Tag Archives: Marijuana

Cannabis Contrails continued

Cannabis Contrails continued

The first part of this cannabis story can re read at Cannabis Contrails.

For reference, use the illustration below to see DEA Scheduling Guide:

Cannabis Contrails continued

Nixon’s War on Drugs

On June 17, 1971, President Nixon had declared that “America’s public enemy number one in the United States is drug abuse. In order to fight and defeat this enemy, it is necessary to wage a new, all-out offensive.”

And although arrests and incarceration for marijuana possession and distribution increased dramatically, the acceptance of cannabis as a medical treatment as well as recreational substance also continued to grow.

Cannabis Contrails continued

Medical marijuana emerges

State level

February 21, 1978: New  Mexico Gov. Jerry Apodaca signed the Controlled Substances Therapeutic Research Act, becoming the first state to enact legislation recognizing the medical value of marijuana.

The measure was based on evidence that marijuana helps relieve adverse side effects of cancer chemotherapy and the painful effects of glaucoma.

The first beneficiary of the law was Lynn Pierson, a 26‐year‐old student who said he had been using marijuana since 1976 to ease the effects of chemotherapy for treatment of lung cancer.

Nearly 30 years later, on  March 13, 2007, New Mexico’s Senate Bill 523 “The Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act” was approved by the House (36-31) and the Senate (32-3). It took effect on July 1, 2007.

The act removed state-level criminal penalties on the use and possession of marijuana by patients “in a regulated system for alleviating symptoms caused by debilitating medical conditions and their medical treatments.” The New Mexico Department of Health was designated to administer the program and register patients, caregivers, and providers.


Robert Randall, afflicted by glaucoma, employed the little-used Common Law Doctrine of Necessity to defend himself against criminal charges of marijuana cultivation. On November 24, 1976, federal Judge James Washington ruled Randall’s use of marijuana constituted a ‘medical necessity…’

In 1981 Randall founded the Alliance for Cannabis Therapeutics, a non-profit organization that focused on changing the federal law prohibiting medical access to marijuana.

In 1998 Randal and his wife, Alice M O’Leary Randal, published, Marijuana Rx: The Patients’ Fight for Medicinal Pot” 


In May 1985:  made by Unimed, Marinol is the trade name for dronabinol, a synthetic form of delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), one of the principal psychoactive components of botanical marijuana. It was approved in May 1985 for nausea and vomiting associated with cancer chemotherapy in patients who fail to respond to conventional antiemetic treatments.

It will be approved by the FDA in December 1992 for the treatment of anorexia associated with weight loss in patients with AIDS. Marketed as a capsule, Marinol was originally placed in Schedule II.

UN Act

November 14, 1985: in order to be in compliance with UN rules and remain a member of the United Nations, India passed The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act

The Act allowed for religious use of bhang, but disallowed smoking cannabis. Indian Sadhus ignored the smoking restriction and India typically did not enforce the Act with regards to them.

Nearly a half million arrests

1985: American authorities arrested 451,138 people  for cannabis use.

Cannabis Contrails continued

Rescheduling marijuana

September 6, 1988:  responding to the Drug Enforcement Administration regarding rescheduling marijuana, administrative law judge Francis Young suggested that marijuana be rescheduled from schedule I to schedule II for nausea associated with cancer chemotherapy. He also concluded that the evidence was insufficient to warrant the use of crude marijuana for glaucoma or pain.

December 30, 1989: DEA Administrator Jack Lawn overruled the decision of administrative law judge Francis Young who had agreed with marijuana advocates that marijuana should be moved from Schedule I to Schedule II of the Controlled Substances Act. This proposed rescheduling of marijuana would have allowed physicians to prescribe the smoking of marijuana as a legal treatment for some forms of illness. Administrator Lawn maintained that there was no medicinal benefit to smoking marijuana and that marijuana should remain a Schedule I controlled substance.

Cannabis Contrails continued

California et al

Prop P

November 5, 1991: the first medical marijuana initiative appeared in the city of San Francisco as Proposition P, which passed with an overwhelming 79% of the vote. Proposition P called on the State of California and the California Medical Association to ‘restore hemp medical preparations to the list of available medicines in California,’ and not to penalize physicians ‘from prescribing hemp preparations for medical purposes.'”

Medical dispensary

1994: America’s first cannabis dispensary was founded in San Francisco by Brownie Mary and Dennis Peron.

Prop 215

November 5, 1996: California became the first state to legalize the expanded use of medical marijuana. Voters passed the state medical marijuana initiative known as Proposition 215. It permitted patients and their primary caregivers, with a physician’ s recommendation, to possess and cultivate marijuana for the treatment of AIDS, cancer, muscular spasticity, migraines, and several other disorders; it also protected them from punishment if they recommend marijuana to their patients.

Federal Foolishness and Marijuana

January 30, 1997: The New England Journal of Medicine published an editorial written by Jerome P. Kassirer, MD, titled “Federal Foolishness and Marijuana.” The article stated: “Federal authorities should rescind their prohibition of the medicinal use of marijuana for seriously ill patients and allow physicians to decide which patients to treat. The government should change marijuana’s status from that of a Schedule 1 drug (considered to be potentially addictive and with no current medical use) to that of a Schedule 2 drug (potentially addictive but with some accepted medical use) and regulate it accordingly.”

Presidents push back

October 29, 1998: prior to the election, former Presidents Ford, Carter, and Bush released a statement urging voters to reject state medical marijuana initiatives because they circumvented the standard process by which the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) tests medicines for safety and effectiveness. ‘Compassionate medicine,’ these leaders insisted, ‘must be based on science, not political appeals.’

More Medical Cannabis

Five days later, on November 3,  Alaska, Oregon, and Washington became 2nd, 3rd, and 4th States to legalize medical marijuana.

Penalties removed

June 14, 2000:  Hawaii broke new ground in 2000, when it became the first state to enact a law to remove criminal penalties for medical marijuana users via a state legislature. Senate Bill 862 was passed by a vote of 32-18 in the House and 13-12 Senate, making Hawaii the sixth state to legalize medical marijuana.

Colorado Amendment 20

November 7, 2000: fifty-four percent of voters in Colorado approved Amendment 20, which amended the state’s constitution to recognize the medical use of marijuana. The law took effect on June 1, 2001. It removed state-level criminal penalties on the use, possession and cultivation of marijuana by patients who possess written documentation from their physician. The law established a confidential state-run patient registry that issues identification cards to qualifying patients.

Nevada Question 9

Sixty-five percent of voters in Nevada approved Question 9, which amended the states’ constitution to recognize the medical use of marijuana. The law took effect on October 1, 2001.

The law…

  1. removed state-level criminal penalties on the use, possession and cultivation of marijuana by patients who have ‘written documentation’ from their physician.
  2. established a confidential state-run patient registry that issues identification cards to qualifying patients.
Cannabis Contrails continued

Push-back on Federal blow-back

October 29, 2002: after California legalized medical marijuana in 1996, the US government threatened to take away the medical licenses of physicians who recommended the use of marijuana. On Oct. 29, 2002, a US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit 3-0 ruled  in the case Conant v. Walters

The decision prohibited “the federal government from either revoking a physician’s license to prescribe controlled substances or conducting an investigation of a physician that might lead to such revocation, where the basis for the government’s action is solely the physician’s professional ‘recommendation’ of the use of medical marijuana.”

The US Supreme Court denied an appeal, so physicians maintained the right to discuss marijuana with their patients.

Cannabis Contrails continued

More Medical approvals


May 26, 2004: Vermont became the ninth state to legalize medical marijuana when Governor James Douglas allowed “Act Relating to Marijuana Use by Persons with Severe Illness”  (41 KB) to pass into law unsigned. “The law removes state-level criminal penalties on the use, possession and cultivation of marijuana by patients diagnosed with a ‘debilitating medical condition…’ The law establishes a mandatory, confidential state-run registry that issues identification cards to qualifying patients.


November 2, 2004: sixty-two percent of voters in Montana approved Initiative 148. The law took effect that same day. It removed state-level criminal penalties on the use, possession and cultivation of marijuana by patients who possess written documentation from their physicians authorizing the medical use of marijuana. The law established a confidential state-run patient registry that issues identification cards to qualifying patients.

Rhode Island

January 3, 2006: Rhode Island’s Senate Bill 0710 (the Edward O. Hawkins and Thomas C. Slater Medical Marijuana Act) took effect immediately upon passage on January 3, 2006. The law removed state-level criminal penalties on the use, possession and cultivation of marijuana by patients who possess “written certification” from their physician… [and] establishes a mandatory, confidential state-run patient registry that issues identification cards to qualifying patients.

Cannabis Contrails continued

Continued Federal resistance

April 20, 2006: the FDA released a statement titled “Inter-Agency Advisory Regarding Claims That Smoked Marijuana Is a Medicine.” The FDA stated that “there is currently sound evidence that smoked marijuana is harmful. A past evaluation by several Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) agencies… concluded that no sound scientific studies supported medical use of marijuana for treatment in the United States, and no animal or human data supported the safety or efficacy of marijuana for general medical use…”

Cannabis Contrails continued

Continued medical support


February 15, 2008: the American College of Physicians (ACP) stated its support for the use of non-smoked forms of THC, research on the benefits of medical marijuana, review of the federal scheduling of marijuana, and exemption from criminal prosecution.

Michigan Prop 1

November 4, 2008:   Sixty-three percent of Michigan voters approved Proposal 1 (the law took effect on December 4, 2008). It removed state-level criminal penalties on the use, possession and cultivation of marijuana by patients who possess written documentation from their physicians authorizing the medical use of marijuana.”

Cannabis Contrails continued

Federal easing

AG Holder

February 25, 2009:  Attorney General Eric Holder’s issued a statement that the Drug Enforcement Administration would end its raids on state-approved marijuana dispensaries. The new policy represented a significant turnabout for the federal government. During the Bush administration, DEA agents shut down 30 to 40 marijuana dispensaries.

Ogden Memo

October 19, 2009:  the Department of Justice issued a memo, known subsequently as the Ogden memo, to “provide clarification and guidance to federal prosecutors in States that have enacted laws authorizing the medical use of marijuana.”  In an effort to make the most efficient use of limited resources, the DOJ announced that prosecutorial priorities should not target “individuals whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana.” Specifically, individuals with cancer or other serious illnesses who use medical marijuana and the caregivers who provide the medical marijuana in accordance with state law should not be the focus of federal prosecution.

The memo clarified that “prosecution of commercial enterprises that unlawfully market and sell marijuana for profit continues to be an enforcement priority.” It is also explicitly stated that the memo “does not ‘legalize’ marijuana or provide a legal defense to a violation of federal law.”


November 10, 2009:  The American Medical Association softened its position on medical marijuana. The statement read in part: “Our AMA urges that marijuana’s status as a federal Schedule I controlled substance be reviewed with the goal of facilitating the conduct of clinical research and development of cannabinoid-based medicines, and alternate delivery methods. This should not be viewed as an endorsement of state-based medical cannabis programs, the legalization of marijuana, or that scientific evidence on the therapeutic use of cannabis meets the current standards for a prescription drug product.

Cannabis Contrails continued

More Medical Marijuana States

New Jersey

January 11, 2010:  the New Jersey Legislature approved a measure made it  the 14th in the nation to legalize the use of marijuana to help patients with chronic illnesses. The measure allowed patients diagnosed with severe illnesses like cancer, AIDS, Lou Gehrig’s disease, muscular dystrophy and multiple sclerosis to have access to marijuana grown and distributed through state-monitored dispensaries — was passed by the General Assembly and State Senate on the final day of the legislative session.


February 17, 2010:  the Iowa Board of Pharmacy recommended that the Iowa Legislature reclassify marijuana from Schedule I of the Iowa Controlled Substances Act into Schedule II of the Act.

Washington, DC

July 27, 2010: medical marijuana became legal in Washington, DC after the Democrat-controlled Congress declined to overrule a D.C. Council bill that allowed the city to set up as many as eight dispensaries where chronically ill patients could purchase the drug. The law allowed patients with cancer, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS and other chronic ailments can possess up to four ounces of the drug.

Arizona #15

November 2, 2010:  Arizona became the 15th state to legalize medical marijuana when Proposition 203, the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act, passes by a margin of 4,341 votes out of 1,678,351 votes cast in the Nov. 2, 2010 election. The law allows registered qualifying patients to obtain marijuana from a registered nonprofit dispensary, and to possess and use medical marijuana to treat the condition.

Delaware #16

May 13, 2011:  Delaware became the 16th state to legalize medical marijuana when Governor Jack Markell (D) signed SB 17 into law. The law allowed adults in Delaware with certain debilitating conditions to possess up to six ounces of marijuana with a doctor’s recommendation.

Cannabis Contrails continued

Still Resistance


July 8, 2011:  The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) ruled that marijuana has “no accepted medical use” and should therefore remain illegal under federal law — regardless of conflicting state legislation allowing medical marijuana and despite hundreds of studies and centuries of medical practice attesting to the drug’s benefits.

The judgment came in response to a 2002 petition by supporters of medical marijuana, which called on the government to reclassify cannabis.

Safety concerns

In November 2011: according to a study, States that had legalized medical marijuana saw fewer fatal car accidents perhaps because people may be substituting marijuana smoking for drinking alcohol.

Comparing traffic deaths over time in states with and without medical marijuana law changes, the researchers found that fatal car wrecks dropped by 9% in states that legalized medical use — which was largely attributable to a decline in drunk driving.

Reclassification request

November 30, 2011: the governors of Washington and Rhode Island petitioned the DEA to reclassify marijuana from the most restrictive Schedule I category to a Schedule II substance.

Cannabis Contrails continued

And more medical marijuana

Connecticut #17

May 31, 2012:  Connecticut became the 17th state to legalize medical marijuana.

Massachusetts #18

November 6, 2012: Massachusetts became the 18th state to approve medical marijuana.

New Hampshire #19

July 23, 2013: New Hampshire became the 19th State to legalize medical marijuana.

Illinois #20

August. 1, 2013: Illinois became the 20th State to legalize medical marijuana.

Utah doctors

November 12, 2013:  a University of Utah neurologist and two other Utah doctors announced their support for allowing a medical use of a marijuana extract for children who suffer from seizures. In a letter sent to the state Controlled Substances Advisory Committee on Tuesday, pediatric neurologist Dr. Francis Filloux said the liquid form of medical marijuana is a promising option for children with epilepsy

Cannabis Contrails continued

Toward recreational use

Recreational use legally safe

August 29, 2013: the federal government took an historic step back from its long-running drug war when Attorney General Eric Holder informed the governors of Washington and Colorado that the Department of Justice would allow the states to create a regime that would regulate and implement the ballot initiatives that legalized the use of marijuana for adults.

Holder told the governors that the department would take a “trust but verify approach” to the state laws.

Majority support legalization

October 22, 2013: according to a Gallop poll conducted occasionally since 1969,  for the first time, 58% of Americans said that marijuana should be legalized. 12% of Americans thought that in 1969.

Cannabis Contrails continued

Recreational use legalized

Portland recreational legalized

November 5, 2013: Portland, Maine, voters approved legalizing recreational marijuana for residents 21 and older. The measure, Question 1, passed with about 70 percent of the vote, making Portland the first East Coast city to legalize recreational marijuana. Adult residents of Portland — Maine’s largest city — may possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana under the referendum. The new measure did not permit the recreational purchase or sale of marijuana, nor did it permit its use in public spaces like parks

Uruguay legalization 

December 10, 2013:  Uruguay’s Senate gave final congressional approval to create the world’s first national marketplace for legal marijuana.

Cannabis Contrails continued

Hemp Renaissance

February 7, 2014: the farms bill signed by President Obama included a provision that legalizes hemp cultivation for research purposes. Under the new law, universities and state departments of agriculture would be authorized to cultivate hemp for research purposes in states where its been legalized; prior to this law, a license from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) was required to research hemp, a license which was virtually impossible to receive. Nine states in the U.S. that had legalized hemp cultivation; California, Oregon, Colorado, Montana, West Virginia, Vermont, North Dakota, Kentucky and Maine.

The production of hemp rose dramatically following the legalization.

Cannabis Contrails Continued

Cannabis Contrails continued

Further easing

Financial complications eased

February 14, 2013:  the Obama administration gave the banking industry the green light to finance and do business with legal marijuana sellers, a move that could further legitimize the burgeoning industry. For the first time, legal distributors will be able to secure loans and set up checking and savings accounts with major banks that have largely steered clear of those businesses. The decision eliminates a key hurdle facing marijuana sellers, who can now legally conduct business in 20 states and the District.

Maryland decriminalization

April 14, 2014: Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley signed a bill into law that decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana. The bill would make possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana a civil offense punishable by a fine of up to $100 for a first offense, up to $250 for a second offense, and up to $500 for subsequent offenses. Third-time offenders and individuals under 21 years of age will be required to undergo a clinical assessment for substance abuse disorder and a drug education program.

AAN recommendations

April 28, 2014:  a review conducted by specialists convened by the American Academy of Neurology suggested that marijuana can help alleviate multiple sclerosis symptoms such as pain, overactive bladder, and muscle stiffness.

The review also found that marijuana dd not help relieve the uncontrollable limb spasms that result from a drug used to treat Parkinson’s disease. And it concluded that there was insufficient evidence to know whether the drug reduces symptoms caused by neurological diseases such as Huntington’s disease, Tourette’s syndrome, or epilepsy.

We wanted to inform patients and physicians, but we didn’t make specific treatment recommendations,” said study coauthor Dr. Gary Gronseth, a professor of neurology at the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City.

Cannabis Contrails continued

4 November 2014 Tipping Point

  • Oregon voters approved Measure 91, a proposal which would legalize the possession of up to eight ounces of cannabis, a limit that was eight times higher than that of Washington and Colorado. The initiative would also allow everyone 21 and older to cultivate up to four plants, and purchase cannabis from state-licensed outlets, which would open by 2016.
  • In Alaska, Ballot Measure 2 was approved with 52% of the vote. This initiative legalized the possession of up to an ounce of cannabis, as well as the private cultivation of up to six plants. The proposal also allowed for cannabis retail outlets. (see February 24, 2015)
  • In Washington D.C voters approved Initiative 71. Once it took effect – after a 30-day congressional review period – the proposal would legalize the possession of up to two ounces of cannabis for those 21 and older, in addition to allowing for the private cultivation of up to six plants. Although the initiative did not allow for cannabis retail outlets, the district’s Council was considering legislation to change that.
  • In California, voters approved Proposition 47, a proposal which removed felony charges for numerous nonviolent crimes such as drug possession and petty theft. The initiative, which would free up prison space and save the state hundreds of millions of dollars annually, was approved with 57% of the vote.
  • In Florida, Amendment 2 (legalization of medical cannabis ) was defeated, failing to garner the 60% required to be passed into law.
  • In Michigan, voters gave approval to cannabis decriminalization initiatives in the cities of Saginaw, Huntington Woods, Pleasant Ridge, Port Huron, Mount Pleasant and Berkley. These initiatives removed criminal penalties within the city for the possession, use and transfer of up to an ounce of cannabis. Similar initiatives were voted down in Clare, Frankford, Harrison, Lapeer and Onaway counties.
  • In Maine, voters in South Portland passed an initiative to legalize up to an ounce of cannabis, joining Portland which approved a similar initiative last year. A legalization initiative was rejected in Lewiston
    Cannabis Contrails continued
    Industrial Hemp

December 13, 2014:  when Congress passed the federal spending bill, it also contained protections for medical marijuana and industrial hemp operations in states where they are legal.

The spending bill included an amendment that prohibited the Department of Justice from using funds to go after state-legal medical cannabis programs. The bill would bring the federal government one step closer to ending raids on medical marijuana dispensaries, as well as stopping arrests of individuals involved with pot businesses that are complying with state law.

Cromnibus Bill

December 16, 2014:  drug Policy Alliance lobbyist Bill Piper told the Los Angeles Times “the war on medical marijuana is over” after President Obama signed the $1.1 trillion “Cromnibus” bill  with a small provision tucked away inside that prohibited the federal government from interfering with states that legalized it.


Number of people arrested for a marijuana law violation in 2017: 659,700

Cannabis Contrails continued


Continued support

On  October 8, 2018 the Pew Research Center reported that, “About six-in-ten Americans (62%) say the use of marijuana should be legalized, reflecting a steady increase over the past decade,.”

Cannabis Contrails continued
Canada Legalizes recreational

October 17, 2018: the recreational use of marijuana became legal in Canada.


As of December 2018, Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont, the State of Washington, and Washington, DC had legalized the use of recreational marijuana with certain restrictions such as age and home gardens.

33 states had approved the use of medical marijuana.

Cannabis Contrails continued


Cannabis Contrails continued
NJ setback

March 25, 2019: NJ reform advocates experienced a setback after bill to legalize cannabis in New Jersey was pulled from the agenda due to a lack of votes to pass the legislation in the Senate.

The proposal would have allowed adults 21 and older to possess, consume and purchase marijuana from licensed retailers. It included a number of social equity provisions meant to encourage participation in the industry by individuals from communities most harmed by the war on drugs, and it also would’ve created a pathway for expedited expungements for prior cannabis convictions.

Ancient use

June 12, 2019: according to a new study researchers identified strains of cannabis burned in mortuary rituals as early as 500 B.C. deep in the Pamir mountains in western China. The residue had chemical signatures indicating high levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the plant’s most psychoactive, or mood-altering, compound.

NJ fails

November 18, 2019: NJ Senate President Steve Sweeney (D) and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Nicholas Scutari (D) announced that while they had “made further attempts to generate additional support in the Senate to get this done legislatively,” the “votes just aren’t there.” As a result, they filed a proposal that would allow residents to vote on legalization as a constitutional amendment.

“We are moving forward with a plan to seek voter approval to legalize adult use marijuana in New Jersey,” the leaders said in a press release. “We introduced legislation today to authorize a public referendum for a proposal that will lead to the creation of a system that allows adults to purchase and use marijuana for recreational purposes in a responsible way.”

Michigan recreational legal

December 1, 2019: the state Marijuana Regulatory Agency announced that Michigan adults 21 and older were able to buy marijuana.

Michigan became one of 11 states (Alaska, California, Colorado, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont and Washington) and the District of Columbia which had legalized the use of marijuana for recreational purposes.

Michigan’s medical marijuana dispensaries would be permitted to sell up to 50 percent of cannabis products on the recreational market if they were at least 30 days old, according to a bulletin from the state regulatory agency.

Major League Baseball

December 12, 2019: Major League Baseball in association with its players union, announced changes to its Joint Drug Program  and became the first major American sports league to remove marijuana from its list of drugs abuse.

The drug will still be tested for and could result in punishment similar to its alcohol and violence policies.

“Natural cannabinoids (e.g., THC, CBD, and Marijuana) will be removed from the Program’s list of Drugs of Abuse,” MLB said in its release. “Going forward, marijuana-related conduct will be treated the same as alcohol-related conduct under the Parties’ Joint Treatment Program for Alcohol-Related and Off-Field Violent Conduct, which provides mandatory evaluation, voluntary treatment and the possibility of discipline by a Player’s Club or the Commissioner’s Office in response to certain conduct involving Natural Cannabinoids.” [ABC News article]

Crime and Punishment

December 18, 2019:  NJ Governor Phil Murphy signed  A5823 into law which restored voting rights to 80,000 people on probation or parole.

He also signed into law an expungement bill for people with marijuana convictions.

“This move will make it possible for thousands of residents now and in the future to truly be able to turn the corner and not have long forgotten mistakes marking them like a ‘scarlet letter’ for the rest of their lives,” one of the measure’s sponsors, state Assemblywoman Annette Quijano, D-Union, said in a statement. [NJN story]

Impeded research

December 31, 2019: Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), said that marijuana’s status as a Schedule I drug inhibits studies into the plant and prevents scientists from researching the effects of cannabis that consumers were obtaining from state-legal dispensaries in a growing number of states.

Collins discussed the limitations imposed by the federal drug scheduling system during an appearance on C-SPAN’s Newsmakers saying that while he shares concerns about the potential health implications of smoking marijuana, research into the risks and benefits of cannabis is being impeded by current policy.

“Frankly, we know far too little about the benefits and risks of smoked marijuana,” Collins said. “There have been very few studies that have actually rigorously tested that.” [MM article]

Illinois purges

December 31, 2019: one day before legal recreational marijuana sales launched in Illinois, Gov. J. B. Pritzker (D announced that his office was clearing the records of more than 11,000 people who had previously been convicted of simple cannabis possession.

Gov Pritzker said the move “sets us apart” from other states that have legalized marijuana for adult-use and that “Illinois is putting equity first, clearing thousands of convictions and giving individuals & their families a new lease on life.” [MM article] (next C, see January 1, 2020; see CCC for expanded Cannabis chronology)

Cannabis Contrails continued


Illinois legalizes

January 1, 2020: Illinois residents 21 and older could buy up to 30 grams of marijuana plant material, edibles with up to 500 milligrams of THC and five grams of cannabis concentrate items. If you’re visiting the state, you can buy half those amounts.

Residents could consume weed in their private residence and local jurisdictions might allow on-site consumption at dispensaries. It was also illegal to cross into Indiana and Wisconsin with marijuana. [ABC New article]

On March 4, the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation announced that by the end of February Illinois brought  in about $35 million in legal marijuana sales,

During the 29-day period, more than 831,000 cannabis products were sold at dispensaries throughout the state. [Marijuana Moment article]

2019 national prosecutions decline

March 23, 2020: the U.S. Sentencing Commission published a report regarding drug possession. The report indicated that federal prosecutions for marijuana trafficking declined again in 2019, and drug possession cases overall saw an even more dramatic decline.

While drug cases still represented the second most common category of crimes in the federal criminal justice system, the data indicated that the bulk of those instances were related to methamphetamine trafficking, which had steadily increased over the past decade.

But for marijuana, a different kind of trend emerged. As more states had moved to legalize cannabis, federal prosecutions had consistently declined since 2012. To illustrate the shift, marijuana trafficking cases represented the most common drug type that was pursued in 2012, with about 7,000 cases. As of fiscal year 2019, those cases were the second least common, with fewer than 2,000 cases. [Marijuana Moment article]

Cannabis Contrails continued

COVID-19 vs Cannabis

March 24, 2020: the NY Times reported that with the coronavirus pandemic spreading rapidly across the country, millions of Americans were being told by state and county officials to take refuge at home, and only venture out to get things they really need. Groceries, naturally. Prescription drugs, of course. Gas for the car. Urgent medical care.

And in many places, marijuana made the list.

Over the past week, more than a dozen states had agreed that while “nonessential” stores had to close, pot shops and medical marijuana dispensaries could remain open —  official recognition that for some Americans, cannabis is as necessary as milk and bread.

Cannabis Contrails continued

Federal Legalization Urged 

August 19, 2020: four state attorneys (Delaware, Minnesota, New York and Oregon) general and about 50 other current and former law enforcement officials sent a letter to congressional leadership endorsing a federal marijuana legalization bill and urging that a vote on the legislation be held on the House floor next month.

The push came as a new poll showed that 62 percent of likely voters, including 60 percent of Republicans, supported the bill and its provisions.

“As front-line public safety experts, we believe that responsible regulation and control of marijuana will be more beneficial to society than prohibiting and criminalizing it,” the law enforcement coalition wrote. “The COVID-19 pandemic shines a bright light on why this kind of reform is as urgent as ever as a matter of public health, safety, and better use of much needed resources.” [MM article]

Cannabis Contrails continued

Supreme Court Declines

October 13, 2020: the U.S. Supreme Court announced that it will not hear a case challenging the constitutionality of federal marijuana prohibition.

A coalition of medical cannabis advocates, including former NFL player Marvin Washington, young patient Alexis Bortell and military veteran Jose Belen, initially filed a lawsuit against the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in 2017. But while the case has gradually moved through the judiciary, the decision by the high court represents a sound defeat for the challenge. [MM article]

Cannabis Contrails continued

November 3, 2020:

  • Arizona voters passed a marijuana legalization initiative, four years after defeating a similar measure.
  • Mississippi voters approved a robust medical cannabis ballot over a restrictive alternative placed on the ballot by lawmakers.
  • Montana voters approved marijuana legalization.
  • New Jersey voters approved a referendum to legalize cannabis.
  • Oregon voters made their state the first in the nation to decriminalize possession of all drugs. The ballot measure they approved also uses existing marijuana tax revenue to fund expanded treatment services.
  • Oregon voters also approved a first-of-its-kind measure to legalize psilocybin therapy.
  • South Dakota voters approved separate initiatives to legalize marijuana and medical cannabis.
  • Washington, D.C. voters approved a measure to decriminalize psychedelics in the nation’s capital. [Marijuana Moment articles]
Cannabis Contrails continued

United Nations

December 2, 2020: the United Nations’ Commission for Narcotic Drugs voted to remove cannabis for medicinal purposes from a category of the world’s most dangerous drugs, a highly anticipated and long-delayed decision that could clear the way for an expansion of marijuana research and medical use.

The Commission, includes 53 member states, considered a series of recommendations from the World Health Organization on reclassifying cannabis and its derivatives. But attention centered on a key recommendation to remove cannabis from Schedule IV of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs — where it was listed alongside dangerous and highly addictive opioids like heroin. [NYT article]

Historic House of Rep Vote

December 4, 2020: in a 228 to 164 vote, the U.S. House of Representatives approved the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, a bill to federally legalize marijuana.

The vote was mostly along party lines, five Republicans supported the reform and six Democrats opposed it.

Under MORE, cannabis would be federally descheduled and those with prior convictions would have their records expunged. The descheduling provisions would be retroactive, too.

Despite the unprecedented House victory for reformers, few believe the legislation stands a chance in the Republican-controlled Senate, at least before the end of the current Congress early next month. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris (D-CA) was the lead sponsor of the Senate companion version of the bill. [MM article]

Cannabis Contrails continued
Cannabis Contrails continued, Cannabis Contrails continued, Cannabis Contrails continued, Cannabis Contrails continued, Cannabis Contrails continued, Cannabis Contrails continued

Cannabis Contrails

Cannabis Contrails

Like many plants, cannabis has a long human-associated history.


2900 BCE: Chinese Emperor Fu Hsi made reference to Ma, the Chinese word for Cannabis, noting that cannabis was very popular medicine that possessed both yin and yang.

 1200 BCE: cannabis pollen was found on the mummy of Ramesses II, who died in 1213 BC. Prescriptions for cannabis in ancient Egypt included treatment for the eyes (glaucoma), inflammation, and cooling the uterus, as well as administering enemas.

1000 BCE: many Indians, particularly during the spring festival of Holi prepared bhang, an edible preparation of cannabis. It’s use continues to the present time.

700 BCE: The Venidad (one of the volumes of the Zend-Avesta, the ancient Persian religious text)  mentions bhang and lists cannabis as the most important of 10,000 medicinal plants and cannabis was  found in a grave in China from a similar time.

600 BCE: the first major work to lay out the uses of cannabis in Indian medicine was the Ayurvedic, a system of Indian medicine. It cited cannabis as an anti-phlegmatic and a cure for leprosy.”

Cannabis Contrails

Western Cannabis

Early CE

70 CE: Pedanius Dioscorides, a Greek physician who was a Roman army doctor and traveled widely on campaigns throughout the Roman empire, studied many plants, gathering his knowledge into a book he titled De Materia Medica (On Medical Matters). Included in it was cannabis, both kannabis emerosand kannabis agria, the male and female respectively. Dioscorides stated that the plant which was used in the making of rope also produced a juice that was used to treat earache and suppress sexual longing.

North Ameria

In 1530s: one of the Spaniards led by Hernando Cortes set his forced indigenous laborers to planting Spanish hemp in the highlands around Mexico City.

1538: William Turner, the naturalist considered the first English botanist, pubished New Herball, In it, Turner praised hemp.

1611: the Jamestown (Virginia) settlers brought the marijuana plant, commonly known as hemp, to North America in 1611, and throughout the colonial period, hemp fiber was an important export.

During American colonial times, farmers grew cannabis for its hemp products like rope and textiles. The level of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)–the psychoactive ingredient in another type of cannabis–in hemp is extremely low.

Robert Burton

Cannabis Contrails

1621: cannabis referenced in English Clergyman and Oxford scholar Robert Burton who suggested cannabis as a treatment for depression in his book The Anatomy of Melancholy

1745 – 1775: George George Washington’s diary entries indicate that he grew hemp at Mount Vernon and acccording to his agricultural ledgers, he had an interest in cannabis’s  medicinal use. Several of his diary entries indicate that he indeed was growing Cannabis with a high THC content.


1770s: in Mexico, Fr. Jose Ramirez learned that indigenous people not far from Mexico City were consuming preparations that they called pipiltzintzintlis, concoctions that gave them access to the spirit world.

Ramirez found that the  pipiltzintzintlis was simply the leaves and seeds of Cannabis sativa, or European hemp.

Cannabis Contrails

19th Century

US Pharmacopeia

In the 19th century, marijuana emerged as a mainstream medicine in the West. Studies in the 1840s by a French doctor Jacques-Joseph Moreau found that marijuana suppressed headaches, increased appetite, and aided sleep.

Cannabis Contrails

Marijuana extracts are mentioned in the 1850 United States Pharmacopeia [an official public standards-setting authority for all prescription and over-the counter medicines]. It listed marijuana as treatment for numerous afflictions, including: neuralgia, tetanus, typhus, cholera, rabies, dysentery, alcoholism, opiate addiction, anthrax, leprosy, incontinence, gout, convulsive disorders, tonsillitis, insanity, excessive menstrual bleeding, and uterine bleeding, among others. Patented marijuana tinctures were sold.


July 3, 1893: the government of India commenced a study of the effects of hemp drugs in the province of Bengal. W. Mackworth Young was the commission’s President. When released (1894) the Commission will state in part: “It has been clearly established that the occasional use or hemp in moderate doses may be beneficial; but this use may be regarded as medicinal in character” as well as “The moderate use practically produces no ill effects. In all but the most exceptional cases, the injury from habitual moderate use is not appreciable.”

Cannabis Contrails

Early 20th Century

In accordance with the U.S. Pharmacopoeia, up to World War I, pharmaceutical supplies of cannabis indica were  imported from India and occasionally Madagascar. The Pharmacopoeia specified that it come from flowering tops of the Indian variety.

  • Indica strains are more sedative in nature.
  • Sativas strains tend to provide more invigorating, uplifting cerebral effects.

In 1911, Massachusetts became the first state to ban cannabis.

In 1913, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Bureau of Plant Industry announced it had succeeded in growing domestic cannabis of equal quality to the Indian. When foreign supplies were interrupted by World War I, the United States became self-sufficient in cannabis. By 1918, some 60,000 pounds were being produced annually, all from pharmaceutical farms east of the Mississippi.

Cannabis Contrails

War on Drugs

Harrison Narcotics Tax Act

December 17, 1914:  President Wilson signed  the Harrison Narcotics Tax Act, generally considered the beginning of drug war. Its aim was to control the domestic manufacture of opium and by regulating the international opium trade.


In August 1920:Dr. Oscar Dowling, president of the Louisiana State Board of Health, alerted Governor John M. Parker about the increasing availability of Cannabis. A drug he described as “powerful narcotic, causing exhilaration, intoxication, [and] delirious hallucinations.”

Dowling also wrote the US Public Health Service urging action to prohibit the spread of marijuana throughout the country. Surgeon General Hugh S. Cummings replied to express his “complete agreement” with Dowling’s concerns.

League of Nations

February 19, 1925: the League of Nations signed a multilateral treaty restricting cannabis use to scientific and medical uses only.  This was the first multilateral treaty that dealt with cannabis.

Cannabis Contrails



Cannabis Contrails

February 20, 1925:the New York Times published an article with the headline: KILLS SIX IN A HOSPITAL reporting that a man was “crazed on marijuana.”  Not true.

Harry J. Anslinger

Federal Bureau of Narcotics

Cannabis Contrails

June 14, 1930: the Federal Bureau of Narcotics formed as an agency of the United States Department of the Treasury. It consolidated the functions of the Federal Narcotics Control Board and the Narcotic Division.  Harry J. Anslinger was appointed its first commissioner. He had joined the Treasury Department in 1926 and by 1929 was Assistant Commissioner of Prohibition.

Harry Anslinger represented the most extreme reaction against cannabis use. He joined the Treasury Department in 1926 and by 1929 was Assistant Commissioner of Prohibition and promoted to the head of the Narcotics Bureau in 1930.

Probably no one did more to begin the criminalization of cannabis in the United States.

As part of his effort to propagandize the so-called evils of cannabis, Anslinger sought crime stories that he tied to cannabis use. These stories collectively became know as the “Gore Files.”  He used these stories in his many public speeches regarding his perceived danger of cannabis.

He also erroneously but deliberately connected the etymologies of the words hashish and assassin.

There was, and remains, an undercurrent of racism when it came to the anti-marijuana campaign. Quotes attributable to Anslinger include:

  • “Reefer makes darkies think they’re as good as white men.”
  • “You smoke a joint and you’re likely to kill your brother.”
  • “There are 100,000 total marijuana smokers in the U.S., and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos and entertainers. Their Satanic music, jazz and swing result from marijuana use.
  • “This marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers and any others.”
William Randolph Hearst

US border towns with Mexico passed the first laws against cannabis.  William Randolph Hearst owned twenty-eight newspapers by the mid-1920s. He dropped the words cannabis and hemp from his newspapers and began a propaganda campaign against ‘marijuana.’

By 1933, cannabis had became the target of government control. Sensationalist stories linked violent acts to its consumption. Many of the most outlandish stories appeared Hearst’s newspapers. He reportedly had financial interests in the lumber and paper industries and may have sought to eliminate hemp competition.

The headline of a April 14, 1935  New York Times article read:

NEW MEXICO MOVES TO BAN MARIJUANA; State Finds Many Children Are Addicted to Weed — Narcotics Law Passed.

Marijuana Insanity

July 6, 1926: the New York Times published an article with the headline: Mexican Family Go Insane with the text below stating that “Five Said to Have Been Striken by Eating Marihuana.” Below the headline it read: “Mexican, Crazed by Marijunas, Runs Amuck With Butcher Knife.” Untrue connection.

Victor Lacata

October 16, 1933: Victor Licata used an ax to kill his family in Ybor City, Florida. The media reported the tragedy as the work of a “axe-murdering marijuana addict” thus proving that there was a link between cannabis, and crime.

Researchers have since found that marijuana was never mentioned in any of Licata’s psychiatric reports or considered a factor in the killings. Instead it was established that medical personnel had diagnosed him as mentally ill. There had been steps to incarcerate him before the murders.

Bellevue report

1934:  Dr. Walter Bromberg, senior psychiatrist at Bellevue Hospital in New York, published the first in a series of articles about his examinations of cannabis users in New York. The article, entitled “Marihuana Intoxication”

His conclusions contradicted Anslinger’s views.

Cannabis Contrails

1937 Marijuana Tax Act

The Committee on Ways and Means had held hearings on the a proposed Marijuana Tax Act between 27 April and 4 May 1937.

The last witness to be heard was Dr. William C. Woodward, legislative counsel of the American Medical Association (AMA). He announced his opposition to the bill and sought to dispel any impression that either the AMA or enlightened medical opinion sponsored this legislation. Marijuana, he argued, was largely an unknown quantity, but might have important uses in medicine and psychology.

He stated: “There is nothing in the medicinal use of Cannabis that has any relation to Cannabis addiction. I use the word ‘Cannabis’ in preference to the word ‘marihuana’, because Cannabis is the correct term for describing the plant and its products. The term ‘marihuana’ is a mongrel word that has crept into this country over the Mexican border and has no general meaning, except as it relates to the use of Cannabis preparations for smoking..To say, however, as has been proposed here, that the use of the drug should be prevented by a prohibitive tax, loses sight of the fact that future investigation may show that there are substantial medical uses for Cannabis.

The act passed and signed into law on August 2, 1937.  It would go into effect on October 5. It is widely regarded as a major milestone in the U.S. policy of criminalizing drugs, which steadily escalated into President Nixon’s so-called War on Drugs in the 1970s.

The 1937 law was prompted in part by a national panic over the dangers of marijuana promulgated by propaganda as can be seen in the now famous 1936 film Reefer Madness

Cannabis Contrails

Wilson signs Act

August 2, 1937: President Wilson signed the Marihuana Tax Act. It placed an exorbitant tax on the sale of cannabis and limited those who could sell it. It went into effect October 1.

Samuel R. Caldwell
Cannabis Contrails
The Denver Post, October 8, 1937. Denver Court Imposes First U.S. Marijuana Law Penalties. The Denver Post Library Archive

On October 2  the FBI and Denver, Colorado police raided the Lexington Hotel and arrested Samuel R. Caldwell, 58, an unemployed laborer and Moses Baca, 26.

On Oct. 5, Caldwell went into the history trivia books as the first marijuana seller convicted under new law.

He was sentenced to four years of hard labor in Leavenworth Penitentiary, plus a $1,000 fine. Baca received 18 months incarceration for possession. Both men served every day of their sentence. Caldwell died a year after his release.

Cannabis Contrails

Science Propagandized

Dr. James Munch

1938: Dr. James Munch [professor of physiology and pharmacology in the School of Pharmacology at Temple University was the U.S. government’s “official expert” on cannabis from 1938 to 1962.

A defense attorney called upon Dr. Munch, the expert witness who had testified for the Federal Bureau of Narcotics during the Marihuana Tax Act Hearings, to speak on his client’s behalf. It was during this trial that Dr. Munch “admitted” that he had experimented with marijuana on dogs and had—for purely scientific reasons—tried the drug himself.

When he was asked how marijuana affected him, Dr. Munch replied, still under oath, “After two puffs on a marijuana cigarette, I was turned into a bat.” Munch went on to state, “he flew around the room and down a 200-foot-deep inkwell.”

LaGuardia Report

In 1938, New York City Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia requested that the New York Academy of Medicine conduct an investigation of marijuana.

The 1944 report, titled “The Marihuana Problem in the City of New York,” but commonly referred to as the “LaGuardia Report,” concluded that many claims about the dangers of marijuana were exaggerated or untrue.

It read in part: “The practice of smoking marihuana does not lead to addiction in the medical sense of the word… The use of marihuana does not lead to morphine or heroin or cocaine addiction and no effort is made to create a market for these narcotics by stimulating the practice of marihuana smoking… Marihuana is not the determining factor in the commission of major crimes… The publicity concerning the catastrophic effects of marihuana smoking in New York City is unfounded.”

Anslinger fudges report

June 11, 1939: Harry Anslinger, commissioner of the U.S. Treasury Department’s Federal Bureau of Narcotics, sent out a survey to measure the danger of “Indian Hemp.”

Anslinger would deliberately skew the data to support his view that cannabis was dangerous, addictive, and promoted violence.

Cannabis Contrails

Continued  demonizing


1942: Marijuana was removed from the US Pharmacopeia thus losing its remaining mantle of therapeutic legitimacy.”

Hollywood framed

On August 31, 1948,  local Los Angeles and Federal narcotics officers raided the home of Lila Leeds, a 20-year-old actress.  Marijuana was found.  The agents arrested Leeds and three others, including 31-year-old film star Robert Mitchum.

There is some reason to believe that Mitchum’s arrest was less than fair and designed to bring publicity to the Los Angeles Police Department’s anti-drug efforts. Although high-priced studio lawyers questioned irregularities in the case, it was later agreed that Mitchum would accept 60 days in jail and several years’ probation

On February 25, 1949,  Mitchum was released from a Los Angeles County prison farm after spending the final week of his two-month sentence for marijuana possession there.

The conviction was later overturned by the Los Angeles court and District Attorney’s office on January 31, 1951, with the following statement, after it was exposed as a set-up:

After an exhaustive investigation of the evidence and testimony presented at the trial, the court orders that the verdict of guilty be set aside and that a plea of not guilty be entered and that the information or complaint be dismissed.”

When reporters asked him what jail was like, Mitchum replied, ”It’s just like Palm Springs without the riffraff.”

Dr Harris Isbell

1951: Dr Harris Isbell, director of research at the Public Health Service Hospital in Lexington, Ky., disputed the insanity, crime and addiction theories, telling Congress that “smoking marijuana has no unpleasant aftereffects, no dependence is developed on the drug, and the practice can easily be stopped at any time.”

Despite Dr. Isbell’s testimony, Congress ratcheted up penalties on users.

Boggs Act of 1951

November 2, 1951: President Harry Truman signed the Boggs Act of 1951. It set mandatory sentences for drug convictions. A first offense conviction for marijuana possession carried a minimum sentence of 2 to 10 years and a fine of up to $20,000.

March 30, 1961:  The Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961 signed. It is an international treaty to prohibit production and supply of specific (nominally narcotic) drugs and of drugs with similar effects except under licence for specific purposes, such as medical treatment and research.

The document included updating the Paris Convention of 13 July 1931 to include the vast number of synthetic opioids invented in the intervening thirty years and a mechanism for more easily including new ones. Earlier treaties had only controlled opium, coca, and derivatives such as morphine, heroin and cocaine. The Single Convention consolidated those treaties and broadened their scope to include cannabis and drugs whose effects are similar to those of the drugs specified.

United Nations joins in

In 1961, the United Nations held the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. The Convention “aim[ed] to combat drug abuse by coordinated international action. There are two forms of intervention and control that work together. First, it seeks to limit the possession, use, trade in, distribution, import, export, manufacture and production of drugs exclusively to medical and scientific purposes. Second, it combats drug trafficking through international cooperation to deter and discourage drug traffickers.”

It created a schedule to group drugs.

Cannabis was included in the lengthy list of drugs.

Cannabis Contrails

War On Drugs and Cannabis Fights Back


April 8, 1968:  President Johnson established the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs.

Leary v US

May 19, 1969:  Leary v. United States, the U.S. Supreme Court dealt with the constitutionality of the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937. Timothy Leary had been arrested for the possession of marijuana in violation of the Act. Leary challenged the act on the ground that the it required self-incrimination, which violated the Fifth Amendment. The unanimous opinion of the court–penned by Justice John Marshall Harlan II–declared the Marihuana Tax Act unconstitutional.


In 1970:  The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws [NORML] founded as a nonprofit public-interest advocacy group whose mission was and is to end marijuana prohibition.

Controlled Substances Act

May 1, 1971: the Controlled Substances Act went into effect.  The legislation created five schedules (classifications), with varying qualifications for a substance to be included in each.

Potential for Abuse Accepted Medical Use? Potential for Addiction
Schedule I High None Drug is not safe to use, even under medical supervision
Schedule II High Yes; sometimes allowed
only with “severe restrictions”
Abusing the drug can cause severe physical and mental addiction
Schedule III Medium[a] Yes Abusing the drug can cause severe mental addiction, or moderate physical addiction
Schedule IV Low[b] Yes Abusing the drug may lead to mild mental or physical addiction
Schedule V Lowest[c] Yes Abusing the drug may lead to mild mental or physical addiction

Cannabis was a Schedule I drug.

Drug Schedules

The Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970 became effective on October 27, 1970. The act classified controlled substances into five schedules.

Schedule I Controlled Substances: substances in this schedule have no currently accepted medical use in the United States, a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision, and a high potential for abuse.

Some examples of substances are: heroin, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), marijuana (cannabis), peyote, methaqualone, and 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (“Ecstasy”). (see Schedules for the other four)

May Nixon

May 1, 1971:  in a televised news conference responding to question about the White House Conference on Youth, which had voted to legalize marijuana, President Nixon said:   “As you know, there is a Commission that is supposed to make recommendations to me about this subject; in this instance, however, I have such strong views that I will express them. I am against legalizing marijuana. Even if the Commission does recommend that it be legalized, I will not follow that recommendation… I can see no social or moral justification whatever for legalizing marijuana. I think it would be exactly the wrong step. It would simply encourage more and more of our young people to start down the long, dismal road that leads to hard drugs and eventually self-destruction.”

June Nixon

June 17, 1971:  President Nixon said: “America’s public enemy number one in the United States is drug abuse. In order to fight and defeat this enemy, it is necessary to wage a new, all-out offensive.

I have asked the Congress to provide the legislative authority and the funds to fuel this kind of an offensive. This will be a worldwide offensive dealing with the problems of sources of supply, as well as Americans who may be stationed abroad, wherever they are in the world…

I have brought Dr. Jerome H. Jaffe into the White House, directly reporting to me as Special Consultant to the President for Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs], so that we have not only the responsibility but the authority to see that we wage this offensive effectively and in a coordinated way.”

Commission report ignored

March 22, 1972: President Nixon had created the National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse.

On this date, the commission issued a report on its findings. It called for the decriminalization of marijuana possession in the United States. The White House ignored the report.

DEA formed

In 1973: The Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs (BNND) and the Office of Drug Abuse Law Enforcement (ODALE) merged to form the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). John R. Bartels Jr. was confirmed as the DEA’s first Administrator on 4 October 1973

Cannabis Contrails Continued follows this chronology into the late 20th and early 21st centuries. And Cannabis Acceptance Continues follows it.

Cannabis Contrails

Haight Street Head Shops

Haight Street Head Shops

On January 3, 1966 the legendary Psychedelic Shop on Haight Street opened its doors. It was likely the first, but no one was keeping track.

Haight Street Head Shops

Haight Street Head Shops

Why “Head” ?

Why did the word “head” come to refer to someone who used marijuana? The association between the word head and drug use goes back at least to 1911 when the writer C B Chrysler wrote in White Slavery Opium smokers, ‘hop fiends,’ or ‘hop heads,’ as they are called, are the fiercest of all the White Slavers.”

In other words, the drug of choice, usually an illegal one, was the prefix for the word “head” until the word alone referred to a drug user.

In the 1960, the most common drug was marijuana, of course, so a “head” commonly referred to that person and that drug.

Haight Street Head Shops

Feed Your HeadHead shops

While that use of the word may have been an underground one, entrepreneurs would still shy away from using that specific a word to name their establishment.

Head shops were not simply a supply store. They were places where so-called underground news was found whether it be in newspapers, flyers, or political conversation.

What were a head shop’s supplies? Black lights for posters that used inks containing phosphors. When the ultraviolet light hit those inks the posters glowed. A nice enhancement to an evening atmosphere in a dorm room or a basement rec room.

The pill case, but not the pills, The grass container, but not the grass.

Candles and incense. The Beatles influence went beyond music, of course, and their delving into Eastern philosophy meant those things associated with the East were automatically interesting.

When tie-dyed clothing became popular, it joined the scene along with other “hip” clothing along side water buffalo sandals.

Haight Street Head Shops


Haight Street Head Shops

Not that a head shop sold the drugs themselves (at least not directly), but the shop sold those things necessary for drug use. Rolling papers (Zig Zag? Big Bambu?), hash pipes, and water pipes (for those harsher cheaper blends that were the only mixes sometimes available or adding a bit of mentholated mouth wash to the water for a cooler drag).

Haight Street Head Shops

On line

Google “on line head shop” and not surprisingly one will discover that that they are there in full. “Smoke Cartel,” “Dankstop,” “Everyonedoesit,”  “Smokesmith Gear“, and many others offer both the new necessities (vapes) and the old school standbys.

As always, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Haight Street Head Shops