No matter where you are, mentioning cannabis legalisation sparks an endless debate with lots of grey areas. The stigma placed on cannabis says a lot about its pharmaceutical potential, its history as a medication, and its unbeatable profitability as a plant commodity. Although the lack of research on this plant has persisted for years, a green wave of dedicated doctors, experts and patients has now arrived to sweep over it supporting cannabis-based medicines and hemp growth.
Why is Pot Illegal?
In order to understand how humans interacted with this plant until it was declared illegal, Dr. Earleywine, B.A. and PhD in psychology, analyses the use of cannabis throughout history and finds that prohibition was a result of migration and the origin of racism. Medicinal use of cannabis began around 2737 B.C., long after its first use as a fibre, and was introduced by the mystical Chinese emperor Shen Neng. The emperor prescribed cannabis tea to treat gout, malaria, beriberi, rheumatism, and, curiously, poor memory. The world and its medicines were significantly different 5000 years ago: medicine was still associated with magic and some treatments were not ideal. Shen Neng’s herbs probably healed as much as any alternatives during the same era, particularly in China.
In other countries, people resorted to other kinds of medications. Opium was popular in the Middle East but had not reached China yet. Native South Americans chewed coca leaves roughly 200 years after marijuana’s medical properties were discovered (2500 B.C.), but they lived too far away to provide this medication to the “Old Continent.” Finally, the use of cannabis spread from China to India. By 1400 B.C., the sacred Indian text Atharvaveda listed marijuana as one of the holy plants that could relieve stress. As the Hindu culture sanctioned alcohol consumption, cannabis was one of the few available substances that people could use to reduce anxiety.
Marijuana reached farther lands, while new uses for it developed back in China. In ancient Rome, Pliny the Elder mentioned marijuana’s analgesic properties. By the 12th century, marijuana had reached from Egypt to the rest of Africa, evidenced by archaeologists’ findings of pipes from the 1300s containing traces of cannabis in Ethiopia.
When Did Weed Become Illegal?
Given that hemp was discovered in Asia, the first people who used this plant for pleasure were probably from this region. From Europe to America, marijuana was a source of indulgence to poets, writers, artists, politicians, and even members of the royalty. Eventually, cannabis found its way to the U.S. as a narcotic. This drug was first mentioned by a North American writer in 1854, in a poem by John Greenleaf Whittier. Laws prohibiting the use of opium emerged by the end of the 19th century. Opium, alcohol, and cocaine were more popular, and all these substances were to become illegal in the following years.
Why Did Cannabis Become Illegal?
In his book “Understanding Marijuana,” Dr. Earleywine, a prominent figure at the Columbia University School of Psychology and currently a professor at Albany, narrates the history of the cannabis plant across time and space until the dark ages of prohibition.
This psychologist and professor argues that prohibition may have originated as a reflection of racism against Asian people. Exaggerated reports of cocaine’s effects, particularly on people of African or Caribbean descent, played a role in favour of legislation against this drug. According to the author, comparable discrimination against Mexican and African immigrants may have contributed to later cannabis prohibition.
An even stronger argument quoted by Earleywine in his book refers to hemp growing and competition against other crops. A market that emerges today as a sustainable alternative. Mitch claims that after Prohibition was repealed in the U.S., marijuana became the target of government control. Tabloid journalism linked violent acts to cannabis consumption. Frequently, these reports ignored more reasonable alternative explanations such as the use of alcohol or mental illnesses. Many of these extravagant stories appeared in newspapers published by William Randolph Hearst. Hearst purportedly had financial interests in the lumber and paper industries, which is why he may have intended to avoid competition from hemp.
What If Marijuana Was Legal?
One of the main concerns in connection with cannabis prohibition is the growing black market that stems from its use and the violence caused by drug trafficking. Countries like Colombia and Mexico are experiencing first-hand the scourge of war against this problem, which is a threat capable of spreading across Latin America. In Mexico, the war on drugs has improved the profitability of illicit drugs, favouring a rise in violent organized crime and generalised corruption, which damages the rule of law and increases the likelihood of human rights violations.