A Brief History of Cannabis

2727 B.C. 
Oldest known record on cannabis use from Chinese Emperor Shen Nung, referenced in his writings as a psychoactive agent with powers as a medication for rheumatism, gout, malaria and absent-mindedness. Shen Nung mentioned the intoxicating properties but focused on the medical potential. Cannabis was used recreationally in India and the Muslims used it for alcohol consumption but it was banned by the Koran. The Muslims introduced hashish, which spread quickly throughout the 12th century from China to India and then to North Africa. It reached Europe as early as 500 A.D.

Cannabis spread to the western hemisphere where the Spaniards imported it to Chile for its use as fiber. Hemp was grown on many plantations in North America for use in rope, clothing and paper.

The English introduced marijuana to Jamestown where it became a major commercial crop alongside tobacco and was grown as a source of fiber.

Marijuana was listed in the United States Pharmacopeia during this time and was prescribed for various conditions including labor pains, nausea, and rheumatism.

Hemp was replaced by cotton as a major cash crop in southern states. Some patent medicines during this era contained marijuana.

Marijuana clubs, called tea pads, sprang up in every major city. These marijuana establishments were tolerated because marijuana was legal and marijuana was not considered a social threat.

A campaign conducted by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Narcotics sought to portray marijuana as a powerful, addicting substance that would lead users into narcotics addiction.

Marijuana was used by college students and “hippies” and became a symbol of rebellion against authority.

Raphael Mechoulam and his research group in Israel succeeded in the total synthesis of the major plant cannabinoids tetrahydrocannabinol, cannabidiol, cannabigerol and various others. 

The Controlled Substances Act of 1970 classified marijuana along with heroin and LSD as a Schedule 1 drug, meaning it is considered to have the highest abuse potential and no accepted medical use.

At a meeting of the National Academy of Science's Institute of Medicine, Lisa Matsuda announced that she and her colleagues at the National Institute of Mental Health had pinpointed the exact DNA sequence that encodes a THC-sensitive receptor in the rat's brain. Matsuda also disclosed that she had successfully cloned the marijuana receptor. 

Raphael Mechoulam and National Institute of Mental Health research fellow William Devane and Dr. Lumir Hanus, found a novel neurotransmitter, a naturally-occurring “endocannabinoid,” which attaches to the same mammalian brain-cell receptors as THC. They decided to call it “anandamide,” deriving from the Sanskrit word for bliss.

The International Cannabinoid Research Society was formed by university-connected scientists and supported by U.S. government research grants. 

Mechoulam’s group discovered a second major endocannabinoid — 2-arachidonoylglycerol, or “2-AG” — that “locks on” to both the CB1 and CB2 receptors. By tracing the metabolic pathways of THC, scientists discovered an unknown molecular signaling system that is involved in regulating a broad range of biological functions, called the endocannabinoid system. 

A group of scientists from the National Institute of Mental Health first filed Patent No. 663050, titled “Cannabinoids as Antioxidants and Neuroprotectants.”

Patent No. 6630507 was awarded to the Department of Health and Human Services.

Though cannabis is still a Schedule 1 Drug, twenty-nine states in the United States have legalized medicinal marijuana. 65 million people now live in states that authorize adult recreational use; more than half of all Americans have access to medical marijuana; and almost everyone lives in a state that permits CBD, a non-psychoactive component of cannabis that helps the treatment of juvenile epilepsy and other health issues.