1611 – Jamestown Settlers Bring Marijuana to North America
"The Jamestown settlers brought the marijuana plant, commonly known as hemp, to North America in 1611, and throughout the colonial period, hemp fiber was an important export. Indeed, in 1762, 'Virginia awarded bounties for hemp culture and manufacture, and imposed penalties on those who did not produce it.'"
Bernard Segal, PhD Perspectives on Drug Use in the United States, 1986
1840s – Marijuana Becomes Mainstream Medicine in the West
"In the 19th Century, marijuana emerged as a mainstream medicine in the West. Studies in the 1840s by a French doctor by the name of Jacques-Joseph Moreau [a French psychiatrist] found that marijuana suppressed headaches, increased appetites, and aided people to sleep."
1850 – Marijuana Added to US Pharmacopeia
"By 1850, marijuana had made its way into the United States Pharmacopeia [an official public standards-setting authority for all prescription and over-the counter medicines], which listed marijuana as treatment for numerous afflictions, including: neuralgia, tetanus, typhus, cholera, rabies, dysentery, alcoholism, opiate addiction, anthrax, leprosy, incontinence, gout, convulsive disorders, tonsillitis, insanity, excessive menstrual bleeding, and uterine bleeding, among others. Patented marijuana tinctures were sold..."
1915-1927 – 10 States Pass Marijuana Prohibition Laws
"[In 1915] Utah passes state anti-marijuana law...
Other states quickly followed suit with marijuana prohibition laws, including Wyoming (1915), Texas (1919), Iowa (1923), Nevada (1923), Oregon (1923), Washington (1923), Arkansas (1923), and Nebraska (1927)." The state of New York outlaws cannabis in 1927.
Drug WarRant.com "Why Is Marijuana Illegal?," Drug War Rant.com (accessed July 14, 2010)
1942 – Marijuana Removed from US Pharmacopeia
"Marijuana was removed from the US Pharmacopeia in 1942, thus losing its remaining mantle of therapeutic legitimacy."
American Medical Association (AMA) "Report 10 of the Council on Scientific Affairs," 1997
June 17, 1971 – President Nixon Declares War on Drugs
At a June 17, 1971 press conference, President Nixon said:
"America's public enemy number one in the United States is drug abuse. In order to fight and defeat this enemy, it is necessary to wage a new, all-out offensive.
I have asked the Congress to provide the legislative authority and the funds to fuel this kind of an offensive. This will be a worldwide offensive dealing with the problems of sources of supply, as well as Americans who may be stationed abroad, wherever they are in the world...
I have brought Dr. [Jerome H.] Jaffe into the White House, directly reporting to me [as Special Consultant to the President for Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs], so that we have not only the responsibility but the authority to see that we wage this offensive effectively and in a coordinated way."
Richard Nixon, LLB "Remarks About an Intensified Program for Drug Abuse Prevention and ControlThe President's News Conference," The American Presidency Project website, June 17, 1971
1976 – Marijuana Decriminalized in the Netherlands
“In 1976, the Netherlands adopted de facto decriminalization [of cannabis]. Under Dutch law, possession remains a crime, but the national policy of the Ministry of Justice is to not enforce that law. After 1980, a system of 'coffee shops' evolved in which the purchase of small quantities of cannabis by adults was informally tolerated and was then formally permitted in shops that were licensed."
Craig Reinarman, PhD "The Limited Relevance of Drug Policy: Cannabis in Amsterdam and in San Francisco," American Journal of Public Health, May 2004
Nov. 5, 1991 – First Medical Marijuana Initiative Passed in San Francisco
"The first medical marijuana initiative appeared in the city of San Francisco as Proposition P, which passed with an overwhelming 79% of the vote on Nov. 5, 1991. Proposition P called on the State of California and the California Medical Association to 'restore hemp medical preparations to the list of available medicines in California,' and not to penalize physicians 'from prescribing hemp preparations for medical purposes.'"
Nov. 5, 1996 – California Becomes First State to Legalize Medical Marijuana
"Voters in California [pass] a state medical marijuana initiative in 1996. Known as Proposition 215 (45 KB), it permits patients and their primary caregivers, with a physician' s recommendation, to possess and cultivate marijuana for the treatment of AIDS, cancer, muscular spasticity, migraines, and several other disorders; it also protects them from punishment if they recommend marijuana to their patients."
Nov. 3, 1998 – Alaska, Oregon, and Washington Become 2nd, 3rd, and 4th States to Legalize Medical Marijuana
"Fifty-eight percent of voters [in Alaska] approved Ballot Measure #8 on November 3, 1998. The law took effect on March 4, 1999. It removes state-level criminal penalties on the use, possession and cultivation of marijuana by patients who possess written documentation from their physician advising that they 'might benefit from the medical use of marijuana...'
Fifty-five percent of voters [in Oregon] approved Measure 67 on November 3, 1998. The law took effect on December 3, 1998. It removes state-level criminal penalties on the use, possession and cultivation of marijuana by patients who possess a signed recommendation from their physician stating that marijuana "may mitigate" his or her debilitating symptoms...
Fifty-nine percent of voters [in Washington] approved Measure 692 on November 3, 1998. The law took effect on that day. It removes state-level criminal penalties on the use, possession and cultivation of marijuana by patients who possess 'valid documentation" from their physician affirming that he or she suffers from a debilitating condition and that the "potential benefits of the medical use of marijuana would likely outweigh the health risks.'"
National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) "Active State Medical Marijuana Programs," norml.org (accessed Aug. 26, 2010)
Feb. 15, 2008 – Nation’s 2nd Largest Physician Group Calls for Marijuana Reclassification and Supports Nonsmoked Forms of Medical Marijuana
In a paper released on Feb. 15, 2008, the American College of Physicians (ACP) stated its support for the use of nonsmoked forms of THC, research on the benefits of medical marijuana, review of the federal scheduling of marijuana, and exemption from criminal prosecution.
The ACP said, in part:
"Position 1: ACP supports programs and funding for rigorous scientific evaluation of the potential therapeutic benefits of medical marijuana and the publication of such findings.
Position 1a: ACP supports increased research for conditions where the efficacy of marijuana has been established to determine optimal dosage and route of delivery.
Position 1b: Medical marijuana research should not only focus on determining drug efficacy and safety but also on determining efficacy in comparison with other available treatments.
Position 2: ACP encourages the use of nonsmoked forms of THC that have proven therapeutic value.
Position 3: ACP supports the current process for obtaining federal research-grade cannabis.
Position 4: ACP urges review of marijuana’s status as a schedule I controlled substance and its reclassification into a more appropriate schedule, given the scientific evidence regarding marijuana’s safety and efficacy in some clinical conditions.
Position 5: ACP strongly supports exemption from federal criminal prosecution; civil liability; or professional sanctioning, such as loss of licensure or credentialing, for physicians who prescribe or dispense medical marijuana in accordance with state law. Similarly, ACP strongly urges protection from criminal or civil penalties for patients who use medical marijuana as permitted under state laws."
American College of Physicians "Supporting Research into the Therapeutic Role of Marijuana," (166 KB) , Feb. 15, 2008
Nov. 10, 2009 – AMA Softens Position on Scheduling of Marijuana
The American Medical Association softens its position on medical marijuana in a policy statement released Nov. 10, 2009. The statement read in part: "Our AMA urges that marijuana's status as a federal Schedule I controlled substance be reviewed with the goal of facilitating the conduct of clinical research and development of cannabinoid-based medicines, and alternate delivery methods. This should not be viewed as an endorsement of state-based medical cannabis programs, the legalization of marijuana, or that scientific evidence on the therapeutic use of cannabis meets the current standards for a prescription drug product." Prior to the Nov. 10, 2009 position quoted above, the AMA had recommended that marijuana be retained in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act pending the outcome of further studies.
Aug. 29, 2013 – Justice Department Will Not Challenge State Marijuana Laws
"Today [Aug. 29, 2013], the U.S. Department of Justice announced an update (525 KB) to its federal marijuana enforcement policy in light of recent state ballot initiatives that legalize, under state law, the possession of small amounts of marijuana and provide for the regulation of marijuana production, processing, and sale...
[T]he federal government has traditionally relied on state and local authorizes to address marijuana activity through enforcement of their own narcotics laws. This guidance continues that policy.
For states such as Colorado and Washington that have enacted laws to authorize the production, distribution and possession of marijuana... [b]ased on assurances that those states will impose an appropriately strict regulatory system, the Department has informed the governors of both states that it is deferring its right to challenge their legalization laws at this time."