America & Marijuana: History of Cannabis in the USA

When many Americans think of the 4th of July they often think of fireworks, backyard BBQs, and perhaps a hot dog or a burger.

Well, you may want to add cannabis to that list. 

– Gif by Giphy

A study into how much consumers planned to spend on their 4th of July cookouts in 2020 showed they planned on spending more on cannabis than on food. That year, consumers were expected to spend $76 million on their cookouts compared to $100 million on cannabis.1

Maybe since the 4th fell on a Saturday that year, it allowed more Americans to celebrate their independence by partaking in their favorite strain of cannabis over the holiday weekend.

Although cannabis use has become much more prevalent recently, it’s certainly not new to the United States. Most people are surprised to hear that cannabis has been legal in the U.S. longer than it has been illegal.

Not only that, but cannabis has played an important role in the history of the U.S.A.

Cannabis in North America Predates the USA 

Hemp arrived in Colonial America with the Puritans. At that time, all sea vessels carried some hemp seed with them.  

Back in 1606, hemp was used to make things like canvas, paper, cloth, rope, and sails in what were then the British colonies. It played such a key role for the economy that in 1619, Jamestown announced an order requiring all farmers to grow hemp.2

It is important to note that back then there was no differentiation between the terms, hemp and cannabis. It wasn’t until around 1753 that the scientific term of cannabis was used to describe the hemp plant in the US.3

Today, Hemp is described as cannabis that has less than 0.3% THC and Cannabis/Marijuana will have more than 0.3% THC.

Founding Fathers and Cannabis

It is no secret that the Founding Fathers of the U.S. were proponents of hemp and grew it themselves.

Thomas Jefferson often wrote about the benefits of growing hemp instead of tobacco. Not only did he believe in its potential as an industrial crop, but some think he may have enjoyed hemp for its psychoactive effects as well. 

It is believed that Jefferson brought hemp seeds back home with him after a trip to China. Since cannabis was first domesticated in Asia, and that region is home to landrace strains like Thai Stick and Afghani, some think he could have brought the seeds back for their unique genetics.

Learn more about historic landrace strains here. 

Independence Built on Hemp

Benjamin Franklin owned one of the first paper mills that processed hemp into parchment.

It’s widely believed that the first draft of the Declaration of Independence was written on hemp paper. George Washington grew hemp at his Mount Vernon estate. Washington believed that hemp could be more profitable as a crop than tobacco due to its wide range of potential uses.

Did Our First President Smoke Hemp?

In a diary entry from August 1765, George Washington wrote, “… began to separate the male from the female hemp …” 4

There are some who say that George Washington writing about separating male and female plants indicates he may have been interested in the psychoactive properties of cannabis – since this is done to boost the levels of cannabinoids like THC in cannabis plants.

Of course, this is just speculation. However, there are some who believe our Founding Fathers did in fact smoke hemp.

For example, Dr. Burke, the President of the American Historical Reference Society, believes the first seven Presidents of the U.S. were hemp smokers – saying, “Early letters from our founding fathers refer to the pleasures of hemp smoking.”4

From Cash Crop to Contraband 

For the first 300 hundred years of our country’s history, hemp served as an important cash crop that provided the material needed to make things like rope, paper, clothing, and canvas. 

In 1916, the USDA published findings that hemp could produce four times more paper per acre than trees – making it a more sustainable option for producing paper.

In 1938, Popular Mechanics published an article explaining that hemp could be used in 25,000 different industrial applications.

So, when did things change?

The Beginning of the End for Legal Cannabis

Just as our country was beginning to understand the industrial potential of hemp, the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 came along and essentially banned it nationwide. There are some who believe this heavy tax was placed on hemp sales to help the emerging plastic and nylon industries, as well as vertically integrated paper companies who had an interest in seeing the lumber industry thrive.

Hemp’s Role in the U.S. War Effort

After heavily taxing hemp, the US Government had to soften its stance in 1942.

That’s when the USDA initiated the “Hemp for Victory” program to encourage farmers to grow hemp to make rope for the U.S. Navy during World War II.

Then, once the war ended, restrictions on growing and selling hemp, as well as the heavy taxes, were put back into place—while hemp alternatives like plastic and nylon were encouraged. 

The Controlled Substances Act of 1970

Cannabis went through plenty of tough times.

– Gif by Giphy

Hemp farming was banned in 1970 with the passing of the Controlled Substances Act which classified hemp as a Schedule 1 drug.

With that, a plant that had been valued for its industrial, nutritional, and medicinal potential for hundreds of years was placed in the same category as LSD and heroin.

Fortunately, the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 was not the end of the road for medicinal cannabis in the U.S. Thanks to advocates like Dennis Peron – the therapeutic benefits of medicinal cannabis are once again within reach for many Americans.

The Compassionate Use Act

One big moment that helped usher this change occurred in 1996, when Dennis Peron co-authored California Proposition 215, also known as the Compassionate Use Act, which allowed for the statewide use of medical cannabis.

If you’re interested, read about Dennis Peron’s role in bringing the benefits of Medicinal Cannabis to those who need it.

Legal Longer than It’s Been Illegal

So, for those of you who like to get into the numbers, let’s go over the math. Cannabis/Hemp was legal and accepted as a valuable crop in the US as far back as 1606. It was not made illegal until the 1930s.

So, for more than 300 years, cannabis/hemp was legal, and it was illegal for most for nearly 60 years (1937 – 1996). We say most, because during the 1970s and 80s some patients facing severe medical issues were given permission from the Federal Government to medicate with cannabis.

The Stigma Remains at the Cost of Many

Although cannabis was only illegal for a little over half a century, that illegal status left a lasting stigma on cannabis.

Unfortunately, many of our veterans who have served our country still deal with this stigma when they choose to medicate with cannabis to treat symptoms related to their war injuries, including things like PTSD. 

Does Cannabis Help with PTSD?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a condition that can occur after someone has experienced or witnessed a traumatic event like a severe injury, a natural disaster, or war.

PTSD affects about 3.5% of adults in the U.S. Unfortunately, the numbers are higher for our veterans.

It’s estimated that up to 20% of our soldiers who served in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom have experienced PTSD. Of those who served in the Gulf War, about 12% have experienced PTSD and of those who served in the Vietnam War it’s 15%5

Research on Cannabis as Treatment for PTSD

Although more research is needed, early results look promising for those looking to treat their PTSD symptoms with cannabis. In September of 2020, a research paper published in The Journal of Affective Disorders indicated that inhaled cannabis was effective in reducing PTSD symptoms by more than 50%.

The study also highlighted emerging evidence that the endocannabinoid system may represent a viable target for treating PTSD.6

If you’re interested in the latest research, check out the endocannabinoid system, and how it could be the key to unlocking your body’s natural healing powers. 

THC in the Treatment of PTSD Symptoms

The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies conducted a study in December of 2020 that compared participants diagnosed with PTSD who used medicinal cannabis, with those with PTSD who did not use cannabis to treat their symptoms. 

The study determined that those who medicated with cannabis reported significant improvement of their symptoms and were 2.5 times more likely to recover from PTSD than those who did not medicate with cannabis.7

Research Reinforces What Many Have Known

Although more research is needed, it is promising to see that recent research reinforces what many with PTSD have already known – cannabis may help to provide relief from PTSD symptoms.

CBD and THC are just two of more than 100 cannabinoids found in cannabis.

Click here to learn about their potential health benefits – and how medicating with the right mix of both can lead to an enhanced cannabis experience. 

Veterans Cannabis Support Groups 

Fortunately, there are many support groups that have been established to help veterans receive the medicine they need to treat their medical conditions. 

One such group is the Veterans Cannabis Project – a nonprofit organization dedicated to educating lawmakers and veterans about the meaningful health benefits of cannabis. 

Veterans Cannabis Project is dedicated to improving U.S. military veterans’ quality of life through cannabis. They believe that medical cannabis can save lives and that veterans deserve full and legal access to it.

Learn more about the Veterans Cannabis Project at:

Bloom Discounts for Veterans

Bloom Medicinals is proud to offer Veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces a special discount. So, if you’re a Veteran, please make sure to mention your Veteran status at checkout to redeem your savings – and Thank You for your service!

The Best Way to Medicate with Cannabis Is Different for All

Schedule a Consultation with Bloom Medicinals to Help You Determine What May be Right for You. 

– Gif by Giphy

Each person’s experience with medicinal cannabis will vary. Instead of focusing on which strain you should medicate with, it’s important to strike the right balance of cannabinoids and terpenes that work best with your endocannabinoid system.

Doing so may help to unlock your body’s natural healing power.  As part of our commitment to cannabis education, Bloom Medicinals would like to offer you the opportunity to schedule a free, one-on-one consultation.

During this complimentary consultation, our patient care specialists will get to know you, your qualifying conditions, medications, dietary restrictions, activity level, and any specific effects you’re looking to avoid.

By doing so, we can help to identify the consumption methods and forms of cannabis that are best for you!

Take the first step toward an improved quality of life by calling to schedule your free consultation at a Bloom Medicinals dispensary near you!