The popularly disconcerting war on drugs in the United States of America against marijuana has come to a halt, now that various states in the country have legalized the drug while others are in the process too. The recreational use of marijuana can be traced back to 2737 BC when Chinese medicine used the herb to induce euphoria, treat gout, malaria, and rheumatism. By 500 A.D, marijuana had made its way into Europe. However, it was first introduced in America by the British in 1611 to soon become one of the leading trade crops that were commercially grown as a fiber source.

Hemp replaces cotton and inspires Jazz musician by 1920s

The main commercial crop from southern states-cotton was replaced by hemp by 1890. During that era, opium and cocaine were commonly used in medical treatments and so was marijuana. It was during the 1920s that marijuana established its place as a recreational drug in the world of jazz and show business. In fact, there were “tea pad clubs” intended to provide the public a place for using marijuana and socializing. The authorities had no problem with this because there were no disturbances being caused by marijuana and mainly because it was legal.

Marijuana becomes enlisted in United States Pharmacopeia and its stigmatization begins in the 1930s

From 1850 to 1942, marijuana was still used in medical treatments for conditions like rheumatism and nausea. However, in the 1930s, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Narcotics began a well-funded campaign throughout the country, depicting marijuana as an addictive, gateway drug that will “drag our children into the quagmires of degradation”. The propaganda film “Reefer Madness” released in 1936 conveyed the same message to parents about the dangers of marijuana for their children. Cannabis started becoming associated with crime and Mexican immigrants.

This anti-Mexican sentiment propagated the mainstream propaganda further into the masses. By 1937, cannabis was fully outlawed and prohibited by the federal government. By 1950s and 1960s, the use of marijuana was infamously associated with degenerate college students and hippies who unabashedly expressed their refusal to conform, rebellion against the government and later the Vietnam War. The Boggs Act of 1951 called for a minimum prison sentence of 2 – 5 years for the possession of cannabis.

The Controlled Substances Act of the 1970s, the first marijuana dispensary in San Francisco and the legalization of Marijuana

In the 1970s, the newly issued Controlled Substances Act classified marijuana as a Schedule I drug right next to heroin and LSD. This meant that marijuana was believed to have the same abuse potential as LSD and heroin; at least that’s what the government believed. Mexico was the main marijuana supplier at the time but the Mexican government later sprayed their marijuana crops with herbicide in an attempt to eradicate its supply which raised concerns of posing for users in the United States.

Soon after, Columbia became the main supplier. By 1991, the first medical marijuana dispensary called the Cannabis Buyers Club opened in San Francisco for AIDS patients. Fast forward to 2016, Massachusetts, Nevada, Maine, and California voted to permit the recreational use of marijuana while Florida, Montana, North Dakota and Arkansas were in favor of extending their medical legislation. The only state that voted against it was Arizona.