Timeline of Legality, Therapeutic Use, How To's & Cultivation
Timeline of Legality in the US
Domestic production of hemp encouraged
American production of hemp was encouraged by the government in the 17th century for the production of rope, sails, and clothing. (Marijuana is the mixture of dried, shredded flowers and leaves that comes from the hemp plant.) In 1619 the Virginia Assembly passed legislation requiring every farmer to grow hemp. Hemp was allowed to be exchanged as legal tender in Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Maryland. Domestic production flourished until after the Civil War, when imports and other domestic materials replaced hemp for many purposes. In the late nineteenth century, marijuana became a popular ingredient in many medicinal products and was sold openly in public pharmacies. During the 19th century, hashish use became a fad in France and also, to some extent, in the U.S.
Pure Food and Drug Act
Required labeling of any cannabis contained in over-the-counter remedies.
1900 - 20s
Mexican immigrants introduce recreational use of marijuana leaf
After the Mexican Revolution of 1910, Mexican immigrants flooded into the U.S., introducing to American culture the recreational use of marijuana. The drug became associated with the immigrants, and the fear and prejudice about the Spanish-speaking newcomers became associated with marijuana. Anti-drug campaigners warned against the encroaching "Marijuana Menace," and terrible crimes were attributed to marijuana and the Mexicans who used it.
Fear of marijuana
During the Great Depression, massive unemployment increased public resentment and fear of Mexican immigrants, escalating public and governmental concern about the problem of marijuana. This instigated a flurry of research which linked the use of marijuana with violence, crime and other socially deviant behaviors, primarily committed by "racially inferior" or underclass communities. By 1931, 29 states had outlawed marijuana.
Creation of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN)
Harry J. Anslinger was the first Commissioner of the FBN and remained in that post until 1962.
Uniform State Narcotic Act
Concern about the rising use of marijuana and research linking its use with crime and other social problems created pressure on the federal government to take action. Rather than promoting federal legislation, the Federal Bureau of Narcotics strongly encouraged state governments to accept responsibility for control of the problem by adopting the Uniform State Narcotic Act.
Propaganda film "Reefer Madness" was produced by the French director, Louis Gasnier.
The Motion Pictures Association of America, composed of the major Hollywood studios, banned the showing of any narcotics in films.
Marijuana Tax Act
After a lurid national propaganda campaign against the "evil weed," Congress passed the Marijuana Tax Act. The statute effectively criminalized marijuana, restricting possession of the drug to individuals who paid an excise tax for certain authorized medical and industrial uses.
La Guardia Report finds marijuana less dangerous
New York Academy of Medicine issued an extensively researched report declaring that, contrary to earlier research and popular belief, use of marijuana did not induce violence, insanity or sex crimes, or lead to addiction or other drug use.
"Hemp for Victory"
During World War II, imports of hemp and other materials crucial for producing marine cordage, parachutes, and other military necessities became scarce. In response the U.S. Department of Agriculture launched its "Hemp for Victory" program, encouraging farmers to plant hemp by giving out seeds and granting draft deferments to those who would stay home and grow hemp. By 1943 American farmers registered in the program harvested 375,000 acres of hemp.
Stricter Sentencing Laws
Enactment of federal laws (Boggs Act, 1952; Narcotics Control Act, 1956) which set mandatory sentences for drug-related offenses, including marijuana.
A first-offense marijuana possession carried a minimum sentence of 2-10 years with a fine of up to $20,000.
Marijuana use popular in counterculture
A changing political and cultural climate was reflected in more lenient attitudes towards marijuana. Use of the drug became widespread in the white upper middle class. Reports commissioned by Presidents Kennedy and Johnson found that marijuana use did not induce violence nor lead to use of heavier drugs. Policy towards marijuana began to involve considerations of treatment as well as criminal penalties.
Creation of the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs
This was a merger of FBN and the Bureau of Dangerous Drugs of the Food and Drug Administration.
Repeal of most mandatory minimum sentences
Congress repealed most of the mandatory penalties for drug-related offenses. It was widely acknowledged that the mandatory minimum sentences of the 1950s had done nothing to eliminate the drug culture that embraced marijuana use throughout the 60s, and that the minimum sentences imposed were often unduly harsh. Marijuana differentiated from other drugs The Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act categorized marijuana separately from other narcotics and eliminated mandatory federal sentences for possession of small amounts. National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) founded
The bipartisan Shafer Commission, appointed by President Nixon at the direction of Congress, considered laws regarding marijuana and determined that personal use of marijuana should be decriminalized. Nixon rejected the recommendation, but over the course of the 1970s, eleven states decriminalized marijuana and most others reduced their penalties.
Creation of the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA)
Merger of the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs (BNND) and the Office of Drug Abuse Law Enforcement (ODALE).
High Times founded
Beginning of parents' movement against marijuana
A nationwide movement emerged of conservative parents' groups lobbying for stricter regulation of marijuana and the prevention of drug use by teenagers. Some of these groups became quite powerful and, with the support of the DEA and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), were instrumental in affecting public attitudes which led to the 1980s War on Drugs.
Anti-Drug Abuse Act - Mandatory Sentences
President Reagan signed the Anti-Drug Abuse Act, instituting mandatory sentences for drug-related crimes. In conjunction with the Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984, the new law raised federal penalties for marijuana possession and dealing, basing the penalties on the amount of the drug involved. Possession of 100 marijuana plants received the same penalty as possession of 100 grams of heroin. A later amendment to the Anti-Drug Abuse Act established a "three strikes and you're out" policy, requiring life sentences for repeat drug offenders, and providing for the death penalty for "drug kingpins."
Bush's War on Drugs
President George Bush declares a new War on Drugs in a nationally televised speech.
Medical Use Legalized in California
California voters passed Proposition 215 allowing for the sale and medical use of marijuana for patients with AIDS, cancer, and other serious and painful diseases. This law stands in tension with federal laws prohibiting possession of marijuana.
There is some form of cannabis access in over half the United States of America
Two recent studies point to the way that cannabinoids may help treat PTSD. One shows how cannabis can reduce activity in the amygdala - a part of the brain associated with fear responses to threats. Meanwhile, another suggests that the plant’s cannabinoids could play a role in extinguishing traumatic memories. Both effects could be therapeutic for those suffering from PTSD - according to recent studies.
One study, from researchers at Wayne State University in Detroit, MI, looked at how cannabis use impacts the amygdala response of those dealing with trauma related anxiety, such as PTSD. Previous research has shown that cannabis has the potential to reduce anxiety, or even prevent heightened anxiety in threatening situations. But up to this point, no studies had investigated this response in adults dealing with trauma - such as those with PTSD.
The Wayne State University study took on this challenge, and studied the amygdala responses in three groups of participants - healthy controls who had not been exposed to trauma, trauma exposed adults without PTSD and trauma exposed adults with PTSD. Using a randomized, double-blind procedure, the 71 participants were either given a low dose of THC or a placebo. Then they were exposed to threatening stimuli and their amygdala responses were recorded.
Those exposed to THC had lowered threat-related amygdala reactivity.
This means that those who took low doses of THC showed measurable signs of reduced fear and anxiety in situations designed to trigger fear. Since these results were found in all three groups, it suggests that even those with PTSD were able to experience less fear with THC in their system.
The authors conclude that the research suggests “that THC modulates threat-related processing in trauma-exposed individuals with PTSD” and add that the drug “may prove advantageous as a pharmacological approach to treating stress- and trauma-related psychopathology.”
A second study, from researchers at Brazil’s Federal University of Parana, explored another potential way that cannabis could help those with PTSD - extinguishing the intensity associated with memories of their trauma. This mode of treating PTSD was first hypothesized by Yale associate professor of psychiatry R. Andrew Sewell who suggested that cannabis may be able to help PTSD patients “overwrite” traumatic memories with new memories in a process called ‘extinction learning’.
In an interview with East Bay Express, Sewell explained that the extinction learning process usually helps trauma resolve on its own. He gave the example of an Iraq War Veteran who gets PTSD symptoms while driving under bridges - after dodging explosives thrown down from bridges during the war. "Suppose some part of your reptile brain thinks if you walk under a bridge you're going to die," Sewell explained "life becomes very hard."
For most who experience traumatic incidents, these fears subside after 6 months or so because of the extinction learning process. New memories of the traumatic trigger form and override the old. Someone with a traumatic experience of explosives being dropped from bridges, may at first feel terrified as they approach any bridge - with traumatic memories flooding their mind. But after months of nothing bad happening around bridges, most will begin to feel bridges are less dangerous, as many memories of driving under bridges safely accumulate. The old memories still linger, but they don’t cause the increase in fear when the trigger (like the bridge) is present. So while most with trauma remember the traumatic incidents, those memories no longer trigger intense fear.
But for those with PTSD, extinction learning doesn’t happen. The trauma attached to the old memories continues to cause problems.
Still, Sewell believed that cannabis could help. Cannabis stimulates CB1 - a receptor in the endocannabinoid system that Sewell says has improved extinction learning in animal studies. Interestingly, those with PTSD show impaired functioning of the endocannabinoid system - which may be why they are unable to go through the normal extinction learning process.
Sewell theorized that cannabis might be able to jump start this process - allowing those with PTSD to access extinction learning like their healthy counterparts, and curing the PTSD by helping them to move on from their trauma. Unfortunately, he was unable to complete his research before he unexpectedly passed away in 2013.
But this recent study from Brazil’s Federal University of Parana looks deeper into the question. These researchers conducted a thorough review of the cannabis literature from 1974-2020 looking for evidence from controlled human trials to support or refute the theory that cannabis helps with ‘extinction’ of traumatic memories.
The researchers found that cannabis could help. Low doses of the cannabinoid THC or THC combined with another cannabinoid CBD were both able to enhance the extinction rate for challenging memories - and reduce overall anxiety responses. From their study, it seems that THC drives the extinction rate improvements, while CBD can help alleviate potential side effects from higher doses of THC.
The authors conclude that the current evidence from both healthy humans and PTSD patients suggests that these forms of cannabis “suppress anxiety and aversive memory expression without producing significant adverse effects.”
These studies provide some answers about why cannabis is helping PTSD patients feel better - both immediately and in the long run. Still, future studies may help clarify a range of questions about how and when to use cannabis effectively for PTSD, and whether there are risk factors associated with using the drug for this condition.
Finding the right Cannabis for PTSD
When using medical marijuana to treat PTSD, it is important to note that not all cannabis strains and products are created equal. Different strains can offer different effects, so it is essential to do your research beforehand. Some suggested cannabis strains for PTSD include:
This hybrid strain is known for providing a sense of relaxation and reducing anxiety. OG Kush has a high THC content and is perfect for those who need a little extra help in managing their PTSD symptoms. With a pine aroma and earthy taste, OG Kush is a popular choice for many medical marijuana patients.
This Sativa-dominant strain often leaves users feeling energetic and happy. Pineapple Express is known to help reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, making it a top choice for those who have PTSD. This tropical strain has a bright citrus and pineapple aroma with an earthy pine taste.
Blue dream offers full-body relaxation and cerebral stimulation, perfect for those who need help managing chronic pain and stress. With a sweet berry aroma and taste, Blue Dream is a popular choice for many PTSD patients.
This popular Sativa-dominant strain reduces stress, depression, and anxiety. Jack Herer offers a clear-headed high perfect for those who need to stay focused and productive throughout the day. With a spicy pine flavor, Jack Herer is ideal for many PTSD patients.
In addition to choosing the right cannabis strain, it is also important to select products that contain terpenes that have been shown to be effective for treating PTSD. Terpenes are compounds found in cannabis that provide the plant with its unique smell and flavor.They may also offer a variety oftherapeutic benefits. Some suggested terpenes for PTSD include:
This citrus-scented terpene is known for reducing stress, anxiety, and depression. If you are looking for a strain to help you lower your PTSD symptoms and improve your mood, look for a strain or product that contains limonene.
This terpene is found in many Indica strains and is known for its sedative effects.
Myrcene may be helpful for those who have PTSD-related insomnia and may also offer relief from pain and inflammation. Strains high in myrcene often give off an earthy, musky aroma.
This spice-scented terpene is found in many strains of cannabis and is known for its anti-inflammatory and anxiety-reducing effects. Caryophyllene may treat both the physical and psychological symptoms of PTSD. If you are having difficulty falling asleep or suffer from chronic pain, look for a strain high in caryophyllene.
Edibles, beverages, tinctures & capsules
When THC is swallowed, it must pass through the digestive system and the liver before it reaches the bloodstream. Because of this, it can take up to 2 hours for someone to feel the effects of THC after swallowing it. The effects of edibles and similar products tend to peak at about 2 hours, but they can last up to 12 hours.
When THC reaches the liver, it is broken down into a similar, but stronger, molecule called 11-hydroxy THC. Because of differences in how a person’s liver breaks down drugs, there is a lot of person-to-person variability when it comes to how strong and how long THC edibles last.
It is very easy to eat or swallow too much THC, in a way that causes anxiety, a racing heart, and even panic. Most often, people accidentally take too much because it takes so long to feel the effects. They take more before their first dose kicks in, thinking that they didn’t take enough. It's very important to wait 2 to 3 hours before taking another dose of THC.
Tinctures, or oral cannabis solutions, are often applied under the tongue. Some cannabis experts recommend leaving tincture under the tongue for 1 to 2 minutes to allow THC and CBD to be absorbed by the body. Inevitably, most tincture is swallowed, which is why they can sometimes start to work immediately, but they often take 2 hours to take effect.
Day 1: Take one dose of 2 mg THC, orally, in the early evening to assess.
Days 2-7: Increase the single daily dose by 2 mg THC, until an effective dose is reached.
Once effective dose has been determined without problematic effects, consider repeating up to 2 to 3 times per day.
Days 7-10 and beyond: Once effective dose has been determined without problematic side effects, consider repeating up to 2 to 3 times per day.
Smoking, vaping & dabbing
Smoking or vaping cannabis delivers THC directly into the oxygen-rich blood in the lungs, going straight to the brain.
Because of this, the effects of THC can be felt almost immediately, and they last for 2 to 3 hours.
Many people desire the quick effect of inhalation, but they are concerned about smoking. Fortunately, cannabis can be vaporized without burning it. That is, cannabis oil or flower (raw plant material) can be heated, releasing THC, CBD, and other molecules like terpenes in the form of vapor.
Inhaling cannabis vapor is generally considered safer than smoking. This is because like tobacco, burning plant material causes cancer-causing chemicals to form. Vapor from either cannabis oil or cannabis flower can be inhaled using a handheld vaporizer.
Highly-concentrated THC can also be inhaled by superheating cannabis concentrate (sometimes sold as dabs, wax, or shatter), and inhaling the vapor. “Dabbing” or inhaling cannabis concentrates may have serious risks to both mental health and the lungs.
Lotions, Creams, & Patches
Both CBD-rich cannabis and THC-rich cannabis are used to make products for the skin, which some experts think is the best way to use cannabis. Although some skin products may work immediately and last for many hours, other products may not produce any discernible effects at all.
Topical and transdermal products are both applied externally. The difference is that topicals generally act where they are applied, and transdermal products are specially made to penetrate the skin and reach deeper tissues.
Most topical products do not cause thinking or memory problems, even when they contain THC. This is what makes topicals an excellent starting point for people who are new to cannabis.
However, some topical cannabis products may contain other ingredients that make it easier for THC and CBD to penetrate the skin and reach the brain. So, when using a THC topical for the first time, be prepared for the chance of mind/body impairment.
Transdermal cannabis patches are designed to deliver cannabinoids into the blood, so that their effects can be felt throughout the body. Results may vary from product to product and person to person and if a cannabis patch contains THC, it is likely to cause some impairment so monitor at home your first time.