Throughout history marijuana has been used to serve various
purposes in many different cultures. The purposes have
changed over time to fit in with the current lifestyles.
This pattern is also true in American history. The use of
marijuana has adapted to the social climate of the time. 

Marijuana, whose scientific name is cannibis sativa, was
mentioned in historical manuscripts as early as 2700 B. C.
in China. (Grolier Electronic Encyclopedia, 1995). The
cultivation of the marijuana plant began as far back as the
Jamestown settlers, around 1611, who used hemp produced
from the marijuana plant's fibers to make rope and canvas.
It was also used in making clothing because of it's
durability. These uses fit in with the social climate of
the time, because the main focus was on survival rather
than for psychoactive purposes. During the prohibition,
marijuana was widely used because of the scarcity of
alcohol. Prohibition was repealed after just thirteen years
while the prohibition against marijuana lasted for more
than seventy five years. This double standard may have
resulted from the wishes of those in power. Alcohol
prohibition struck directly at tens of millions of
Americans of all ages, including many of societies most
powerful members. Marijuana prohibition threatened far
fewer Americans, and they had relatively little influence
in the districts of power. Only the prohibition of
marijuana, which some sixty million Americans have violated
since 1965 has come close to approximating the prohibition
experience, but marijuana smokers consist mostly of young
and relatively powerless Americans (American Heritage, pg

Alcohol prohibition was repealed and marijuana prohibition
was retained, not because scientists had proved that
alcohol was the less dangerous of the various psychoactive
drugs, but because of the prejudices and preferences of
most Americans (American Heritage, pg 47). In 1937 the
government issued the Marijuana Tax Act, which levied a
dollar an ounce tax on marijuana, coupled with fines of
$2,000 for drug posession and jail sentences for evasion of
the tax. For this reason marijuana use in the United States
appears to have gone into decline in the late 30's (Grolier
Wellness Encyclopedia, pg 54). Then marijuana was outlawed
in 1937 as a repressive measure against Mexican workers who
crossed the border seeking jobs during the Depression. The
specific reason given for the outlawing of the hemp plant
was its supposed violent "effect on the degenerate races"
(Schaffer, pg. 86). Beginning in the 60's marijuana use saw
a resurgence which may be attributed to many causes. One of
the main causes was the rebellion of youth against the
Vietnam War. They used marijuana as an escape from war to
peace. It was easy at this time to depict marijuana as a
beneficial and completely harmless substance whose effects
were far less harmful than those of legal drugs such as
alcohol and nicotine because there was not enough
scientific research done during the 60's (Grolier Wellness
Encyclopedia, pg 54). Another cause may have been the
discovery of the psychoactive component of marijuana-
tetrahydrocannabinol, commonly known as THC. Users found
the relation between the doses and the effects (Grolier
Electronic Publishing, 1995). 

The current atmosphere provides for doctors to suggest
synthetic marijuana (THC) in a pure and standardized form
by perscription (called Marinol) for the treatment of
nausea associated with cancer chemotherapy. Also, although
there is no scientific evidence that shows marijuana is
beneficial in the treatment of glaucoma, it may prevent the
progression of visual loss. Marijuana, along with alcohol
and a host of other substances, can actually lower
intraocular eye pressure. The mediction however, must be
carefully tailored to the individual to prevent further eye
damage. The evidence has clearly shown that marijuana has
been around for a great deal of time and has served
multiple purposes throughout history.
Ethan A. Nadelmann, American Heritage Magazine, Feb-Mar,

Grolier Electronic Encylopedia, Electronic Publishing,
Inc., 1995
Grolier Wellness Encyclopedia, Drugs, Society & Behavior.
Vol. 3, 1992.
Medical Marijuana,


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