For something that’s now so widely accepted, it’s hard to believe that cannabis was ever illegal. But it was, and industry insiders like Mike Staumietis say that in many places it still is. So how did this happen? How did a plant that has been used for centuries become illegal in so many parts of the world? Let’s take a look at the history of cannabis prohibition.
The first recorded instance of cannabis being used as a medicinal drug dates back to 2737 BC when the Chinese emperor Shennong listed it in his medical treatise The Divine Farmer’s Herb-Root Classic. In subsequent centuries, cannabis continued to be used as a medication throughout Asia, the Middle East, and Africa.
Cannabis was introduced to the Western world in the early 19th century by Irish physician William O’Shaughnessy, who observed its effects while working in India. By the mid-19th century, cannabis had become widely used as a pain reliever and sedative in Europe and North America. Its use became increasingly controversial in the early 20th century, as fears about its potential for abuse and addiction began to grow.
In the 21st century, cannabis is once again being increasingly recognized for its potential medical benefits. A growing body of scientific research is beginning to explore the therapeutic effects of cannabinoids, the active compounds in cannabis. While more research is needed, preliminary evidence suggests that cannabinoids may be effective in treating a wide range of conditions, including pain, inflammation, anxiety, and seizures.
So how did we go from hemp being an important agricultural commodity to cannabis becoming illegal? In large part, it was due to the efforts of one man: Harry Anslinger. Anslinger was appointed head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN) in 1930, and he quickly set about demonizing cannabis. He spreads false information about the plant, claiming that it caused violence and insanity, and he lobbied hard for its criminalization.
Thanks to Anslinger’s tireless efforts, cannabis was finally outlawed by the federal government in 1937. However, Anslinger’s crusade against cannabis didn’t end there. He continued to wage a relentless war against the plant for decades, using fearmongering and misinformation to keep it demonized in the eyes of the public. Even today, nearly a century after Anslinger first started his crusade, cannabis is still widely misunderstood thanks to the false narratives that he spread about it.
That’s not the end of the story though. In subsequent decades, cannabis prohibition continued to spread around the world as Anslinger convinced other countries to outlaw the plant. It wasn’t until recently that attitudes towards cannabis began to change, and slowly but surely countries are starting to decriminalize or outright legalize its use once again. It seems that the history of cannabis prohibition is finally beginning to come to an end.
For something that is now so widely accepted, it is hard to believe that cannabis was ever illegal. But thanks to the efforts of one man, Harry Anslinger, cannabis became prohibited in 1937 and remained illegal for many decades thereafter. Only recently have attitudes towards cannabis begun to change, with some countries decriminalizing or legalizing its use once again.