After more than a century of prohibition, cannabis was finally granted legal recreational status on 1 January 2018 in the US state of California. Let’s take a look at the long road that led to this landmark decision.
Cannabis and California are almost synonymous these days. When looking at cannabis seeds genetics in the current day, most pundits and cultivators would agree that the most exciting research and development is coming out of the Golden State. And, while the green gold movement is showing no signs of slowing down, history has not always been so kind to consumers and growers alike.
Weed (and hemp for that matter) was totally unregulated and fully legal until 1911. In the early 1800s, there were large parts of the State covered in hemp farms, with production peaking at over 200,000 lbs annually in 1810. However, due to certain socio-economic policies this hefty production was all but abandoned and by the late 1800s weed was only being grown for personal consumption.
It was in the first years of the 1900s when reefer madness took center stage. California was actually one of the first states to introduce policies criminalizing the cultivation, distribution, and personal intake of weed and paved the way for many other states and follow suit. Prison sentences were introduced in the early 1920s and by the start of the 1930s growers and sellers could face more than a decade of time behind bars if caught.
Something else happened in the early 1930s that would change the national outlook on the use of not just weed, but all “narcotics”. The prohibition of alcohol was starting to crumble, and the newly appointed commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics Harry Anslinger could see that his role was in jeopardy. He needed a new target to hone in on, and while he had gone on record just a few years earlier stating that he saw no big issue with cannabis consumption, weed became his enemy number one.
It was in mid-1937 when the Federal government passed the Marihuana Tax Act, all but effectively placing a total ban on the consumption and cultivation of cannabis within the continental United States. And while these laws were slightly relaxed during World War II so that hemp could be grown for the production of rope and other needed products, these farms were all gone by 1957.
This is how the laws stayed, all the way through the 1940s, 50s, 60, and up into the mid-70s. In 1975 Robert Randell became the very first medicinal marijuana patient and the Federal government almost instantly tried to step in and stop his access and any further research into cannabis. A year later he went on to sue the government and won a landmark case essentially beginning the road for a shift in public consciousness towards medicinal weed in the United States.
Fast forward to 1996, proposition 215 (also known as the Compassionate Use Act) was passed with an overwhelming majority which allowed doctors to prescribe cannabis for almost any illness. The passing of this bill California the first state to officially allow widespread medicinal cannabis usage, with many other states to follow in the coming decades.
At the beginning of 2018 and after multiple states before them passed recreational bills, the spiritual home of weed that is California finally allowed for the recreational use of weed statewide. These days it is one of the fastest-growing industries and provides close to half a million jobs countrywide.
It is anyone’s guess where the industry will land in the coming decades, but it’s safe to say that weed is definitely here to stay.