The History of Hemp

Medical marijuana may just be starting to come into its own and gain traction in the mainstream medical community as a viable treatment option. At Phoenix Life Sciences, our goal is to bridge the gap between our medical products made from certified organic industrial hemp and mainstream pharmaceutical companies, and our efforts are starting to gain traction as medical marijuana becomes more widely-accepted across the country, with 29 states so far having legalized the use of the marijuana plant for medical purposes.

Marijuana’s recreational use is well-known, with its reputation as a psychoactive drug unfortunately giving cannabis in general a negative stereotype. It may seem that the use of cannabinoids from the marijuana plant for medical uses is a more recent development; but in fact, the contrary is true. Marijuana’s healing properties have been known and utilized long before marijuana became popularized as a recreational drug. Believe it or not, the use of marijuana as a medicine can be traced all the way back to ancient China. Here is a comprehensive timeline of medical marijuana, from its earliest days up to its current use, detailing both setbacks and progress.

  • 2700 BC: The earliest known use of medical marijuana comes from Chinese legend; reportedly, Emperor Shen Nung Said prescribed marijuana tea as a treatment for gout, rheumatism, malaria, and memory loss.
  • 200 BC: The ancient Greeks used cannabis as a treatment for earache, edema, and inflammation.
  • 1 AD: An ancient Chinese text recommends cannabis as a treatment for more than 100 ailments.
  • 30 AD: The New Testament of the Bible references cannabis as an anointing oil Jesus used on His disciples.
  • 79 AD: An ancient Roman scholar, Pliny the Elder, wrote about the medicinal properties of the cannabis plant in his text Naturalis Historia.
  • 1538: English botanist William Turner praised the medical use of hemp in his book New Herball.
  • 1621: An English mental health journal recommends cannabis to treat depression.
  • 1840: The Irish doctor William O’Shaughnessy popularizes the use of medical marijuana in England and America when he finds a variety of medical uses including easing the pain and discomfort of ailments such as rheumatism, rabies, menstrual cramps, cholera, and tetanus.
  • 1850: Medical marijuana is added to the United States pharmacopeia.
  • 1937: The Federal Government passes the Marijuana Tax Act, making the nonmedical use of marijuana illegal.
  • 1942: Cannabis is removed from the US Pharmacopeia.
  • 1951: Congress passed the Boggs Act which imposed a mandatory minimum prison sentence for the simple possession of illegal drugs.
  • 1956: Stricter penalties for marijuana possession are imposed when Congress includes marijuana in the Narcotics Control Act
  • 1964: THC, the main psychoactive component of cannabis, is discovered and synthesized.
  • 1985: Marinol, a synthetic form of THC, is approved by the FDA as an alternative treatment for nausea and vomiting experienced by cancer patients receiving chemotherapy. In 1992, the FDA approved marijuana to treat weight loss in AIDS patients.
  • 1990: Scientists discover cannabinoid receptors.
  • 1992: Scientists discover the first endocannabinoid.
  • 1996: California becomes the first state to legalize medical marijuana.
  • 1998: Congress denies a bill that would allow for the medical use of marijuana in Washington D.C. At the same time, however, three more states (Alaska, Oregon, and Washington) legalize medical marijuana.
  • 2000: More states legalize medical marijuana, with Hawaii, Colorado, and Nevada becoming the sixth, seventh, and eighth states.
  • 2009: On October 19, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that they would not pursue medical marijuana users and distributors who abide by state laws.
  • 2013: The U.S. Department of Justice announces an update to their 2009 memo that it will not challenge state marijuana laws.
  • 2015: The federal government removes the Public Health Service (PHS) review process, an obstacle to medical marijuana research.
  • Today: Medical marijuana is legalized in 29 states.

Originally published at on June 9, 2017.