The Complex History of Cannabis You Need to Know

The history of cannabis is a complex one, especially in the U.S. We at BLAZE are passionate about our industry and seeing its growth for the future. That’s why we think taking a look back is so important. We’re going to dive into cannabis’ origins, its role in history, and how we got to where we are today. 

Origins of Cannabis

Cannabis has its roots all across the world. It likely first evolved and flourished somewhere in Northern Asia. There’s even evidence of it being used as early as 3000 B.C.E. Cannabis made its way to China, where the emperor Shen Nung lauded it for its medicinal benefits. From there, Chinese merchants brought the plant to Korea and southern Asia. When these people interacted with Aaryans, the plant then traveled to India and parts of the Middle East. 

Indian kingdoms quickly adopted the herb. Soon they were celebrating it as one of the most important in their culture. It was revered as a plant that could cure everything from anxiety to malaria. Nomadic tribes then carried the plant to Europe through their military conquests. It then became popular across what is now modern-day Germany and traveled even as far as Britain. There’s evidence to suggest that cannabis was a popular plant amongst Viking warriors who likely contributed to its spread across the globe.

Cannabis grew in popularity across the world and made its way everywhere from Africa to South America. While mostly used for its medicinal benefits, there are some cultures that consumed it for its psychoactive properties. This was usually done during religious ceremonies to induce a trance state or to commune with religious figures.

By the 1500’s, Cannabis had made its way to North America with Spanish explorers. While the Spanish used the plant for hemp and building ropes, the indiginous populus began utilizing it for medicinal and recreational purposes. By the mid to late 1800’s, the herb was popular throughout Mexico and the Southern United States. This is when the word “marijuana” entered the lexicon. 

History of Marijuana

Marijuana was rarely used as a term for Cannabis until the Mexican Revolution. The violence of that war sent thousands of Mexican refugees fleeing to the United States. Racist sentiments soon took hold, and Mexican immigrants were being discriminated against. One such way was through their use of cannabis. Marijuana took over as the favored term in order to “other” the plant and associate it with Hispanics. 

Marijuana was associated with dangerous behavior and violence. There were claims it was corrupting and hurting American youth. The plant was also tied to other minority groups like Blacks and Hindus and associating them with similar negative connotations. Soon, calls for cannabis prohibition started to grow. This was further incited by infamous U.S Narcotics Commissioner Henry Anslinger. He campaigned on a platform of racist beliefs and strict drug control. By 1937, he testified before Congress and championed cannabis restrictions. 

The History of Cannabis Prohibition

The Marijuana Tax Act was the first of its kind to introduce cannabis criminality. After it was enacted in 1937, cannabis possession became a federal crime, enforceable by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). This marked the beginning of a long history of laws and restrictions on cannabis. It also signified the start of cannabis stigmatism becoming ingrained in the U.S Judicial system. 

Marijuana and the War on Drugs

In the 1970’s, the United States radically increased their attack on cannabis users. President Regan’s War on Drugs, dramatically increased the government’s role in seeking out and prosecuting cannabis users. Billions of dollars were diverted to conducting policing operations in the United States and conducting drug-operations abroad. 

The 1986 Anti-Drug Abuse Act significantly increased penalties for drug use and established detrimental minimum-mandatory sentencing. Now cannabis users were being prosecuted not for their role in the drug deal, but the amount of drugs present. Worse yet, judges were now unable to lower sentences out of compassion or good-faith. This resulted in millions of Americans over the years, being sentenced to outrageous prison sentences, sometimes even life in prison. There are currently more Americans in prison on drug related charges than violent crimes. Even worse, cannabis-related charges still result in higher sentences than crimes like murder and kidnapping.

Moving in the Right Direction

In 1996, California enacted the Compassionate Use Act which granted people with severe or chronic illnesses the right to use cannabis for medicinal purposes. From there, dozens of other states have legalized cannabis for medical use. This has spurred research into cannabis’ health benefits and its ability to treat things like epilepsy. 

Colorado and Washington State were the first to legalize recreational cannabis use in 2012. From there, Alaska, Oregon, and Washington D.C followed in 2014. Currently there are a total of fifteen states with legal recreational cannabis use and twice as many to include medical use. Many more states have introduced ballot measures and steps to legalize cannabis in their states.

Federal Cannabis Legalization

Currently, cannabis is still federally prohibited. It is classified by the United States Government as a Schedule 1 drug. However, there have been increasing calls for cannabis legalization at a federal-level. These calls have been voiced by both some Republican and Democrat officials. More so, President Biden has suggested that Federal cannabis legalization might be on the horizon.

The Evolution of Cannabis Tech

As recreational and medical cannabis became available across the country, technology was forced to speed up to match the demand. Instead of relying on traditional growing methods that were subject to changes from the weather, skill of the farmer, and a myriad of other possible factors, modern tech made overnight improvements. Innovations like LED lamps, advanced growth methods, digitalization of data, makes growing cannabis a more scientific and successful process than ever before. Likewise, cannabis businesses required business management, POS, and seed to sale systems to keep them competitive in the modern world. 

 BLAZE software was born out of necessity as our founder was using multiple systems to manage a cannabis delivery service. Our software was built by cannabis professionals for cannabis professionals to help entrepreneurs and industry leaders excel in the operations. BLAZE software does everything from seed to sale, delivery, POS, and much more. Make your own impact on cannabis history and have BLAZE software make that possible!


Cannabis has a long and complicated history. It’s gone from revered healer to racially motivated “boogeyman”. Finally, cannabis seems close to returning to its position of being treated for what it is, a healing plant. 

There’s still a long way to go, but BLAZE is dedicated to fighting for legalization and is here to help growing cannabis businesses reach the success we know they deserve. If you’re looking for software to streamline and maximize your cannabis business growth, then BLAZE is the perfect fit. Don’t hesitate to reach out and book a demo with our friendly team today.

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