Understanding Cannabis & the Legalities involved
Why is Marijuana illegal?
That is a good question, considering there has never been any record of overdose or fatality from marijuana use and yet it is considered a Schedule 1 drug listed among other dangerous narcotics. And contrary to popular belief, there is no evidence of brain receptor damage like that of alcohol, it has only been known to stimulate brain receptors. The answer has everything to do with racism and corporate greed, but before we get to the juicy bits I want to discuss a brief history of the use of Cannabis.
Medicinal use of Cannabis predates written history, and it's preparations have been traditionally used for millennia to treat a variety of conditions. Evidence of it's use was first found in ancient India, China, the Middle East, South East Asia, South Africa, and South America, including medicinal use as a fumigant, salve, and suppository in Egypt in 1600 BCE. It was also documented in the Chinese pharmacopoeia that was written in 100 CE, but mentions writers advising it's use as far back as 2800 BCE.
Ironically the first law concerning Cannabis was enacted in Jamestown Colony, Virginia in 1619 where far from prohibiting it's use, the law stated that all farmers were "ordered" to grow it. The U.S. Census of 1850 records 8,327 Cannabis Plantations in excess of 2,000 acres, all producing Hemp for textiles such as cloth, canvas, and rope. In fact, the U.S. Constitution was originally written on Hemp paper. Cannabis first appeared on the U.S. pharmacopoeia in 1851 (3rd Edition) and until prohibition was introduced, was the primary treatment for over 100 separate illnesses and diseases. By the time the 12th Edition was published, it had been officially removed and it's use in Medical Research halted.
Now here comes the juicy part...
The word "Marijuana" was a racist attempt to shift the public's perception from useful fibers and medicine to a dangerous drug and destructive substance in order to destroy the hemp industry and replace these products with pharmaceutical drugs and petrochemical products.
In the 1930's the U.S. Federal Government backed the campaign of one Harry Anslinger and his newly formed Bureau of Narcotics. Anslinger was a corrupt, racist bigot who had a vested interest in ruining the Hemp Industry, and sought to generate fear of Cannabis through propaganda and lies in order to fuel his new organization. He created nationwide hysteria over a problem that didn't exist by demonizing Cannabis through the intentional change of it's name to Marijuana in a racist attempt to target Mexican immigrants, and created false tales of crime, violence, and insanity suffered by those who consumed it. The Bureau of Narcotics promoted what they called "Gore Files," wild "Reefer Madness" tales of murder, violence, and loose morals, and the effects that marijuana had on the "degenerate races"- which cynically exploited the endemic of racism that was even more prevalent at that time. By associating marijuana with ethnic minorities, Anslinger ensued that the majority of white American's would sympathize with his campaign to prohibit Cannabis in the U.S.
Anslinger had powerful allies in his endeavor, including William Randolph Hearst and John D. Rockafeller. Hearst was a famous journalist who was known for his yellow journalism, especially his stories exploiting his hatred for Mexican immigrants. His tales of marijuana crazed Mexican's going on murderous rampages sold lots of newspapers. He also had a vested interest in the demise of the Hemp Industry.
When the Civil War ended and Slavery was abolished, hemp production became cost prohibitive due to labor intensive processing. Hearst heavily invested in the Lumber Industry, but then the decorticator machine was invented. This machine made processing the fibrous plant easy and affordable. His investment was suddenly in jeopardy as hemp paper could be made cheaper in less time, with less environmental impact than logging.
Combine that with John D. Rockafeller who stood to lose his interest in his Standard Oil Company monopoly, due to the repeal of the 22nd Amendment that ended alcohol prohibition. It was much cheaper and efficient to run cars on ethanol alcohol than gasoline, but then he faced similar competition when hemp oil could fuel transportation with a much more environmentally friendly renewable resource than petroleum.
Many other industries also stood to lose a lot as well, especially when a 1938 edition of Popular Mechanics claimed that over 25,000 products could be made from hemp- everything from cellophane to dynamite. Corporate greed won out when these three moguls joined forces. The Conspiracy of the DuPont Chemical Corporation of 1937 resulted in Anslinger presenting his Marihuana Tax Act to Congress and the bill was passed with very little discussion or dispute. Cannabis was effectively prohibited and most people were unaware that the "evil marijuana drug" that was referred to in the tax act was in fact the multifaceted Cannibis plant that had been so essential to early settlers and potent medicine since early civilization.
In 1941 Cannabis was withdrawn from the U.S. pharmaceutical market due to the burdensome requirements of the law, and various panels were developed to judge the addictive nature, efficacy, and safety of this "drug." Over and over again, this medical substance was found to be "harmless and potentially useful."
Then in 1971 President Nixon appointed the Presidential Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse, led by Pennsylvania Governor William Shafer. When the Commission "unexpectedly recommended the repeal of laws against the adult use of Marijuana, Nixon promptly disavowed their report"- according to the Marijuana Medical Handbook. Another study by the National Academy of Sciences came to a similar conclusion in 1982, and was likewise ignored by President Reagan. One could see how this news would affect his War on Drugs campaign.
Under the Controlled Substance Act of 1970, Marijuana was classified as a Schedule 1 controlled Substance. This meant that it has high abuse potential and no recognized medical use. Schedule 1 drugs cannot be used without explicit permission from the DEA and the FDA, which involves exhaustive paperwork, long delays, and almost certain refusal. In 1976 a Compassionate Use protocol was put into place for certain conditions such as glaucoma, MS, and cancer. In 1996, California voters approved the use of marijuana for medical usage for ill patients.
In 1997 the Office of National Drug Control Policy did an intensive overview of the safety and efficacy of marijuana and it's derivatives (i.e. cannabinoids). The report cautioned against the use of smoking the substance on account of the respiratory hazards, but acknowledged that it remained the only good alternative for certain patients with chronic conditions. The report recommended further research and clinical trials including the development of non-smoked delivery systems. The Federal Government ignored the report and continued to oppose marijuana.
After the amendment passed in California for Medical Marijuana use, many states followed suit and passed medical marijuana laws of their own. Canada's highest court struck down the country's marijuana laws and ordered the government to institute legal access for all medical users. Since then, certain states have passed recreational use laws for marijuana and our Federal Government continues to evolve the laws surrounding hemp. At this time, medicinal use of hemp is legal in all 50 states in the U.S. and has a federal regulation of having to contain less than 0.03% of THC. There are still some strict stipulations in place for Federal employees and other professions though, so be cautious of local laws and employer restrictions. Even though hemp may be legal, some professions such as military personnel cannot even consume hemp seeds without consequences.
I will leave you to make your own conclusions as to why Cannabis is still prohibited and prejudiced against, and will continue this Series with more evidence and clinical research as we continue to discover the many benefits of this powerful plant. Please continue to read my next sections on the Endocannabinoid System, how to find quality CBD products, and more!