Marijuana or cannabis was first identified by the Chinese in c. 2737 BCE and has since been used for medicinal purposes for millennia. The introduction or arrival of medicinal cannabis in America was characterized with an amazingly colorful and checkered history. Medicinal cannabis was characterized with initial robust use in the United States, which faded after the development of aspirin and opioids. The decreased used culminated in the criminalization of cannabis in America in 1937 despite of the contradictory advice of the American Medical Association, which was submitted on record to Congress. However, the use of marijuana has emerged as a major issue in the past few decades because of the renewed interest in medicinal cannabis. Actually, several stakeholders in the health care sector including the American College of Physicians, the Institute of Medicine, and the National Institutes of Health have supported further research and development on medicinal use of cannabis (Aggarwal et al., 2009, p.153).
History of Marijuana:
As previously mentioned, marijuana or cannabis was first discovered by the Chinese in c. 2737 where it was used for medicinal purposes for millennia (Aggarwal et al., 2009, p.153). Cannabis was a very famous medicine in China that contained both yin and yang, which provided the basis for its medicinal use in its early years. The healing virtues of marijuana were discovered alongside those of major Chinese herbal medicines such as ephedra and ginseng. However, the drug arrived much later in the United States where it has been characterized with colorful and tainted history. In the initial years of its arrival in America, marijuana was widely used for medical purposes. Actually, medicinal cannabis was part of United States' pharmacopoeia until 1942 when its use faded following the advent of opioids and aspirin and the enactment of legal restrictions to prevent its use.
The use of marijuana in the United States can be traced back to 1600s when the government encouraged production of hemp for manufacturing sails, clothing, and rope. During this period, marijuana was a combination of dried, shredded leaves and flowers that were obtained from the hemp plant. As legislation was enacted requiring each farmer to grow hemp, the product was exchanged as legal tender in various states including Maryland and Virginia. Marijuana was a famous ingredient in a number of medicinal products and was openly available in public pharmacies. Hemp production across the country thrived until after the Civil War when hemp was replaced by imports and other domestic purposes for various reasons.
In 1906, the enactment of Pure Food and Drug Act necessitated labeling of any medicine products including those with cannabis ("Marijuana Timeline," n.d.). The legislation was geared towards identifying people who mislabeled or polluted drugs with concealed narcotics. However, this act generated fear embedded in drug-related language because it contributed to labeling non-medical cannabis as poison. Marijuana use for medicinal purposes started decreasing because of the fear and the enactment of state laws in approximately 27 states that restricted use. While Mexican immigrants who flooded into the country introduced recreational use of marijuana leaf, fear and prejudice of these immigrants became associated with marijuana. In 1930s during the Great Depression, huge public and governmental concern regarding the problem of marijuana emerged since it was linked to violence, crime, and other deviant behaviors.
After a series of national propaganda campaign including the "Reefer Madness" film in 1936, the Marijuana Tax Act was enacted in 1937 criminalizing marijuana. Possession of the drug was also limited to people who paid an excise tax for specific authorized medical and industrial purposes. For five decades after the Second World War, marijuana use became a generation battle that involved politicians, policymakers, and the general public. U.S. Congress enacted compulsory sentencing laws including the 1952 Boggs Act and the 1956 Narcotics Control Act that established mandatory sentences for drug-related crimes including marijuana. Nonetheless, the counter-culture generations between 1960s and 1980s changes the use of drugs including marijuana into a kind of socio-political revenge. The changing political and cultural environment during this period contributed to increasingly lenient attitudes towards marijuana, which was widely used by white upper and middle class people. Given the increase in drug-related crimes, Congress classified marijuana as a drug with increased probability for abuse and without accepted medical use (Villacorte, 2013).
Present Status of Marijuana in America:
There has been a renewed interest in medicinal purposes in the past few decades, which has been accompanied with calls for support for further research and development by the Institute of Medicine, the National Health Institute, and the American College of Physicians. The increased interest has mainly been fueled by the need for scientific research on medical cannabis since it is believed that the drug is classified as illegal because of politics. These major stakeholders in health care sector support more research and development because of the recently discovered endocannabinoid system, which has enhanced knowledge on the actions of exogenous cannabis. Endocannabinoid system seems to control pain, appetite, muscle tone, inflammation, and mood state. Marijuana or cannabis consist of over 100 cannabinoids and has the capability for analgesia through neuromodulation in anti-inflammatory mechanisms, pain pathways, and neuroprotection. Consequently, scientists support more research and development to determine whether marijuana can be used in management of chronic pain, cachexia, muscle spasticity, and other debilitating conditions (Aggarwal et. al., 2009, p.153).
There have been huge debates regarding the legalization of marijuana that has generated huge support for such initiatives by majority of people. Proponents of legalization of the drug argue that marijuana is prohibited because of political attack by the government, pharmaceutical firms, and large corporations for fear of its multi-billion dollar trade. In contrast, opponents have argued against rushed legalization of the drug on the premise that research indicates that it has the potential to cause problems in everyday life or even worsen an individual's existing problem. Actually, research shows that heavy users of the drug report lower satisfaction in life, poor physical and mental health, and problems in relationships, education, and career.
In light of the increase in support for legalization of marijuana and maturity of research on its medicinal benefits, the United States has relaxed marijuana policies. Currently, more than 23 states have legalized the use of marijuana for medical purposes including Alaska and California (Wing, 2014). In some states like Colorado, marijuana is legalized for legal business and is used for recreational purposes. As the drug continues to generate a more tolerable social outlook, the United States remains at odds with itself because of the legalization of marijuana for medical and recreational purposes at the state level (Cardinale, 2014).
Future of Marijuana in America:
One of the major trends expected in the future of marijuana in the United States is increased legalization of the drug for both medical and recreational purposes. While not every state will end up enacting such legislation, more states are expected to follow the example of Colorado and capitalize on the lucrative nature of recreational marijuana industry. These states will move towards reducing harsh anti-marijuana laws and listening to voters who increasingly support its legalization. Notably, these policies will include taxes for regulated marijuana as a means of controlling its widespread use across the country. The legalization measures will be accompanied with huge controversies because America is currently a drug war-obsessed country with a high number of individuals arrested for drug-related crimes.
Secondly, debates regarding the health effects of this drug will continue beyond the series of legalizations (Wing, 2014). The proponents of marijuana legalization will continue citing the health effects of the drug in comparison with those of alcohol. They will also cite the recent scientific studies that increase understanding of the actions of exogenous cannabis and its significance in managing chronic pain and other debilitating problems. For instance, the…