The History Of Medical Cannabis
In recent years, cannabis use for medicinal purposes has seen a resurgence in popularity as more research has been carried out demonstrating its effectiveness in treating a wide range of conditions, however for much of the last century it has been an illegal drug in the USA and many other countries around the world. The idea that marijuana was a negative influence only came about during the first few years of the 20th century, and before that time it was commonly used for centuries for medicinal purposes.
Where Did Cannabis Originate?
The long history of marijuana dates back thousands of years, and many believe that the cannabis plant first evolved in Central Asia, in the region of southern Siberia and Mongolia. The remains of burned cannabis seeds discovered in Siberia in kurgan burial mounds dated back to 3000 BC, while mummified marijuana found in the tombs of nobles in the Xinjiang region dated back to about 2500 BC, proving that its use was widespread in this area during ancient times. The very first record of its use for medicinal purposes was in 4000 BC China when it was used to anesthetize patients during surgery and to treat some other ailments. In around 2000 BC it was brought to Korea and from there to the rest of the South Asian subcontinent. When that region was invaded in about 1000 BC by the Aryans, cannabis spread to India, where Vedic poems celebrated its medicinal use. It wasn't long before it spread to the Middle East and from there to Europe - Pliny the Elder wrote in 79AD about how active the drug was in treating gout and other forms of joint pain.
Use From The Medieval Period
By the 1500s, cannabis was a widely accepted addition to any herbalist's medicine cabinet. It is mentioned in William Turner's "New Herball" from 1538, while a Chinese text dating from 1578 cites its use in treating bleeding, vomiting and parasitic infections. "The Anatomy of Melancholy," a 1621 text about mental health recommended cannabis as an effective treatment for depression while in 1652 "The English Physician" by Nicholas Culpeper, a British herbalist, praised it as a right way of reducing joint pain. Using marijuana for medicinal purposes was also common in America, and George Washington himself grew cannabis at Mount Vernon, expressing a specific interest in its therapeutic use.
Widespread Use During The 19th Century
By the early 1800s, investigations revealed the use of cannabis to relieve pain and to sedate patients in Europe in the year 1842. Records show that an Irish doctor, William O'Shaughnessy, who had been studying in India, reintroduced it to the UK as a medicine for stomach pain, vomiting, convulsions, muscle cramps, rheumatism and to help during childbirth; suggestions say that Queen Victoria used it to help with period pains. By the late 19th century, cannabis extracts were widely sold by pharmacies through the USA and Europe and could be bought by anyone that wanted to benefit from its pain-relieving properties. The invention of the syringe at the end of the 1800s was when its use began to fall from favor, since injecting drugs allowed their more rapid use and since cannabis is not soluble in water, people cannot administer it in this way.
Not long afterward, Prohibitionist sentiments started to spread through America. Massachusetts was the first state to ban the use of cannabis, then several others followed. Despite this, marijuana's use for medical reasons was still prevalent in the rest of the states until the 1930s - two American companies were making cannabis extracts for sedative, anti-convulsive and analgesic purposes during the early part of the decade. The development of morphine and aspirin meant that cannabis became progressively less popular and in 1937 the Marihuana Tax Act resulted in most doctors deciding to no longer prescribe the drug due to the excessive paperwork now required.
A Resurgence In Popularity
After some years during which even medicinal use of marijuana became illegal, the first signs of a change in expert opinion emerged during the 1970s when a Federal Court recognized Robert Randall's use of the drug to treat his glaucoma as a medical necessity. During the 1990s, scientists first identified cannabinoid receptors in the body, and by the end of the decade, five states had legalized marijuana for medical use. Today, 29 states permit cannabis to be used by patients suffering from some conditions, and with more research being carried out into the benefits the drug can provide, its use is likely to become more widespread over the years to come allowing those