However, the plant fiber from cannabis (hemp) had been used for thousands of years.
Hempfiber was the main ingredient in the first woven fabric. Hemp was used to make ropes, twine, cloth, paper and more. The hemp image (above) illustrates how fibrous the hemp plant is.
Before the invention of plastic and fiberglass in the early 1900s, the world was constantly looking for a new and durable source of natural fiber to make paper, rope and cloth. Although marijuana had existed for centuries, the widespread use of marijuana as a recreational drug did not become widespread in the United States until alcohol was banned during the Prohibition Era (1920-193). Before that, cannabis, as it was called, had been used in the Americas for hundreds of years as a medicine. Once the federal government banned alcohol, marijuana quickly took its place as the recreational drug of choice.
After alcohol was legalized again, marijuana use declined dramatically. Fibrous raw material was needed to make ropes for ships and other war materials. In response, the same federal government that banned hemp and marijuana a few years earlier rushed tons of hemp seeds to farmers and begged them to grow hemp plants. The image above, from 1941, shows farmers in front of a huge pile of hemp.
At the beginning of the 20th century, cannabis, as it was then commonly known in the United States, was a drug rarely used among Americans. In 1923, when cannabis was banned in Canada, few people in this country had seen or heard of marijuana. Few medical exemptions (approximately 3000) have been granted, when there are several hundred thousand Canadians who self-medicate with cannabis. In addition, the term cannabis was largely replaced by the term Anglicanized marijuana, which some speculated was done to promote the foreign nature of the drug and, therefore, fuel xenophobia.
Around that time, Sir William Brooke O'Shaughnessy, an Irish doctor studying in India, documented that cannabis extracts could alleviate symptoms of cholera, such as stomach pain and vomiting. Sharman, then director of the Federal Narcotics Control Division, returned from League of Nations meetings convinced that cannabis would soon fall under international control. In other words, the law should not be used to restrict behaviors that do not harm other people, such as cannabis use. There is some evidence that the drafters of the Marijuana Tax Stamp Act of 1937 intentionally used cannabis slang that spelled “marijuana” to avoid protests and heated opposition from the medical community and the burgeoning hemp industry.
There are also several carbon copies, and one of them was added Cannabis Indica (hemp from India) or hashish. In Canada, the government rejected Le Dain's proposal to eliminate criminal sanctions for possession of cannabis. And, in the years since Le Dain, there have been continuous calls for legislative reform and growing popular support for easing penalties for possession of cannabis. A recent survey among Canadians aged 14 and over revealed that 44% reported using cannabis at least once in their lifetime.
The most significant event of the new century may be the federal government's reluctant recognition of the value of cannabis use in treating medical conditions.