History Of CBD And Hemp

Humans and Hemp: Old Friends

Hemp has a long history with humanity and has likely been with us for far longer than people can imagine. Hemp has many different uses, from clothing, food and beauty products to mechanical and industrial applications like making plastic or fuel oils.With such a diverse portfolio of applications, it’s no surprise people have carried hemp with them throughout history.

With Us Since The Beginning

On the island of Taiwan in one of its most important Neolithic archeological sites, hemp cordage was found with pottery dated as far back as 8000 BCE. So far this is the oldest evidence of hemp usage found making our history of hemp use at least 10,000 years old, even though in reality it may have been with us even longer. This also puts cannabis firmly in the lead as possibly the first and oldest agricultural crops of humankind. 

Mentions Throughout History

Cannabis has a long history with humans and there is a plethora of evidence for its use in a myriad of ways. In other Neolithic sites in China evidence of use of cannabis and oil for food has been found correlating to around 6000 BCE time period, and around 4000 BCE cannabis textiles have been found in China and Turkestan.

In 2737 BCE, there was a mention in a written text of the Chinese Emperor Shen Neng using cannabis in a medical application, and around 2000 BCE in India the substance is mentioned in the Hindu sacred text Atharvaveda (Science of Charms) as “Sacred Grass” and was used medicinally as well as in rituals.

Around 600 BCE hemp rope starts to appear and in 100 BCE hemp paper is discovered. By 100 CE the secret of hemp rope had made its way to England where evidence of it has been found. Around 130 CE we have evidence that Greek physician Galen prescribes medical marijuana and in 200 CE the First Pharmacopoeia of the East lists medical marijuana. It seems the Chinese surgeon Hua T’o was using marijuana as an anesthetic for his patients.

In 1000 CE hemp ropes first started appearing on Italian ships and in 1200 CE hashish was mentioned in “1001 Nights” a collection of Arabian tales that mentions the intoxicating effects of hash.

In 1295 famous explorer Marco Polo brings us stories of hash use and in 1300 Ethiopian pipes containing marijuana have been discovered telling us use of the herb has spread to the African continent. 

In 1533 King Henry VIII levied fines on farmers if they did not raise hemp for industrial use. In 1549 Angolan slaves brought cannabis with them to the sugar plantations of northeastern Brazil. They were allowed to plant their cannabis between the rows of cane, and to smoke it between harvests.

Closer and closer to us in time, we find more cannabis use. In 1616 Jamestown settlers began growing the hemp plant for its unusually strong fiber and used it to make rope, sails, and clothing. In point of fact it was a required crop and was useful in helping the colony survive.  

Medical Uses and History in the US

Medically speaking, marijuana has a long and storied history treating many different conditions. Some examples from relatively recent history include In 1621 Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy suggesting that marijuana may treat depression; in 1764 Medical marijuana appears in The New England Dispensatory. In 1794 Medical marijuana appears in The Edinburgh New Dispensary. In fact, from 1850 through 1915 Marijuana was widely used throughout the United States as medicine and was dispensed commonly in stores and pharmacies.

It wasn’t until 1914 when the Harrison Act in the United States defined use of Marijuana (among other drugs) as a crime that we begin to see the current state of affairs in the U.S. begin to take shape. Because the U.S. was concerned that the ban on cannabis would be useless if it was still available from other countries, U.S. authorities used persuasion, diplomacy and finally the threat of trade sanctions to get other countries to adopt a policy of cannabis intolerance. Because of this, soon cannabis was banned universally world wide.

The final death knell to the legal use of cannabis as medicine and otherwise in the U.S. was the 1937 Marijuana Tax Act in which the U.S.Congress criminalized the drug. In response Dr. William C. Woodward, testifying on behalf of the AMA, told Congress that, “The American Medical Association knows of no evidence that marijuana is a dangerous drug” and warned that a prohibition “loses sight of the fact that future investigation may show that there are substantial medical uses for Cannabis.” His comments were ignored by Congress. A part of the testimony for Congress to pass the 1937 act derived from articles in newspapers owned by William Randolph Hearst, who had significant financial interests in the timber industry, which manufactured his newsprint paper. 

Re-Legalization Efforts in the U.S.

Instead of legalization in the U.S. we really have to say re-legalization because of course, as we have seen previously in this article, cannabis was not only legal it was a commonly used item for both practical everyday use in such things as clothing and rope, to a thoroughly accepted and common medicine found in pharmacies. So not just legal but in fact taken for granted as common place throughout most of history. 

Let’s take a timeline look at the re-legalization efforts in the United States:

1970 Saw the inception of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). That same year the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act repealed mandatory penalties for drug offenses and marijuana was categorized separately from other narcotics. 

1971 First evidence is found suggesting cannabis may be beneficial for glaucoma. 

1972 Then President Richard Nixon appointed the Shafer Commission to look into cannabis issues. The members of the commission urged use of cannabis be re-legalized, but their recommendation was ignored. Also during this time in the U.S., legitimate medical research on cannabis picks up pace. California voters also cast their ballot on Proposition 19, an initiative to legalize marijuana use. It was rejected by a voter margin of 66-33%.

1975 Nabilone, a cannabinoid-based medication is approved by the FDA. 

1976 The U.S. federal government instituted the Investigational New Drug (IND) Compassionate Use research program. The IND program allows participating patients to receive up to nine pounds of marijuana from the government each year. Interestingly, even though the IND was a relatively short lived program and was closed to new patients by 1992, there are five remaining patients still alive that receive the government sponsored marijuana from a farm at the University of Mississippi. Even though this program is paid for by federal tax dollars and sponsored by the U.S. government, in contradiction to this the U.S. FDA continues to list marijuana as Schedule I meaning: “A high potential for abuse with no accepted medical value.” 

1977 Carl Sagan proposes that marijuana may have been the world’s first agricultural crop, leading to the development of civilization itself. (See The Dragons of Eden, Speculations on the Origin of Human Intelligence p 191 footnote.)

1977-1981 President Jimmy Carter and his advisor on drug policies Dr. Peter Bourne, worked diligently for decriminalization of marijuana. President Carter himself asked the U.S. Congress to abolish federal criminal penalties for cannabis users caught with less than one ounce of marijuana.

1985 The U.S. FDA approves a synthetic THC for cancer patients called dronabinol

1986 The Anti-Drug Abuse Act is signed into law by then President Ronald Reagan, reinstating mandatory minimums and significantly raising federal penalties for possession and distribution. This is thought of by most to be the official beginning of the U.S. “War on Drugs”.

1988 After thorough, comprehensive hearings U.S. DEA Administrative Law Judge Francis Young finds that marijuana does not fit the definition of Schedule 1 drug as assigned to it and also has a clearly established medical use. His recommendation is for marijuana to be reclassified as a prescriptive drug. His recommendation is ignored

1992 Because of a sudden surge of requests due to the rapidly spreading AIDS epidemic, the U.S. government closes the Compassionate Use program. That same year the pharmaceutical medication dronabinol is approved for AIDS-wasting syndrome. 

1996 In an act of historical irony California, the first U.S. state to ban marijuana use, became the first U.S. State to then re-legalize medical marijuana use. This was an act of compassion for people suffering from AIDS, cancer, and other serious illnesses. That same year, Arizona passed a similar bill. After seeing California’s lead in this and relatively successful implementation, Alaska, Colorado, Maine, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Washington D.C., Hawaii, Maryland, New Mexico, Rhode Island, and Vermont all passed similar measures.

1997 The American Office of National Drug Control Policy commissioned the Institute of Medicine (IOM) to conduct a thorough and comprehensive study of the medical effectiveness of cannabis. The IOM concluded that cannabis is not only safe it is an effective medicine. It goes on to state that patients should have access, and the government should expand their research and development efforts. The federal government completely ignored IOM’s findings and did not act on the recommendations. 

1997-2001 U.S. President William Clinton not only ignored the IOM recommendations, he actually expanded on the Reagan/Bush era “War on Drugs” and began a campaign of arrest and prosecution of medical marijuana patients and those providing them with marijuana in California and elsewhere. 

1999 The DEA allows Hawaii and North Dakota to run hemp pilot programs. The pilot programs, designed to run for two years, end inconclusively. Also in this year, the Drug Enforcement Agency reclassifies dronabinol as a schedule III drug. This has the effect of making the medication easier to prescribe and for patients to receive.

2000  Alaska runs a legalization effort that ultimately fails.

2001-2009 U.S. President G.W. Bush intensifies  the Federal Government’s “war on drugs”. Casualties of this war include both ill patients and prescribing doctors throughout the state of California.

2005 A Canadian citizen by the name of Marc Emery was on the FBI #1 wanted drug list for years and was eventually indicted by the U.S. DEA. Mr. Emery was the largest distributor of marijuana seeds into the United States for about ten years (1995 through July 2005). Canada acceded to the U.S. demand for extradition and he was transferred to U.S. authorities for trial in May 2010. 

2009 President Barack Hussein Obama made great strides towards ending the highly questionable two decade “war on drugs” initiated by the Reagan administration. President Obama stated that individual drug use is a public health issue, and should be treated as such. The U.S. Justice Department announced that federal prosecutors will no longer pursue medical marijuana users and distributors who comply with state laws.

2010 Marc Emery of Vancouver, BC, Canada, was sentenced on September 10th 2010 in a U.S. District Court in Seattle to five years in prison and four years of supervised release for “conspiracy to manufacture marijuana” for his sales of marijuana seeds over international borders.

2010 The effort to legalize marijuana for recreational purposes in California, called Proposition 19 makes it back to the ballot (named The Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010). Preliminary voter polls show the proposition has about 50% of the population support and if it wins it will be by only the slimmest of margins.

Oct 2010 In an 11th hour announcement weeks before the November election and California’s decision on Proposition 19, U.S.Attorney General Eric Holder said federal authorities would continue to enforce federal statutes. In that statement he says that marijuana is illegal and a Schedule 1 drug. Mr. Holder threatens Calfornians, stating “we will vigorously enforce the (Controlled Substances Act) against those individuals and organizations that possess, manufacture or distribute marijuana for recreational use.”

Nov 2010 California Proposition 19, also known as the Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010, was narrowly defeated by 53.6% of the vote. This would have legalized various marijuana-related activities in California, allowing local governments to regulate these activities, permits local governments to impose and collect marijuana-related fees and taxes, and authorizes various criminal and civil penalties. 

Nov 2012 The U.S. States of Colorado and Washington legalized marijuana for recreational use.There are guarantees made that these new legal initiatives will have no impact on medical marijuana in either state. The country of Uruguay legalizes marijuana for recreational use. The U.S. District of Columbia (Washington D.C.)  decriminalizes personal use and possession of cannabis. 

February 2014 President Obama signed the Farm Bill of 2013 into law. Section 7606 of the act, Legitimacy of Industrial Hemp Research, defines industrial hemp as distinct from marijuana and authorizes institutions of higher education or state department of agriculture in states that legalized hemp cultivation to regulate and conduct research and pilot programs.

July 2014 Cannabis City becomes Seattle’s very first legal marijuana shop for over-the-counter purchase & recreational use. This generated world-wide media attention and a serious discussion over the legalization of marijuana and a possible end to the American “drug war.” The first purchase, by Deb Green a 65-year old marathon-running grandmother from Ballard, is part of the collection of the Museum of History and Industry in Seattle, Washington. 

Nov 2014 Alaska and Oregon legalize marijuana for recreational use through ballot measure; the States of California, Nevada, Arizona, Hawaii and Massachusetts all begin to draft legalization legislation. 

July 2015 Senate Bill 5052 is passed in Washington State and their medical marijuana program comes fully under the control of the newly re-named Washington Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB). 

April 2018 Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) introduced S. 2667, Hemp Farming Act of 2018. The bill defines hemp very specifically. 

  • Industrial hemp must contain 0.3% THC or less by dry weight including all parts of the plant 
  • It is now removed from the Controlled Substances Act. 
  • It allows states to regulate commercial hemp farming after submitting a plan to regulate it to the USDA. 
  • The bill authorizes crop insurance for hemp.
  • S. 2667 provides funding for hemp research. 
  • It also defines hemp more broadly than the previous Farm Bill and now explicitly includes extracts and cannabinoids derived from the plant.
  • By default this has made CBD extracted from industrial hemp legal in all 50 U.S. states on a federal level. However, each state seems to want to put its own stamp on CBD and there is at the time of this writing a patchwork of laws across the United States regarding CBD. In some states, due to state statutes CBD, and hemp, remain illegal.

June 2018 Canada becomes the second nation in the world to legalize cannabis.

Fire, the Wheel and…Cannabis?

In 1977, Carl Sagan posited that cannabis may actually have been the world’s first agricultural crop, possibly leading to the development of civilization itself: “It would be wryly interesting if in human history the cultivation of marijuana led generally to the invention of agriculture, and thereby to civilization.” (Carl Sagan, The Dragons of Eden, Speculations on the Origin of Human Intelligence p 191 footnote.)

An interesting thought that may be true but a question to which we may never know the answer. Regardless, cannabis has proven its utility to human beings and has traveled with us on the long road of history. Certainly with such a long and distinguished lineage it deserves to be counted among the tools that humanity has used to build civilization.