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United States History of Cannabis

1378643_american_grungeFor most of American history, growing and using marijuana was legal under both federal law and the laws of the individual states. By the 1840s, marijuana’s therapeutic potential began to be recognized by some U.S. physicians. From 1850 to 1941 cannabis was included in the United States Pharmacopoeia as a recognized medicinal. By the end of 1936, however, all 48 states had enacted laws to regulate marijuana. Its decline in medicine was hastened by the development of aspirin, morphine, and then other opium-derived drugs, all of which helped to replace marijuana in the treatment of pain and other medical conditions in Western medicine. More on Cannabis in American History

Fun Facts

Pre-Prohibition in the United States

First cultivated more than 5,000 years ago, marijuana is one of the oldest agricultural commodities not grown for food, as its stalks contain fibers that can be used for industrial purposes. The psychoactive effects of cannabis were first recorded by the Emperor of China Shennong in the 28th century BC.  The first American law concerning cannabis was passed by the Virginia General Assembly in 1619, which required every household to grow hemp since it was viewed as a “strategic necessity”. Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and other colonies later allowed hemp to be used as legal tender, increasing production by farmers. Founding Fathers, including George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, grew hemp, though there is no evidence that they knew of the plant’s psychoactive properties.

Domestic production of hemp continued until the Civil War, when Russia began importing hemp products.  Hinting at recreational use of cannabis, Abraham Lincoln admitted in a letter written during his presidency that one of his “favorite things” was “sitting on [his] front porch smoking a pipe of sweet hemp”.  Marijuana became a common ingredient in medicine during the second half of the 19th century, sold openly in pharmacies as cures for migraines, rheumatism and insomnia. It was not until the Mexican Revolution, when waves of Mexican immigrants reached the American Southwest, that marijuana was viewed in a negative manner. Prejudices towards the immigrants were extended to their “traditional source of intoxication: smoking marijuana.” Once marijuana reached New Orleans, newspapers associated the drug with “African Americans, jazz musicians, prostitutes, and under world whites.”  El Paso enacted a local ordinance banning the sale or possession of marijuana in 1914, and by 1931 the drug was illegal in 29 U.S. states.

Prior to prohibition, U.S. politicians known for growing cannabis include some of the nation’s Founding Fathers and Presidents.

The Marihuana Tax Act of 1937, Pub. 238, 75th Congress, 50 Stat. 551 (Aug. 2, 1937) was a United States Act that placed a tax on the sale of cannabis. The act was drafted by Harry Anslinger and introduced by Rep. Robert L. Doughton of North Carolina, on April 14, 1937. The Act is now commonly referred to using the modern spelling as the 1937 Marijuana Tax Act. This act was overturned in 1969 in Leary v. United States, and was repealed by Congress the next year

Sources: Wikipedia
List of United States politicians who admit to cannabis use

Marihuana Tax ACT 1937


Post-Prohibition in the United States

In the U.S., cannabis was initially grown for industrial reasons, though recreational use spread quickly during the 20th century. Harry J. Anslinger, Commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, responded to political pressure to ban marijuana at a nationwide level. The Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 created an expensive excise tax, and included penalty provisions and elaborate rules of enforcement to which marijuana, cannabis, or hemp handlers were subject. Mandatory sentencing and increased punishment were enacted when the United States Congress passed the Boggs Act of 1952 and the Narcotics Control Act of 1956.

During the counterculture of the 1960s, attitudes towards marijuana and drug abuse policy changed as use became widespread among “white middle-class college students”. In Leary v. United States (1969), the Supreme Court held the Marihuana Tax Act to be unconstitutional since it violated the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution privilege against self-incrimination. In response, Congress passed the Controlled Substances Act as Title II of the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970, which repealed the Marihuana Tax Act. In 1972, the National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse concluded that marijuana should be decriminalized, but that public use and driving while intoxicated should remain illegal. By the end of the decade, several states had decriminalized the drug, while many others weakened their laws against cannabis use.

However, a wave of conservatism during the 1980s allowed President Ronald Reagan to accelerate the War on Drugs during his presidency, prompting anti-drug campaigns such as the “Just Say No” campaign of First Lady Nancy Reagan. Federal penalties for cultivation, possession, or transfer of marijuana were increased by the Comprehensive Crime Control Act (1984), the Anti-Drug Abuse Act (1986), and the Anti-Drug Abuse Amendment Act (1988). Since California voters passed the Proposition 215 in 1996, which legalized medical cannabis, several states have followed suit. However, United States v. Oakland Cannabis Buyers’ Cooperative (2001) rejected the common-law medical necessity defense to crimes enacted under the Controlled Substances Act because Congress concluded that cannabis has “no currently accepted medical use”, and Gonzales v. Raich (2005) concluded that the Commerce Clause of the Constitution allowed the federal government to ban the use of cannabis, including medical use. Today, cannabis remains classified as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act, and possession is punishable by up to one year in jail and a minimum fine of $1,000 for a first conviction.

Politicians that have admitted to recreational use following prohibition include mayors, Governors, members of the House of Representatives, Senators, and Presidents.

Source: Wikipedia: List of United States politicians who admit to cannabis use


War on Drugs

The War on Drugs is a controversial campaign of prohibition and foreign military aid and military intervention being undertaken by the United States government, with the assistance of participating countries, intended to both define and reduce the illegal drug trade. This initiative includes a set of drug policies of the United States that are intended to discourage the production, distribution, and consumption of illegal psychoactive drugs. The term “War on Drugs” was first used by President Richard Nixon in 1971.

The Global Commission on Drug Policy has declared the international War on Drugs to be a “massive failure,” and has called for more progressive policies regarding drugs across national borders.

The 19-member panel cited “devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world” due to the criminalization of drug use. The panel, which included former UN chief Kofi Annan and international man of mystery Richard Branson, also looked at improvements in drug use statistics in countries with liberal drug policies:

There are some shocking figures in the study. One chart in the report shows that between 1998 and 2008 opiate consumption in the United States climbed by 34.5 percent. Cocaine use rose 27 percent during that time. The report even claims that medically prescribing heroin was found to reduce petty crime in the Netherlands, while having “positive effects on the health of people struggling with addiction.”  In the US, a drug treatment center is considered a much safer, effective method of overcoming addiction.

Not surprisingly, governments gave no indication that the recommendations would be taken under advisement. Quoth people who drug legalization could put out of a job:

“Making drugs more available — as this report suggests — will make it harder to keep our communities healthy and safe,” said Rafael Lemaitre, spokesman for the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.
Some analysts argue relaxing drug policy will cause criminal elements to spill over to other areas, such as trafficking or prostitution. Do you think it’s time to decriminalize drugs? Should we tax them to help the flailing economy?

Sources:
Wikipedia: War on Drugs
War on Drugs a Massive Failure, Panel Says

List of United States Politicians who have admitted to using Cannabis

US Presidents Office Party
Benjamin Franklin President of the Supreme Executive Council of
Pennsylvania
Independent
Andrew Jackson President
of the United States
Democratic
Thomas Jefferson President
of the United States
Democratic-Republican
Abraham Lincoln President
of the United States
Republican
James Madison President
of the United States
Democratic-Republican
James Monroe President
of the United States
Democratic-Republican
Franklin Pierce President
of the United States
Democratic
Zachary Taylor President
of the United States
Whig
George Washington President
of the United States
Bruce Babbitt Secretary
of the Interior
Democratic
Michael Bloomberg Mayor of
New York City
Independent
Bill Bradley Senator
from New Jersey
Democratic
Paul Cellucci Governor of
Massachusetts
Republican
Lincoln Chafee Senator
from Rhode Island
Republican
Lincoln Chafee Senator
from Florida
Republican
Lawton Chiles Senator
from Florida
Democratic
Bill Clinton President
of the United States
Democratic
Andrew Cuomo New York
State Attorney General
Democratic
Howard Dean Chairman of
the Democratic National Committee
Democratic
Joseph DeNucci Massachusetts Auditor Democratic
Mary Donohue Lieutenant
Governor of New York
Republican
John Edwards Senator
from North Carolina
Democratic
Newt Gingrich Speaker of
the House of Representatives
Republican
Al Gore Vice
President of the United States
Democratic
Gary E. Johnson Governor of
New Mexico
Republican
Joseph Patrick Kennedy II Member of
the House of Representatives
Democratic
John Kerry Senator
from Massachusetts
Democratic
Ed Koch Member of
the House of Representatives
Democratic
Connie Mack III Senator
from Florida
Republican
Kyle E. McSlarrow Deputy
Secretary of the Department of Energy
Republican
John Miller Member of
the House of Representatives
Republican
Susan Molinari Member of
the House of Representatives
Republican
Jim Moran Member of
the House of Representatives
Democratic
Evelyn Murphy Lieutenant
Governor of Massachusetts
Democratic
Richard Neal Member of
the House of Representatives
Democratic
Barack Obama President
of the United States
Democratic
Sarah Palin Governor of
Alaska
Republican
George Pataki Governor of
New York
Republican
David Paterson Governor of
New York
Democratic
Edward W. Pattison Member of
the House of Representatives
Democratic
Claiborne Pell Senator
from Rhode Island
Democratic
Arnold Schwarzenegger Governor of
California
Republican
William Scranton Ambassador
to the United Nations
Republican
Bill Thompson New York
City Controller
Democratic
Peter G. Torkildsen Member of
the House of Representatives
Republican
Jesse Ventura Governor of
Minnesota
Independent
Source:

Wikipedia: List of United States politicians who
admit to cannabis use

Support for Medical Marijuana

Source: Marijuana – The Facts

Medical marijuana has strong support from voters and health organizations. The federal government, however, has resisted any change to marijuana’s illegal status at the federal level. The Supreme Court ruled in 2005 in Raich v. Gonzales that the federal government can prosecute medical marijuana patients, even in states with compassionate use laws, and several medical marijuana dispensaries in California have since been subject to Drug Enforcement Administration raids.

Federal Law

In the wake of the June 2005 Supreme Court decision, Congress had an opportunity to protect patients by passing an amendment to a Justice Department spending bill that would have prohibited the department from spending any money to undermine state medical marijuana laws. The amendment, offered for the third year in a row by Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-22nd/NY) and Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-46th/CA), did not pass but got 161 votes – more than it has ever received before. This is substantial progress given that in 1998, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 311-94 for a non-binding resolution condemning medical marijuana.
Marijuana is classified as a Schedule I substance, defined as having a high potential for abuse and no medicinal value. Multiple petitions for rescheduling marijuana have been submitted by reform advocates over the last 30 years. The most recent, submitted in 2002 by the Coalition for Rescheduling Cannabis, calls for a full review of the scientific research and medical practice regarding marijuana. The Food and Drug Administration has yet to respond to this petition.

In 1978, the federal government was forced to allow some patients access to medical marijuana after a “medical necessity” defense was recognized in court, creating the Investigational New Drug (IND) compassionate access program. The IND, which allowed some patients to receive medical marijuana from the government, was closed to new patients in 1992 after it was flooded by applications from AIDS patients. Today, seven surviving patients still receive medical marijuana from the federal government.

State Law

The 2005 Raich Supreme Court decision did not overturn or affect state law, and 99% of all marijuana arrests take place at the state or local level. This means that state laws afford substantial protection to medical marijuana patients. Currently, laws that effectively remove state-level criminal penalties for growing and/or possessing medical marijuana are in place in Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington. Ten states, plus the District of Columbia, have symbolic medical marijuana laws (laws that support medical marijuana but do not provide patients with legal protection under state law).

New Mexico passed its medical marijuana bill in early 2007. In 1998, voters in the District of Columbia approved a medical marijuana initiative by 69% but Congress was able to nullify the vote results because D.C. is a federal district and not a state.

Thirteen states have medical marijuana research laws, and only fifteen states have never had a positive medical marijuana law.

The Courts

In addition to changing state laws, medical marijuana advocates have pursued reform through the courts, most recently in the Raich v. Ashcroft Supreme Court case. Angel Raich, a medical marijuana patient in California, sued the federal government to stop federal raids against patients. Though she did not win the case, the ruling left state medical marijuana laws intact. She is now back in court with an appeal based on a different set of arguments. The new arguments assert that she should be allowed to use medical marijuana because she has the fundamental right to avoid death and severe pain under the Fifth and Ninth Amendments.

In 1997, Conant v. McCaffrey, a class-action lawsuit, was filed on behalf of physicians and seriously ill patients against Drug Czar General Barry McCaffrey and other top federal officials who threatened to revoke prescription licenses or criminally prosecute physicians who recommend medical marijuana. In 2002, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously decided to uphold the right of doctors to recommend marijuana to their patients and of patients to receive that recommendation. Judge Mary Schroeder wrote the majority opinion, which noted that the federal government’s policy of revoking doctors’ licenses “leaves…no security for free discussion.” A concurring opinion by Judge Alex Kozinski stepped even further, noting the prevailing evidence on the medical usefulness of marijuana.

Public Support

Medical marijuana is one of the most widely supported issues in drug policy reform. Numerous published studies suggest that marijuana has medical value in treating patients with serious illnesses such as AIDS, glaucoma, cancer, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, and chronic pain. In 1999, the Institute of Medicine, in the most comprehensive study of medical marijuana’s efficacy to date, concluded, “Nausea, appetite loss, pain and anxiety . . . all can be mitigated by marijuana.” Allowing patients legal access to medical marijuana has been discussed by numerous organizations, including the AIDS Action Council, American Bar Association, American Public Health Association, California Medical Association, National Association of Attorneys General, and several state nurses associations.

Public opinion is also in favor of ending the prohibition of medical marijuana. According to a 1999 Gallup poll, 73% of Americans are in favor of “making marijuana legally available for doctors to prescribe in order to reduce pain and suffering.” In a 2004 poll commissioned by AARP, 72% of Americans ages 45 and older thought marijuana should be legal for medicinal purposes if recommended by a doctor. Also, since 1996, voters in eight states plus the District of Columbia have passed favorable medical marijuana ballot initiatives.


Marijuana as an Intoxicant in the United States

The, events surrounding the introduction of cannabis use to the New World are entirely unclear. Some historians say the Spaniards brought the plant with them in the 16th century, other say Marijuana smoking came in with the slave trade or with the Asian Indian migration of the late 18th century.

The hemp plant was cultivated in the United States for centuries, apparently without general knowledge of its intoxicating properties (Grinspoon, 1971: 10). Cannabis was an often used medicine in the United States in the 19th century. It was easily available without a prescription and was also widely prescribed by physicians (Snyder, 1970: 26). Hemp was used by the pioneers to cover their wagons. The plant was a major crop in Kentucky, Virginia, Wisconsin and Indiana, and was one of the more important southern agricultural products, after cotton.. It is still used to make rope, twine and textiles, while the seed is used as bird food (Geller and Boas, 1969: 16).

Marijuana use as an intoxicant in the United States began slowly in the early part of this century. Puerto Rican soldiers, and then Americans who were stationed in the Panama Canal Zone, are reported to have been using it by 1916. American soldiers fighting Pancho Villa circa 1916 also learned to use it. This follows the first reported use in Mexico in the 1880’s (Blum and Associates, 1969, 1: 69-70). Intoxicant use in the United States is also traced to the large influx of Mexican laborers in the 1910’s and 1920’s (Geller and Boas, 1969: 14).

The 1933 Report of the “Military Surgeon” stated, regarding Marijuana use among the soldiers in the Canal Zone, that:

Marijuana as grown and used on the Isthmus of Panama is a mild stimulant and intoxicant. It is not a “habit forming” drug in the sense that the derivatives of opium, cocaine, and such drugs, are as there are no symptoms of deprivation following its withdrawal.

Delinquencies due to Marijuana smoking which result in trial by military court are negligible in number when compared with delinquencies resulting from the use of alcohol drinks, which is also classed as a stimulant and intoxicant (Geller and Boas, 1969: 147).

The report went on to say that Marijuana presented no threat to military discipline, and “that no recommendations to prevent the sale or use of Marijuana are deemed advisable.”

Cannabis has been rejected in various societies on ascetic grounds. In such puritanical societies such as the Wahabil of Arabis and the Senussis of Libya, no smoking of any kind was tolerated, nor was coffee. In North Africa, social rank dictated use: the aristocratic Moors scorned both hemp and tobacco smoking, preferring instead, as compatible with high status, opium eating (Blum and Associates, 1969, 1: 73).

One statement highlighting this kind of value conflict comes from a Nigerian journalist (Davies, 1966: 299-300) attempting to explain the 15-year prison sentences of foreign tourists for growing and smoking Marijuana:

There is a growing trend in the more economically advanced countries to indulge at leisure in the exploration of the personality. At a certain stage of development, there is less need to produce and more time to spend consuming. This is healthy. If used properly, Marijuana could be helpful at this stage of development. However, countries which are only beginning to develop a more complex economic structure must channel all their energies into creating a new system. This means that they must sacrifice more of their pleasure. People who smoke hemp seem on the whole to be less aggressive than people who drink alcohol. Hemp smoking may have a positive value for certain social functions….

One of the first acts of the Military Government was to issue a decree making it punishable by death to grow Marijuana, and by up to twenty years of prison for merely being in possession of it . . . meantime, we Nigerians have to stop getting high for a while and develop our country.

In the United States, the decade of the 1960’s has seen a spectacular and unprecedented spread of the use of Marijuana, chiefly among the youth. An estimated 24 million persons have used Marijuana and approximately 3.4 million are current users. The numbers involved and the fact that use spans all age groups and social classes in American life has produced marked public reaction and a need for more information on the drug.

Source: History of the Intoxicant Use of Marijuana

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