In the mid-1600s, hemp was a cash crop for European settlers who had recently arrived in what would become the United States. It remained an integral part of the colonies’, and later independent country’s economy for centuries, until the early 1900s, when Americans started to change their attitude toward cannabis.
The budding marijuana movement of the present day has overcome enormous obstacles in its long, winding attempt to end cannabis prohibition, from the fear that was ingrained into society by Harry Anslinger, the infamous 1936 drama “Reefer Madness,” and the war on drugs initiated by the Nixon administration in the 1970s.
Cannabis legalization hasn’t spread across the U.S. in a linear fashion, though. Aside from a few exceptions, notably Colorado, medical marijuana legislation took root on the West Coast, followed soon after by the Northeast.
Prohibition received its first series of blows when California, Oregon, and Washington legalized medical cannabis during the 1990s. Voters in these three Pacific Coast states were also among the first to legalize recreational cannabis, starting with Washington. Then, as if the enthusiasm behind weed legalization decided to board an airplane and fly east, the next wave of legalization began in the Northeast, with a layover in Colorado.
Gradually, cannabis prohibition has been withering, now that 10 states have legalized adult-use cannabis, also known as recreational use, and a total of 33 have medical marijuana legislation in place. Some states without any form of legal cannabis are starting to allow medical use of cannabidiol (CBD) products with low amounts of THC.
The federal government also is starting to embrace the plant that was a vital part of the U.S. economy. The 2018 Farm Bill, signed Dec. 20, 2018, removed hemp‘s status as a controlled substance and legalized industrial hemp production.