History

Marijuana has been used since antiquity, and it can be found in numerous ancient texts. The oldest known reference to marijuana is in a 15th-century B.C. Chinese text on herbal remedy (Walton, 1938). Also, Assyrian cuneiform tablets from 650 B.C. that contain references to people smoking marijuana "are generally regarded as obvious copies of much older texts," according to Walton. Although archeological findings in Berlin, Germany, suggest that marijuana was in Western Europe by 500 B.C., an exact date or extent of use is unknown. However, hemp-based clothing was widespread in central and southern Italy, and the intoxicating effects of marijuana were also recorded in Renaissance texts. In Europe, it was quite popular in 19th-century high society. In the United States, in the beginning of this century, it was popular principally in the West and was mostly associated with ethnic groups and jazz musicians. Marijuana's social stigma, epitomized in the now-popular classic cult film Reefer Madness, led Congress to enact the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 (Bonnie & Whitebread, 1974). This legislation calls for the requirement of a federally approved stamp for commerce with marijuana. No such stamps were ever issued, however.

Marijuana, considered benign by many, became more popular as a mainstream drug in late the1960s, coinciding with the growing drug subculture. Its peak use was in 1979, when approximately 51% of high school seniors admitted to having tried it (Johnson, O'Malley, & Bachman, 2002). Perhaps due to the public's exposure to individuals who used the drug frequently and suffered lethargy and impairment from it, as well as pressure from the newly emerging law in drugs, marijuana use declined substantially through the 1980s, bottoming out at 22% in 1992 (Johnson et al., 2002). The mid-1990s, however, saw substantial increase in the popularity of the drug, with 1996 being the peak year for 8th graders, and 1997 for 10th and 12th graders. Coinciding with this resurgence of drug use, mainstream iconographic representations of the marijuana plant also began appearing on numerous articles of clothing (from such companies as www.happyhippie.com or www.hempstyle.com), worn by both adolescents and adults, thereby attesting to widespread renewed interest among marijuana users.

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