Cannabis is legal for medical use in 33 states and recreational use in 11 states. It may seem like America is in the middle of a revolution. Ever since California became the first state to legalize it medically in 1996, the cannabis culture movement around the nation has pushed for change in state laws.
In some ways, this is a revolution. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration continues to list marijuana and its psychoactive ingredient THC as a Schedule 1 drug. This means the official federal policy states that there are no accepted medical uses for cannabis.
However, research involving cannabis as a beneficial plant for both recreational and medicinal uses has taken place for centuries. These legalization efforts and subsequent commercial availability for cannabis products are actually part of an evolution that begins further back than many realize.
Cannabis Used as Medicine
In early texts found in Asia, historians have found examples of cannabis used by royalty and common people alike. In 2,737 BCE, Emperor Shen Neng of China made the first recorded use of cannabis for medicine. Not long afterward, dried cannabis was mentioned in sacred Hindu texts in India as a ritual offering to the god Shiva.
Fast forward a few centuries to 70 CE, and a physician in Nero’s army listed medical marijuana as a recommended prescription. In 200 CE, a Chinese surgeon used cannabis as an anesthetic. Also during this time, approximately between 47 to 127 CE, Plutarch the philosopher mentioned the use of cannabis as an intoxicant.
Without a doubt, the cannabis culture existed throughout the world.
Changes in the Law
In the United States, it wasn’t until after the prohibition of alcohol ended in 1933 that lawmakers took active objection to cannabis use. The Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 limited use federally, but the law was struck in 1969. The following year, the Controlled Substances Act was enacted, making cannabis illegal federally.
It didn’t take long for the evolution of decriminalization efforts to begin. In 1973, Texas amended its law that makes possession of fewer than four ounces only a misdemeanor. Oregon followed, making the penalty of possession of up to an ounce a $100 fine. Ten other states joined in, but the efforts stalled until the mid-1990s.
New Research Shows Medical Benefits
Designating cannabis as a Schedule 1 drug, made it difficult for researchers to obtain the funding needed to study the medicinal benefits of the plant.
But the discovery of the endocannabinoid system in mammals in 1992 changed that. Scientists found that the human body has a system that is supported by the same chemicals found naturally in cannabis. This led to numerous studies regarding cannabinoids such as THC and CBD, as well as other elements of cannabis.
Attitudes Continue to Relax
Plus, in the last two decades, attitudes have started to relax significantly regarding recreational use. Last year, two-thirds of America’s population supported full legalization. Voters continue to approve new legalization efforts, and businesses are opening to meet this increasing demand.
While cannabis culture is indeed revolutionary, it evolved over the years. Now, as more people try new, enjoyable forms of ingestion, the culture is evolving and expanding even further.