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The history of medical marijuana (part 1 of 3)


hile there is still much debate in the United States on whether to legalize cannabis for recreational use, the medicinal benefits are hard to dispute. People have been using cannabis for its healing properties across different continents and cultures for thousands of years. The idea that cannabis can be used as medicine is not a new idea. It’s one we’re slowly getting back into. Using cannabis for its medicinal benefits most likely predates recorded history. But one of the first written references dates back to 2900 B.C. when a Chinese emperor described cannabis as a popular medicine of the time. Egyptian doctors were prescribing cannabis for glaucoma and inflammation as early as 1200 B.C., and an ancient Persian religious text cites medical use of cannabis in the Middle East by 700 B.C. A few hundred years later in ancient Greece, doctors were prescribing cannabis for earaches and inflammation. During the Middle Ages, Europeans also used cannabis as medicine. In North America, the first settlers in Jamestown brought cannabis — or

hemp, as it was commonly known at the time — to make clothes, rope and other goods. Founding fathers Thomas Jefferson and George Washington were both hemp farmers. By the late 1700s, early editions of American medical journals recommended using hemp seeds and roots to treat inflamed skin, incontinence and venereal disease. Hemp remained the most valuable crop in North America until it was supplanted by cotton in the early 1800s. In early American history, hemp was legal, and growing it was encouraged. The change in attitude came in the early 20th century. The U.S. government passed the Pure Food and Drug Act in 1906 in response to a growing number of people who were addicted to morphine, a popular ingredient in medicines of the time. This created the Food and Drug Administration but also required the regulation of all chemical substances. While this didn’t specifically target hemp or its use, it marked a major shift in American drug policy. Next in the series: Doubts cast on cannabis and the first drug war.

Cannabis use timeline: 2900 B.C.

– Chinese emperor describes cannabis as popular medicine

1906 700 B.C.

Medical use of cannabis is cited in Persian religious text


First settlers in Jamestown bring hemp plants

The Pure Food and Drug Act is passed, marking a shift in U.S. drug policy



Egyptian doctors prescribed cannabis for glaucoma and inflammation

Europeans use cannabis for medicinal purposes

Early editions of American medical journals recommend hemp seeds for medicinal use

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