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The History of Cannabis

Table of Contents

KEY

  • BCE: Before Common Era, refers to any time before the calendar year “0”
  • CE: Common Era, refers to any time after the calendar year “0”
  • (ca.): Circa, refers to an approximate date

The Neolithic Period (10,000 – 3500 BCE)

  • 10,000 BCE
    • In Yuan-Shan, located in modern-day Taiwan, archaeologists discovered both pottery embedded with hemp cord and a rod-shaped stone-beater, used to pound hemp. These discoveries signify that cannabis may have been one of humanity’s first agricultural crops. (ca.)
  • 8000 BCE
    • In Mesopotamia, considered to be one of the most important ancient civilizations, archaeologists discovered remnants of hemp cloth. This discovery signifies that cannabis was likely one of the first plants cultivated for textile fiber, meaning cannabis may stand as one of the earliest examples of human industry. (ca.)
  • 6000 BCE
    • Ancient Chinese civilizations reportedly used both seeds and oil from the cannabis plant as a source of food. (ca.)
  • 5000 BCE
    • In the Chinese Yellow River Basin, archaeologists discovered cloth and netting made from hemp fiber. (ca.)

Prehistory (3500 BCE – 300 CE)

  • 3000 BCE
    • Cannabis cultivation likely spread from Central Asia to other areas of the world following advancements in the taming of horses and other animals. This allowed for greater trade travel and military conquest. (ca.)
  • 2900 BCE
    • Chinese Emperor Fu Hsi, credited with bringing civilization to China, wrote about the medicinal properties of cannabis, calling it a very popular medicine. (ca.)
  • 2800 BCE
    • China was reportedly the first civilization to cultivate hemp specifically for its fiber. (ca.)
  • 2727 BCE
    • Chinese Emperor Shen Nung, considered the “Father of Chinese Medicine,” wrote China’s earliest known Pharmacopoeia, “Pen Ts’ao,” which mentioned the healing properties of cannabis.
  • 2000 BCE
    • The Vedas, a sacred collection of Hindu texts, mentioned that cannabis acted as a powerful source of happiness, recognizing the plant’s psychoactive potential. “The Atharvaveda,” the third text of the Vedas, defined cannabis as “The Sacred Grass,” one of five sacred plants in India. (ca.)
    • The Aryans, a nomadic tribe originating in Central Asia and descending from the same people as the Scythians, reportedly spread cannabis throughout the Eastern world. It is believed that India adopted the name “bhang” from the Aryans. (ca.)
  • 1700 BCE
    • In modern-day Taiwan, archaeologists discovered a hemp-weaving site, believed to have belonged to the Shang Dynasty. (ca.)
  • 1600 BCE
    • The Xia Xiao Zheng, the oldest known Chinese treatise on agriculture, mentioned that hemp was a main agricultural crop of China. (ca.)
  • 1500 BCE
    • The Aryans had proliferated into Persia, Asia Minor, Greece, the Balkans, Germany, and Eastern France, spreading the use of cannabis. (ca.)
    • The Ebers Papyrus, one of the most important medical papyri of Ancient Egypt, mentioned that cannabis was useful in treating inflammation and sore eyes. The Ebers Papyrus is one of four known Egyptian papyri to mention cannabis. (ca.)
  • 1335 BCE
    • Pharaoh Akhenaton of Egypt was buried with fragments of hemp, a discovery that contradicted later accounts of when cannabis actually reached Egypt. (ca.)
  • 1213 BCE
    • Hemp pollen was detected on the mummy of Ramesses II, an Egyptian pharaoh known as Ramesses the Great. This suggested that cannabis played some role in Egyptian burial ceremonies. (ca.)
  • 1117 BCE
    • Both the Yang-Shao and Lung-Shan peoples of China and modern-day Myanmar, respectively, used hemp rope for pottery decoration. (ca.)
  • 1000 BCE
    • India developed a sacred cannabis-infused drink, known as Bhang, made with various constituents of cannabis and milk. Bhang was used ritually as an offering to the deity Shiva, known as the “Supreme God” in Hinduism. Bhang quickly spread to Iran and other parts of the Middle East. (ca.)
  • 800 BCE
    • The Scythians, a large group of Iranian-Eurasian nomadic tribes descending from the same people as the Aryans, began cultivating cannabis, using hemp fiber to weave cloth. They were responsible for spreading knowledge of the cannabis plant throughout the Middle East, Europe, and Northern Africa. (ca.)
  • 700 BCE
    • The Zoroastrian Zendavesta, an ancient Persian text, mentioned Indian Bhang as the “good narcotic.” This text also classified cannabis as the most important of 10,000 medicinal plants. However, the original manuscripts of this text have since been destroyed. (ca.)
    • Scythian tribes reportedly left cannabis seeds inside royal tombs as an offering to the deceased. (ca.)
  • 650 BCE
    • The Assyrians, located in modern-day Northern Iraq, wrote cuneiform clay tablets that mentioned the use of cannabis for religious purposes. These tablets were “almost certainly” copied from older texts. (ca.)
  • 600 BCE
    • The Book of Exodus, the second book of the Bible, referenced a holy anointing oil, likely made from cannabis and about six quarts of olive oil. The ancient anointed ones were “literally drenched” in this potent mixture. Cannabis was also referenced as an incense and psychoactive drug. (ca.)
    • In Pazyryk, located in modern-day Kazakhstan, archaeologists discovered a Scythian gravesite. Inside, a Scythian couple were buried with cannabis seeds. This burial scene closely resembled what Greek historian Herodotus wrote about the Scythians around 430 BCE. (ca.)
    • In both China and Siberia, archaeologists discovered shaman gravesites that contained burned cannabis seeds. (ca.)
  • 500 BCE
    • Prince Siddhartha, who became Buddha, supposedly lived six years on an exclusive diet of hemp seed whilst he sought enlightenment, eating just one hemp seed per day. (ca.)
    • In modern-day Berlin, archaeologists discovered an urn containing cannabis leaves and seeds, believed to have been given to the Northern Europeans by Scythian tribesmen. This signifies the earliest known introduction of cannabis into Northern Europe. However, it is believed that cannabis grew wild in Europe prior to Scythian invasion. (ca.)
  • 430 BCE
    • Herodotus, a Greek historian, famously wrote about Scythian tribes and their use of cannabis. He wrote that the Scythians would inhale the smoke from smoldering cannabis seeds and flowers. Herodotus also described that the Scythians would bury their deceased with constituents of the cannabis plant. (ca.)
  • 400 BCE
    • “The Book of Songs” and “The Annals” both mentioned that cannabis was one of the six most commonly-planted crops in China. (ca.)
  • 300 BCE
    • The first Chinese dictionary, the “ErYa,” defined both male and female hemp plants as “xi ma” and “ju ma,” respectively. (ca.)
    • Theophrastus, a Greek botanist, failed to denote cannabis as a native plant of Greece, but it was possible he referred to cannabis when writing of a plant called “dendromalache.” (ca.)
  • 100 BCE
    • China invented hemp paper, but it is unclear exactly when the paper became a staple of ancient Chinese culture. The Chinese would keep the technology for creating hemp paper a secret for centuries. (ca.)
  • 0 CE
    • Some scholars believed that Jesus Christ used cannabis-based oils in his healing ministry to treat eye and skin ailments. (ca.)
  • 50 CE
  • 70 CE
    • Pedanius Dioscorides, a Roman physician in Nero’s Army, wrote his Pharmacopoeia, “On Medical Matters,” which mentioned that hemp, while used to make rope, could also be turned into a juice that cured earache and suppressed sexual desires. (ca.)
  • 100 CE
    • Taoists in China became increasingly interested in alchemy and magic, using cannabis as an incense to induce visions. (ca.)
    • Hemp rope was reportedly imported to England, signifying the United Kingdom’s introduction to the cannabis plant. (ca.)
    • In a Siberian tomb, archaeologists discovered a cannabis stash box, made from Siberian gold. This box was used to store cannabis and other important spices. (ca.)
  • 120 CE
    • Plutarch, a Greek essayist, wrote that the Thracians, a group of Indo-European tribes living in Eastern Europe, would often burn the tops of plants resembling oregano, inhaling the fumes and becoming intoxicated. It is unclear if Plutarch was referring specifically to cannabis. (ca.)
  • 200 CE
    • Aelius Galenus, a Greek physician known as Galen, wrote about the medicinal properties of cannabis. He wrote that he prescribed cannabis to his patients as well. (ca.)
    • Hua T’o, a Chinese surgeon, discovered that cannabis resin mixed with wine, named “ma yo,” was an effective analgesic (pain-reliever). Hua reportedly used “ma yo” as an anesthetic during surgery. (ca.)
    • The Tantric religious movement of both Buddhism and Hinduism utilized cannabis as a ceremonial plant, useful in quelling demons. (ca.)

Early Middle Ages (300 – 1000 CE)

  • 300 CE
    • In Jerusalem, a young woman was reportedly administered cannabis during childbirth to relieve birthing pains. (ca.)
  • 479 CE
    • In China during the Qi Dynasty, the prickling of male cannabis plants was performed through major public ceremonies. (ca.)
  • 500 CE
    • A Taoist priest recorded that cannabis was used by shamans to predict the future through time-altering dreams. (ca.)
  • 550 CE
    • The Talmud, a Jewish text containing civil and ceremonial law, mentioned the euphoriant properties of cannabis, one of the earliest known texts to do so. (ca.)
    • Queen Arnegunde of France was buried in a crypt, her body protected by a blanket of hemp cloth. (ca.)
  • 600 CE
    • The Vikings reportedly used hemp to craft rope, fishing line, and sail cloth, long before other civilizations became keen on the plant’s use for sailing materials. (ca.)
  • 751 CE
    • During the Battle of Talas in 751 CE, Muslim forces defeated the Chinese and took control of the infamous Silk Road. Sometime after, post-war Chinese prisoners reportedly offered the technology for creating hemp paper to the Muslims, who then spread the technology throughout the Middle East and Europe. (ca.)
  • 800 CE
    • Arab scholars of the Abbasid Caliphate in Baghdad translated the Greek texts of Dioscorides and Galen, familiarizing themselves with the medicinal properties of cannabis. Arab physicians soon began prescribing cannabis to treat migraines, general pain, and syphilis. (ca.)
    • The Quran, Islam’s central religious text, forbade the use of alcohol and other intoxicants. However, it did not forbid cannabis. This led to the creation of hashish, a cannabis concentrate, which quickly gained popularity throughout the Middle East and parts of Asia. (ca.)
  • 850 CE
    • The Vikings brought hemp seeds and rope to Iceland, signifying Iceland’s introduction to the cannabis plant. The Vikings may have been responsible for introducing cannabis to the Americas soon after. (ca.)
  • 900 CE
    • Ibn Wahshiyah, an Iraqui alchemist, wrote “On Poisons,” which mentioned that hashish may present possible health complications when mixed with other drugs. (ca.)
    • Muhammad ibn Zakariya al-Razi, a Persian physician, advised against the over-prescription of cannabis and cannabis-derived medicines. (ca.)

High Middle Ages (1000 – 1300 CE)

  • 1000 CE
    • Hemp sails began to replace flax sails on ships as flax sails would rot after about three months of use. Hemp sails, on the other hand, were strong, lightweight, and didn’t rot. This led to the creation of the word “canvas,” which derives from the word “cannabis.” (ca.)
    • King al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah of the Fatimah Caliphate in Northern Africa prohibited the sale of alcohol but not cannabis. This led to increased cannabis use throughout the region. (ca.)
  • 1100 CE
    • Hasan ibn al-Sabbah, a Persian paramilitary leader, reportedly recruited followers to commit political assassinations. According to legend, these assassinations were carried out under the influence of hashish. (ca.)
    • Georg Eberhard Rumphius, a German botanist, wrote that Muslims used cannabis to treat asthma, constipation, gonorrhea, and as an antidote for poisoning. (ca.)
  • 1150 CE
    • The first European paper factory, run by the Arabs and located north of modern-day Alicante, Spain, began producing paper using locally-grown hemp. The Arabs ran a tight monopoly over hemp paper-making technologies in Europe and they soon after opened factories in Valencia and Toledo. (ca.)
  • 1200 CE
    • The Dutch were responsible for spearheading the development of hemp technologies, using hemp sails to power windmills which in turn streamlined the labor-intensive hemp fiber extraction process. (ca.)
    • Cannabis spread throughout Africa, likely from Egypt. However, the origin of the spread of cannabis throughout Africa is debated by historians. (ca.)
    • The famed collection of Arabian tales, “One Thousand and One Nights,” mentioned the intoxicating and aphrodisiac effects of hashish. This collection was not officially published until 1704 CE. (ca.)
    • According to legend, Sheik Haydar, a Sufi mystic master, discovered cannabis and invented hashish. Haydar and his mystic devotees then spread cannabis to Egypt, Iraq, Bahrain, and Syria. However, these legends have been largely disproven. (ca.)
  • 1250 CE
    • During the last years of the Ayyubid Dynasty in Egypt, leaders in Cairo attempted to outlaw cannabis, implementing police forces that uprooted fields and burned the plants in giant bonfires. However, local farmers relocated to the outskirts of Cairo, replanting their cannabis fields. (ca.)
  • 1251 CE
    • Arab physicians reported that hashish could be used to stimulate appetite, produce a craving for sweets, elucidate the senses, and open the gates of desire, but prolonged use of hashish was believed to diminish sexual desires. (ca.)
  • 1258 CE
    • The Mongols overtook Baghdad, and some Arab historians believe that the Mongol Empire was actually responsible for the spread of cannabis throughout the Middle East.
  • 1266 CE
    • King al-Zahir Babar of Egypt, founder of the Mamluk Dynasty, attempted to ban both the cultivation and consumption of cannabis for the first time in Egyptian history. Prior prohibition efforts had only targeted the cultivation of cannabis. King al-Mansur Galawan, his successor, reversed Babar’s repressive cannabis policies. (ca.)

Late Middle Ages (1300 – 1500 CE)

  • 1300 CE
    • Nizam-Ud-Din of Syria, the Ayyubid Sultan, ordered cannabis plants in the region to be uprooted and burned and condemned hashish eaters to having their teeth extracted. (ca.)
    • It was reported that cannabis spread to Morocco sometime around this time period and that cannabis quickly spread to the Iberian Peninsula. (ca.)
    • Marco Polo, an Italian explorer, gave a vague, anecdotal account of Hasan ibn al-Sabbah’s followers, mentioning that they took a potion of unknown name and ingredients. This is one of the only pieces of evidence that Hasan’s followers committed their political assassinations under the influence of hashish. (ca.)
    • Arab traders took credit for introducing cannabis to the Mozambique coast. However, it is believed that cannabis spread to Mozambique from Egypt, disproving these claims. (ca.)
    • The Zahr al-Arish fi Tahrim al-Hashish, the first known monogram of hashish, was written, but it has since been lost. (ca.)
    • In Ethiopia, archaeologists discovered pipes containing marijuana residue. (ca.)
  • 1378 CE
    • The Ottoman Empire issued the first known edict against cannabis, prohibiting the eating of hashish.
  • 1394 CE
    • Egyptian authorities in Cairo once again attempted to ban the use of hashish, uprooting and burning cannabis fields. These anti-cannabis initiatives did not last very long.
  • 1400 CE
    • As Arab influence declined in Spain, the rest of the world became privy to the manufacturing processes of hemp paper. Moveable type printing also became more widely-available, increasing the value of hemp paper. (ca.)
    • In Italy, cannabis cultivation commenced on a grand scale, accelerated by the Renaissance. The city states of Italy survived on maritime trade, using hemp fiber to craft necessary materials for their ships. (ca.)
  • 1456 CE
    • Johannes Gutenberg, a German publisher, printed the Bible on hemp paper for the first time in history. Gutenberg used woodblock printing methods, the same technique the Chinese had been using for thousands of years, rather than new-age moveable type printing.
  • 1469 CE
    • Sikhs began drinking cannabis tea on the Gurpurb, a festival held to celebrate the birth of Guru Nanak Dev Ji, the founder of Sikhism. Today, Sikhs prohibit the use of all intoxicants, including cannabis.

The Early Modern Period (1500 – 1700 CE)

  • 1526 CE
    • Emperor Babur Nama, the founder and first ruler of the Mughai Empire, located in Southern Asia, learned of hashish when traveling in Afghanistan. Emperor Nama returned to Southern Asia with hashish for his people.
  • 1532 CE
    • Francois Rabelais, a French writer and physician, wrote about the medicinal effects of marijuana in his text, “Gargantua and Pantagruel.”
  • 1533 CE
    • King Henry VIII of England decreed that all landholders set aside one-quarter acre for every sixty acres they held in order to cultivate hemp. King Henry VIII was attempting to meet the demand of hemp from his royal navy, which used hemp fiber for rope and sails.
  • 1535 CE
    • Jacques Cartier, a Breton explorer working for the French, wrote that North America was full of wild hemp. (ca.)
  • 1542 CE
    • Giovanni da Verrazzano, an Italian explorer working for the French, reported seeing Native Americans dressed in clothing sewn from hemp leaves. (ca.)
  • 1545 CE
    • Spaniards reportedly introduced the Western Hemisphere to cannabis, bringing the plant to Chile for fiber production. However, it is thought that the plant grew naturally in the Americas long before Europeans arrived. (ca.)
  • 1549 CE
    • Angolan slaves from Central Africa brought cannabis to the sugar plantations of Brazil. They were permitted to grow their cannabis between the rows of sugar cane and to smoke it between harvests.
  • 1550 CE
    • Mohammed ebn Soleiman Forulia of Baghdad, a Turkish poet, wrote the epic poem “Benk u Bode,” which dealt allegorically with a dialectical battle between wine and hashish. (ca.)
  • 1563 CE
    • Queen Elizabeth, updating King Henry VIII’s royal cannabis decree of 1533, began fining landholders who failed to cultivate hemp.
    • Garcia da Orta, a Portugese physician, reported on the medicinal effects of marijuana. (ca.)
  • 1578 CE
    • Li Shizhen, a Chinese herbalist, wrote that cannabis possessed both antibiotic and antiemetic (anti-vomiting) properties.
  • 1580 CE
    • The Spanish Armada, considered one of the greatest naval fleets in history, reportedly required about 10,000 acres of hemp cultivation in order to build. (ca.)
  • 1588 CE
    • England defeated the Spanish Armada, declaring Britain the supreme maritime power of the world. However, overthrowing the Spanish maritime throne meant an increased need for hemp cultivation in the United Kingdom, a demand the small region simply couldn’t meet.
  • 1593 CE
    • Prospero Alpini, an Italian botanist and physician, wrote “De Medicina Aegypti,” which described hashish intoxication in Egypt, stating that those who take it remain in a state of ecstasy long after ingestion and revel in their delightful dreams.
    • King Henry VIII’s royal cannabis decree of 1533 was repealed in the United Kingdom.
  • 1600 CE
    • In Asia, the practice of smoking hashish and tobacco together in a water pipe emerged after European traders introduced tobacco to the Ottoman Empire, who in turn introduced the practice to Asia. (ca.)
    • In Shakespeare’s garden, archaeologists discovered twenty-four samples of smoking pipe fragments, eight of which contained cannabis residue or indicated cannabis use. (ca.)
    • England began importing hemp from Russia as they could not cultivate enough hemp to meet the demands of the British navy. (ca.)
  • 1606 CE
    • French colonists began cultivating cannabis in the American colony of Port Royal, located in modern-day Nova Scotia, BC.
  • 1611 CE
    • British colonists began cultivating cannabis in the American colony of Virginia. Settlers of Jamestown were particularly keen on using hemp to manufacture strong fiber, rope, sails, and clothing.
  • 1619 CE
    • British colonists passed legislation requiring all colonies within Virginia, Massachusetts, and Connecticut to grow hemp.
  • 1621 CE
  • 1630 CE
    • The Puritans brought both cannabis seeds and hemp fiber to North America, settling in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. (ca.)
    • American hemp cultivation reportedly clothed up to half the population of the Americas year round. (ca.)
  • 1633 CE
    • Russian hemp merchants reportedly supplied 90% of England’s raw hemp requirement, an import that all but destroyed the English hemp trade. (ca.)
  • 1637 CE
    • The General Assembly of Connecticut ordered all families to plant at least one teaspoonful of hemp seed, an order soon after executed in Massachusetts as well.
  • 1650 CE
    • Hashish became a major, recognized trade item between South and Central Asia. (ca.)
  • 1682 CE
    • The colony of Virginia made hemp an official legal tender that could be used to pay off up to a quarter of a farmer’s debt.
  • 1699 CE
    • Trying to increase profits from American colonies, Britain passed the Wool Act of 1699, prohibiting the colonists from spinning wool so they would have to buy wool products from Britain. This backfired, and Americans began spinning hemp instead.

The Age of Enlightenment (1700 – 1760 CE)

  • 1718 CE
    • A large number of professional Irish wool spinners and weavers, suffering from an economic downturn in Britain, began migrating to Boston, joining the American hemp spinning industry. These Irish migrants brought the latest spinning techniques and technology, and this soon birthed the American textiles industry. (ca.)
  • 1722 CE
    • Connecticut placed a premium on hemp, encouraging cultivation in the colony. The colony of Virginia, on the other hand, forced farmers to cultivate hemp. (ca.)
  • 1733 CE
    • South Carolina employed a man named Richard Hall to promote hemp as an agricultural commodity. In essence, Hall became the first public relations officer of cannabis.
  • 1735 CE
    • The colony of Massachusetts accepted hemp as an official legal tender that could be used to pay taxes. The going rate was equivalent to four shillings — about 60 cents today — for every pound of hemp.
  • 1753 CE
    • Carl Linnaeus, a Swedish botanist, first classified cannabis as “Cannabis Sativa.” The word “cannabis” derived from “kannabis,” the Greek word for “hemp,” and the word “sativa” derived from the Latin word for “cultivated.”
    • William Lewis, a British chemist, wrote “The New English Dispensatory,” the first text to use the term “medical marijuana.”

The Industrial Revolution (1760 – 1850 CE)

  • 1763 CE
    • John Adams, writing to the Boston Evening Post, stated that if great men left politics alone, they would want a world full of hemp, both for income and consumption.
  • 1765 CE
    • The Stamp Act of 1765, imposed upon the American colonies, led to a boycott of all British goods. The boycott accelerated the hemp spinning economy and allowed the colonies to become self-sufficient in cultivating hemp.
    • In his journals, George Washington wrote that he had an interest in farming hemp but that he also questioned the potential medicinal uses of the cannabis plant. It is understood that Washington farmed hemp at some point in his lifetime. (ca.)
  • 1774 CE
    • In his farming diaries, Thomas Jefferson wrote about growing hemp. These diaries also suggested that Jefferson was a habitual smoker of cannabis, hemp, tobacco, and various other substances. (ca.)
  • 1776 CE
    • The first drafts of the U.S. Declaration of Independence were penned on Dutch hemp paper.
  • 1780 CE
    • George Croghan, an Irish fur-trader who became a prominent early figure in North America, traveled down the Ohio River, writing that wild hemp grew in abundance. However, what Croghan believed to be “Cannabis Sativa” was likely “Acnida Cannabina” or American water hemp. (ca.)
  • 1783 CE
    • Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, a French naturalist, observed the extreme differences between European cannabis — “Cannabis Sativa” — and Indian cannabis, classifying the latter as “Cannabis Indica.” (ca.)
  • 1792 CE
    • The new U.S. government established a centralized federal currency, devaluing individual currencies previously established by the colonies. However, amid the confusion of transitioning to a new currency system and the use of easily-counterfeited paper money, the U.S. declared hemp an accepted currency.
    • The U.S. Congress placed a $20 import tax on all foreign hemp, worth close to $300 today. By 1828 CE, this import tax rose to $60, worth close to $1400 today.
  • 1794 CE
    • Eli Whitney, an American inventor, created the cotton gin. Cotton would soon replace hemp as the major cash crop of the American South. Using a cotton gin, textiles, rope, clothing, and other products could be made cheaply and easily, and the socioeconomic importance of cannabis decreased throughout the world.
    • Andrew Duncan, a British physician, wrote “The Edinburgh New Dispensatory,” which used the term “medical marijuana,” following in the footsteps of British chemist William Lewis.
  • 1798 CE
    • Napoleon Bonaparte invaded Egypt, discovering that much of the Egyptian lower class habitually used hashish. On his return to France, Napoleon discovered that his soldiers had brought large quantities of hashish back to Europe. He soon declared a total prohibition of the substance. (ca.)
  • 1800 CE
    • Hashish production expanded from Russian Turkestan to Yarkland, located in Chinese Turkestan. (ca.)
    • Smoking hashish became very popular throughout France, spreading around Europe and eventually to the United States. The U.S. use of hashish was likely attributable to James Monroe, who took a liking to the substance during his time as U.S. ambassador to France. (ca.)
    • Marijuana plantations began to flourish from coast to coast in the United States. (ca.)
  • 1801 CE
    • The Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada distributed hemp seeds to farmers in the region.
  • 1820 CE
    • Edward Allen Talbot, a Canadian settler to North America, wrote that if Canada could grow enough hemp to supply Britain, it could end their dependence on the foreign power and greatly benefit Canadians. (ca.)
  • 1822 CE
    • The Provincial Parliament of Upper Canada allocated about $400 to purchase hemp-processing machinery, which would have been worth about $7500 today.
  • 1827 CE
    • John Rodgers, a Senior Officer of the U.S. Navy, responded to a House of Representatives request to compare American water-rotted hemp to Russian hemp, stating “American hemp loses nothing in the comparison, whether we refer to its strength or its durability.”
  • 1840 CE
    • In the United States, cannabis became a widely-accepted, mainstream medicine that could be found in many over-the-counter medications. (ca.)
  • 1841 CE
    • Andrew Caldwell, an American inventor, created a mechanized system for separating raw hemp fiber from the plant, spinning the fiber into yarn, and sewing the yarn into hessian sacks. Caldwell’s invention wouldn’t become popular until the end of slavery in 1865.
  • 1842 CE
    • Sir William O’Shaughnessy, an Irish doctor, discovered that cannabis extracts could help reduce stomach pain and vomiting in patients suffering from cholera.
  • 1843 CE
    • Theophile Gautier, a French author, published the “Hashish Club,” a controversial anthology that contained various drug-related texts.
  • 1846 CE
    • Jacques-Joseph Moreau, a French psychiatrist, wrote “Hashish and Mental Illness,” which explored the effect hashish has on the central nervous system. Moreau was the first person to explore the relationship between cannabis and the nervous system.
  • 1847 CE
    • Italy was exporting hemp to England, Portugal, Germany, Spain, and Switzerland, and Venetian hemp rope was considered the best in the world. (ca.)

The Romantic Era (1850 – 1900 CE)

  • 1850 CE
    • Marijuana was added to the official United States Pharmacopoeia, which classified the plant as a treatment for opioid withdrawal, general pain, nausea, and vomiting, as well as an appetite stimulator.
    • Manufacturers in New England states, despite the U.S. import tax on hemp, preferred to source their fiber from Russia, passing the tax amount onto consumers and raising the price of hemp-derived goods. (ca.)
    • Steamships began to replace sailing ships around the world, reducing the socioeconomic importance of cannabis as hemp fiber was no longer needed to create sails. (ca.)
  • 1853 CE
    • Brigham Young, a Mormon leader, wrote that his county of Salt Lake City grew hemp and flax but never used the flax. Young would also go on to encourage his congregation to “seek out the places most suitable for flax and hemp and there let them be grown.”
  • 1854 CE
    • John Greenleaf Whittier, an American poet, wrote “The Haschish,” published in his Anti-Slavery Poems of 1854, which mentioned cannabis as an intoxicant and that hashish “made fools or knaves of all who use it.”
  • 1856 CE
    • British rulers began to tax the cannabis trade in India, where charas — hand-rolled balls of hashish made from cannabis resin — were gaining significant popularity.
  • 1857 CE
    • Fitz Hugh Ludlow, an American writer, published “The Hasheesh Eater,” an autobiographical exploration of Ludlow’s altered states of consciousness after ingesting hashish.
  • 1862 CE
    • An unknown magazine reportedly published an ad for hashish candy, calling it “A most wonderful medicine.” Many accounts claim this was Vanity Fair, but Vanity Fair wasn’t originally published until 1913 CE.
  • 1870 CE
    • The Greeks learned how to cultivate cannabis for hashish production. Soon after, Greek authorities first reported hashish smoking on the Greek mainland. (ca.)
  • 1890 CE
    • Queen Victoria was prescribed strains of cannabis by her chief physician, Sir John Russell Reynolds. These strains were reportedly high in CBD and low in THC. (ca.)
    • The Greek Department of the Interior prohibited the import, cultivation, and use of hashish. Hashish was also declared illegal in Turkey. (ca.)
  • 1894 CE
    • Indian officials released the Hemp Drugs Commission Report, which claimed that between 70,000 and 80,000 kilograms of hashish had been imported to India from Central Asia over the previous year.
  • 1889 CE
    • The state of Kentucky produced about $486,000 worth of hemp — worth about $13.7 million today — from over 23,000 acres of hemp fields.

The Machine Age (1900 – 1920 CE)

  • 1906 CE
  • 1910 CE
    • During the tumultuous Mexican Revolution, 1910-1917 CE, a record number of Mexican immigrants sought refuge in the United States, bringing with them the recreational practice of smoking marijuana. Recreational marijuana would soon become largely associated with immigrant groups in the United States. (ca.)
  • 1914 CE
    • The Harrison Act of 1914, proposed by New York Representative Francis Burton Harrison, was the first piece of legislation that defined the use of narcotics as a “crime.” It also laid the groundwork for decades of future narcotics laws and created a tax on narcotics to build revenue.
  • 1915 CE
    • California became the first U.S. state to ban the non-medicinal use of marijuana after the Harrison Act of 1914. Between 1915-1927 CE, Texas, Louisiana, and New York also enacted laws against non-medicinal cannabis.
  • 1916 CE
    • Jason Merrill and Lyster Dewey, chief scientists at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), created new hemp paper technology, making paper from hemp pulp. However, American factories had made large investments in cotton, wool, and linen, and the world signified that it was ready to move on from hemp.
  • 1917 CE
    • George W. Schlichten, an American inventor, patented a machine that cheaply separated hemp fiber from the rest of the plant. However, the world had already invested in the cotton gin, and Schlichten’s invention never found its way into prominence.
  • 1919 CE
    • American Prohibition, 1919-1933 CE, outlawed the sale, transportation, and consumption of alcohol in the United States. Marijuana soon became a mainstream recreational substance because of this, before associated only with Mexican immigrants and African American jazz artists. (ca.)
    • Cannabis clubs known as “tea pads” emerged in every major American city. Authorities tolerated these clubs because cannabis was not yet illegal at the federal level and the patrons showed no evidence of disturbance towards themselves or their communities. (ca.)

The Roaring Twenties (1920 – 1930 CE)

  • 1920 CE
    • An estimated 80% of clothes manufactured worldwide were made from hemp textiles during the 1920s. (ca.)
    • Ioannis Metaxas, a Greek dictator, cracked down on hashish, banning hashish dens and creating anti-cannabis sentiment all throughout Greece. (ca.)
    • Hashish was reportedly smuggled into Egypt from all sides: Greece, Syria, Lebanon, Turkey, and Central Asia. (ca.)
  • 1923 CE
    • The Canadian governmental budget offered incentives for the domestic production of hemp. William Stevens Fielding, the Canadian Minister of Finance, also helped establish a hemp mill in Manitoba, the country’s seventh hemp mill.
  • 1924 CE
    • Russian botanists classified a third major strain of the cannabis plant, known as “Cannabis Ruderalis.”
  • 1926 CE
    • Lebanon declared hashish production illegal.
  • 1928 CE
    • British representatives voted unanimously to ban recreational cannabis in the United Kingdom, adding cannabis to the Dangerous Drugs Act of 1920. At this point, the Dangerous Drugs Act outlawed only cocaine, heroin, and cannabis.
  • 1929 CE
    • The Great Depression, 1929-1933 CE, stoked resentment towards Mexican immigrants in the United States. The public began to fear the “Mexican Menace,” advertised as a red-eyed, reefer-smoking, drug-crazed immigrant that was out to hurt your children. American media outlets began releasing false information about marijuana, stoking anti-cannabis sentiments. (ca.)

The Dirty Thirties (1930 – 1940 CE)

  • 1930 CE
    • Robert Sidney Cahn, a British chemist, first elucidated the chemical structure of the cannabis plant. He was able to map a section of the cannabinoid CBN’s genome as well. (ca.)
    • Henry Ford, the revolutionary American automobile manufacturer, produced a prototype of the famed Ford Model T. that was manufactured with hemp and fueled by hemp biofuel. The car’s body was reportedly invincible. (ca.)
    • U.S. President Herbert Hoover created the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, designed to enforce a revised Harrison Act of 1914. Harry J. Anslinger, an assistant commissioner of Prohibition, was appointed as head of the Bureau. Anslinger began a well-funded, anti-cannabis campaign, claiming cannabis led to insanity.
  • 1931 CE
    • Twenty-nine U.S. states had now outlawed non-medicinal cannabis, due in large part to Harry J. Anslinger’s campaigning through the Federal Bureau of Narcotics.
    • The Yarkland region of Chinese Turkestan legally exported over 91,000 kilograms of taxed hashish into India. India was also importing hashish from parts of Central Asia. (ca.)
  • 1933 CE
    • The U.S. Congress repealed the 21st Amendment, signifying the end of Prohibition. This meant that American legislators were ready to accept alcohol and shift towards a new narcotic enemy: cannabis.
  • 1934 CE
    • Pascal Brotteaux, a French pharmacologist, wrote “Hachich: Herbe de Folie et de Rêve,” which characterized the four stages of hashish intoxication as: (1) nervous excitement, (2) hallucination and loss of mental stability, (3) ecstasy and profound tranquility, and (4) deep sleep.
    • U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Uniform State Narcotic Act. While the Harrison Act of 1914 was designed as a revenue-building law, Roosevelt’s new law allowed authorities to enforce legal penalties for drug offenses.
    • The Chinese government banned hashish production in the Yarkland region of Chinese Turkestan, the world’s largest producer of hashish, moving to end cannabis exports into India. (ca.)
  • 1936 CE
    • According to the magazine Popular Mechanics, hemp was on the verge of becoming a “billion-dollar crop,” just one year before the U.S. would outlaw cannabis. Adjusted for inflation, a billion-dollar crop in 1936 would have been worth over $18 billion today.
    • The American anti-cannabis propaganda film Reefer Madness was released in the United States, falsely claiming that one puff from a marijuana cigarette can lead to death. The film was advertised as “Adults Only,” but it was clear that its aim was to keep kids away from cannabis.
    • Every U.S. state now had regulatory cannabis laws, due in large part to Harry J. Anslinger’s campaigning through the Federal Bureau of Narcotics.
  • 1937 CE
    • William Randolph Hearst, an American businessman with significant investments in the timber industry, used his media empire to print anti-cannabis ads. Hearst was worried that competition from the hemp industry would challenge his timber investments.
    • The DuPont family, a prominent American business family with heavy investments in nylon, supported further U.S. prohibition of cannabis, worried that hemp technologies could challenge their investments.
    • Andrew Mellon, the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury and the nation’s richest man, had significant investments in DuPont, the company owned by the DuPont family. Mellon supported further U.S. prohibition of cannabis, worried that hemp technologies could challenge the DuPont family’s investments.
    • Dr. William Woodward of the American Medical Association (AMA) testified to Congress that cannabis presented no harm to users and that prohibition of the plant would lose sight of future investigations into the plant’s possible medicinal uses, but his testimony was ignored.
    • The Marihuana Tax Act of 1937, drafted by Harry J. Anslinger and signed by U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, restricted cannabis use to only those that could pay a heavy excise tax for authorized industrial or medicinal uses. This was the first U.S. law declaring cannabis illegal.
  • 1938 CE
    • The anti-cannabis DuPont family patented a new technology for creating paper from wood pulp, eerily similar to the hemp paper technology created by Jason Merrill and Lyster Dewey in 1916 CE.
    • Canada prohibited the cultivation of cannabis, citing that they wished to prevent the leisure use of marijuana.
    • India’s supply of hashish from Chinese Turkestan nearly ceased, four years after the Chinese government began prohibition efforts. (ca.)

The Flying Forties (1940 – 1950 CE)

  • 1940 CE
    • Dr. Roger Adams, an American organic chemist, first synthesized cannabinoids. Adams is credited with discovering CBD, likely in combination with cannabidiolic acid (CBDA).
    • Lord Todd of the United Kingdom successfully synthesized cannabinoids after Dr. Roger Adams of the United States.
    • Ari Jan Haagen-Smit, a Dutch chemist, showed that purified cannabis extract closely resembling THC could produce aimless scratching, signs of motor incoordination, and catalepsy (a trance-like, seizure-inducing state) in dogs.
  • 1941 CE
    • The Philippines, a major exporter of hemp fiber to the United States, fell to Japanese forces during WWII. In response, the U.S. government encouraged the domestic cultivation of hemp. (ca.)
    • India’s government considered cultivating hashish in Kashmir, hoping to fill the void left behind by Chinese Turkestan. (ca.)
  • 1942 CE
    • Marijuana was removed from the official U.S. Pharmacopoeia, signifying that the U.S. government no longer recognized the medicinal potential of cannabis, despite research stating otherwise.
    • Scientists at the U.S. Office of Strategic Services (OSS) determined a potent marijuana extract to be the best available truth serum during interrogations. The OSS claimed that, when injected into food or tobacco cigarettes, this extract could loosen the reserve of uncooperative interrogation subjects. (ca.)
    • The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released “Hemp for Victory,” a propaganda film further encouraging the domestic cultivation of hemp. It was estimated that 36,000 acres of hemp seed were planted throughout the U.S. that year.
    • THC was extracted from cannabis for the first time, likely in the form of a mixture containing both delta-8-THC and delta-9-THC. (ca.)
  • 1944 CE
    • Lotte Loewe, a German organic chemist, discovered that barbiturate-induced sleep in mice could be prolonged by CBD, but not by the cannabinoids THC or CBN.
    • The New York Academy of Medicine reported that marijuana was only a mild intoxicant. Harry J. Anslinger responded with a solicited article in the American Journal of Psychiatry, attempting to attack the Academy and discredit their report.
  • 1945 CE
    • Lotte Loewe, the German organic chemist who discovered some of CBD’s sleep-prolonging effects, discovered more properties of cannabinoids. Perhaps most importantly, Loewe discovered that CBN had a much lower psychotropic potency than THC, while CBD lacked psychotropic activity altogether. 

The Fab Fifties (1950 – 1960 CE)

  • 1951 CE
    • The Boggs Act of 1951, sponsored by Louisiana Representative Hale Boggs, first introduced strict mandatory punishments for marijuana and other drug-related offenses in the U.S. First-time offenders received 2-5 years in a federal penitentiary, second-time offenders received 5-10 years, and third-time offenders received 10-20 years.
  • 1957 CE
    • In the United States, the last legal, 20th century hemp fields were planted in Wisconsin.

The Psychedelic Sixties (1960 – 1970 CE)

  • 1960 CE
    • Researchers in Czech Republic supposedly confirmed the antibiotic and analgesic (pain-relieving) properties of cannabis. (ca.)
    • American counterculture movements sparked a fierce debate over the legality of cannabis. Medical experts spoke out both in favor and against the legalization of marijuana, but no research had emerged to support the purported negative effects of cannabis. Regardless, interest in cannabis increased exponentially worldwide because of these movements. (ca.)
    • Timothy Leary, a professor of psychology at Harvard University who held a Ph.D. from Berkeley University, researched the psychotropic properties of cannabis, claiming it possessed enlightening properties. He quickly became popular among American counterculture movements and pro-legalization campaigners. (ca.)
    • U.S. President John F. Kennedy and Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson commissioned reports, concluding that marijuana did not induce violence or lead to the use of other, more dangerous drugs. These reports were ignored. (ca.)
  • 1961 CE
    • The United Nations drafted the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, which outlined international agreements on illegal activities involving narcotics. The definition of “cannabis” under the Convention included both hemp and marijuana, yet hemp was tolerated “exclusively for industrial purposes.”
  • 1964 CE
    • Raphael Mechoulam, an Israeli chemist known as the “Father of Modern Cannabis,” first elucidated the chemical structures of both CBD and THC.
    • Britain updated the Dangerous Drugs Act of 1920, now known as the Drugs (Prevention of Misuse) Act, for the first time in thirty-six years. The updated version prohibited the growth and cultivation of recreational marijuana.
  • 1965 CE
    • Raphael Mechoulam’s Israeli laboratory first chemically synthesized delta-8-THC, a less psychotropic cannabinoid than the infamous delta-9-THC. (ca.)
    • Reports emerged of a fourth major strain of the cannabis plant, known as “Cannabis Afghanica,” grown in Northern Afghanistan and primarily used for hashish production. (ca.)
    • U.S. state governments began cracking down on cannabis use and distribution, and the number of marijuana-related arrests at the state level increased tenfold over the next five years. (ca.)
  • 1967 CE
    • Reports emerged of a powerful, concentrated hashish oil, known as “Smash.” Smash first appeared in the U.S. and was reportedly produced by U.S. soldiers in Vietnam. (ca.)
  • 1968 CE
  • 1969 CE
    • The Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 was ruled unconstitutional, thirty-two years after being signed into law. This would only lead to the implementation of harsher cannabis laws and prohibition.

The Disco Era (1970 – 1980 CE)

  • 1970 CE
    • Research indicated that users could develop a tolerance to cannabis and its effects. (ca.)
    • U.S. President Richard Nixon signed the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), replacing the repealed Marihuana Tax Act of 1937. The CSA created harsher penalties for marijuana cultivation, made it difficult for scientists and doctors to study the potential medicinal uses of cannabis, but repealed mandatory sentencing for drug offenses.
    • Under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), marijuana was listed as a Schedule I narcotic. By definition, the U.S. government recognizes Schedule I narcotics as having a high potential for abuse, no accepted medicinal use, and being unsafe to use under medical supervision.
    • U.S. President Richard Nixon created the Shafer Commission, which aimed to study marijuana and its effects. Nixon believed the Shafer Commission would discover the negative effects of marijuana, but it soon became clear that the Commission would actually advocate for marijuana legalization.
    • The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) was formed in response to the Controlled Substances Act. Led by American lawyer R. Keith Stroup, NORML advocated for the legalization of marijuana through lobbying and litigation.
    • The average THC content of marijuana rose to over 1%, much less than the THC levels we see today. (ca.)
  • 1971 CE
    • The first reports emerged that marijuana could help patients suffering from glaucoma. (ca.)
    • Britain released another updated version of the Drugs (Prevention of Misuse) Act, prohibiting all medicinal uses of cannabis.
    • Huge fields of cannabis were cultivated for hashish production in Afghanistan. This led to Afghani exports into Mexico, where cannabis was being cultivated into sinsemilla, highly-intoxicating strains of cannabis made with only female cannabis plants. Afghanistan soon began prohibition efforts against cannabis. (ca.)
  • 1972 CE
    • Medicinal cannabis research picked up speed worldwide, despite heavy opposition from government agencies, conservative educational groups, and anti-cannabis members of the public. (ca.)
    • The Shafer Commission released its report, “Marijuana: A Signal of Misunderstanding,” which recommended only “partial prohibition” of cannabis and reduced legal penalties for possession of small amounts. President Nixon, who created the Commission, had already gone on record, stating he’d ignore the Commission’s report.
    • The state of California first brings Proposition 19 to a vote, which would have effectively legalized marijuana at the state level. Proposition 19 lost by a 66-33% voter margin.
  • 1973 CE
    • Researchers at John Hopkins University discovered receptor sites in the brain that bound to opioids. Scientists expected this discovery to soon lead to the discovery of cannabinoid binding sites within the brain. (ca.)
    • U.S. President Richard Nixon combined the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, the Office for Drug Abuse Law Enforcement, and the Office of National Narcotics Intelligence into a single federal agency: the Drug Enforcement Agency, known as the DEA, which possessed consolidated power in the fight against drugs.
    • Oregon became the first U.S. state to loosen marijuana laws, believing that the Controlled Substances Act was far too harsh. The states of Maine and Alaska soon loosened marijuana laws as well.
    • The Afghani government officially banned the production and sale of hashish, doubling down on anti-cannabis rhetoric. Afghanistan’s 1973 harvest of cannabis was “pitifully small.”
    • The Nepali government banned cannabis shops and the export of charas (hand-rolled hashish) into India.
  • 1974 CE
    • High Times Magazine published their first issue, selling 45,000 copies. The general public disagreed with harsh cannabis laws worldwide and began to accept cannabis into mainstream society. Cannabis also lost a lot of its rebelliousness, left over from counterculture movements of the 1960s.
  • 1975 CE
    • Eli Lilly and Company, an American pharmaceutical company, created Nabilone, known as Cesamet, which contained synthetic cannabinoids chemically similar to THC. This was the first cannabis-based medication and is prescribed to treat chemotherapy-induced nausea, vomiting, and pain. Nabilone was first approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 1985 CE.
    • Marijuana got progressively more expensive in the United States and other Western countries as the upper-middle classes began to use recreational marijuana. (ca.)
  • 1976 CE
    • The U.S. government created the Investigational New Drug (IND) Compassionate Use research program, allowing patients suffering from terminal illnesses to receive up to nine pounds of marijuana from the government each year. Today, five surviving patients still receive medicinal marijuana from the government, paid for by federal tax dollars.
    • The U.S. parent’s movement emerged, comprised of anti-cannabis parents who were terrified that their kids might try marijuana. They began to advocate against marijuana use and were backed by the DEA and the National Institute on Drug Abuse. (ca.)
  • 1977 CE
    • Carl Sagan, a famed American astronomer, suggested that cannabis may have been humanity’s first agricultural crop, possibly leading to the development of human agricultural and even human civilization itself.
  • 1979 CE
    • U.S. President Jimmy Carter and his assistant for drug policy, Dr. Peter Bourne, pushed for the decriminalization of marijuana throughout his presidency. Carter went as far as asking Congress to abolish federal criminal penalties for those caught with less than one ounce of marijuana. He was ignored. (ca.)

The Decade of Decadence (1980 – 1990 CE)

  • 1980 CE
    • Under pressure from the United States, India outlawed charas (hand-rolled hashish), implementing a mandatory minimum of ten years in prison for possession. Charas had become a cultural staple in India, this prohibition a drastic measure for the traditionally pro-cannabis country.
    • A new form of hashish emerged, known as “Border Hash.” It was produced in Northwestern Pakistan along the border with Afghanistan. (ca.)
    • Morocco became the largest exporter of hashish in the world. (ca.)
  • 1982 CE
    • U.S. First Lady Nancy Reagan launched the “Just Say No” campaign, advocating to “just say no to drugs.” In response, the DEA turned increased attention towards domestic marijuana farms, cracking down on cannabis production within the United States.
  • 1983 CE
  • 1985 CE
    • The Allyn Howlett Laboratory in St. Louis, Missouri, discovered the first evidence of cannabinoid receptors. This caused a great deal of controversy among the scientific community, with some scientists going on record, stating that the existence of these cannabinoid receptors was unnecessary.
    • The Allyn Howlett Laboratory showed that psychotropic cannabinoids had a lot in common, notably that they seemed to act through G-protein-coupled receptors in the brain.
    • The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Nabilone for use by cancer patients in the United States. Nabilone was also known as Cesamet, Dronabinol, or Marinol, contains synthetic THC, and was originally created by Eli Lilly and Company in 1975 CE.
  • 1986 CE
    • U.S. President Ronald Reagan signed the Anti-Drug Abuse Act, officially launching the infamous “War on Drugs.” The War on Drugs would launch a rampant, militarized, worldwide campaign against drug trafficking. The War on Drugs was highly criticized around the world.
    • Under the Anti-Drug Abuse Act, U.S. courts no longer possessed any leeway to consider the circumstances of a drug-related crime or the background of the offender before prescribing mandatory prison sentences. In the eyes of the law, marijuana was now considered as serious as heroin.
  • 1987 CE
    • The Moroccon government cracked down on cannabis cultivation and hashish production and exportation, launching a militarized campaign in the lower elevations of the Rif Mountains.
  • 1988 CE
    • Facing immense criticism after passing the Anti-Drug Abuse Act, U.S. President Ronald Reagan doubled down, signing the Anti-Drug Abuse Amendments Act. This new law instituted the infamous “Three Strikes” policy for drug offenders, where those on their third offense received life in prison without the possibility of parole.
    • President Ronald Reagan established a new government position: the National Director of Drug Policy. The job was awarded to William J. Bennett, the U.S. Secretary of Education, who became known as the first “Drug Czar” of the United States.
    • President Ronald Reagan began funding widespread research into cannabis, despite passing the Anti-Drug Abuse Amendments Act and establishing a National Director of Drug Policy. Reagan wanted researchers to confirm the negative effects of marijuana.
    • The Allyn Howlett Laboratory in St. Louis, in collaboration with Dr. William “Bill” Devane, a prominent cannabis researcher, and funded by the U.S. government, developed new scientific techniques that allowed for the detection of cannabinoid receptor sites within the brain.
    • Francis Young, the Law Judge for the DEA, after thorough hearings, declared that marijuana had a clearly established medicinal use. Young argued that marijuana should not be Schedule I and that it should be declared a prescription medication. His recommendations were completely ignored.
  • 1989 CE
    • After taking office, U.S. President George H.W. Bush declared a “New War on Drugs,” vowing to continue the international fight against drugs. (ca.)

The Naughty Nineties (1990 – 2000 CE)

  • 1990 CE
    • Tom Bonner’s laboratory at the National Institute of Health (NIH) successfully cloned a cannabinoid receptor from a rat’s brain, proving the existence of cannabinoid receptors. A team in Brussels, Belgium soon cloned a human cannabinoid receptor, and these receptors came to be known as CB1 receptors.
    • Lisa Matsuda, an American molecular biologist at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), announced that she and her team had pinpointed the exact DNA sequence that encodes a THC-sensitive receptor into a rat’s brain.
  • 1991 CE
    • This was the lowest recorded year of cannabis use in the United States.
  • 1992 CE
    • The International Cannabinoid Research Society (ICRS) was formed, primarily composed of university-connected scientists. The ICRS began the search for endogenous cannabinoids, known as endocannabinoids, that are produced naturally within the body. The ICRS was funded by the U.S. government, still keen on discovering the negative effects of cannabis.
    • Dr. William “Bill” Devane, largely credited with the discovery of the CB1 receptor, began working for Raphael Mechoulam, the “Father of Modern Cannabis,” in Mechoulam’s laboratory in Jerusalem. (ca.)
    • American AIDS patients pressured the federal government to allow access to medical marijuana. In response, the U.S. government closed the Compassionate Use research program to new patients but approved Nabilone (prescription synthetic THC) for patients suffering from AIDS-Wasting Syndrome. (ca.)
    • During his presidential campaign, Bill Clinton admitted that, while in England, he’d tried smoking marijuana but “didn’t inhale it.” While comedians joked about the remarks, observers said it was a sign of the times, signifying a new-age acceptance of cannabis.
    • Cannabis once again becomes popular in the United States, reversing more than a decade of statistical decline. (ca.)
  • 1993 CE
    • Dr. William “Bill” Devane and Raphael Mechoulam confirmed the existence of the first endocannabinoid at Mechoulam’s laboratory in Jerusalem. They named this endocannabinoid “Anandamide,” meaning “bliss” when translated from Sanskrit. Anandamide closely resembled the cannabinoids found in cannabis and changed the importance of cannabis as we know it.
    • Sean Munro’s laboratory in Cambridge, England, confirmed the second cannabinoid receptor, known as the CB2 receptor.
    • The Moroccan government launched a stronger cannabis eradication program, still hoping to eliminate hashish production and exportation within the region.
  • 1994 CE
    • Fighting between rival Muslim clans disrupted the hashish trade in Afghanistan, but Border Hashish production continued on the Pakistani side of the border. (ca.)
  • 1995 CE
    • Raphael Mechoulam’s team discovered the second endocannabinoid, called 2-AG. This endocannabinoid interacted with both CB1 and CB2 receptors in the brain, previously unseen in the world of cannabinoids. (ca.)
    • Scientists successfully traced the metabolic pathways of a THC molecule entering the body. Because of this, they accidentally discovered a unique and previously unknown molecular signaling system, which came to be known as the Endocannabinoid System, or ECS. (ca.)
    • With years of cannabis research coming together, scientists officially defined the Endocannabinoid System (ECS) as the composition of endocannabinoids and cannabinoid receptors within the brain, located in the nervous system. The ECS was known to regulate a broad range of biological functions, promoting equilibrium within the body. (ca.)
    • The U.S. government had spent years funding cannabis research, hoping that scientists would discover the negative and deleterious effects of cannabis. However, in the mid-1990s, that research instead uncovered our biological reliance on cannabinoids, and our understanding of cannabis changed fundamentally for the better. (ca.)
  • 1996 CE
    • California became the first U.S. state to implement medical marijuana laws, passing Proposition 215, also known as the Compassionate Use Act. This legalized marijuana for medical use by patients suffering from severe or chronic illnesses. Proposition 215 laid the groundwork for future medical marijuana laws around the country.
    • The state of Arizona began exploring and debating the legalization of medical marijuana, following California’s Proposition 215. The federal government refused to recognize medical marijuana initiatives introduced by either state. (ca.)
  • 1997 CE
    • The Office of National Drug Control Policy commissioned the Institute of Medicine (IOM) to conduct a comprehensive report on the medical efficacy of cannabis and cannabis therapeutics. The IOM concluded that cannabis was a safe and effective medicine and should be made available to patients.
    • In response to the IOM’s report, U.S. President Bill Clinton continued the “War on Drugs” rhetoric started by his predecessors. Clinton campaigned to arrest and prosecute medical marijuana patients and their providers, in California and elsewhere. (ca.)
  • 1998 CE
    • The British government licensed GW Pharmaceuticals to grow cannabis and develop a precise and consistent extract for use in clinical trials. GW Pharmaceuticals soon discovered that they could counter the psychoactivity of THC by creating CBD-rich strains of cannabis.
    • The Canadian government approved legislation that allowed for the planting and processing of industrial hemp. For the first time since 1938, farmers in Canada could grow cannabis for food and fiber, and export these products internationally.
    • The Clinton Administration spent $25 million on anti-drug TV ads in the U.S., putting anti-drug rhetoric on primetime television.
    • The states of Alaska, Oregon, and Washington legalized medical marijuana and the state of Nevada proposed medicinal cannabis legislation.
  • 1999 CE
    • Health Canada, the country’s premiere department of health, announced support for medical marijuana research, allocating an annual $1.5 million for medical marijuana research grants.
    • The DEA reclassifies Nabilone (prescription synthetic THC) as a Schedule III prescription medication, making it easier for doctors to prescribe.
    • The state of Maine legalized medical marijuana while the states of Hawaii and North Dakota attempted — unsuccessfully — to legalize hemp farming.

The Aughts (2000 – 2010 CE)

  • 2000 CE
    • The states of Colorado, Nevada, and Hawaii legalized medical marijuana while the state of Alaska attempted — unsuccessfully — to introduce recreational cannabis legislation.
  • 2001 CE
    • Canada adopted medical marijuana initiatives, developed by Health Canada. These initiatives, in theory, legalized medical marijuana at the federal level, but patients still had no way to legally access cannabis. The initiatives did, however, increase public support for medical marijuana.
    • David Blunkett, the Home Secretary of Britain, proposed the relaxation of cannabis laws in the United Kingdom.
    • U.S. President George W. Bush intensified the War on Drugs, fiercely targeting medical marijuana patients and doctors who prescribed medical marijuana in California. (ca.)
  • 2002 CE
    • The average THC content of marijuana rose to over 6% for the first time in history, up from 1% about thirty years earlier. (ca.)
  • 2003 CE
    • An Ontario court ordered the Canadian government to create a legal supply of cannabis to be made available to the patients they approved for the 2001 medical marijuana program. This officially legalized medical marijuana nationwide, and Jari Dvorak, a 62-year-old HIV patient, became the first person to receive government-issued marijuana.
    • A federal appeals court protected California’s Compassionate Use Act and its medical marijuana patients from federal drug enforcement interference. This decision was overturned just two years later.
    • The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services received a patent for the therapeutic use of “cannabinoids as antioxidants and neuroprotectants.”
    • More than 200 pharmacies in the Netherlands were legally required to stock medical cannabis products and dispense advice to patients on the merits of medicinal cannabis treatment options. (ca.)
  • 2004 CE
    • The DEA instructed the Department of Health and Human Services to conduct a scientific and medical evaluation of marijuana as part of a reassessment for scheduling under the Controlled Substances Act. Marijuana remains a Schedule I narcotic today.
    • The United Kingdom reclassified cannabis as a Class C substance under the Drugs (Prevention of Misuse) Act, creating smaller penalties for possession. This decision was overturned just four years later, returning cannabis to Class B classification.
    • The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) released a poll, finding that 72% of seniors supported medical marijuana.
    • The states of Montana and Vermont legalized medical marijuana.
  • 2005 CE
    • Britain’s GW Pharmaceuticals created Sativex, a prescription medication containing a 1:1 ratio of CBD to THC. Sativex was approved to treat multiple sclerosis (MS) in Canada.
    • A court ruling in Germany allowed patients to pursue medical cannabis treatment options for serious health conditions, despite Germany’s strict narcotic drug laws against cannabis.
    • Marc Emery, a Canadian cannabis activist and the largest distributor of cannabis seeds to the United States, was placed on the FBI’s Most Wanted list for drug offenders.
    • The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the power of Congress to prohibit and prosecute medical marijuana patients, overturning a 2003 ruling that protected California’s medical marijuana patients and providers from federal interference.
  • 2006 CE
    • The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S. voted to support access to medical marijuana for people with a doctor’s recommendation.
    • The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that smoking marijuana was harmful and that no scientific evidence supported the medicinal smoking of cannabis. The FDA based this announcement on findings by the Department of Health and Human Services.
    • The DEA arrested twelve individuals in correlation with the spread of THC-laced candy. (ca.)
    • The state of Rhode Island legalized medical marijuana.
  • 2007 CE
    • Canada approved Sativex (prescription 1:1 CBD to THC) as an analgesic (pain-relieving) treatment in adults suffering from advanced cancer symptoms.
    • U.S. companies received FDA approval to conduct clinical trials of Sativex in patients with advanced cancer symptoms whose pain was unrelieved by opioids.
    • Mary Ellen, the Administrative Law Judge for the DEA, recommended that the DEA allow Professor Lyle Craker to grow marijuana for research purposes. Her request was denied in 2009 CE.
    • The state of New Mexico legalized medical marijuana.
  • 2008 CE
    • The American College of Physicians (ACP), the second largest physicians group in the U.S., announced that they were in support of reclassifying marijuana out of Schedule I classification in non-smoked forms. The ACP also supported further research into medical marijuana.
    • The United Kingdom returned cannabis to its Schedule B classification under the Drugs (Prevention of Misuse) Act, carrying penalties of up to five years in prison for possession.
    • The average THC content of marijuana rose to over 8.5% for the first time in history, up from 6% about six years earlier. (ca.)
    • The state of Michigan legalized medical marijuana.
  • 2009 CE
    • Mexico decriminalized the possession of up to five grams of cannabis as well as other narcotics, attempting to treat addiction as a public health issue rather than a criminal offense.
    • After taking office, U.S. President Barack Obama announced that he would take steps towards ending the very unsuccessful “War on Drugs.” He stated that individual drug use was a public health issue, not a political issue, and should be treated as such. (ca.)
    • President Obama announced that, under his guidance, federal prosecutors would no longer pursue medical marijuana patients and their providers within the U.S. so long as those patients and providers complied with applicable state laws. (ca.)
    • The American Medical Association (AMA) urged the review of marijuana’s Schedule I classification under the Controlled Substances Act. The AMA also argued that the federal government should allow for clinical trials of cannabinoid-based medicines.
    • Steep Hill Laboratory in Oakland, California, discovered cannabis strains that contained higher concentrations of CBD than THC. Several dozen labs in medical marijuana-approved states soon attempted to find the ideal ratio of CBD to THC in medicinal cannabis treatment.
    • In Scientific American, Richard Hamilton wrote that humans emerged some 250,000 years ago yet agriculture came about relatively recently in comparison. This meant that Carl Sagan’s 1977 theory on cannabis being humanity’s first agricultural crop could very well be true.

The Tensies (2010 – 2020)

  • 2010 CE
    • Britain’s GW Pharmaceuticals announced that Sativex had been approved by the United Kingdom’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and that the company had filed for regulatory permissions across Europe.
    • Sativex was approved for treating multiple sclerosis-related spasticity in Spain and approved by New Zealand’s regulatory authority, MedSafe.
    • Marc Emery, the largest importer of cannabis seeds to the U.S., was extradited from Canada to the U.S. for trial. Emery received five years in federal prison and four years of supervised release for “conspiracy to manufacture marijuana.”
    • Proposition 19, California’s failed 1972 bill to legalize recreational cannabis, returned to the voting booth. Weeks before the vote, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the federal government would still enforce federal drug laws, despite how California residents voted. Proposition 19 lost by a margin of about 3%.
    • The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced that veterans who participated in legal state medical marijuana programs would no longer be disqualified from VA clinical programs.
    • Washington D.C., Arizona, and New Jersey legalized medical marijuana.
  • 2011 CE
    • The Israeli government approved the legalization of medical marijuana. The Israeli Health Ministry was put in charge of providing supplies for the cultivation of cannabis and creating ways for patients to gain access to medical marijuana.
    • Sativex successfully completed the European Mutual Recognition Procedure (MRP). The medication was soon approved in Italy, Denmark, Germany, Sweden, Austria, and the Czech Republic.
    • A study found that, in U.S. states where medical marijuana was legal, fatal car accidents had declined by an average of 9%, largely attributable to a decline in drunk driving.
    • U.S. attorneys began sending menacing letters to states with medical marijuana laws and programs, threatening to prosecute those who implemented marijuana cultivation and distribution programs into state laws. (ca.)
    • The U.S. government cracked down on cannabis dispensaries and grow operations, going as far as threatening to prosecute the landlords of warehouses that contained grow operations. They also falsely announced that Californians were using the medical marijuana program as a cover for large-scale drug operations. (ca.)
    • The DEA officially denied a 2002 request to reclassify marijuana away from a Schedule I narcotic, citing that cannabis still had “no accepted medical use.” They also classified five synthetic cannabinoids as Schedule I narcotics, citing an “imminent hazard.”
    • The state of Delaware legalized medical marijuana.
  • 2012 CE
    • Charlotte Figi, a six-year-old suffering from Dravet Syndrome, a severe form of epilepsy, became the world’s youngest medical marijuana patient. She was given cannabis extracts containing high concentrations of CBD and virtually no THC, and they remarkably cured her symptoms. This gained worldwide media coverage and began the CBD craze.
    • In historic rulings, the states of Colorado and Washington legalized recreational marijuana, spearheading a legalization campaign that would spread across the United States. State governments began informing the public of cannabis laws and devising a system for the legal sale of marijuana. They promised medical marijuana programs would remain unchanged.
    • Uruguay legalized cannabis for recreational use, but the full implementation of legalization laws was postponed until 2015. In 2018, the government began allowing sixteen nationwide pharmacies to sell cannabis with a relatively low THC content, limited to 40 grams per month per citizen.
    • Pot advocacy groups challenged the DEA’s failure to reschedule marijuana away from a Schedule I narcotic in court, but ultimately lost their case in 2013.
    • The city council of Los Angeles, California, voted unanimously to ban medical marijuana dispensaries within city limits. However, they also voted to allow the 170 dispensaries already operating there to stay open. California’s Supreme court upheld this ruling in 2013.
    • Washington D.C. decriminalized the personal use and possession of cannabis. The states of Connecticut and Massachusetts legalized medical marijuana.
  • 2013 CE
    • Dr. Sanjay Gupta, an American neurosurgeon and medical television personality, came out in favor of medical marijuana, claiming that the DEA often cited false information and that the American public had been misled regarding cannabis.
    • In an about-face on traditional federal drug policies, the U.S. Justice Department announced that they would not sue to block medicinal and recreational marijuana laws in Washington D.C. and the nineteen states that instituted them. Advocates say this was the first step towards ending U.S. cannabis prohibition.
    • The states of Illinois and New Hampshire legalized medical marijuana. Voters in three Michigan cities and Portland, Maine, also voted to approve the decriminalization of recreational marijuana.

The Cannabis Legalization Era (2014 CE – Present)

  • 2014 CE
    • In the U.S., the 2014 Farm Bill introduced legislation that protected the cultivation of hemp and allowed for research into hemp and its many medical and industrial uses.
    • The first U.S. recreational cannabis dispensary opened in Seattle, Washington, called Cannabis City. This signified the first time consumers in the U.S. could purchase over-the-counter cannabis for recreational use. This sparked a serious discussion about legalization nationwide and suggested a possible end date to the “War on Drugs.”
    • Deb Green, a 65-year-old, marathon-running grandmother, became the first U.S. citizen to legally purchase recreational cannabis at Cannabis City in Seattle. Her purchase is now part of the collection at the Museum of History and Industry in Seattle.
    • For the first time, the Obama Administration allowed U.S. banks to provide financial services to legal cannabis distributors. New laws also banned the Justice Department from using government funds to target cannabis in states where it was legal.
    • The U.S. Justice Department announced that it would not enforce federal cannabis laws on Native American reservations.
    • Alaska, Oregon, and Washington D.C. legalized recreational cannabis while five other U.S. states began drafting recreational cannabis legislation after seeing the success of Washington and Colorado. Maryland, Minnesota, and New York legalized medical marijuana as well.
    • Mississippi, Missouri, and Wisconsin legalized hemp-derived CBD products. None of these states had any prior cannabis legalization legislation.
  • 2015 CE
    • Graciela Elizalde, an eight-year-old citizen of Mexico, brought medical cannabis to the Mexican public’s attention as it drastically reduced the symptoms of her Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome, a severe form of epilepsy. Elizalde became Mexico’s first medical marijuana patient after the Mexico Supreme Court ruled in her favor.
    • The U.S. government removes roadblocks placed on cannabis research, saying such roadblocks were stricter than those placed on substances like cocaine and heroin.
    • Alejandro Garcia Padilla, Governor of Puerto Rico, legalized medical marijuana within the U.S. territory, signing an executive order that went into effect immediately.
    • The state of Louisiana legalized medical marijuana, the 25th U.S. state to do so.
    • The state of Rhode Island legalized all hemp products, including CBD products. After the federal government legalized CBD products in 2018, Rhode Island continued to follow its own legislation.
  • 2016 CE
    • The DEA again announced that they would consider the reclassification of marijuana away from a Schedule I narcotic, but later declined to do so. Instead, they opened the door for further cannabis research.
    • The states of California, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, and Vermont legalized recreational cannabis while legalization efforts failed in Arizona. Additionally, the states of Arkansas, Florida, North Dakota, Ohio, and Pennsylvania legalized medical marijuana.
  • 2017 CE
    • Enrique Pena Nieto, the President of Mexico, signed a bill legalizing medical marijuana and requiring Mexico’s Ministry of Health to write regulations for medical marijuana.
    • The state of West Virginia legalized medical marijuana, Wisconsin expanded its medical marijuana program to any patient with a doctor recommendation, and Rhode Island began evaluating the impacts of legalizing recreational cannabis.
    • The states of Kentucky, South Carolina, and Virginia legalized CBD products, although Virginia only allowed for the medicinal use of CBD.
  • 2018 CE
    • The FDA approved the first CBD-based medication in the U.S., called Epidiolex. This medication contains high amounts of CBD, 0% THC, and is prescribed to patients suffering from Dravet or Lennox-Gastaut Syndromes, both severe seizure disorders. Epidiolex was developed after Charlotte Figi’s success with CBD treatment, starting in 2012.
    • The 2018 Farm Bill, drafted by Senator Mitch McConnell effectively legalized all industrial hemp-derived CBD products in the United States. This law was aimed at bolstering the hemp economy within the U.S., so long as such products contained no more than 0.3% THC.
    • Jeff Sessions, the U.S. Attorney General, ended the Obama-era guidelines surrounding federal marijuana interference, again allowing for federal law enforcement agencies to pursue cannabis sales in states with medicinal and recreational cannabis laws.
    • The state of Michigan legalized recreational cannabis while the states of Utah, Oklahoma, and Missouri legalized medical marijuana. More recreational cannabis initiatives failed in Arizona, but legalization is predicted in the near future.
    • The states of Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, and Iowa created hemp growing programs. The state of Kansas legalized CBD products.
  • 2019 CE
    • The U.S. federal government allocated over $3 million for research into CBD, hoping to elucidate more of the cannabinoid’s analgesic properties.
    • The states of Delaware, Connecticut, and Kentucky passed pro-cannabis legislation, signaling that the legalization of recreational cannabis is imminent.
    • The states of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Nebraska, Oklahoma, West Virginia, and Wisconsin passed pro-CBD legislation, and the state of Texas expanded its hemp-growing program and legalized medical marijuana to a limited degree.

Sources

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