Cannabis has been a part of the human experience since antiquity, but in America, its roots are still young.
In early America, hemp was a staple crop of the colonists. Grown in Jamestown and the other colonies of the New World, it was used to make rope, sails, clothing, building materials, and more. It was so important that in 1619 a law was passed in the Virginia Assembly making it mandatory for all farmers to grow hemp. In New England, similar laws were passed. And in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia, hemp was so important it was even considered legal tender.
Also referred to as “Indian Hemp” it was not used for medicinal or recreational purposes. It is doubtful that this was even a consideration since it did not contain enough THC to have any effect.
During this time, marijuana was introduced to America by the Portuguese and quickly became part of the pharmacopeia. It was written about in a book by Robert Burton called the “Anatomy of Melancholy,” and it was first recommended as a treatment for mental health disorders. Later, it became a popular treatment for pain, cough, and skin inflammation.
Just prior to the Civil War The U.S. Dispensatory listed medical cannabis and recommended it for a variety of conditions including pain relief, asthma, migraines, convulsions, gout, and more. It was commonly prescribed to women suffering from gynecological conditions.
With the invention of the syringe and introduction of opiates, its popularity steadily declined, and eventually became a prohibited substance with the advent of the war on drugs.
Thankfully, hemp is getting back to its historical roots, providing us with more products than the founding fathers could have ever imagined.