The first known consumption of marijuana in the Western hemisphere was probably in the early 1600s. In fact there’s an old Virginia statute of 1619 requiring colonists to grow marijuana, but not until 1839 did the medicinal benefits become published.
In the 1870s thousands of Indian Hindu immigrants indentured as laborers came to the West Indies and along with them their ancient marijuana culture spread made it even more popular. By 1886, Mexicans and black sailors, helped spread its use throughout all the West Indies and Mexico. In 1905 the US Department of Agriculture “black labeled” marijuana as a poison, which it obviously is not.
In 1937 the Marihuana Tax Act prohibited its recreational use, even though it was used by pharmaceutical companies. The Boggs act, in 1951, established minimum jail sentences for distribution of marijuana, which continues to this day. In 1969 President Nixon launched Operation Intercept, starting the drug wars.
In 1996 voters in California passed prop 215, legalizing marijuana. Currently 17 more states, including the District of Columbia, have followed suit. Despite these efforts, in 2005 the Supreme Court held that the federal government could continue to enforce anti-marijuana laws, regardless of ant state-level medical marijuana laws.
Finally, in 2011 state police started to classify marijuana as “the lowest enforcement priority. Ironically, today marijuana is showing promise for curing, treating and preventing many chronic health conditions, including cancer and HIV.