The history of cannabis from 1910-today is full of events that have shaped the contemporary landscape of the industry, access to cannabis, and ongoing prohibition. Across the world, cannabis laws are starting to relax after over 100 years of prohibition in some cases.
Make sure you check out part one of “The History of Cannabis” in which we delve into the years 2,700 B.C – 1910. With that being said, check out the history of cannabis from 1910 onward.
1910 – As mentioned in part one of The History of Cannabis, 1910 was a year in which negative stigmas emerged surrounding the use of cannabis.
1911 – San Francisco, California: Many Hindu migrants to California smoke and grow cannabis. The fact that these people were immigrants raised concerns with many locals who knew nothing of the cultural and medicinal properties of cannabis. South Africa begins the process of cannabis prohibition making it one of the earliest nations to enact any sort of federal laws with regards to cannabis.
1912 – The International Opium Conference lays the groundwork for taxing and regulating imports of cannabis and other drugs. The United States and China prefer to take the route of prohibition and withdraw from the treaty which was later incorporated into the Treaty of Versailles in 1919. Controls on prescription drugs, such as cannabis, are also widely discussed at the international level for the first time.
1915 – Nowadays, many think of California as one of the cannabis Meccas of the world. In 1915 however, California became the first state in the U.S to make cannabis completely illegal.
1919 – Texas follows the lead of California and prohibits the use and cultivation of cannabis completely.
1923 – The League of Nations, the precursor to the modern United Nations, hears from a South African representative who argues that miners in their country are far less productive when they use cannabis. This representative also called for an international prohibition of cannabis, but, Britain claims more research is needed before cannabis can be outlawed.
1924 – The second International Opium Conference sees an Egyptian delegate claim that there have been serious problems within Egypt due to the use of hash. The International Opium Conference designates cannabis as a narcotic on the same level as opiates; they also recommend international laws and systems to control the spread of narcotics.
1925 – The Panama Canal Zone Report on Marijuana Smoking in Panama concludes that there is no such evidence that cannabis is detrimental to an individual, habit-forming, or, even dangerous to soldiers in the field. This report was produced due to the popularity of cannabis among U.S soldiers.
1928 – Cannabis is made illegal in Britain with the Dangerous Drugs Act (1928).
1930 – Louis Armstrong, the influential jazz musician, is arrested in Los Angeles for the possession of cannabis.
1931 – The United States forms the Federal Bureau of Narcotics. Harry J. Anslinger is designated as the head of this organization and he is a consistent thorn in the side of cannabis users and activists across the United States for the next several years. The Federal Bureau of Narcotics lobbied the U.S government for harsh penalties for any level of drug possession.
1936 – Reefer Madness is released.
1937 – In front of the United States’ Congress, Harry J. Anslinger testifies (falsely) that “marijuana is the most violence-causing drug known to man”. The term ‘marijuana’, used in this context, denotes a foreign, demonized element to cannabis and its users across the United States, no matter their actual race. Two major organizations (the American Medical Association (AMA) and the National Oil Seed Institute) who were greatly important to the public perception of cannabis were also confused by the use of the word marijuana and did not know that cannabis and marijuana are one and the same!
1937 – Another incredibly important event in the history of cannabis during 1937 is the Marihuana Tax Act, implemented to destroy the cannabis/hemp industry completely. Many powerful individuals, including politicians, who had business interests within the timber, forestry, and paper industries lobbied U.S politicians in order to have this act passed. The Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 effectively killed the United States’ hemp industry overnight.
1938 – Popular Mechanics Magazine claims that cannabis/hemp is the new ‘billion-dollar crop’. The article was written just before the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 was implemented.
1943 – World War II rages on and supplies are desperately needed by both sides. Both the American and German (Nazi) governments encourage local farmers to grow hemp during the war effort, sidestepping the 1937 Marihuana Tax Act for several years. A film, entitled Hemp for Victory, was produced by the U.S government in order to inspire hemp growers across the nation. Later, the U.S government denied this film ever existed.
1944 – Doctors within the United States are threatened with prison time if they conduct independent research on the benefits or effects of cannabis.
1945 – Newsweek Magazine reports that over 100,000 American citizens use cannabis on a regular basis.
1948 – Harry J. Anslinger, the lying drug-czar, changes his views on why cannabis causes harm. His views changed to align with the political ignorance of the time; he now claims publicly that cannabis is being used as a weapon by the Soviet Union (and other Communists) to pacify American citizens.
1951 – The United Nations releases a report on worldwide drug usage. This report estimates that there are 200 million cannabis users across the world.
1961 – The United Nations Drug Convention sees new international restrictions placed on cannabis. The aim of this conference is to eliminate cannabis use within 25 years which was obviously impossible. Harry J. Anslinger is the head of the U.S delegation to the convention.
1962 – John F. Kennedy, now the U.S President, fires Harry J. Anslinger. JFK may or may not have smoked cannabis in The White House.
1964 – The U.S sees its very first “Head Stores” open across the country, birthed from the counterculture hippie movement of the time.
1966 – The British Pop Star Donovan is arrested for the possession of cannabis. This arrest caused a chain reaction with many other musicians, such as The Beatles and the Rolling Stones, also being arrested for the possession of cannabis.
1967 – Abbie Hoffman and the Yippies mail out 3,000 cannabis joints to random people selected from the phonebook. The joints were wrapped in a note that stated, “You are now a criminal for possessing cannabis”, as well as cannabis information and history. Jimi Hendrix personally funded the cannabis and materials used in this operation.
1971 – An important year in the history of cannabis, 1971 marks a year in which anti-drug propaganda was at its highest and even the President of the U.S (Nixon) mentioned the term “War on Drugs” which quickly gained steam in the mass media. Nixon’s approach to drugs was to incarcerate and eradicate, rather than rehabilitate and regulate. The prevalence of drug use and harm during the Vietnam War, among soldiers and U.S citizens, somewhat helped to demonize cannabis alongside other drugs such as heroin.
1972 – The United States Government passes a $1 billion anti-drug bill, greatly increasing spending on law enforcement and other measures that they deemed would help to eliminate drugs. Between 1969-1973, government spending on The War on Drugs rose 1,000%!
1973 – Oregon takes substantial steps towards making medicinal cannabis legal once again for those who need it.
1975 – Alaska’s Supreme Court rules in favour of allowing their citizens to consume cannabis within their own homes, setting a decriminalized possession limit to 28 grams (one ounce). The Fourth Amendment of the U.S Constitution alludes to a “Right to Privacy”, in which U.S citizens are legally entitled to privacy within their own homes. Also, hundreds of Doctors within the United States call upon the government to research cannabis further within the field of medicine.
1976 – Gerald Ford, the new U.S President, bans all forms of government funding for cannabis research. Meanwhile, he allows large pharmaceutical companies to research synthetic cannabis and cannabinoids. This shows that the U.S government, in conjunction with large pharmaceutical companies, tried to control the production of cannabis medicine. Also, in 1976, President Ford’s Chief Drug Advisor Robert Dupont states publicly that cannabis is less harmful than alcohol or tobacco.
1978 – New Mexico becomes the first state in the U.S to begin a comprehensive medical cannabis program.
1988 – The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) rejects findings from Francis Young, including the statement that “cannabis in its natural form is the safest therapeutic substance known to man”. Furthermore, Francis Young recommends cannabis for several medical ailments. The DEA adds another $2.6 billion to its anti-drug budget.
1989 – Ronald Reagan, U.S President, declares ‘victory’ on The War on Drugs. This laughable statement is contrasted by the U.S Secretary of State James Baker, who claims that it is “clearly not being won”.
1990 – The International Journal of Science Nature, publishes a report that shows cannabinoid (THC) receptors within the brain.
1995 – In the United States, the 10 millionth person to be arrested for cannabis possession since 1965 is processed. On average, 333,000 people per year from 1965-1995 were being arrested for cannabis possession in the United States alone.
1996 – Proposition 215, a law that permits medical cannabis prescriptions from legitimate doctors as well as small personal cultivation, passes in California.
From 1996 onward, there has been a worldwide information revolution. The popularity of the internet as a source of information increased substantially throughout the 1990s and into the 2000s. Cannabis cultivation techniques, knowledge, technology, information, and even cannabis history was shared with ease through the internet.
The 1990s also saw many of the strains and lineages we still see today in dispensaries being perfected by amateur growers in the Netherlands, a country where the negative stigmas around cannabis barely exist. Amateur cannabis growers from other countries kept their craft underground.
1997 – The New England Journal of Medicine publishes an editorial piece urging lawmakers to reconsider their stance on the status of cannabis as a drug. The article states: “Federal authorities should rescind their prohibition of the medicinal use of marijuana for seriously ill patients and allow physicians to decide which patients to treat. The government should change marijuana’s status from that of a Schedule 1 drug to that of a Schedule 2 drug and regulate it accordingly.”
1998 – The United States Congress votes to keep cannabis illegal and with the same status as a Schedule 1 narcotic. The U.S Congress also blocked the District of Columbia’s referendum that would have allowed the use of medical cannabis. This referendum had already been voted on in 1998, and, it passed with a 69% majority. Despite this, the U.S Congress continued to prohibit the implementation of this framework.
1998 – Alaska, Oregon, and Washington become the next U.S states to legalize medical cannabis.
1999 – The Institute of Medicine releases a report called Marijuana and Medicine which calls for further scientific research into cannabis and cannabinoids as a beneficial medicinal substance. Health Canada announces funding for medical cannabis research.
2000 – Hawaii, Colorado, and Nevada legalize medical cannabis for their citizens.
2001 – The Supreme Court of the U.S rules (8-0) that there should be no exception to the Controlled Substances Act. The Oakland Cannabis Buyers’ Cooperative, a group that distributed medical cannabis to patients across the U.S, is sued by the United States government.
2002 – The U.S Court of Appeals ruled that the U.S government is prohibited from, “revoking a physician’s license to prescribe controlled substances or conducting an investigation of a physician that might lead to such revocation, where the basis for the government’s action is solely the physician’s professional ‘recommendation’ of the use of medical marijuana.”
2003 – The U.S House of Representatives rejects a motion that would stop federal raids on medical cannabis patients. This motion would have begun a nationwide process to recognize cannabis as a medicine. The first Canadian patient receives government grown cannabis.
2004 – The United Kingdom classifies cannabis as a Class C under the Misuse of Drugs Act (1971). This designation carries lower penalties for possession of cannabis. Vermont and Montana become the 9th and 10th U.S States to legalize medical cannabis.
2005 – Federal agents raid several medical cannabis facilities in California seizing large amounts of cannabis.
2007 – New Mexico becomes the 11th U.S State to legalize cannabis. A DEA judge issued a non-binding statement that claimed, “there is currently an inadequate supply of marijuana available for research purposes… I recommend that Respondent’s application be granted”.
2008 – In the United Kingdom, cannabis is returned to its earlier Class B distinction. In China, a 2,700-year-old tomb containing cannabis was discovered making it the oldest discovered cannabis stash on earth. Michigan legalizes medical cannabis in the United States.
2009 – The U.S Attorney General states that federal raids on medical cannabis facilities will not continue. The U.S state of Maine amends its medical cannabis laws to include dispensary storefronts. The American Medical Association (AMA) releases a statement urging the government to study cannabis as a medicine due to the lack of studies within this subject.
2010 – Arizona, D.C, and New Jersey legalize medical cannabis. The Czech Republic reduces the penalties for small amounts of cannabis possession.
2011 – Government lawyers send threatening letters to states who have access to medical cannabis and the DEA rejects any talk of reclassifying cannabis as a medicine. Delaware legalizes medical cannabis.
2012 – The Los Angeles City Council outright bans medical cannabis dispensaries. Connecticut and Massachusetts legalize medical cannabis. Columbia decriminalizes the possession of 20 grams or less of cannabis.
2013 – New Hampshire and Illinois legalize medical cannabis. The U.S Court of Appeals claims that cannabis should not be designated as a medicine due to the lack of studies surrounding it.
2014 – The U.S government allows banks to do business with legal cannabis businesses. Maryland, Minnesota, and New York all legalize medical cannabis.
2015 – Puerto Rico legalizes medical cannabis. The Federal Government votes to remove some the of impediments that have stopped medical cannabis studies from taking place.
2016 – Pennsylvania and Ohio legalize medical cannabis and Arkansas, Florida, and North Dakota also vote to implement legal medical cannabis programs. Australia legalizes medical cannabis at the federal level.
2017 – Within the U.S, West Virginia votes to legalize medical cannabis for various conditions. The nations of Belize, Cyprus, Greece, Mexico, Peru and many other countries legalize medical cannabis.
2018 – U.S Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinds the Obama-era cannabis guidelines and informs U.S Attorneys that they can decide how to combat cannabis enforcement across the country. The U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves a cannabidiol (CBD) product, making this the first cannabis product approved by the FDA. Oklahoma legalizes medical cannabis. Industrial hemp is also legalized across the United States. Canada legalizes cannabis completely.
2019 – The U.S government designates $3 million for research into CBD and pain relief. THC was excluded from these grants. Ireland legalizes medical cannabis and Israel decriminalizes cannabis possession.
2020 – The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) legalizes the cultivation and possession of cannabis for personal use.
As you can see, the history of cannabis is especially complex, specifically in the past 100 years. Cannabis is still illegal in many locations around the world. Check out the legal status of cannabis in your country here.
Thank you for reading “The History of Cannabis – 1910-today”. Part one of “The History of Cannabis” can be found here or by clicking the image below.
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