History of Marijuana in the United States

General History

English Introduce Hemp to New World at Jamestown

1611

Commercial crop during colonial period — source of fiber; important export

George Washington Grows Hemp

1745 - 1775

According to his diary, George Washington grew hemp at his plantation in Mount Vernon. One passage indicates that he grew at least some cannabis with high THC content.

Thomas Jefferson Grows Hemp at Monticello

1774 - 1824

According to farming diaries.

Use as Intoxicant Commonplace

1850 - 1940

Newspaper Ads Marketing "Haschisch Candy" as an Intoxicant

1866

Report in Boston Medical and Surgical Journal

Bad Econ = Anti-Chinese Sentiment in CA; Opium Use Spreads

1870 - 1880

Outbreak of Mexican Revolution

1910

"The outbreak of the Mexican Revolution in 1910 sent waves of immigrants into the southern border regions of the United States, inspiring animosity at a time when white supremacy and nativism were ascendant in much of the nation."

"Marijuana smoking distinguished some of the Mexicans and provided a vehicle for police harassment of a scorned minority group."

  • Slaughter, James B. "Marijuana Prohibition in the United States: History and Analysis of a Failed Policy." Columbia Journal of Law and Social Problems 21 (1987-1988): 417-74.

Marijuana as Recreational Drug Begins to Catch On

1920 - 1930

Possible response to prohibition. "Tea pads," or marijuana clubs, sprang up in major cities. Because the patrons were not disruptive, they were not considered a social threat and they did not encounter any resistance from authorities.

U.S. Federal Bureau of Narcotics Begins Anti-Marjiuana Campaign

1930 - 1940

They sought to portray marijuana as a dangerous and powerfully addictive drug.

Marijuana Begins Upward Trend Again, esp. Among Teens

1990 - 2000

Medical History

Some Medicines Contain Cannabis

1850 - 1942

Cannabis is listed in the United States Pharmacopeia during this era. It became available in American pharmacies after its introduction to western medicine by William O'Shaughnessy. Listed as being useful for the treatment of labor pains, nausea, rheumatism, and neuralgia, among other diseases and conditions.

Legal History

San Francisco Enacts First Known Anti-Narcotics Law

1875

Fueled by anti-Chinese sentiment, San Francisco passed legislation outlawing opium dens made popular by the Chinese.

"In a brief review, the Pacific Pharmacists commented that hasheesh 'seemed to appeal to the oriental mind' - not exactly a ringing endorsement in a state rife with anti-Asian prejudice."

  • Gleringer, Dale H. "The Forgotten Origins of Cannabis Prohibition in California." Contemporary Drug Problems Summer 26.2 (1999): p. 11

First Anti-Cannabis Bill in US Introduced by CA Assemblyman A.M. Walker

1880

Mainly targeting opium but lumping in cannabis—this is ostensibly the first anti-cannabis legislation in the United States.

Evidence of "Hashish-Houses" in American Cities

1883

"Harper's Magazine... describes hashish-house in New York frequented by large clientele, including males and females of 'the better classes.' It goes on to say that parlors also existed in Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, and especially New Orleans - but fails to mention cities further west."

  • Gleringer, Dale H. "The Forgotten Origins of Cannabis Prohibition in California." Contemporary Drug Problems Summer 26.2 (1999).

Pure Food and Drug Act Regulates Cannabis for the First Time

1906

Products containing the substance required labeling with a disclaimer.

"That for the purposes of this Act an article shall also be deemed to be misbranded... if the package fail to bear a statement on the label of the quantity or proportion of any alcohol, morphine, opium, cocaine, heroin, alpha or beta eucaine, chloroform, cannabis indica, chloral hydrate, or acetanilide, or any derivative or preparation of any such substances contained therein."

  • Sec. 7 United States Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906

Massachusetts Becomes First State to Outlaw Cannabis

1911

"Fueled by Progressive Era faith in government supervised moral reform and growing prohibitionist sentiment."

  • Gleringer, Dale H. “The Forgotten Origins of Cannabis Prohibition in California.” Contemporary Drug Problems Summer 26.2 (1999).

Maine, Wyoming, and Indiana pass laws against Marijuana

1913

Harrison Anti-Narcotics Act of 1914

1914

'The Harrison Anti-Narcotics Act of 1914 outlawed opium, under the delusion...that convincing the Chinese that America was serious about stopping opiate addiction would lead to trade relations...In truth, passage of the Harrison Anti-Narcotics Act was unnecessary, irrelevant, and did not lead to reestablishing trade with China. Technically, the Act did not outlaw opiates or cocaine; it only forced the people distributing them to register with the federal government and heavily taxed the transfer of ownership."

  • Deitch, Robert. Hemp: American History Revisited: The Plant with a Divided History.

Utah and Vermont pass laws against Marijuana

1915

Harry J. Anslinger Appointed as Head of Federal Bureau of Narcotics

1930

Appointed to Federal Bureau of Narcotics by Treasury Secretary Andrew W. Mellon. Subsequently begins propaganda campaign against marijuana in which he portrayed blacks and mexicans as the peddlers of "the Killer Marijuana," a moniker so derived because of its supposed effect as a provocateur of criminal behavior.

Eighteen States Have Enacted Uniform Narcotics Act incl. Cannabis

1936

"By 1936, eighteen states enacting the Uniform Narcotics Act included sanctions against marijuana possession."

  • Slaughter, James B. "Marijuana Prohibition in the United States: History and Analysis of a Failed Policy." Columbia Journal of Law and Social Problems 21 (1987-1988)

Federal Marijuana Prohibitions Begins

1937

"Federal marijuana prohibition began in 1937, when the Bureau of Narcotics convinced Congress to pass the Marijuana Tax Act, restricting possession of the drug to authorized medical and industrial users."

  • Slaughter, James B. “Marijuana Prohibition in the United States: History and Analysis of a Failed Policy.” Columbia Journal of Law and Social Problems 21 (1987-1988)

Controlled Substances Act of 1970

1970

Classified marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug, i.e. having the relatively highest abuse potential and no accepted medical use, along with heroin and LSD.

United States Redoubled its Commitment to Prohibition

1981 - 1989

"Zero tolerance" climate of the Reagan and Bush administrations resulted in passage of strict laws and mandatory sentences for possession of marijuana.

California Becomes 1st State to Legalize Medical Marijuana

11/03/1996

AK, OR, WA Become 2nd, 3rd & 4th States to Legalize Medical Marijuana

11/3/1998

Maine Becomes 5th State to Legalize Medical Marijuana

11/02/1999

Hawaii Becomes 6th State to Legalize Medical Marijuana

06/14/2000

CO, NV Become 7th and 8th States to Legalize Medical Marijuana

11/07/2000

Montana Becomes 10th State to Legalize

11/02/2004

Rhode Island Becomes 11th State to Legalize Medical Marijuana

01/03/2006

New Mexico Becomes 12th State to Legalize Medical Marijuana

03/13/2007

Michigan Becomes 13th State to Legalize Medical Marijuana

11/04/2008

New Jersey Becomes 14th State to Legalize Medical Marijuana

01/11/2010

Medical Marijuana Becomes Legal in Washington, D.C.

07/27/2010

Arizona Becomes 15th State to Legalize Medical Marijuana

11/02/2010

Delaware Becomes 16th State to Legalize Medical Marijuana

05/13/2011

Connecticut Becomes 17th State to Legalize Medical Marijuana

05/31/2012

Massachusetts Becomes 18th State to Legalize Medical Marijuana

11/06/2012

Colorado and Washington Legalize Marijuana Outright

11/06/2012

Cultural History

Use Associated with Beat Generation

1950 - 1960

Use Associated with College Students and Hippies

1960 - 1970