History of Cannabis
Cannabis has been used for therapeutic purposes for centuries. The first evidence of its use has been documented around 2500 BC, where Chinese emperor named Shen Nung (circa 2700 BC; also known as Chen Nung) wrote The Herbal, still in use today by practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine. This manuscript describes cannabis as a suitable treatment for medicinal purposes as a therapy for malaria, rheumatism, constipation, absent-mindedness, and menstrual cramps. It is once again, historically, observed in a religious manner in 1450 BC as marijuana proponents suggest that the recipe for the anointing oil passed from God to Moses included cannabis. The Egyptians used cannabis for glaucoma and as an anti-inflammatory therapy in 1213 BC. Cannabis milk was first produced in 1000 BC in India and is still used today. In the year 30, some historians contend that Christ was anointed with chrism, a cannabis-based oil that caused his spiritual visions. In the year 70, Roman medical texts cite that the plant, used in the making of rope, also produced a juice that was used to treat an earache and sexual longing.
Throughout the 1800’s, several publications recommended the use of cannabis for a variety of illnesses and discomfort. For example, in 1839, western physicians took notice of cannabis as a safe treatment for patients suffering from rabies, rheumatism, epilepsy, and tetanus. In 1854, the United States Dispensatory also noted other benefits such as its use to increase appetite, aid in sleep-related issues, anti-anxiety therapy, and treatment for seizures. In 1906, the Pure Food and Drug act required proper labeling of food and drugs, including cannabis. Congress declared the use of cannabis illegal in 1938, to align with the beliefs of doctors practicing western medicine.
With its usage on the rise in the seventies, Congress passed the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act (also called the Controlled Substances Act) and transferred cannabis into Schedule 1 of illegal substances. President Nixon declared 1971 the year for the “War on Drugs”. In 1972, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) petitioned the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs (formerly the Federal Bureau of Narcotics) to transfer marijuana to Schedule II so that it could be legally prescribed by physicians.
It was not until 1980 that the medicinal use of the plant and usage of Marinol, a synthetic version of THC, were both tested as potential treatment options for cancer patients. As a result of this scientific investigation, Marinol, produced by Unimed, was approved by the FDA as a recommended medication for AIDS patients due to the antiemetic value (drugs effective against vomiting and nausea). After years of research on the mechanisms of cannabis effects, the human ‘cannabis receptors’ were discovered in 1990. San Francisco passed the first medical marijuana initiative in 1991 and just a year later, scientists discovered the endocannabinoid system in the brain which is believed to help mediate emotions, consolidate memory, and coordinate movement.
On May 14, 2001, the US Supreme Court ruled 8-0 that “there is no medical necessity exception to the Controlled Substances Act’s prohibitions on manufacturing and distributing marijuana,” and a patent is granted to the US Department of Health and Human for the medical use of “cannabinoids as antioxidants and neuroprotectants.”
A petition to reschedule marijuana was filed by the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) in 1995, and, by 1996, medical marijuana was made legal in California. Two years later, Alaska, Oregon, and Washington became the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th states to legalize medicinal marijuana. Montana and Vermont were added to the states that legalized marijuana in 2004, as well as, New Mexico in 2007.
In 2007 Mary Ellen Bittner, a DEA Administrative Law Judge, ruled in favor of allowing marijuana to be grown for research purposes at the University of Massachusetts. On February 15, 2008, the American College of Physicians released documention that supported the use of non-smoked types of THC for medicinal purposes. On May 22 of 2008, The Second District of California Court of Appeals overturned a previous ruling, and, in turn, the state limits on medical marijuana possession and cultivation established under state law SB 420 were now considered unconstitutional. Then, on Aug. 25, 2008, the California Attorney General issued guidelines for law enforcement and medical marijuana patients to clarify the state’s laws on marijuana. In 2008, California attorney general recommended that state and local law enforcement officers not arrest individuals or seize marijuana under federal law when the officer determines from the facts available that the cultivation, possession, or transportation is permitted under California’s medical marijuana laws.
The non-binding 11-page document states, “In light of California’s decision to remove the use and cultivation of physician recommended marijuana from the scope of the state’s drug laws, this Office recommends that state and local law enforcement officers not arrest individuals or seize marijuana under federal law when the officer determines from the facts available that the cultivation, possession, or transportation is permitted under California’s medical marijuana laws.”
The regulated cannabis market is projected to grow from $6.7 billion in 2016 to $22.6 billion by 2021, according to ArcView Market Research. More traction is being gained daily and we are at the outset of the “Cannabis Rush”. Producers and dispensaries are encouraged to have reputable and safe quality products that differentiate them amongst their competitors. We can also expect a lot of new further developments in the marijuana industry in the next decade from both a medical and regulatory point of view that will push for positive reform and product education in the overall marketplace.