Marijuana history fun facts

There are lots of interesting “did you know” moments when you start reading about the history of cannabis.

(AP Photo/Jeff Barnard, File)
(AP Photo/Jeff Barnard, File)

As a reporter I’ve been trying to learn as much as I can about it to provide better coverage.


I’ll try to provide some tidbits here, and possibly more in the future if there’s interest. Feel free to contact me, also, if you have post ideas for this blog.

Sue Vorenberg
Columbian Features Reporter

Here are a few tidbits about when the drug became illegal in the United States:

The first laws in this country that made non-medical use of drugs illegal in the United States were created in 1914 as part of the Harrison Tax Act, which was applied to opium, morphine and cocaine and their derivatives. At that time, marijuana was still legal.

From 1915 to 1937, 27 states passed laws against the use of marijuana, including Washington state. The reasons for the bans fell into three general areas.

The first was a bias by the Rocky Mountain States against blue collar Mexican workers, who commonly used the drug, and the Mexican community as a whole. One Texas state senator at the time said, on the senate floor, “All Mexicans are crazy, and this stuff (marijuana) is what makes them crazy.”

The second group of mostly Northeastern states because of a fear that drug addicts cut off by the Harrison Tax Act would replace those drugs with use of marijuana. That was also one justification for alcohol prohibition, by the way.

The third, which cropped up in Utah, was spurred by the large Mormon population in the state. After Mormon missionaries went to Mexico to try to convert natives, some returned having picked up the marijuana smoking habit. This clashed with the Mormon religion’s general ban on drugs, and so the state legislature made it an illegal substance in 1915.

The feds didn’t get involved in making the drug illegal until 1937, in what to some degree looks like an effort by businesses men in the rope industry to ban the use of hemp products so they could make more money. There are a lot more details in the paper linked above – it’s a pretty fascinating tale.

(Photo by Dave Olson)
(Photo by Dave Olson)

Here are a few details about marijuana’s historical uses:

Evidence of marijuana use has been found at archaeology dig sites dating back to at least 10,000 years ago in Taiwan.

Hemp fiber was used to make rope, bowstrings and clothing by the Chinese since at least 1122 B.C. It was also used to make inexpensive paper in what was a closely-guarded industrial secret.

Marijuana was also used as a drug in China as a therapeutic agent and pain killer during surgical procedures thousands of years ago.

In India, also for thousands of years, marijuana was used to make a beer-like drink called Bhang, which is still sold in some places today. The drink and the plant also play important roles in some religions in that country today.

It’s historic use has also been found in Siberia, Poland and Lithuania, among many other countries.

The ancient Romans documented the plant’s use to make rope, and also cannabis juice was noted as a good treatment for earaches. That knowledge spread to Europe and it was used to treat ear problems through the Middle Ages.


That’s all for now – but I’ll try to add some more information when I get time. Feel free to comment or add any tidbits you’ve come across!