Mrs. Julie Baker
November 10, 2013
A glance back at human history shows that one of the earliest plants cultivated by the human race was cannabis. A dioecious plant, cannabis grows to a couple feet high in length and is found in nature in tropical and temperate climate zones. Other than being grown for its stalk fibers, also known as hemp, cannabis is particularly famous for the buds found on the female plants which contain a psychoactive chemical known as THC (Balthazor). When marijuana is ingested, whether through smoking it or some other means, the THC binds to receptors in the human brain and creates feeling of euphoria, which is the high users experience (Hubbard). Though cannabis has been around and integrated into society for so long, and even as it has been studied intensely, especially in recent times, there still remains much to learn about the substance. While there are many angles to examine when studying about cannabis, some that can give one a good base upon which to build upon, are learning about cannabis and its history as a medicine, its dangers and negative effects on users, and lastly its relationship with the US society especially in recent times.
The first signs of cannabis as a medicinal plant stretches back from pre-Christian times to the present day. The first indication of such use of the plant appears in the ancient Chinese
culture where use of “cannabis included: rheumatic pain, intestinal constipation, disorders of the female reproductive system, malaria, and others” (Zuardi). The beginning of the Christian era saw a rise and spread in the use of cannabis around the world including in nations like Africa and the Middle East. And the first signs of the plant in the Americas appears to be in South America where the seeds of the plants reached Brazil through the slave trade. Cannabis, however, was not introduced into the western culture as a medicinal plant till the middle of the 19th century through the works of two men namely, Jacques-Joseph Moreau, a French psychiatrist, and William B. O'Shaughnessy. The discoveries of the previously mentioned scientists gained much popularity for cannabis’s psychoactive effects, and especially for its uses in therapeutics. As a result the use of the drug spread quickly throughout Europe and then North America where, from the last half of the 19th century till the beginning decades of the 20th century, over one hundred scientific articles were published that had to do with the medicinal benefits of cannabis (Zuardi). Many reasons are said to be attributed to this boom in interest of medical marijuana, one possible being the lack of other options in the medical field to treat maladies.
From the early 20th century onwards, interest in the medicinal value of cannabis in the west went through period of decline and then of recovery. Some of the factors that contributed to the decline were the lack of technology and difficultly with various scientific processes which stalled experiments involving cannabis. This was compounded by the fact that in other fields of medical science, ironically, breakthrough discoveries and inventions effectively lessoned the need for medical marijuana. One such example was the development of the vaccine to fight
infections diseases, another, the appearance of pain killers like aspirin, and further, the invention of hypodermic needles which allowed drugs administration through the more effective way of injection. This period of decline lasted till the middle of 20th century when a number of social and cultural movements, backed by the identification of the chemical structure of THC by scientists Gaoni and Mechoulam in 1964, reignited interest in the