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Saturday, February 29, 2020

The Era Before The Criminalization of Marijuana

     The first American law concerning marijuana, passed in the Virginia assembly in 1619, required every household to grow it. Hemp was deemed not only a valuable commodity, but also a strategic necessity. Its fibers were used to make sails and riggings, and its byproducts were turned into oakum for the caulking of wooden ships. Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania and other colonies eventually allowed hemp to be used as legal tender to boost its production and relieve colonial shortages of currency. Although a number of the Founding Fathers, including George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, later grew hemp on their estates, there is no evidence they were aware of its psychoactive properties. The domestic production of hemp flourished, especially in Kentucky, until the Civil War, when it was replaced by imports from Russia and by other domestic materials.

     In the latter half of the nineteenth century marijuana became a popular ingredient in patent medicines and was sold openly at pharmacies in one-ounce herbal packages and alcohol-based tinctures, as a cure for migraines, rheumatism, and insomnia. Dr. Brown's Sedative Tablets contained marijuana, as did Eli Lilly's One Day Cough Cure.

Eric Schlosser, Reefer Madness, 2003 

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