Pharmacopoeia also gave specific dosages as noted here.

As with other drugs throughout history, the general public began to use it in recreation, at times in excess.  Synthetic pharmaceuticals began to be discovered and patented and there was a call for labeling of ingredients for medications.


Governments around the globe began to define and control it.  Many countries moved it under the label “narcotic”.  Several states began to outlaw the drug in addition to the prohibition of alcohol in the 1920’s.  There was a European summit the Opium Convention in 1925 followed by the Geneva Trafficking Conventions in 1936 calling for a unified stance on halting movement of all opiates and narcotics.  All of these variables led up to the US Marihuana Tax Act in 1937 which federally controlled the movement of marijuana and hemp.  If you are a conspiracy theorist there are many levels on which to argue why and how cannabis was removed from  medicine and quite literally the earth in most countries.  I will leave that alone, but here is one popular theory.


It was a few years before all of the US states adopted laws to stop the sale of marijuana.  The American Medical Association fought to keep cannabis in the Pharmacopoeia but were finally forced to snuff it out in 1942.   A similar story was seen in many other countries around the world.  There were a few countries who openly continued research, Israel most importantly, and several individuals who did so undercover.  Interestingly enough the US government employed the University of Mississippi to continue research using the plant in 1961 until present day.


Over the years several individuals fought in courts to keep medical marijuana alive.  One notable win was for Robert Randall in 1976, when the federal courts acknowledged his use of cannabis was a “medical necessity”.  Apparently he and a handful of others over the years were guinea pigs for the Ole Miss as confirmed by this interesting article about federal medical marijuana card holders.


More recently parents of many children with seizures, discovered after years of fear and pain, that marijuana with high numbers of the cannabinoid CBD stopped what seemed to be unstoppable seizures. These children’s parents were told, after introducing drug after drug,  there was nothing more  modern medicine could do.  One father who refused to give up, Jason David, frantically researched and discovered the old information that marijuana might help his son Jayden, age 6, who was diagnosed with Dravet syndrome.  And it did.  The following year it helped Charlotte Figi, age 6, who is the namesake of a popular cannabis tincture named Charlotte’s Web.   She, too, had Dravet syndrome, the most severe of epilepsies in terms of sheer number of seizures.


Just imagine watching your child seize.  All. Day. Long.  And have doctor after doctor tell you nothing more can be done and to prepare for the worst.  And then imagine giving your child a drug that has been made out to be one of the most dangerous in the world.  And having those seizures stop.  A simple weed saving your family’s life!  And people did imagine. And people did question.  And the laws did change.  And they are still changing today.


Presently in the US there are 25 states that have passed medical marijuana laws and 3 allow recreational use.  This year’s election may see these numbers change even more. Some states are voting in new laws and others are writing them in.  Other countries are experiencing similar changes.  Hopefully, anyone who wishes to choose to use cannabis as their preferred medication without repercussions from the law  may do so in the near future.  Please continue to educate yourself.  Even if medical marijuana is not the right choice for you, it may be for others.


Longer Stories:  http://www.pcrg.org/wp-content/uploads/2008/07/SNN-NORML-Presentation.pdf



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