Why Did Marijuana Become Illegal? [Facts + More!]

Over the years, Cannabis has been in the spotlight over and over again, and while some might think that its journey only started a couple of decades ago, around Woodstock, it has actually been around for centuries.

A plant that is today considered to be illegal in most U.S. states, was once roaming free and used by millions of people in many cultures for medicinal, spiritual and commercial use.

Let’s go back to the beginning.

The Origins of Cannabis


Evidence of marijuana use has been dated as far back as 2737 B.C. where it was used by the Chinese for medicinal purposes and for achieving euphoria. Emperor Shen Nung, talked about how cannabis had the power to heal malaria, gout, rheumatism and more.

Even though there was no media coverage back then or internet to help spread the news. Marijuana’s benefits quickly spread across the globe, and once it arrived in other countries such as India, it adopted by other cultures and frequently used for recreational purposes. Muslims at the time introduced hashish that spread like rapid fire throughout the 12th century in Persia an then North America.

When Was America Exposed to Cannabis?

The earliest known recording of the English being introduced to marijuana was in Jamestown in 1611 where it was being bought and sold as a commercial crop with tobacco and also sold as a source of fiber.

Furthermore, cannabis was used to treat a variety of illnesses and problems, including common problems such as toothaches, and childbirth.

It is important to remember that although it was used throughout the nation at that time, it only officially arrived in America during the beginning of the 20th century from Mexico.

Immigrants from Mexico brought Cannabis into America while trying to flee their country during the Mexican Revolution of 1910-1911.

This situation caused a lot of stigma and negativity, as newspapers associated cannabis to murder, rape and stealing that was going on in Mexico.

Newspapers managed to spread fear about the plant, and in 1915 it was officially outlawed by the state of Utah. By 1931, 29 other states followed, and the plant was officially on the banned list.

The plant had become illegal, but did it stop people from smoking it? Hell No!
Throughout the 1920s, Jazz musicians start writing songs about the miracle plant and marijuana clubs began to pop up in just about every major city.

For over a decade marijuana was classed as a banned substance but still used by many throughout the U.S. In 1937, Harry Aslinger took over at the FBN (Federal Bureau of Narcotics) pushed to class cannabis as an illegal substance. This was the same year that marijuana was regulated as a drug in every state, including 35 states that adopted the Uniform State Narcotic Drug Act. The first national regulation was the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937.

Modern History of Marijuana

Up until 1942, cannabis was being prescribed for rheumatism, nausea, and labor pains, but the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs decided to portray marijuana as an addicting substance that could lead users to narcotics addiction.

Authorities tried many times to convince the public cannabis was a gateway drug that would lead to more dangerous addictions, but despite their efforts it was adopted during the 60s and became the symbol of rebellion against authority.

This led the government to take extreme measures and during the 1970s, The Controlled Substance Act classified marijuana as a Schedule I drug, eliminating any association to medical usage.

In 1980, both Reagan and Bush administrations took a zero tolerance stance on the drug that would result in the passage of some very strict laws and mandatory jail sentences for possession of marijuana.

Today’s Thoughts

The perception towards Cannabis has changed over the last 30 years and individual states have taken new upward trends to loosen those restriction. While it still remains illegal on a Federal level, it seems as if cannabis is only now being recognized for its medicinal properties instead of its hallucinogenic ability.