Cannabis use can be traced back to at least 500 BC when it was used as an herbal medicine in ancient Asian cultures (History Channel, 2019). In the US, cannabis can be found in early colonial days when hemp was grown for use in rope and textiles. Cannabis became illegal in the US with the passing of the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937. Since then, the harm done by the “war on drugs” has been immense, especially for black and brown folks.
Cannabis advocates have been fighting to legalize and reestablish the plant as an herbal medicine. As the modern era emerged, cannabis became even more demonized with the repeal of the Marijuana Tax Act and the subsequent listing of cannabis as a Schedule 1 drug. This new distinction meant the plant was categorized as having no medicinal purposes with a high potential for abuse, even though there were documented cases of cannabis easing symptoms of stomach ailments. To this day, the plant is still deemed a Schedule 1 drug at a national level.
The march to freedom for cannabis is now fully underway, with 38 states now legalizing cannabis for medical use and 19 states adding adult use (Berke, Gal, & Lee, 2022). It’s certainly been a long road, however, with decriminalization of cannabis starting as early as 1973 when Texas declared less than 4 ounces of possession to be a misdemeanor. 23 years later in 1996, California passed Proposition 215 to legalize medical cannabis use with 18 more states following suite over the next 15 years. Colorado and Washington then lead the way to legal adult use of cannabis in 2012 (Garber-Paul & Bort, 2021). Now, with only a handful of states remaining, it seems that national legalization could be around the corner. Time will tell.
Berke, J., Gal, S., & Lee, Y. (2022, May 27). Marijuana legalization is sweeping the US. See every state where cannabis is legal. Retrieved from Business Insider: https://www.businessinsider.com/legal-marijuana-states-2018-1
Garber-Paul, E., & Bort, R. (2021, April 22). The United States of Weed. Retrieved from Rolling Stone Magazine: https://www.rollingstone.com/feature/cannabis-legalization-states-map-831885/
History Channel. (2019, October 10). History of Marijuana. Retrieved from The History Channel: https://www.history.com/topics/crime/history-of-marijuana#:~:text=Marijuana%2C%20also%20known%20as%20cannabis,hemp%20for%20textiles%20and%20rope.