A Brief History of Marijuana

Records on cannabis use date back to 2000 B.C. in Chinese medicine by Emperor Shen Nung. Marijuana was also utilized by Shamans in a variety of cultures to help with healing sickness and other ailments. However, the plant was originally used for a variety of purposes including for the production of clothing, paper, rope, and fishing nets. Greeks and Egyptians also have records that demonstrate that marijuana was also to help with stomach ailments. The oldest record of cannabis being used recreationally comes from Herodotus, who describes how the Scythians inhaled the vapor of cannabis seeds and flowers that were thrown onto heated rocks. However, the Greeks and Romans found an unquenchable thirst for alcohol instead. Muslims, who were forbidden from consuming alcohol, found the plant to suit their needs.

In the years since, scientists have discovered a total of 66 chemical compounds known as cannabinoids. Surprisingly, the discovery of tetrahydrocannabinol (most commonly known as THC) is relatively new in comparison to the long history of cannabis use. However, the benefits of this discovery are high.

Remember the Puritans and the Pilgrims? Those who journeyed across the ocean to seek religious freedom? Well when they landed in the New World, they found many new plants; one of them being hemp, which was used for clothing, and rope. The production and use of hemp flourished until the Civil War when industrialism took off and cheaper raw materials could be found.In the 19th century, pharmacies began carrying medicines that contained marijuana, introducing the first medical uses of cannabis in the United States. However, with the end of the Mexican-American war in 1910, Mexican and other Latin American immigrants came to the United States, and they brought their stash with them, getting their Northern friends high for the first time.

Much like someone who gets high for the first time, many U.S. citizens became paranoid about their new neighbors. Between 1930-1968, the United States Federal government cracked down on cannabis use. However, despite the grinding halt of marijuana use (even medically), scientific discoveries were made about the chemical composition of cannabis, giving us the variety of options of use that we have today.

Cannabis studies began in the 1930’s, first with the discovery of extracting cannabinol (CBN). Cannabinol is considered to be mildly psychoactive and is thought to be formed from aged cannabis. The next discovery was cannabidiol (CBD), which was discovered by scientist Roger Adams in 1930. THC would not be extracted from cannabis until 1942. At this time, it was discovered that the effects of THC and CBD were often ignited through a process called decarboxylation that involved heating the plant to a certain temperature so the compounds would be released.

Research into cannabis had a rocky start, scientists only had a basic idea of the plant’s biology, and had limited knowledge of the cannabinoid structure. Lack of knowledge was a primary reason for legislation enacted by the U.S. Congress against the use of marijuana. While researchers understood the chemical composition of CBD and THC, they were unaware of the relationship between the chemical’s effects on a human body.

Finally, in 1963, Dr. Raphael Mechoulam successfully identified the stereochemistry of CBD, which led into the discovery of THC’s stereochemistry, revealing the relationship between the euphoric effects of marijuana based on the chemical makeup. CBD, on the other hand, was responsible for the feelings associated with marijuana use; CBD helps with physical pain management and anxiety, while THC has a primarily intoxicating effect.

Around the 1990’s, the United States witnessed radical changes towards legalization. In 1996, California became the first state to legalize marijuana use and sale for medical treatment. Within the next decade, seven other states also joined the sesh, allowing researchers to better understand the medical benefits of cannabis.

In the early 2000’s, many Americans still opposed legalization completely. However, when individuals began to share their experiences with pain and the relief they felt from CBD, public opinion on the plant changed and more were accepting towards CBD as a natural treatment for ailment and pain.

Meanwhile, other states began legalizing both medical and recreational use of cannabis, opening doors for the popularity of both CBD and THC. While high THC products are typically common among recreational users, popularity is also found among medical users.

Today, CBD is more accessible across the United States than THC based on state regulations. Regardless, the discovery of CBD’s pain-relieving properties have helped push legalization forward in many states. THC, on the other hand, remains an important property of cannabis that provides pain-relieving and psychoactive benefits, but the popularity of this chemical is highly dependent on state regulations.

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