The History Of Cannabis in the U.S

It feels like cannabis is all the rage right now, but in reality cannabis has been used by humans for thousands of years.  It gets ugly in the U.S. in the 1930s. Here is a timeline about the history of cannabis in the U.S:


Farmers in Virginia, Massachusetts and Connecticut were required to grow hemp – used for rope, paper, clothing, sails, seeds as food.

Late 1800s

Cannabis sold in pharmacies & doctor’s offices to treat variety of ailments by companies like Lilly and Parke Davis.

Early 1900s

Mexicans immigrate to US after Mexican Revolution and bring cannabis to US.


Harry Anslinger – heads the Bureau of Narcotics replaces the term “hemp” with “marijuana”.

William Hearst – owns newspapers and is heavily invested in timber mills, and sees hemp as competition

Andrew Mellon – US Sec. of Treasury, owns Mellon Bank which backed Hearst & DuPont Co, founded Gulf Oil and his niece is married to Anslinger who was out of a job after alcohol prohibition ended and he appointed him to head new Bureau of Narcotics

William DuPont – made chemicals for processing paper, pesticides, fertilizers for cotton, and petroleum based plastics and nylon, sees hemp as competition

Pharmaceutical Companies starting to bring products to market (Bayer aspirin, etc)


Marijuana Tax Act enacted which effectively banned use of cannabis and hemp (HR6385)

1942 – 45

Hemp ban is lifted so farmers can produce needed rope and other supplies for WW11


Controlled Substances Act lists Cannabis as Schedule 1 Drug (“temporarily”)


National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse (the bi-partisan Shafer Commission, appointed by Nixon to study cannabis) releases report titled: “Marijuana: A Signal of Misunderstanding”. Nixon and his officials ignore findings which unanimously agree that personal use of cannabis is not harmful and should be decriminalized.


Reagan and Bush administrations wage “War on Drugs” despite growing evidence that cannabis is not harmful and is medically helpful.


Anti-Drug Abuse Act signed by Reagan, creating mandatory sentences for drug-related crimes.


California legalizes cannabis for medical use (Prop 215)

1998 – 2000

Oregon,  Alaska, Washington, Maine, Nevada, Colorado and Hawaii all legalize medical cannabis

2012 – 2014

Recreational cannabis use is legalized in Colorado and Washington.  This allows any adult, 21 and older, to purchase cannabis, without a medical recommendation.

2014 – 2016

In 2014 Alaska and Oregon legalize recreational use, and in 2016, California follows, along with Nevada, Maine, and Massachusetts.  Sales hit $6.7 billion for legal cannabis sales in the U.S.


33 states have legalized medical cannabis, and 10 states plus Washington DC allow recreational cannabis. The Farm Bill passed in December has legalized industrial hemp, and removed hemp and therefore, CBD, from Schedule 1 of the Controlled Substances Act. Canada has also legalized recreational cannabis on a national basis.


More to come!!

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