The History of Marijuana: Learn About its Origin

Marijuana may be a controversial term in the news right now, but its origin is another story. 

People have been using the cannabis plant we call marijuana, weed, or pot for millennia. Ancient civilizations in Central Asia considered this plant an essential part of herbal medicine. From there, cannabis spread to the rest of the world.

However, perspectives on marijuana began to change around the 20th century, shaping our views into those we’re familiar with today.

The only way to truly understand what cannabis is capable of and why it’s so controversial is to learn about its history.

1. The Origins of Marijuana in Human Use

Cannabis was not used for its THC, ‘getting high’ properties originally. Instead, it was a type of medicine crucial in an era when people didn’t have pharmacies and synthetic drugs.

Physicians during those eras mixed marijuana into medicines as a treatment for pain relief. The plant’s antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties made it a go-to medicine for other conditions, too.

The origins of marijuana use were medicinal, and it wasn’t until much later that the plant began to be used for other reasons.

2. Cannabis Moves to the Western World

Western medicine didn’t know about the cannabis plant until the 19th century. But when it was first introduced, it became a normal part of therapeutic treatments for many ailments.

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At first, the plant was made into a powder, similar to the way the Eastern physicians administered it. It was mixed with wine and given as a drink.

Over time, the method of treatment evolved into a synthetic form of THC called Marinol. It was a capsule that was given to patients to help with their pain and other problems.

But the preferred method of marijuana use was smoking. Inhaling the cannabinoids in weed produces effects that are almost immediate. The CBD and THC absorb into the bloodstream once they reach the lungs.

3. Marijuana Becomes Controversial

As recently as the 20th century, cannabis was legally grown, and hemp was used to create rope and textiles. But when the political climate began to change, marijuana was seen as a racial factor. Use of it became a criminal offense.

Recreational marijuana was brought to the U.S. during the Mexican Revolution. When immigrants from Mexico came to America, they introduced the practice of smoking weed to the population.

But the Great Depression fostered fear of anything new and different in many citizens. People resented Mexican immigrants who were taking jobs at a time when almost everyone was unemployed. Weed began to be associated with immigrants. 

The time period was when Prohibition was at an all-time popularity high. In addition to alcohol, cannabis was outlawed in 29 states by 1931. A tax act was placed on it in 1937, criminalizing the plant in the entire country. 

It was allowed to be used for industrial purposes, but any sale, possession, or transfer of hemp otherwise was illegal.

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4. The States Fight Back

In the 1990s, eight states began to oppose the federal policies criminalizing cannabis. Their arguments were that anyone using marijuana medicinally needed help reducing significant pain. They needed it but couldn’t readily get it, even with a prescription.

In 1996, California passed the Compassionate Use Act. They became the first state to legally allow medicinal marijuana. Since then, more than 29 states, as well as Washington, D.C., and some U.S. territories have followed suit.

Now, many states are legalizing recreational weed in addition to medicinal marijuana. Almost every state has some form of legalized use, and the U.S. laws continue to change in favor of marijuana almost daily.

Citizens are fighting back through their county and state legislatures. The benefits of this plant far outweigh any side effects, and the world wants cannabis made legally available again.


Today’s generations grew up during a time when cannabis was a criminalized drug. This fact has skewed the perspective of billions of people on a plant that was originally used for medicinal purposes.

But now, people are being exposed to the truth about marijuana’s history. As more research shows its benefits and states fight against federal policies, the cannabis plant is making a legal comeback.

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