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Cannabis; Hemp or Marijuana…Legal? The Origin of Legal Cannabis to Its Criminalization & Now Freedom

Updated: Mar 3, 2023

Cannabis; Hemp or Marijuana…Legal? The Origins of Legal Cannabis to Its Criminalization and Newly Found, Partial, Freedom in the United States

The Beginning of Restrictions

Cannabis has been used throughout human history. Records show usage dates back as far as the

3rd millennium BC. Valued as rope, paper, clothing, medicine and food, cannabis was integrated into everyday life and special ceremonies; for religious and pagan rituals. The use of cannabis was not restricted until about the 14th century. This form of regulation was started in Islamic countries. Fast forward to the United States, restrictions were not instilled until the 1900’s. The use of cannabis in the U.S. by companies, manufacturing medicines, were largely unregulated. Many products available on the market were consistently shown to have been tainted and laced with dangerous or unknown substances. The Pure Food and Drug Act (now known as the Cosmetics Act of 1938) was passed to grab ahold of these unlawful companies and their products but it was not enough to keep the dangerous substances off the market.

Cannabis was largely used throughout Hispanic and Black communities. In 1914, one of the first cannabis drug raids in the nation occurred in the Mexican-American neighborhood of Sonoratown in Los Angeles, where police raided two "dream gardens" and confiscated a wagonload of cannabis.

The Uniform State Narcotic Drug Act of 1925 - 1932 was one of the first pieces of legislation that unambiguously gave police the power to enforce drug laws, as well as standardizing many aspects of cannabis prohibition. Marihuana Tax Act (1937) was passed, “unofficially” making cannabis illegal in the U.S. Many of the regulations and controls on cannabis distribution in America were based on fines and economic penalties placed-and-enforced by the police. Therefore, if your pinky toe was out-of-line, you would be hit with such fines that your great-grandchildren would suffer and you would face possible imprisonment. However there were still cannabis farmers in the U.S.

The Nail In The Coffin – Cannabis Made Illegal

The Federal Bureau of Narcotics’ (FBN) head, Harry J, Anslinger, ran his election campaign

against marijuana. Using newspaper kingpin William Randolph Hearst's empire of newspapers, "yellow journalism" was pioneered to demonize the cannabis plant and spread a public perception that there were connections between cannabis and violent crime. Anslinger, driven by the desire to keep his job and Hearst, driven by his desire to repay debts to a Canadian paper company he uses for printing, both men made every effort to prove that cannabis was “bad” for “good Christian American families”. Using Hearst’s media platform for support, Anslinger’s campaign included stories of “urban black men who enticed young white women to become sex-crazed and instantly addicted to marijuana”; calling it a “gateway drug”. Often times you will hear certain age groups use this phrase in reference anything cannabis or marijuana related because they too were swayed by the false information and propaganda presented by Anslinger and Hearst.

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) had not yet been identified in the 1930’s, therefore, the reasons they used in an attempt to explain the psychoactive effects of cannabis were both speculative and unfounded. Because of this fact, any studies they cited to support their claim that cannabis caused negative mental effects, should not have been accepted as proof. Those studies largely were incomplete, not proven or were found inconclusive.

Nonetheless, cannabis was officially outlawed for any use (medical included) with the passage of the 1970 Controlled Substances Act (CSA). Cannabis (marijuana) was classified as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act, meaning it had high potential for abuse and no acceptable medical use. Anslinger won his campaign and continued to head the FBN for the next 30 years.

Good Times Ahead

In 1973, Oregon became the first state to decriminalize cannabis. They were followed by Alaska, Colorado, California, Ohio, Minnesota, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, and Nebraska. In 1976, Robert Randall became the first person to be administered marijuana, by the federal government, since its initial criminalization in the U.S.; after proving in federal court his need for marijuana to treat his glaucoma. In 1988, the DEA ruled in favor of the efforts on the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws to moving cannabis to a Schedule II classification, finding that "Marijuana, in its natural form, is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man.

After years of being drug through news reports and misleading articles as the gateway drug, cannabis was legalized for medical use in California under Proposition 215 (Compassionate Use Act of 1996). Since then, many more legislative moves were enacted to legalize the use of both medical and recreational use of marijuana (THC-rich Cannabis) and commercialize the use of hemp cannabis.

Reformation Road

Today, THC-rich cannabis is legal for recreational and medical use in 11 states and for only medical use in 21. It is also legal to grow and cultivate hemp cannabis in the state of Texas. It is also legal to sell and purchase hemp derived cannabidiol (CBD) in all 50 states, due to the introduction of the 2018 Farm Bill. CBD laws in some states are friendlier than others. The FDA is still set to refine and reform regulations.  Rest assured Wholesome Healing will continue to keep you up to date and make sure your purchases are safe.

One of the latest regulations state that CBD oil is an ingredient in a prescription drug that treats a serious condition. Sub-sequentially, it can't be defined as a dietary supplement. Under the Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act, which is the large federal legislation that allows the FDA to conduct its operations, it's illegal to introduce prescription drug ingredients into dietary supplements. Because CBD is used in prescription drugs, such as Epidiolex, it can't also be used as a dietary supplement. This is the reason you will not see any CBD products that we may carry listed as “dietary supplements”.

The world of cannabis can be difficult to navigate but as we continue to read and post information about the historical facts and studies, our comfortability and responsible use of cannabis will continue to rise.



Associated Press. "Judge Urges Allowing Medicinal Use of Marijauna". The New York Times. Associated Press. September 7, 1988. Retrieved September 6, 2019

Isikoff, Michael (September 19, 1988). "DEA judge's 'fresh' view on legal marijuana use". The Washington Post. Retrieved September 6, 2019

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