Whoo-hoo! What a decade it has been for us here at HERB. We are celebrating 10 years of bringing you news, laughter, and education on the sweet leaf of cannabis. To celebrate, we wanted to highlight ten of the biggest events in cannabis history, both ancient and modern. From the informative to the infamous; the infuriating to the inspiring, here are 10 of the biggest events in herb history, enjoy!
1. Ancient Egypt
Long before Western civilization, and even before the Roman empire, there was Egypt. The pharaohs who ruled over the Nile, and oversaw the construction of the Great Pyramids. With their knowledge of advanced mathematics, astronomy, medicine, and their ritualized belief in the afterlife, they forever changed the course of human history. They also cultivated, among other things, the use of cannabis. Pollen from the plant was found on the mummified body of Ramses II, one of the civilizations greatest rulers. Ancient papyrus texts detail a multitude of uses for the plant, including relief of hemorrhoids and sore eyes.
They also cultivated, among other things, the use of cannabis. Pollen from the plant was found on the mummified body of Ramses II, one of the civilizations greatest rulers. Ancient papyrus texts detail a multitude of uses for the plant, including relief of hemorrhoids and sore eyes.
2. William Shakespeare
The Bard, William Shakespeare is one of the most famous and influential playwrights of all time. His plays have been performed for hundreds of years, and in modern times have been adapted into cinema on dozens of occasions. From Romeo & Juliet to Hamlet, King Lear to A Midsummer Night’s Dream, his works have inspired world leaders, generals, and the common man.
“O thou weed, who art so lovely fair ans smell’st so sweet that the sense aches at theee, Would thou hadst ne’er been born.” – Othello, by Shakespeare
In one of his sonnets, he spoke of a “noted weed”, and in the gardens of his home, clay pipes were uncovered that dated back to his time, filled with traces of burned cannabis. One only has to read his voluminous works to see references to the spiritual enlightenment and psychedelic journeys that cannabis inspired in his creative mind.
3. America’s founding fathers
The ideals of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness were at the core of the birth of the United States of America. That pursuit of happiness was specifically including the smoking of cannabis, or Indian hemp, as it was known in 1776. Not one, but several of the founding fathers espoused the virtues of the plant. George Washington supported its use as currency for the fledgling nation. Benjamin Franklin even started his printing press using hemp paper, and the constitution was drafted on hemp.
“If people let government decide which foods they eat and medicines they take, their bodies will soon be in as sorry a state as are the souls of those who live under tyranny.” – Thomas Jefferson
“We shall, by and by want a world of hemp more for our own consumption” – John Adams
“Make the most of the Indian hemp seed, and sow it everywhere!” – George Washington
Several other historical presidents have also enjoyed the herb, including Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, John F. Kennedy, and Abraham Lincoln.
“Two of my favorite things are sitting on my front porch smoking a pipe of sweet hemp, and playing my Hohnere harmonica.” – Lincoln
4. Queen Victoria
Reigning from 1837 until 1901, she was and still is, Great Britain’s longest ruling monarch. Even great power doesn’t stop the discomforts of Mother Nature, however. To ease her menstrual pains, Sir Russell Reynolds prescribed cannabis in a drink for her in 1823, and she continued to use it for many years, taking great comfort in its therapeutic abilities.
Reynolds noted that cannabis was
“One of the most valuable medicines we possess.”
5. Marihuana Tax Act, 1937
Driven by racism, political maneuvering, and big industry, a propaganda campaign began in the 1930’s to lump hemp and cannabis together under a new name: marihuana. It was through the use of this nickname that they passed the law against the advice of the American Medical Association, who was not initially aware of the proceedings, because until then, it was known simply as cannabis in the United States. Prohibitionists used the word “marihuana” to reference refugees of the Mexican war that had fled to the US, cultivating racist anger. The tax act allowed the arrest of persons for not having the stamp on their cannabis, and prosecution for tax evasion.
By doing so DuPont and big printing mogul William Hearst eliminated the competition of industrial hemp, and Harry J. Anslinger, newly appointed Commissioner of Narcotics, breathed a second wind into his dying department after the repeal of alcohol Prohibition.
6. THC is isolated
Raphael Mechoulam was the first scientist to isolate and subsequently synthesize THC, along with other chemicals in cannabis that he dubbed “cannabinoids”. His discovery in 1964 led to the discoveries of the corresponding system in the human body and paved the way for medical cannabis in the modern era.
7. Netherlands decriminalize cannabis
In the 1970’s, heroin was a serious problem in the Netherlands, with Amsterdam especially being overwhelmed with it, causing horrible problems. By comparison, the use of cannabis and hashish were also becoming widespread, but the government noticed that its use did not come with the same problems that surfaced with heroin.
The 1972 report Touwtrekken om hennep, or ‘Hemp Tug of War’, concluded that responsible use of cannabis was quite possible and comparable to alcohol and tobacco. This led in 1976 to a new Opium Law that was the first to ever classify the difference between hard and soft drugs, decriminalizing cannabis. In 1980, the Public Prosecutor published guidelines for retail sale, creating the first Amsterdam coffee houses, and the modern marijuana mecca was born.
8. Willie Nelson blazes on the White House roof
In 1977, after a brief stint in jail for possession in the Bahamas, Willie Nelson was treated to a dinner at the White House by President Jimmy Carter. After the meal, he went up on the roof and, “with a beer in one hand and a fat Austin Torpedo in the other,” he lit one up with Carter’s son. In his memoir, It’s A Long Story, he looks back on the memorable event.
“Getting stoned on the roof of the White House, you can’t help but turn inward. Certain philosophical questions come to mind, like… how the f–k did I get here?”
Willie Nelson’s activism for cannabis brought cannabis into the American heartland in a way that Bob Marley, The Beatles, hippie counter-culture, rock, and rap would never achieve. His acceptance as an American icon has spurred the movements of cannabis and hemp across the land.
9. California changes everything
1996 was the year that California became the first state in the US to legalize medical marijuana with Proposition 215, effectively turning the tide of cannabis prohibition that had begun in the 1930’s, and been bolstered by Nixon with the declaration of the War on Drugs and Ronald Reagan hard-driven Just Say No campaign.
Without this first vital step, the re-legalization in America and perhaps the rest of the world would not be where it is today.
10. Recreational freedom!
On November 6th, 2012, Colorado liberated its citizens from the shackles of cannabis persecution by becoming the first state to allow adult recreational use. Amendment 64 passed by 55%, and along with a similar measure in Washington state, allowed for adult recreational use over the age of 21. Since then, the tide of change has swept almost half the nation and shows no signs of slowing.
What will be next?
What does the future hold for cannabis? In another 10 years, I hope to add to this list. National legalization, world acceptance, maybe even United Nations summits where World Peace is achieved with a peace pipe. Perhaps even the first plant on Mars. One thing is for sure, cannabis has been with us since the dawn of Mankind, and it is with us to stay.
What do you think will be the next big event in cannabis history? Share your thoughts on social media or in the comments below.