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Puff, Puff, Past: The History of Legalization!


Who said history lessons couldn’t be dope?

Getting high with some hemp from my friends

The history of cannabis in the United States begins in 1619, when King George I decreed that the settlers of Jamestown should redouble their efforts to support England. Jamestown landowners began this initiative by growing 100 hemp plants that could be exported to help support England. Hemp was then used to strengthen the colonization of the Americas, and even became one of George Washington’s 3 main crops. The plant was used for making ropes and clothing, and was considered so important that until the 1900s the cultivation of cannabis was featured on the back of the $10 bill, which was consequently made from hemp.

In 1839 William O’Shaughnessy introduced cannabis to Western medicine and by the 1850s medicinal preparations of the plant were available in American pharmacies. However, cannabis was not only used for medical purposes. The late 19th century saw Oriental-style hash parlors and opium dens appear all over the East Coast and were increasingly popular in major cities like New York, Boston, Chicago, and Philadelphia. Getting high was a favorite pastime of the socialites and the wealthy, making these saloons and dens a common meeting place for members of society’s elite.

pot ban

person in silver ring holding man's hand

However, along with the popularization of hemp and cannabis products, legal and governmental attempts began to regulate pharmaceuticals. Many of these regulations were initially beneficial; labeling restrictions, warnings about narcotics and prohibition of sale to minors. However, the regulations have become increasingly restrictive over time. Eventually, the strengthening of poison laws led to the creation of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN), which later became the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs (BNDD), and is known today as Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). FBN’s first commissioner, Harry J. Anslinger, was adamant that cannabis use causes people to act irrationally, exhibit hypersexuality, and commit violent crimes. As a result, the FBN worked to create propaganda films that supported Anslinger’s message (Chill Madness sounds familiar?).

The FBN then passed the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937, which imposed a tax on the sale of cannabis and made it possible to arrest illegitimate “dealers” who evaded the tax. This law also made it illegal to possess cannabis not intended for medical or scientific purposes. It is important to note that the decisions made by the NBF were based on faulty studies which were then presented in poorly attended hearings. The Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 was finally repealed in 1969 as deemed unconstitutional, but was replaced by the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 (CSA), which officially prohibited all uses of cannabis, including for medical purposes. The law went so far as to classify cannabis as “schedule 1” with “high potential for abuse and no accepted medical uses” along with LSD, heroin and peyote. The War on Drugs, a Nixon initiative that continued under President Reagan, culminated in the reinstatement of mandatory prison sentences for cannabis-related charges and the creation of the 3 Strike Law. These Reagan-era policies disproportionately affected men of color, especially black men, and sadly, 30 states still use the 3-strikes law today.

Legalization: medical use

brown glass bottle on white table

Five years after the CSA was passed, a man named Robert Randall was arrested in DC for using cannabis to treat his glaucoma. He began a medical necessity defense and filed a petition with the FDA that ultimately made him the first person in America to legally receive medical marijuana from the government. Thirteen more gained access to medical cannabis through the Compassionate Investigational New Drug Program, and a number of states have begun the process of passing legislation allowing the use of medical marijuana.

The early 1990s saw the opening of the first dispensaries such as the San Francisco Cannabis Buyers Club and the Oakland Cannabis Buyers Cooperative, which, despite breaking federal and state laws, were protected by Proposition P, a measure election approved by voters. and supported the medical use of cannabis. The success of Proposition P eventually led to Proposition 215, also known as the Compassionate Use Act of 1996, which legalized medical marijuana throughout the state of California. Quickly, Washington, Oregon, Alaska, Nevada and DC followed suit. In 1999, Colorado and Maine legalized medical marijuana, and in 2000 Hawaii became the first state to legalize the plant through the state legislature, as opposed to ballot initiatives. Today, patients in 34 states are getting high on cannabis, while patients in 6 other states have access to the healing properties of CBD.

Legalization: recreational use

brown powder on round container

In the early 2000s, politicians and lawmakers finally saw through the smoke and mirrors of the “War on Drugs.” This sparked a wave of decriminalization, which prompted lawmakers to pass legislation that would favor fines over jail time, or favor small prison terms over jail time for a more serious offense. Currently, 42 states have decriminalized marijuana. The process of decriminalization allowed the popularization of the pot and common misconceptions about the plant were debunked. The national attitude towards weed has completely changed over the past two decades, and so in 2012 two states also legalized the recreational use of marijuana. Colorado’s Amendment 64 and Washington’s Initiative 502 legalized cannabis and regulated it the same as alcohol, where anyone under 21 could not possess it and anti-driving provisions under the influence have been put in place. However, this is just the tip of the iceberg.

To date, 11 states, as well as DC, have legalized recreational pot, and it is expected that several more states will do the same in 2022. States such as Florida, Arizona, New York, New Jersey and the New Mexico are all very likely to begin the legalization process by the end of the year. Meaning: the highlights have just begun.





#Puff #Puff #History #Legalization

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