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CBD 101: A Brief History of Cannabis and CBD

by KOR Medical


Today, cannabidiol (CBD) products derived from hemp are widely available across the United States. More states are legalizing cannabis for medical and recreational use year after year. Despite an ongoing culture war over cannabis and hemp, more and more people are realizing the benefits of cannabinoid therapy. 

According to a 2021 poll by the Pew Research Center, 91% of Americans believe cannabis should be legal for either medical or recreational use. Between 2000 and 2019, the portion of Americans who believe cannabis should be legal more than doubled. But how did this shift happen? Let’s dive into the history of cannabis for a better understanding. 

Marijuana vs. Hemp: CBD 101

Before we explore the historical context, let’s clarify a few terms and learn some CBD 101. Both marijuana and hemp are plants that belong to the Cannabis sativa family. The main difference between the two is this: Hemp contains less than 0.3% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), while marijuana contains higher concentrations of the cannabinoid. 

Essentially, marijuana will get you high, but hemp won’t. In most cases, “cannabis” refers to psychoactive marijuana. However, it is sometimes used as an umbrella term for both members of the Cannabis sativa family.

History of Cannabis

Before the 1900s, marijuana and hemp were widely utilized for pharmaceutical and agricultural purposes. While marijuana was popular as a medicinal herb, hemp was primarily used industrially. Both plants were widely regarded as beneficial to the human experience. 

A Deep-Rooted History

The history of medicinal marijuana traces back thousands of years. In 2727 B.C., Chinese Emperor Shen Nung believed cannabis worked as a medical treatment for rheumatism, gout, malaria and menstrual pain. 

Cannabis plants were likely brought to the U.S. in the 1500s by the Spanish. Hemp quickly became one of the most popular materials used to create rope, twine and paper.

What Happened in the 1900s?

Throughout the twentieth century, things started to change. Stigmas around cannabis grew, and governments began to outlaw it. By 1931, 29 states banned marijuana. The stigmatization was largely fueled by racially charged anti-drug campaigns.

In 1937, the Marijuana Tax Act placed hefty excise taxes on the sale, transportation or possession of hemp. In 1970, the “War on Drugs” began with the Controlled Substances Act, which categorized cannabis as a Schedule I drug — the same status as that comprising cocaine, heroin and ecstasy. Shortly after, President Richard Nixon created the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) in 1973.  

After cannabis underwent a harsh period of prohibition, and after those possessing the drug suffered arrests and incarceration, the United States is now experiencing a new era, as attitudes about cannabis and hemp are beginning to shift. However, there’s still a long way to go until we can say we live in a post-prohibition era. As of June 2020, there were still 40,000 U.S. citizens in jail or prison for marijuana offenses.

History of Cannabis Laws in America

The paradigm shift we are experiencing today began in California in 1996. That year, California was the first state to legalize cannabis for medical use by patients suffering from chronic illnesses, including cancer, chronic pain, AIDS, anorexia, glaucoma, arthritis and migraines. Many states shortly followed with their own medical marijuana laws. 

Washington and Vermont became the first states to legalize recreational marijuana in 2012. Today, 39 states allow marijuana for either medical or recreational use. 

In 2018, the U.S. enacted the 2018 Farm Bill, legalizing hemp nationwide. While hemp remains highly regulated, this allows for CBD products to be widely available across the country. 

The Remaining Divisions

Although cannabis is more culturally accepted today, we are still grappling with the issue of its legality as a country. While thousands of people remain incarcerated for cannabis offenses, companies and governments are profiting from the plant. Additionally, cannabis and hemp businesses face high taxes, creating a burden for businesses and consumers alike. This allows the black market to thrive.

How do we ignore prisoners while others profit? How do we ensure safe, legal and affordable products reach the consumer? How do we erase the stigma? These questions are being asked among the populace, and only time will tell how these issues get addressed on state and federal levels.

CBD 101: Personalized Medicine

Thanks to the increasing legalization of hemp and marijuana, we are learning more valuable information as scientists study the plants and their many compounds. The most noteworthy cannabis-related advancement in the medical community took place in 2018, when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a CBD medication for rare and severe forms of epilepsy. Scientific studies of CBD suggest the compound may be beneficial in treating insomnia, chronic pain, anxiety and drug addiction. 

Here at KOR Medical, we believe in the power of cannabinoids. We started with a vision to optimize physical and mental wellness, reduce suffering, and confront the nation’s opioid crisis by delivering expert products with an individualized approach. All of our products are hemp-derived, lab-verified, and manufactured in facilities registered with the FDA.

Kasey Donovan is a copywriter, music lover, and cannabis enthusiast. In his free time, he is having fun with his son Atticus, wife Jesse, and two corgi-mixes, Zira and Ellie.