Herb, ganja, and weed are just a few of the most well-known names for the cannabis plant. However, the most commonly used term, “marijuana” has a surprisingly controversial role in both history and cannabis culture. As mainstream culture becomes increasingly cannabis-infused (pun intended), the terminology we’ve used for decades is coming under scrutiny. Do you know about the history of marijuana and how it came to cause so much controversy?
Today, marijuana is one of the universal words used to refer to cannabis in America and around the world. But, did you know that before 1910, “marijuana” didn’t even exist as a word in the American lexicon? Instead, people used the more erudite term, “cannabis” to refer to both the hemp plant and its psychoactive cousin, recreational marijuana.
Before the Reefer Madness Era, cannabis was a regular ingredient in household medicines and remedies for common ailments. In fact, in the early 1900s, modern-day pharmaceutical giants, Bristol-Meyer’s Squib and Eli Lilly, even included cannabis and cannabis extracts in their medicinal products.
During this time in American history, the elite had also discovered hashish, and literary celebrities like Alexander Dumas, author of The Three Musketeers, were known to experiment with psychoactive cannabis products. A part of the popularity of hashish stemmed from a Turkish Hashish Smoking exhibit and concession featured at the World Fairs and International Expositions through the late 1800s.
Though this lesser-known aspect of the history of marijuana hasn’t received much attention, hashish smoking was remarkably popular in the decades prior to cannabis prohibition. Coming from Europe, the seemingly exotic activity of smoking European hashish enjoyed immense mainstream appeal. Interestingly, the smoking of hashish was only one-third as potent as the oral ingestion of cannabis extract medicines American pharmacies were distributing at this time.
Despite the relative popularity of cannabis-infused medicines and the prevalence of hashish smoking parlors in every major American city, the idea of smoking cannabis didn’t enter mainstream consciousness until around 1910-1920. The reason for this shift was directly related to the 890,000 Mexicans who immigrated to America in the aftermath of a devastating civil war.
“The political upheaval in Mexico that culminated in the Revolution of 1910 led to a wave of Mexican immigration to states throughout the American Southwest. The prejudices and fears that greeted these peasant immigrants also extended to their traditional means of intoxication: smoking marijuana.”
In addition to radical claims that smoking marijuana incited violent behaviors, aroused bloodlust, and gave consumers “superhuman strength,” rumors also spread that Mexicans were distributing their “killer weed” to schoolchildren.
At this time, America was beginning to reel from the effects of the Great Depression, and Americans needed someone to blame. Ultimately, the influx of immigrants in the Southern part of the country and the rising popularity of “suggestive” jazz music resulted in pushback from mainstream culture. As a result, white Americans began to treat cannabis—and arguably the Mexican immigrants and Black Americans who consumed marijuana—as dangerous. Soon, marijuana became associated with a drug that corrupted the mind and the body as opposed to healing it.
In fact, by the 1930s, the campaign against marijuana was nuanced and widespread. By the time the federal government criminalized the plant, 29 states including Nevada, already had “marijuana” bans in effect. Today, 80 years after American federal prohibition, the history of marijuana is still being written across the country and the world.
Although those familiar with the history of marijuana know that medical marijuana has been legal for almost 20 years in Nevada, recreational marijuana Las Vegas sales have only been rocking our city since July 2017. If you’re a first-time consumer or a veteran smoker with premium bud tastes, our Las Vegas recreational marijuana dispensary is conveniently located right next to the Strip!