I pulled “marijuana” from the lucky paint bucket of collage topics. Cannabis sativa has been documented as being used for its fibers ten thousand years ago in China. In the next few thousand years, it was used for some five thousand products. It has fibers that make for superior ropes, nets, and paper, and since at least 2,800 BC, it has been used as a medicine.
The Spanish brought hemp to the Americas in 1545, and the English introduced it in Jamestown in 1611, where it became a major crop. By 1890, it was also used in medicinal preparations, but its use was minor compared to opium and cocaine in medicines. Some think marijuana’s use as a recreational drug became prevalent in the 1920’s, in response to Prohibition. Recreational use was limited to mostly Jazz musicians and people in show business. Marijuana clubs popped up in major cities, but were not considered a problem, and marijuana was not considered a social threat. The campaign to stigmatize marijuana started in the 1930’s by what is now the U.S. Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs. The Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 effectively banned its use in the U.S.
Marijuana is still demonized as a “gateway drug,” and its illegality in most states makes it a wonderful source of revenue for the prison system, and it drives illegal sales and trafficking. Many also believe that hemp oil cures cancer and other conditions of abnormal cell growth. I have a friend in another state who was left disabled by her aggressive cancer treatment. Because disability benefits were not enough to live on, she turned her basement in her old rental house (which was in need of many repairs) into the most beautiful and sophisticated marijuana farm. Growing and selling marijuana allowed her to take care of herself, and the small amount of marijuana she smoked helped her manage pain. She now believes that hemp oil could have cured her cancer without the permanent damage that surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy left her with. Her dream is to distill and offer hemp oil to anyone who wants it.
I believe its competition with cotton as a fiber and its un-patentable medicinal properties are why it is illegal. I grew up in Florida in the 1970s, and marijuana was good, cheap, and easy to find. It is not my drug of choice – generally I prefer wine. I wish, though, that it were legal everywhere, and that its medicinal uses were explored further. Anything that is abused is an issue, be it a legal drug, illegal drug, or even table sugar. It’s past time to legalize marijuana again and end the stigma. Grow hemp, weave superior cloth, and alleviate suffering.