Hemp and Cannabis in The USA

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About this sample


Words: 1292 |

Pages: 3|

7 min read

Published: Mar 14, 2019

Words: 1292|Pages: 3|7 min read

Published: Mar 14, 2019

Hemp and Cannabis has had a long, complicated history in the United States. Originally used by colonists for textile and industry, the way cannabis has been utilized has had a lasting effect on American society. Currently outlawed by the federal government, the use of cannabis has gone through many changes in recent years. By targeting minorities through the judicial system, being part of the war on drugs, and social prejudices- recreational cannabis use has been influential in mass incarceration, institutionalization of minorities, and prevented thorougeh medical research until recent. With the perception and status of marijuana in the United States rapidly changing, its effect has shifted American society.

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During the 1600s the colonies of Virginia, Massachusetts, and Connecticut had farms grow hemp to promote industry and economic stimulation. Used to manufacture rope and textile, the versatile plant had a varying implementation worldwide. Being extremely strong in its fibers and its durability caused many early farmers to utilize hemp and cannabis as their primary source of income. Being brought to the americas by the english navy, according to historian Martin booth, and was intended to be planted on over 10,000 acres once it reached the Americans. As colonists expanded they were introduced to the Native Americans species of the plant. This is when history of cannabis would transform. Before the 18th century the only smokable version of cannabis was hash, but as cannabis sativa was introduced to famers its use changed and marijuana was found in the americas. Although the female plant was smoked around the world in ritualistic tribal practices, the americas had yet to explore the plants intoxicating effect. Although it's recreational us existed, the more popular and common use of the plant was medicinal. Used in tea to treat coughs, or as a painkiller marijuana became very useful in colonial america where modern medicine was not nearly advanced. This impacted the society of colonists as planters were able to sell and profit off the plant fairly easily. It's versatile use brought industry and economic development to colonists at a time where they sought to find their place on a new frontier.

It wasn't until 1937 when marijuana use was criminalized in the United States, but this policy change came from a long social prejudice towards the plants and its users. When the Pure Food and Drug Act was passed in 1906 the perception of marijuana was seen by the public as an over the counter remedy as well as a drug used by the Mexican. Stories and rumors of nightmares and mania due to the affiliation with the culture of Mexican and colored peoples in American. As fearful sentiment grew, the campaign to make cannabis illegal grew. Because hemp production remained relevant, special interests were looking to control its production. This is one of the reasons legislatures pushed for its illegalization. State by state legislatures of the 1900s used the combination of racism and industrial instability to successfully outlaw cannabis federally. The Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 was the last step to restricting hemp and cannabis usage to wealthy industrialists and medical professionals. The effect of pushing this plant from the mainstream was it handed growth and distribution of the plant, now labeled drug, into the underground and criminal sector. Useful in many ways, the use of marijuana was not able to be fully prevented. By the 1960s the perception of the plant changed dramatically. No longer being socially embraced, marijuana was now a part of the drug community- leading to the perception that it is a gateway drug. In fact, marijuana's classification as a schedule I drug was justified vary minimally and actually goes against the DEA’s own definition. The DEA labels a drug schedule I if it posses a high potential for abuse, yet the studies done during the 1940s show that the plant is not as addictive and harmful as the public perceived. This had a long lasting effect not only on politics, but also on the social dynamics of areas infested with drugs.

As President Richard Nixon was elected there were a few key problems on his agenda. Along with solving wars abroad, one of the cornerstone’s of nixon’s campaign was to reduce the rampant use of drugs in America. With the so-called crack epidemic at large, legislatures scrambled to find solutions. President Nixon’s solution was proposed as the “War on Drugs”- making drug abuse public enemy number one in the United States. America’s poor neighborhoods were littered with drug use, marijuana being included in the public’s perception of the issue, and led to many policy changes which would unfairly punish those in possession of small amounts of schedule I drugs. Mass incarceration, drug addiction, and social injustice all became entangled in a number of policies all hidden behind the government initiative to “fight” drugs. The government campaign claimed to prevent new addicts, and rehabilitation of those who are addicted, but in reality it would be directed toward eradication, interdiction, and incarceration. Cannabis played a large role in enabling corrupt and racist government officials to institutionalize people of color into a prison pipeline. Marijuana's controversial acceptance by some in the US government showed that the plant’s mis-classification caused extreme detriment to those in impoverished and uneducated communities. The funding for programs of education, prevention, and rehabilitation were cut from an annual average of $386 million to $362 million. This trend had enormous impacts on the targets of the war as the administration and policy makers targeted the wrong issue, and only fed the fire. Less education and more jobs left those suffering from addiction to dive deeper into their problems, until they were locked up, most likely for life. Sentences for minor drug possessions increased dramatically, and started the problem of mass incarceration in the United States. Sentences for these offenses changed once Congress enacted an abundance of laws requiring specific minimums of five or ten years or more for specific criminal acts regardless of the circumstances in which they might have been performed or the character of the guilty party. These statutes were confined to drug offenses.. In effect, the guidelines took the sentencing power away from the judiciary and handed it over to the prosecution. It was the focus on race which increased racial disparities in the judicial system. These systemic inequalities caused African Americans to be incarcerated at more than 5 times the rate of whites, according to Ethan Nadelmann in the Foreign Policy. Yet as years passed, so did legislation to a path towards legalization of marajuiana.

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In 2012 Colorado and Washignton became the first states to legalize recreational use. By taxing and regulation the use of marajuana, many changes and benefits were seen. The I-502 bill was able to be passed because of the public’s change in perception of marijuana. With 9 states following in 2018, citizens around the nation understood and came to accept recreational use. In colorado the effects were tremendous. Providing billions of dollars in revenue, the state was able to increase funding to publc works and education. The legalization process was extremely influential in pursuading other states to follow the trend as the economic boost was undeniable. The perception of marijuana in the United States changed mostly because of scientific research which was able to open the eyes of lawmakers and constituents alike. In understanding the plants possible applications in cancer treatment, tumor reduction, as well as its holistic versatility- states have become more willing to push towards legalization. The next step, it seems, is decriminalization as many victims of the war on drugs and disciminatory policing still remain behind bars for minor possession charges. With many support groups around the nation growing, many states look to the plant to bring an economic stimulant to their state.

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Hemp and Cannabis in The USA. (2019, March 12). GradesFixer. Retrieved May 28, 2024, from
“Hemp and Cannabis in The USA.” GradesFixer, 12 Mar. 2019,
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