With the news that Uruguay has become the first country on the planet to legalize and regulate marijuana, politicians and pot smokers are now giving unprecedented focus to the drug. Yet despite the increased discussion, the public remains largely unaware of marijauana's — pardon the pun — deep roots in history.
Weed has grown naturally in the wild for thousands of years, and has been utilized by humans for nearly as long, with the earliest recorded references to its medicinal properties dating back to Chinese Emperor Fu Xi in 2900 B.C.
Our founding fathers were also big fans of marijuana, in part because of the role hemp played in the production of clothing and paper. "Hemp is of first necessity to the wealth and protection of the country," declared Thomas Jefferson, who, along with George Washington, grew the plant on his farm. John Adams predicted, "We shall, by and by, want a world of hemp more for our own consumption."
Only about a century ago, when a surge of Mexican immigration led to an influx in recreational marijuana use, did the U.S. start to crack down on pot. This infographic provides an excellent summary of the history of marijuana laws in the U.S. and the issues surrounding the modern-day legalization debate.
To learn more about the marijuana legalization debate, read this PolicyMic interview with Dr. Ethan Nadelmann, head of the Drug Policy Alliance, one of the nation's leading pro-legalization advocacy groups. If you want to hear about the potential dangers of legalization, including the possibility that legal marijuana might lead to the rise of evil cannabis megacorporations, read this PolicyMic interview with Dr. Kevin Sabet, head of Smarter Approaches to Marijuana.