Marijuana has a long and complicated background in the United States. Although many lovers of Mary Jane are aware of Reefer Madness and the terror it struck in the hearts of parents everywhere during the 1930s, the history of marijuana in the US dates back further than that.
Has marijuana always had such a difficult time surviving in this country? Or have attitudes changed only recently?
Learn more about how marijuana was first used in the US, and discover why the laws are currently changing — even today.
Marijuana in the New World
The marijuana plant can be traced to Spaniards bringing the crops over in the 1500s. During this time, it’s highly likely that both marijuana and hemp were grown together, with hemp helping to create rope and other products the settlers would have found helpful.
It’s suggested that during this time, those in the colonies growing hemp weren’t aware of its medicinal purposes. This was likely discovered by accident, although many other countries knew of the plant’s valuable use for pain.
Use in Medical Treatments During the Civil War
During the 1800s, the use of marijuana for medical treatments was becoming commonplace. Doctors used it for all sorts of problems related to mental and emotional issues, even using the plant in large quantities on people who were mentally ill.
This was typically given in the form of hashish, although the plant got referred to as cannabis.
Just as typically used today, it helped individuals deal with problems such as:
- Inability to sleep
- Low appetite
It was also used for many things which the plant could not treat, such as rabies, alcoholism and extreme menstrual bleeding. One benefit was that marijuana was not addictive in the same manner as opiates, making it easier for people to treat issues without worrying about addiction on the side.
The use of marijuana continued up until the 20th century when it started to fall out of favor. But before then, it was widely prescribed by respected doctors for nearly every situation.
Modern History of Marijuana in the US in the 1930s
As more Mexicans immigrated to the United States, there was an increase in anti-Mexican feelings around the country. During this time, the use of the word marijuana was common, to mark it as equivalent it to the Mexican population, who also used the plant recreationally.
The drug was described as being dangerous and a threat to the children of the United States, making parents and other adults fear what this could do to their families. The aforementioned “Reefer Madness” got created and released, used as a propaganda film to show what happened when the drug became accessible.
This started with the movement of making marijuana illegal across the United States so that anyone who possessed it could be fined and even sent to jail. Although a report found it less dangerous than other drugs, jail time increased by the 1950s up to ten years, with fines over $15,000.
Hippie Movement of the 1960s
The strict era of the 1950s gave way to peace, love and drugs, a common theme that was used throughout the 1960s and ’70s. It was found that in comparison to other drugs going around at the time, such as LSD, the effects of marijuana seemed short-term and relatively harmless.
During this period, laws became relaxed when it came to marijuana. While the drug wasn’t legal, sentences got lifted on punishment time. The government had bigger fish to fry as newer and more addictive drugs started trickling in.
Nancy Regan’s Just Say No Movement
When the 1980s arrived, it came along with an increase in drug use. Determined to help save school children everywhere, Nancy Regan started her “Just Say No” campaign, exhorting children to never experiment with drugs and view them all as bad.
During this time, crack and cocaine were both major problems that the United States was trying to get under control. Just Say No ensured that all drugs got put under the same blanket. This extended to marijuana, ignoring any healing properties that were present, and whitewashing the history of how the plant was once used.
Progressive Changes in Marijuana Laws in Today’s New Climate
In the 2000s, marijuana was becoming accepted again in popular culture. Certain states such as California made it medically legal to use. A change came again as individual states legalized the plant for recreational use and new business ventures started.
This helped to bolster the economy for certain areas, with tourism to these legal states becoming popular. Folks were willing to travel and pay extra money to use marijuana legally, without fear of repercussion.
It also changed the job front too, adding more employees to a new industry. This blog describes what it’s like to work as a budtender.
The history of marijuana in the US is long and complicated. Between starting out as an innocent plant that was grown alongside hemp and used as a medicine, to becoming vilified with the anti-drug movement, marijuana hasn’t had it easy in the United States.
As the laws continue to change, only time will tell how long it will take until the plant gets made legal at the federal level and accepted as just another crop — or if some things never change.
Are you curious to learn about the different trends in smoking? Check out how vaporizers have made a difference for people everywhere. Learn more, and discover how it is that vaping is better than smoking.