KimberlyTo younger generations, it might be surprising to learn that cannabis was not always illegal in their state. Regular use of Cannabis began as early as 1619. Restriction started from 1906 onward, with prohibition in the 1920s and regulation of cannabis as a drug in the mid 1930s (with 35 states adopting the Uniform State Narcotic Drug Act.

Some states in the 1970s abolished state laws or local regulations banning possession or sale of cannabis. Although during the Reagan Administration, the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 reinstated mandatory prison sentences (and a later amendment created a three-strike law).

In parallel, some effort to decriminalize cannabis for medical use was underway since the 1970s. Although some states have been advocating to decriminalize cannabis, the effort on the Federal level only took momentum since 2013.

  • Jul 2015

    Senate Bill 5052

    With the passage of Senate Bill 5052 Washington State medical marijuana comes fully under the control of the newly re-named Washington Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB).
  • Nov 2014

    Alaska and Oregon legalize marijuana / cannabis

    The States of Alaska and Oregon legalize marijuana / cannabis for recreational use; the States of California, Nevada, Arizona, Hawaii and Massachusetts all begin to draft legalization legislation.
  • Nov 2012

    States of Colorado and Washington legalize marijuana / cannabis

    The States of Colorado and Washington legalize marijuana / cannabis for recreational use; promises are made to the people that these new initiatives will have no impact on medical marijuana in those states. The US District of Columbia decriminalizes personal use and possession of marijuana / cannabis.
  • 2009

    Steps toward ending the unsuccessful 20-year war on drugs

    President Obama made steps toward ending the very unsuccessful 20-year “war on drugs” initiated during the Regan administration by stating that individual drug use is really a public health issue, and should be treated as such. Under his guidance, the U.S. Justice Department announced that federal prosecutors will no longer pursue medical marijuana users and distributors who comply with state laws.
  • 2001-2009

    Intensification of war on drugs

    Under President G.W. Bush the U.S. federal government intensified its “war on drugs” targeting both patients and doctors across the state of California.
  • 1996

    Re-legalization of medical marijuana

    California (the first U.S. state to ban marijuana use, see 1915) became the first U.S. State to then re-legalize medical marijuana use for people suffering from AIDS, cancer, and other serious illnesses. A similar bill was passed in Arizona the same year. This was followed by the passage of similar initiatives in Alaska, Colorado, Maine, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Washington D.C., Hawaii, Maryland, New Mexico, Rhode Island, and Vermont.
  • 1992

    Closing of the Compassionate Use program

    In reaction to a surge of requests from AIDS patients for medical marijuana, the U.S. government closes the Compassionate Use program. That same year the pharmaceutical medication dronabinol is approved for AIDS-wasting syndrome.
  • 1986

    President Reagan signed the Anti-Drug Abuse Act

    President Reagan signed the Anti-Drug Abuse Act, reinstating mandatory minimums and raising federal penalties for possession and distribution and officially begins the U.S. international “war on drugs.”
  • 1977-1981

    U.S. President Carter pushed for decriminalization of marijuana

    U.S. President Carter, including his assistant for drug policy, Dr. Peter Bourne, pushed for decriminalization of marijuana, with the president himself asking Congress to abolish federal criminal penalties for those caught with less than one ounce of marijuana.
  • 1976

    Creation of the Investigational New Drug IND Compassionate Use research program

    The U.S. federal government created the Investigational New Drug (IND) Compassionate Use research program to allow patients to receive up to nine pounds of cannabis from the government each year. Today, five surviving patients still receive medical cannabis from the federal government, paid for by federal tax dollars. At the same time the U.S. FDA continues to list marijuana as Schedule I meaning: “A high potential for abuse with no accepted medical value.”
  • 1972

    Shafer Commission

    The Nixon-appointed Shafer Commission urged use of cannabis to be re-legalized, but their recommendation was ignored. U.S. Medical research picks up pace. Proposition 19 in California to legalize marijuana use is rejected by a voter margin of 66-33%.
  • 1970

    The NORML forms

    The US National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) forms. That same year the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act repealed mandatory penalties for drug offenses, and marijuana was categorized separately from other narcotics.
  • 1941

    Cannabis is removed from the U.S. Pharmacopoeia

    Cannabis is removed from the U.S. Pharmacopoeia and it’s medicinal use is no longer recognized in America. The same year the Indian government considers cultivation in Kashmir to fill void of hashish from Chinese Turkestan. Hand-rubbed charas from Nepal is choicest hashish in India during World War II.
  • 1937

    U.S. Congress passed the Marijuana Tax Act

    U.S. Congress passed the Marijuana Tax Act which criminalized the drug. In response Dr. William C. Woodward, testifying on behalf of the AMA, told Congress that, “The American Medical Association knows of no evidence that marijuana is a dangerous drug” and warned that a prohibition “loses sight of the fact that future investigation may show that there are substantial medical uses for Cannabis.” His comments were ignored by Congress. A part of the testimony for Congress to pass the 1937 act derived from articles in newspapers owned by William Randolph Hearst, who had significant financial interests in the timber industry, which manufactured his newsprint paper.
  • 1933

    End of the Prohibition

    The U.S. congress ratify the 21st Amendment, ending alcohol prohibition; 4 years later the prohibition of marijuana will be in full effect.
  • 1919

    Beginning of the Prohibition

    The 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution banned the manufacture, sale, and transportation of alcohol and positioned marijuana as an attractive alternative leading to an increase in use of the substance.
  • 1915-1927

    Cannabis begins to be prohibited for non-medical use

    In the U.S. cannabis begins to be prohibited for non-medical use. Prohibition first begins in California (1915), followed by Texas (1919), Louisiana (1924), and New York (1927).
  • 1850-1915

    Marijuana was widely used throughout United States as a medicinal drug

    Marijuana was widely used throughout the United States as a medicinal drug and could easily be purchased in pharmacies and general stores.
  • 1850

    The U.S. Pharmacopoeia

    Cannabis is added to The U.S. Pharmacopoeia.
  • 1532

    Rabelais mentions marijuana's medicinal effects

    French physician Rabelais’s gargantua and Pantagruel mentions marijuana’s medicinal effects.
  • 500-600

    Talmud mentions Cannabis

    The Jewish Talmud mentions the euphoriant properties of Cannabis.
  • 130-200

    Greek physician Galen

    Greek physician Galen prescribes medical marijuana.
  • 2,737 BCE

    First recorded use as medicine

    First recorded use of cannabis as medicine by Emperor Shen Neng of China.