Happy family

Find a legal form in minutes

Browse US Legal Forms’ largest database of 85k state and industry-specific legal forms.

Medical use of Marijuana-History

The Chinese were the first among those who used marijuana for medicinal purposes.  By 1850, Cannabis was a part of the American pharmacopoeia.  Marijuana was listed as a useful drug for the treatment of numerous afflictions such as neuralgia, tetanus, typhus, cholera, rabies, anthrax, leprosy, tonsillitis, dysentery, insanity, and excessive menstrual and uterine bleedings.  It was used as a popular medicine until the time the Marihuana Tax Act was passed in 1937.  Marihuana continues to be available by prescription in the Netherlands, Canada, Spain, and Italy. 

An unexpected prohibition on the use of medical marihuana was made in 1937 when U.S. passed the first federal law against cannabis.   Dr. William C. Woodward, a representative of the American Medical Association (AMA) raised objections against the Bill.  He testified on behalf of the AMA that the Act was to curtail the medicinal uses of Marijuana, and passing of the Bill will deprive US citizens benefits of a drug of substantial value.  However, the Act was passed in 1937, and Marijuana was removed from US Pharmacopoeia in 1941.  The debates relating to the passing of the Boggs Act, 1951 created a notion that the use of Marijuana led to the use of harder drugs.  Penalties for Marihuana were increased with the Narcotic Control Act, 1951.  The Controlled Substances Act, 1970 classified drugs into five schedules.  Schedule I substances are said to have highest potential for abuse, no medical value, and are considered not to be safe for use even under medical supervision.  Marijuana is classified as a Schedule I drug.[1] 

In 1976, the federal government created a special federal program known as the Investigational New Drug (IND) compassionate access research program to allow patients to receive up to nine pounds of cannabis from the government each year.  However, the access to the program was closed in June 1991 when the Public Health Service announced that the program would be suspended because it undermined federal prohibition. Despite this successful medical program and centuries of documented safe use, cannabis is still classified in America as a Schedule I substance.

In 1996, patients and advocates turned to the state level for access to marijuana for medical purposes. Voter initiatives in California and Arizona allowed legal use of cannabis with a doctor’s recommendation. Subsequently, similar initiatives were passed in Alaska, Colorado, Maine, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, and Washington D.C. The legislatures of Hawaii, Maryland, New Mexico Rhode Island, and Vermont have also acted on behalf of their citizens, and every legislative session sees more bills introduced at the state level across the country.[2]

In 1997, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) after a comprehensive study of the medical efficacy of cannabis therapeutics came to a conclusion that cannabis is a safe and effective medicine, patients should have access, and the government should expand avenues for research and drug development of the same.  However, the federal government paid a deaf ear to the findings and refused to act on its recommendations.

State laws legalizing medical marijuana was passed from the year 1996.  California was the first to pass a law favoring medical use of marijuana.  Following this, Alaska, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, Rhode Island, New Mexico, Washington, and Vermont also passed favorable laws. 


[1] Medical Marijuana Law, Richard Glen Boire, Kevin Feeney

[2] http://www.safeaccessnow.org/section.php?id=175

Inside Medical use of Marijuana-History