Cannabis, also known as marijuana, or weed, is the most widely used illicit drug in numerous societies. This is true for the United States as well. The US was first introduced to the plant during the Mexican Revolution in the early 20th century.   

So what happened in the past? For what reason is this widely used outlawed drug now becoming legal.

Historically, cannabis was first nationally regulated in the late 30’s under the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937. Later on in 1970, the Supreme Court outlawed cannabis cultivation and possession. 

Although cannabis is still federally illegal, 18 US states have legalized its use and is decriminalized in 12 states, as of the current date. The reason for this change is the push for advocacy of cannabis’s therapeutic effects. Whether motivated by its medical implication or possibly the growing market for cannabis, policymakers have recognized the need to end the prohibition of this plant. 

Prohibition of the plants was only popularized due to Harry Anslinger’s political agenda. Anslinger was a keystone policymaker in the aforementioned Marhuana Tax Act, and he was appointed the first commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN).  

Prior to becoming commissioner, Anslinger did not denounce cannabis and even said on record that the positive notions about cannabis were absurd. However, the FBN was a small department at the time. 

Anslinger believed that the FBN needed to fight more than just cocaine and heroin – the only drugs they had outlawed at the time. Thus, he decided to outlaw all drugs, among them cannabis. 

In order to do so, Anslinger took the same absurd notions he did not believe in and changed his position. He talked of how cannabis would make one crazy and violent. He propagandized the drug in racial and religious settings. 

Ansligner claimed that African Americans and Latinos were the primary users of cannabis and that it made them forget their place in society. For religion, he said that jazz players made satanic music while using cannabis. 

Anslinger’s ridiculous propaganda is undoubtedly disputed by scientific research. In reality, cannabis is indeed a psychoactive drug that has profound impacts on the human body. 

A growing field in science is the study of the endocannabinoid system. Research has yet to fully ascertain its functions. However, according to Harvard Health Publishing, the endocannabinoid system acts like a traffic stop to regulate neurotransmission activity. This is how cannabis regulates our bodies temperature, mood, memory, alertness, and hunger. 

Scientists are continuing to find new ways to use cannabis effectively as a medicine. Because of this, the populus and policymakers are moving cannabis away from the forced notions by Anslinger and into a newer light. 

In Virginia, cannabis has become decriminalized and you cannot be fined for possessing cannabis under an ounce. Until January 1, 2024, cannabis is still illegal to sell and distribute over the allotted ounce. 

Now, the business market for cannabis is wide open. The cannabis industry is currently worth over 60 billions dollars. Another key reason for Virginia becoming a cannabis legal state is to partake in this market. 

Much like how tobacco was a cash crop for Virginia in the past, cannabis could be the new modern cash crop. Business owners have begun to consider cannabis an alternative to alcohol and or tobacco. 

While tobacco has few alternatives to smoking, which is harmful to the lungs, cannabis’s psychoactive ingredient can be extracted. THC, is the primary chemical that affects the endocannabinoid system as well as CBD. This means there are alternative methods to smoking when using cannabis. 

Business owners would prefer their employees to not come to work hungover. Yet, employees must recognize when their workers need a release from a hard day’s work. However, alcohol is a literal poison to our bodies, and the lingering effects it can have on us make returning to work difficult. This is why cannabis is so attractive.

Of course cannabis can cause impairment just as much as alcohol can. Which is why laws are being created to regulate the drug. As more research is developed, policymakers can better define these guidelines.

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