Cannabis as Medicine: A Brief History

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There is a long history weaving a unique and intricate web between humanity and the plant species known as cannabis. The history of humans using Cannabis for a variety of purposes dates back some 10,000 years. Cannabis has its roots in spiritual rituals, recreational entertainment and medicinal preparations. It seems the earliest ancient writings of India and China document cannabis as a tool used for state shifting in rituals. As history progressed, cannabis was found in tea and edible folk medicine. Traditionally in the past, when using marijuana medicinally, it was not smoked. Instead, marijuana preparations were swallowed or used sublingually as a tincture (Mack & Joy, 11). In China, circa 1 A.D., marijuana is depicted in one of the world’s oldest pharmacopoeia texts suggesting marijuana as herbal treatment (Mack & Joy, 14). In India, practitioners of Ayurvedic medicine have used cannabis in herbal preparations for thousands of years: this is still practiced in India today. Even here in the United States, before Cannabis prohibition took hold in the 1930’s, a person could walk into a pharmacy and purchase a variety of cannabis infused tinctures. When drug prohibition took America by storm, marijuana use and cultivation was driven underground. Nonetheless, many people remained dedicated to the proliferation of cannabis. In 1996, California was the first state in the United States to pass Proposition 215, a medical marijuana law. Over the past twenty years, thirty states have joined in the legalization and regulation of medical marijuana. Recreational marijuana use is now legal in 5 states and growing rapidly. There is an emerging theme in recreational states that once a cannabis company is serving the recreational public that company can no longer disseminate medical information. As Canada is currently rolling out country wide legalization in 2018, we are seeing some international movement into the cannabis space by big business. Finally, scientific research to advance the understanding of cannabis in various ways is moving forward at an unprecedented pace. The Cannabis plant has survived and even thrived during a time of prohibition and suppression. We are witness to, and participants in, a new era of exploration and advancement in cannabis medicine and cannabis science.


NORML. (2017). Recent Research on Medical Marijuana. retrieved from:

Mack, Alison and Joy, Janet. (2000). Marijuana As Medicine?: The Science Beyond the Controversy.

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