Throughout history marijuana has been used to serve various purposes in many differentcultures. The purposes have changed over timeto fit in with the current lifestyles. This pattern is also true in American history. The use of marijuana has adapted to the socialclimate of the time.
Marijuana, whose scientific name is cannibissativa, was mentioned in historical manuscriptsas early as 2700 B. C. in China. (Grolier ElectronicEncyclopedia, 1995). The cultivation of the marijuana plant began as far back as the Jamestown settlers, around 1611, who used hempproduced from the marijuana plant’s fibers to make rope and canvas. It was also used in making clothing because of it’s durability. These uses fit in with the social climate of the time, because the main focus was on survival rather than for psychoactive purposes.
During the prohibition, marijuana was widely used because of the scarcity of alcohol. Prohibitionwas repealed after just thirteen years while the prohibitionagainst marijuana lasted for more than seventy five years. This double standard may have resulted from the wishes of those in power. Alcohol prohibition struck directly at tens of millions of Americans of all ages, including many of societies most powerful members.
Marijuana prohibition threatened far fewer Americans, and they had relatively little influence in the districts of power. Only the prohibition of marijuana, which some sixty million Americans have violated since 1965 has come close to approximating the prohibition experience, but marijuana smokers consist mostly of young and relatively powerless Americans (American Heritage, pg 47). Alcohol prohibition was repealed and marijuana prohibition was retained, not because scientists had proved that alcohol was the less dangerousof the various psychoactive drugs, but because of the prejudicesand preferences of most Americans (American Heritage, pg 47).In 1937 the government issued the Marijuana Tax Act, which levied a dollar an ounce tax on marijuana, coupled with fines of $2,000 for drug posession and jail sentences for evasion of the tax. For thisreason marijuana use in the United States appearsto have gone into decline in the late 30’s(Grolier Wellness Encyclopedia, pg 54).Then marijuana was outlawed in 1937 as arepressive measure against Mexican workerswho crossed the border seekingjobs duringthe Depression.
The specific reason given for the outlawing of the hemp plant was it’ssupposed violent “effect on the degenerate races”(Schaffer, pg. 86).Beginning in the 60’s marijuana use saw aresurgence which may be attributed to manycauses. One of the main causes was the rebellion of youth against the Vietnam War. They used marijuana as an escape from war to peace.It was easy at this time to depict marijuana as a beneficial and completely harmless substancewhose effects were far less harmful than thoseof legal drugs such as alcohol and nicotinebecause there was not enough scientificresearch done during the 60’s (Grolier Wellness Encyclopedia, pg 54).
Another cause may have been the discovery ofthe psychoactive component of marijuana-tetrahydrocannabinol, commonly known as THC.Users found the relation between the doses andthe effects (Grolier Electronic Publishing, 1995).The current atmosphere provides for doctors tosuggest synthetic marijuana (THC) in a pure andstandardized form by perscription (called Marinol)for the treatment of nausea associated with cancer chemotherapy. Also, although there is noscientific evidence that shows marijuanais beneficial in the treatment of glaucoma,it may prevent the progression of visual loss.Marijuana, along with alcohol and a host ofother substances, can actually lower intraoculareye pressure. The mediction however, must be carefully tailored to the individual to prevent further eye damage.The evidence has clearly shown that marijuana has been around for a great deal of timeand has served multiple purposes throughout history.
Karen SipesDana PentoneyJeni RoaneSourcesGrolier Electronic Encylopedia, Electronic Publishing, Inc., 1995Grolier Wellness Encyclopedia, Drugs, Society & Behavior.Vol.
3, 1992.Ethan A. Nadelmann, American Heritage Magazine,Feb-Mar, 1993. Medical Marijuana, http://www.lec.org/Drug_Watch/Public/Documents/Med_Marijuana_Paper.htm, 1995.Words/ Pages : 619 / 24