In 1545 the Spanish brought marijunana to the New World. The English introduced it in Jamestown in 1611 where it became a major commercial crop alongside tobacco and was grown as a source of fiber.
By 1890, hemp had been replaced by cotton as a major cash crop in southern states. Some patent medicines during this era contained marijuana, but it was a small percentage compared to the number containing opium or cocaine. It was in the 1920’s that marijuana began to catch on. Some historians say its emergence was brought about by Prohibition. Its recreational use was restricted to jazz musicians and people in show business. “Reefer songs” became the rage of the jazz world. Marijuana clubs, called tea pads, sprang up in every major city. These marijuana establishments were tolerated by the authorities because marijuana was not illegal and patrons showed no evidence of making a nuisance of themselves or disturbing the community. Marijuana was not considered a social threat.
Marijuana was listed in the United States Pharmacopeia from 1850 until 1942 and was prescribed for various conditions including labor pains, nausea, and rheumatism. Its use as an intoxicant was also commonplace from the 1850s to the 1930s. A campaign conducted in the 1930s by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Narcotics (now the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs) sought to portray marijuana as a powerful, addicting substance that would lead users into narcotics addiction. It is still considered a “gateway” drug by some authorities. In the 1950s it was an accessory of the beat generation; in the 1960s it was used by college students and “hippies” and became a symbol of rebellion against authority.
The Controlled Substances Act of 1970 classified marijuana along with heroin and LSD as a Schedule I drug, i.e., having the relatively highest abuse potential and no accepted medical use. Most marijuana at that time came from Mexico, but in 1975 the Mexican government agreed to eradicate the crop by spraying it with the herbicide paraquat, raising fears of toxic side effects. Colombia then became the main supplier. The “zero tolerance” climate of the Reagan and Bush administrations resulted in passage of strict laws and mandatory sentences for possession of marijuana and in heightened vigilance against smuggling at the southern borders. The “war on drugs” thus brought with it a shift from reliance on imported supplies to domestic cultivation (particularly in Hawaii and California). Beginning in 1982 the Drug Enforcement Administration turned increased attention to marijuana farms in the United States, and there was a shift to the indoor growing of plants specially developed for small size and high yield. After over a decade of decreasing use, marijuana smoking began an upward trend once more in the early 1990s, especially among teenagers.
Marijuana has been used as an agent for achieving euphoria since ancient times; it was described in a Chinese medical reference traditionally considered to date from 2737 B.C. Its use spread from China to India and then to N Africa and reached Europe at least as early as A.D. 500.
Marijuana Plants / Cannabis
The first direct reference to a cannabis product as a psychoactive agent dates from 2737 BC, in the writings of the Chinese emperor Shen Nung. The focus was on its powers as a medication for rheumatism, gout, malaria, and oddly enough, absent-mindedness. Mention was made of the intoxicating properties, but the medicinal value was considered more important. In India though it was clearly used recreationally. The Muslims too used it recreationally for alcohol consumption was banned by the Koran. It was the Muslims who introduced hashish, whose popularity spread quickly throughout 12th century Persia (Iran) and North Africa.
Marijuana in America
The largest study of its kind has unexpectedly concluded that smoking marijuana, even regularly and heavily, does not lead to lung cancer.
The new findings "were against our expectations," said Donald Tashkin of the University of California at Los Angeles, a pulmonologist who has studied marijuana for 30 years.
"We hypothesized that there would be a positive association between marijuana use and lung cancer, and that the association would be more positive with heavier use," he said. "What we found instead was no association at all, and even a suggestion of some protective effect."
Federal health and drug enforcement officials have widely used Tashkin's previous work on marijuana to make the case that the drug is dangerous. Tashkin said that while he still believes marijuana is potentially harmful, its cancer-causing effects appear to be of less concern than previously thought.
Earlier work established that marijuana does contain cancer-causing chemicals as potentially harmful as those in tobacco, he said. However, marijuana also contains the chemical THC, which he said may kill aging cells and keep them from becoming cancerous.
Tashkin's study, funded by the National Institutes of Health's National Institute on Drug Abuse, involved 1,200 people in Los Angeles who had lung, neck or head cancer and an additional 1,040 people without cancer matched by age, sex and neighborhood.
They were all asked about their lifetime use of marijuana, tobacco and alcohol. The heaviest marijuana smokers had lighted up more than 22,000 times, while moderately heavy usage was defined as smoking 11,000 to 22,000 marijuana cigarettes. Tashkin found that even the very heavy marijuana smokers showed no increased incidence of the three cancers studied.
"This is the largest case-control study ever done, and everyone had to fill out a very extensive questionnaire about marijuana use," he said. "Bias can creep into any research, but we controlled for as many confounding factors as we could, and so I believe these results have real meaning."
Tashkin's group at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA had hypothesized that marijuana would raise the risk of cancer on the basis of earlier small human studies, lab studies of animals, and the fact that marijuana users inhale more deeply and generally hold smoke in their lungs longer than tobacco smokers -- exposing them to the dangerous chemicals for a longer time. In addition, Tashkin said, previous studies found that marijuana tar has 50 percent higher concentrations of chemicals linked to cancer than tobacco cigarette tar.
While no association between marijuana smoking and cancer was found, the study findings, presented to the American Thoracic Society International Conference this week, did find a 20-fold increase in lung cancer among people who smoked two or more packs of cigarettes a day.
The study was limited to people younger than 60 because those older than that were generally not exposed to marijuana in their youth, when it is most often tried.