A bit of cannabis history

Cannabis has been around in the wild for centuries .  The first reference to marijuana comes from China, where in 2737 B.C. Emperor Shen Nung mentions its promise as medicine.  Many cultures have developed deep relationships with this plant over a long period of time.  Although the US is a relatively new nation, cannabis has been part of nation from the beginning. We have a complicated history with marijuana filled with love then hate then love again. 

Cannabis is thought to have been introduced to Europe by the Scythians (who came from present day Kazakstan) around 500 A.D.    Cannabis moved around the world from cultures who embraced the plant.  For example, when Napoleon invaded Egypt in 1799 he brought along a group of scientists who discovered the Rosetta Stone.  Guess what else they did?  They brought cannabis back home with them. Their study of cannabis led them to discover its pain relieving and sedative properties.

Marijuana came to the United States around 1545 with the Spanish.   Hemp, a sturdy plant that was easy to grow and extremely versatile, quickly became a popular crop.  As a matter of fact, the Jamestown colonists were ordered by the British to cultivate 100 hemp plants for export. A decade later, Massachusetts and Connecticut landowners were required to plant hemp as well.  Today, like medical and recreational cannabis, hemp production is a patchwork of state laws caught up in a tangle of outdated policies.

From 1850 to roughly 1937, medical cannabis was available in many forms in the US.  It was produced by large pharmaceuticals like Eli Lilly, Parke-Davis, Brothers Smith and Tildens.  It was listed in the prestigious publication U.S. Pharmacopoeia –the official standard authority for the use of botanicals in medicine for all prescription and over-the counter medicines—as a treatment for numerous afflictions including neuralgia, tetanus, typhus, cholera, rabies, dysentery, alcoholism, opiate addiction, incontinence, gout, convulsive disorders, tonsillitis, insanity, excessive menstrual bleeding, and uterine bleeding  among others.  The most popular products were tinctures (or drops).  Interestingly, this form of medical cannabis is wildly popular today, especially for people who would prefer not to smoke.  It is interesting to note that opioid addiction was listed as a condition that could benefit from cannabis.   Today there is a vigorous debate as to whether cannabis is a good and viable replacement for opioids.