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The History Of Marijuana

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The history of marijuana is quite interesting. Marijuana has gone from being an important crop of the early settlers, to being outlawed in many countries, including the United States. To better understand marijuana, I will trace it back to its origins, and explain how marijuana was used in the beginning. I will then take a closer look at the history of marijuana in the United States and how this plant has evolved over the years. An interesting fact that one should ponder is that ?in 1762 Virginia imposed penalties on those who did not produce it [marijuana]? (Sloman 21). This is quite a contrast to how marijuana is treated today. If one is caught growing, selling, or even using marijuana, there is consequences which vary for each above mentioned act. This plant is controversial in the since that people believe it to help with medical problems such as AIDS. So the question is whether or not to legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes. One should remember that if marijuana is legal in a State for medicinal purposes, it is still illegal on the Federal level.

Marijuana is defined as a cannabis plant; and or a preparation made from the dried flower clusters and leaves of the cannabis plant, smoked or eaten to induce euphoria (Webster?s 827).

When smoked, marijuana produces over 2,000 chemicals that enter the body through the lungs. These chemicals have a variety of immediate, short term effects. Short term effects of marijuana include both psychological and physical reactions. These reactions usually last for one to three hours [ . . . ]. The psychological reaction known as a high, consists of changes in the user?s feelings and thoughts. Such changes are caused mainly by the THC, a chemical in marijuana that impairs the brain. (Consroe)

Marijuana has over two hundred known slang terms. Some common terms may be, pot, weed, hemp, reefer, Mary Jane, grass, and on the list goes. The scientific name for marijuana (hemp) is Cannabis sativa. ?The Aztec Indians called the weed ?malihua? which is a combination of the words ?mallin? (which means prisoner), ?hua? (which means property or substance). This term eventually changed to ?mallihuan?, and eventually to what we know as marijuana? (Sloman 20).

Marijuana is believed by many people to improve their thoughts. When high, people suggest that they are more in touch with their feelings, and they have revelations concerning their life, and life in general. People also believe that smoking marijuana improves their talents, such as playing a musical instrument, or painting a picture. These thoughts are not necessarily true. In fact it has been proven that marijuana alters the brain, and ?this drug interferes with a persons judgment, memory, perception, and coordination? (Narconon). Kids as young as twelve years old experiment with this drug because of curiosity. Many critics of marijuana believe that marijuana is a ?gateway drug,? which leads to the use of more serious drugs such as, cocaine, ecstasy, and heroin.

Marijuana has not always been used as a purpose to get high. It has several other qualities that people took advantage of when the main focus of the human race was on survival. Marijuana has been used as a food, a medicine, a fiber for textiles, and, as mentioned above, an intoxicant. According to Narconon, marijuana was a vital crop needed for survival in many countries dating all the way back to 5000bc.

Marijuana was used in ancient China, as far back as 5000 B.C. The Incan?s and Mayan?s used marijuana in religious ceremonies. Marijuana also has roots in this country. The Indians of the plains used marijuana in their peace pipes as a sign of friendship and peace. The cultivation of the marijuana plant began as far back as the Jamestown settlers, around 1629, who used hemp produced from the marijuana plant’s fibers to make rope and canvas. It was also used in making clothing because of it’s durability (Drug Culture).

Back when early settlers first came to America, before the cotton gin was invented, marijuana was a popular and important crop for early colonists. ?Marijuana has been recorded to be used by colonists as early as 1629? (Drug Culture). In our history lessons it is barely ever mentioned that marijuana was vital to the early settlers. The professors only speak of cotton, and rice, and potatoes, but not marijuana. It is an important fact that should be discussed. If one of our founding fathers was known to grow this natural weed, then why is it not taught in our history lessons?

One of the early colonists who grew hemp [ marijuana ] was George Washington. In his diary entry of August 7, 1765, Washington noted: ?begin to separate the Male from the Female hemp at Do- rather too late.? And two days later: ?Abt. 6 o?clock put some Hemp in river to rot-.? And in September of that year, our gentleman farmer chronicled: ?Began to pull Seed Hemp – but not sufficiently ripe.? (Sloman 21)

These entries by George Washington simply suggest two things. First it suggests that Washington was growing marijuana to use for the psychological quality because he was carefully separating the male plant from the female plant. Second, it suggests that he was merely soaking, not smoking his pot, because he let it rot in the river to get tough, as most marijuana growers did back then. Nevertheless, Washington did cultivate this plant, and the specific reason is not known for sure, but one can only speculate it was either for survival, or he simply enjoyed the euphoric qualities of this plant when carefully cultivated.

Marijuana did not truly come into play as a drug that caused problems among its users until the 1900?s. Once marijuana was linked to crime the government took actions to prohibit marijuana.

In 1937 the government issued the Marijuana Tax Act, which levied a dollar an ounce tax on marijuana, coupled with fines of $2,000 for drug possession and jail sentences for evasion of the tax. For this reason marijuana use in the United States appears to have gone into decline in the late 30’s. (Grolier 54)

Marijuana was then outlawed in 1937 as a repressive measure against Mexican workers who crossed the border seeking jobs during the Depression. The specific reason given for the outlawing of the hemp plant was it’s supposed violent effect on the degenerate races (Preston 86).

Prohibition of alcohol was repealed after just thirteen years while the prohibition against marijuana lasted for more than seventy five years. This double standard may have resulted from the wishes of those in power. Alcohol prohibition struck directly at tens of millions of Americans of all ages, including many of societies most powerful members. Marijuana prohibition threatened far fewer Americans, and they had relatively little influence in the districts of power. Only the prohibition of marijuana, which some sixty million Americans have violated since 1965 has come close to approximating the prohibition experience, but marijuana smokers consist mostly of young and relatively powerless Americans (Nadelmann 47).

Beginning in the 60’s marijuana use saw a resurgence which may be attributed to many causes. One of the main causes was the rebellion of youth against the Vietnam War. They used marijuana as an escape from war to peace. It was easy at this time to depict marijuana as a beneficial and completely harmless substance whose effects were far less harmful than those of legal drugs such as alcohol and nicotine because there was not enough scientific research done during the 60’s. (Grolier 54)

Another cause may have been the discovery of the psychoactive component of marijuana- tetrahydrocannabinol, commonly known as THC. Users found the relation between the doses and the effects (Grolier 69). ?Many people believe that marijuana may help certain conditions, including the nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite that often accompany AIDS? (Consroe). Because there are benefits from the THC found in marijuana, the Food and Drug administration approved Marinol, a capsule containing THC, as a treatment of nausea, vomiting, and weight loss in patients with cancer or AIDS. (Carson-Dewitt 706)

Some States, such as, California, Oregon, Arizona, and several other states have actually taken steps to make marijuana use legal for medical purposes. One should remember that not everyone believes that this is truly beneficial. ?Many doctors feel that the risks of taking a drug by smoking it outweigh any possible benefit? (Consroe). Even though, in 1999 the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences concluded that marijuana could possibly have benefits as a medicine, the Federal government continues to enforce laws against possessing and using the drug for any reason, whether it be recreational or medical (Carson-Dewitt 710).

The legal consequences for the possession of marijuana vary from state to state. The severity of the punishment if caught with marijuana depend on how much you were caught with, if you intended to sell it, if you were growing it, and where you were caught with marijuana. For example; a person caught near a school selling marijuana can be punished more severely then if you were caught in your own home. One should note that jail time and fines have done very little to suppress the use of Marijuana in the United States. ?Marijuana is still a very popular drug among many people. Marijuana continues to be the illegal drug of choice for many Americans, as it has for decades? (Narconon).

Food, fiber, clothing, ropes, and medicine, the forgotten qualities that the marijuana (hemp) plant possess. Nowadays, marijuana is considered to be taboo. Marijuana has evolved from being an important crop needed for survival, to a crop that the federal government spends a lot of money to find and destroy if illegally grown. The future of marijuana is unknown. For patients with AIDS, or cancer, it is an important medicine. For the government it is a costly problem. We can only wait and see if both sides on the marijuana debate can come to agree on this controversial plant.

Works Cited

Carson-Dewitt, Rosalyn MD. Encyclopedia of Drugs and Alcohol & Addictive Behavior. Second Edition, Vol. II, E-Q, Macmillan Reference Center, 2001, pages 702-712.

Consroe, Paul. ?Marijuana,? World Book Online Reference Center. Http://www.aolsvc.worldbook.aol/ar?/ha/co/ar344500.htm. October 20, 2003

Drug Culture. ?Marijuana: History of Marijuana In The U.S., Marijuana Info.?

Http://marijuana.drug-culture.com/history/history.asp. October 18, 2003

?Marijuana, Recreational Drug Use, Marijuana Info?. Http://marijuan.drug-

culture.com/history/rec.asp. October 18.

Grolier Wellness Encyclopedia. ?Drugs, Society & Behavior.? Vol. 3, pages 54-71, 1992.

Nadelmann, Ethan A. American Heritage Magazine. Feb-Mar, 1993.

Narconon California. ?History of Marijuana by Marijuana Addiction.Info.? Http://www.marijuanaaddiction.info/history-of-marijuan.htm. October 20, 2003

?Harmful Effects Of Marijuana By Marijuana Addiction.Info?. Http:/marijuana addiction.info/harmful-effects-of-marijuana.htm. October 20, 2003

?Marijuana Laws By Marijuana Addiction.Info.? Http://www.marijuanaaddiction.info/marijuana-laws.htm. October 20, 2003

?Facts About Marijuana By Marijuana Addiction.Info.?

Http://www.marijuanaaddiction.info/facts-about-marijuana.htm. October 20, 2003

Preston, Brian. Pot Planet: Adventures In Global Marijuana Culture. New York, Grove Press, 2nd edition, pages 80-87, 2002.

Sloman, Larry ?Ratso?. Reefer Madness: The History of Marijuana in America. New York: St. Martin?s Griffin, 1979

Webster’s New World Dictionary. ?Euphoria.? Third College Edition, page 827, 1988.

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