Doctor Mitchell posted a brief history of cannabis and where we are today this morning. I assume this is in preparation for his meeting with law makers on September 11, 2019.
Cannabis Greater Than and Less Than
Words are vitally important when you decide to tell a story. Words have to match the audience you are writing to. This is a short story about Cannabis. First, you have to make sure that your audience understands what subject you are writing on if a new subject. So, an explanation might be necessary if it is a new subject which may not be an everyday subject matter. Cannabis is one of those subjects which has come into recent prominence with a lot of misunderstanding mainly because of the words people use, that do not tell the correct history and story.
The proper name for Cannabis is Cannabis sativa L. I will go with the short version Cannabis. It is an important annual herbaceous flowering plant indigenous to eastern Asia but now has a cosmopolitan distribution due to widespread cultivation over 100 years. Cannabis has had a long and sometimes bumpy history which extends from China 5000 BC to the new world of the Americas 1620 AD in its making and landing on our shores with the pilgrim’s arrival.
Cannabis has been cultivated throughout recorded history and used as a source for three main reasons, fiber, seeds or oil. Its extended use history includes food, recreational moods, religious and spiritual moods and medicine. The plant fell into American disfavor in the early 20th century when it was vilified and labeled as a poison in the 1930s and criminalized in the 1970s. The reasons for Cannabis disfavor are another rabbit hole for another blog at another time!
The Cannabis debate was fueled with word selection going back to the 1937 Marijuana Tax Act. The word Cannabis was substituted for this word, Marijuana, which was Spanish in origin and misspelled in English, Marihuana. Cannabis had already been in our US medicine cabinets for almost 100 years, so this name change was very important to title the bill with specific direction, however, the name Marijuana is not mentioned in the body of the 1937 bill. The word Cannabis sativa L was imprinted, by name, which would freeze both general application for industrial and/or medical purposes. When you could not pronounce the Spanish or English rendition of this new word then other names were given, Weed, Pot, Mary Jane, etc.
The recurrent debate over Cannabis caught fire when the 1970 War on Drugs ignited a debate on whether to look at this plant as two different plants, one for industrial purposes and the other plant as a medicine or drug. The confusion on the government’s part went back and forth. While that was concussing and a flip flop occurred multiple times in the Halls of Justice. Here come the important words. Cannabis is cannabis!
Each part of this same plant, Cannabis sativa L can be grown and harvested for different purposes, depending on its end use outlined in the third paragraph. The species was first classified by a word "sativa" which means things that are cultivated. What was not understood or clear was when the chemical properties in this plant changed to a point where it became subject to abuse. It was 1906 that Cannabis was called a poison and classified as a narcotic via the Uniform State Narcotic Drug Act, where 35 states had it listed as such. The Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 demonetized this crop with this expensive tax levy and trade embargo. Growing the Cannabis crop came to a halt and medical research stopped.
The 1937 tax act did not make Cannabis illegal. However, the whole plant was then criminalized and made illegal with the 1970 Controlled Substances Act and denoted as a Schedule 1 drug like heroin and cocaine. Well, fast forward to 2018. The slow crawl back into its rightful status as an incredible botanical got relief with the signing of the 2018 Farm Bill. Once again, The Farm Bill divided the plant back into two categories, Cannabis with Greater than 0.3% by weight, and Cannabis with Less than 0.3% by weight. The greater than 0.3% is still illegal and the less than 0.3% is in a renaissance for its medicinal remedies and the subject of my next blog. So, get your wording correct, with greater than and less than, so we all know what story you are telling.
Eric I. Mitchell MD.