By: Laine Hammer & Cyrus Sepahbodi In honor of April 20, 2020 aka 4/20/2020, we want to recognize, praise, and thank the heroic humans that worked hard to make modern cannabis what it is today: a plant that improves people’s lives and allows our community of people at Papa & Barkley to help you feel better every day. 

Ancient Beginnings 

Did you know the oldest known written record of cannabis use comes from the Chinese Emperor Shen Nung in 2727 BC? The early Chinese surgeon Hua Tuo (c. AD 140-208) is also credited with being the first recorded person to use cannabis as an anesthetic. He reduced the plant to powder and mixed it with wine for administration prior to performing surgery. Can you imagine mixing your flower into a glass of wine now? We can’t. Other historical sources have shown that ancient Egyptians also used cannabis. In India, bhang, a drink made with raw cannabis, is an overall wellness beverage. It was also discovered that cannabis was used in steams baths in the Middle East to help with inflammation.     

Prohibition: Lies, Fear, and Racism 

In the United States, cannabis tinctures were an everyday health aid and were widely available at pharmacies until the 1930s, although prohibition was beginning on the state level starting in 1911. By 1933, approximately 21 states had banned cannabis and even hemp as an illicit substance. This wave of prohibition continued until 1937 when the“Marihuana Tax Act” was enacted, effectively prohibiting all cannabis at the federal level. The case for medical use of cannabis diminished and its healing potential was largely erased. The antagonist and principle author of the Marihuana Tax Act of cannabis in the United States was Harry J. Anslinger, the first commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, which laid the groundwork for the modern-day DEA, and the primary architect of the war on drugs forty years later. Anslinger was noted for spreading heavy propaganda filled with racism and fear. His outright racist views compelled him to argue that jazz musicians were creating “Satanic” music – all thanks to the influence of ‘pot’.    

The War on Drugs 

In the 1960s, when cannabis became popularized by the counterculture, President John F. Kennedy and Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson commissioned reports that found that marijuana did not induce violence or lead to the use of other more dangerous drugs. In 1970 the Controlled Substances Act was enacted, classifying cannabis as a Schedule I narcotic, on par with heroin and cocaine. A year later, President Nixon declared a formal ‘War on Drugs.’ Then, in 1972, the Shafer Commission (National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse) recommended to Nixon that marijuana for personal use be decriminalized, but he ignored their recommendation. Meanwhile, five high school students in San Rafael, California, Steve Capper, Dave Reddix, Jeffrey Noel, Larry Schwartz, and Mark Gravich, designated 4:20pm as their meeting time to begin their search for an abandoned cannabis crop. While they never found the crop, the phrase “420” ultimately evolved into a code-word that they used to mean consuming cannabis. This phrase would become widely-recognized in the cannabis community and is still part of cannabis vernacular. In 1983, the Los Angeles Police Department teamed up with the Los Angeles Unified School District to create D.A.R.E (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) a drug resistance program dedicated to educating elementary school students about the dangers of the use and abuse of illicit drugs.        

Compassionate Use: Legalization & Decriminalization 

While Nixon’s ‘War on Drugs’ was in full force, we saw cannabis pioneers likeJack Herer in Venice Beach, as well as Dennis Peron and Mary Rathbun in San Francisco, advocating on behalf of safe access to cannabis and hemp.  Rathbun aka “Brownie Mary” became famous in the cannabis community for her cannabis oil-infused brownies that helped alleviate many of the side effects of patients with HIV/AIDS and cancer. Eventually, Peron and Rathbun would help co-author Proposition 215, which legalized medical marijuana in California in 1996. With the Compassionate Use Act of 1996, California became the first state to legalize marijuana for medicinal use by people with severe or chronic illnesses. Along with Washington, D.C., 29 states and the U.S. territories of Guam and Puerto Rico allow the use of cannabis for limited medical purposes.   

Cannabis Today & Beyond 

In the decades since, legalization has allowed more people to embrace cannabis as medicine and as a daily part of their wellness routine. 420 is now synonymous with celebrating the history of the plant, the people that advocated for safe access to medicine, and the community it continues to cultivate every day. At Papa & Barkley, we carry on this legacy of advocates and caregivers through our mission to unlock the potential of the plant to improve lives. We believe that plant medicine should be universally accessible, and we want the benefits to be experienced by those who need it most every day.   

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RESOURCES & CITATIONS 

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Celebrating the History of Cannabis
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Celebrating the History of Cannabis
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In honor of 420 we are celebrating the history of cannabis by highlighting the men and women who advocated for safe access to cannabis as medicine.
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Papa & Barkley
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