History of Prohibition

8,000+ BCE

Use of hemp cord in pottery identified at ancient village site dating back over 10,000 years, located in the area of modern day Taiwan. Finding hemp use and cultivation in this date range puts it as one of the first and oldest known human agriculture crops.

As explained by Richard Hamilton in the 2009 Scientific American article on sustainable agriculture“Modern humans emerged some 250,000 years ago, yet agriculture is a fairly recent invention, only about 10,000 years old … Agriculture is not natural; it is a human invention. It is also the basis of modern civilization.”

This point was also touched on by Carl Sagan in 1977 when he proposed the possibility that marijuana may have actually been world’s first agricultural crop, leading to the development of civilization itself (see 1977, below).


Linneas classifies Cannabis Sativa
Family : Cannabaceae // Genus : Cannabis // Species : Cannabis Sativa
(annual herbaceous plant)

People have cultivated Cannabis sativa throughout recorded history as a source of industrial fibre, seed oil, food, recreation, religious and spiritual moods, and medicine.

Each part of the plant is harvested differently, depending on the purpose of its use.

Carl Linneas was a Swedish botanist, physician, and zoologist, who formalised the modern system of naming organisms called binomial nomenclature. He is known by the epithet “father of modern taxonomy”

cannabis illustration


Marijuana plantations flourished in Mississippi, Georgia, California, South Carolina, Nebraska, New York, and Kentucky. Also during this period, smoking hashish was popular throughout France and to a lesser degree in the US. Hashish production expands from Russian Turkestan into Yarkand in Chinese Turkestan


The Harrison Act in the U.S. defined use of Marijuana (among other drugs) as a crime

1915 – 1927

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


The U.S. congress repealed the 21st Amendment, ending alcohol prohibition; 4 years later the prohibition of marijuana will be in full effect

vintage marijuana ad
vintage marijuana ad
vintage marijuana ad


The American propaganda film Reefer Madness was made to scare American youth away from using Cannabis


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.


The Boggs Act and the Narcotics Control Act in the U.S. increases all drug penalties and laid down mandatory sentences


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.


Nabilone, a cannabinoid-based medication appears.


Carl Sagan proposes that marijuana may have been the world’s first agricultural crop, leading to the development of civilization itself…


Carl Sagan Dragons of Eden book cover

It would be wryly interesting if in human history the cultivation of marijuana led generally to the invention of agriculture, and thereby to civilization.

Carl Sagan, The Dragons of Eden, Speculations on the Origin of Human Intelligence; p 191, footnote.


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.”


U.S. DEA administrative law Judge Francis Young finds, after thorough hearings, that marijuana has a clearly established medical use and should be reclassified as a prescriptive drug. His recommendation is ignored.

Read the Judge Young’s marijuana rescheduling petition, 1988, here


California voters passed Proposition 215 allowing for the sale and medical use of marijuana for patients with AIDS, cancer, and other serious and painful diseases. This law stands in tension with federal laws prohibiting possession of marijuana

2001 – 2009

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


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


Proposition 19 to legalize marijuana in California is placed back on the ballet (named The Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010). Current voter poles suggest that the proposition has about 50% population support and will likely win or loose by a margin of only 2%

marijuana arrest statistic picture

October 2010

Just weeks before the November 02 California election on Prop. 19 Attorney General Eric Holder said federal authorities would continue to enforce U.S. laws that declare the drug is illegal, even if voters approve the initiative, stating “we will vigorously enforce the (Controlled Substances Act) against those individuals and organizations that possess, manufacture or distribute marijuana for recreational use.”

November 2010

California Proposition 19, also known as the Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010, was narrowly defeated by 53.6% of the vote. This would have legalized various marijuana-related activities in California, allowing local governments to regulate these activities, permitting local governments to impose and collect marijuana-related fees and taxes, and authorizing various criminal and civil penalties.


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 country of Uruguay legalizes marijuana / cannabis for recreational use.

The US District of Columbia decriminalizes personal use and possession of marijuana / cannabis

2013 – August 29

The Cole Memo -DOJ – Aug 2013.pdf

On August 29, 2013, the Department of Justice published a memorandum authored by Cole which described a new set of priorities for federal prosecutors operating in states which had legalized the medical or other adult use of marijuana.

The “Cole memo” represented a significant shift of government priorities away from strict enforcement of federal cannabis prohibition and toward a more hands-off approach in the case of “jurisdictions that have enacted laws legalizing marijuana in some form and that have also implemented strong and effective regulatory and enforcement systems to control the cultivation, distribution, sale and possession of marijuana.”

Indeed, Cole’s memo went so far as to state that “a robust system may affirmatively address [federal] priorities by, for example, implementing effective measures to prevent diversion of marijuana outside the regulated system and to other states, prohibiting access to marijuana by minors, and replacing an illicit marijuana trade that funds criminal enterprises with a tightly regulated market in which revenues are tracked and accounted for.”

Since that date, although federal prosecutions have continued in some legalizing states (notably in the Kettle Falls Five case), the overall number of federal marijuana prosecutions in such states has declined.

July 7, 2014

Cannabis City becomes Seattle’s very first legal marijuana shop for over-the-counter purchase & recreational use.

Cannabis City Website Homepage Screenshot

November 2014

Medical cannabis united states map

Alaska and Oregon legalize marijuana for recreational use.
California, Nevada, Arizona, Hawaii and Massachusetts all begin to draft legalization legislation.

July 24, 2015

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).

November 8, 2016

Prop 64 is on the California Ballot as an initiated state statute. Read the full text here. Supporters refer to the initiative as the Adult Use of Marijuana Act or AUMA. It would legalize and regulate recreational commercial cannabis consumption in statewide.

Prop 64 Logo

In the November 8, 2016 election 7 states legalized marijuana in some form. (Arizona was the only proposal that lost for recreational legalization.)

Recreational Marijuana

Medical Marijuana
-North Dakota

legalization marijuana united states map

November 18, 2016

President-elect Donald Trump plans to nominate Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) to be attorney general of the United States[.] Sessions is a vocal opponent of marijuana legalization whose elevation to attorney general could deal a blow to state-level marijuana legalization efforts across the country. […] Advocates for legalization are, conversely, sounding the alarm. “Jeff Sessions is a drug war dinosaur, which is the last thing the nation needs now,” Ethan Nadelmann, of the Drug Policy Alliance, said in a statement. Sessions’s anti-pot positions have been consistent throughout his career. As far back as 1986, he joked that he thought the Ku Klux Klan “was okay until I found out they smoked pot,” according to the New York Times.