CBD and cannabis in America: a history

A history and why CBD and cannabis and cannabinoids work for your patients

Few topics gather so much interest from so many diverse groups as CBD and cannabis in America. There is a lot of confusion and misuse of the terms. Cannabis, (genus Cannabis), includes medicinal, recreational and fiber plants belonging to the family Cannabaceae.

Humans, being incredibly skillful, have used selective breeding to maximize the cannabis plant for two distinct purposes:

  1. Hemp has been bred to maximize fiber for clothing, rope, animal feed, shelter;
  2. Marijuana has been bred to maximize the psychedelic THC content and get “high” for relaxation and religious uses.

Hemp and marijuana are simply two breeds of cannabis, just as Labradors and German Shepherds are breeds of canine, while broccoli and cauliflower are breeds of the plant species Brassica oleracea.

The industrial hemp plant was legalized for production with the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill.

Hemp in early America

Views of the hemp plant are changing quickly in America. The views are actually reverting to how our founding fathers thought of cannabis. “Wait a minute — that is sacrilegious,” some may say. “What do our founding fathers have to do with cannabis?” The short answer is — our founding fathers loved hemp.
How do we know this?

  1. “Make the most of the Indian hemp and sow it everywhere,” said George Washington.
  2. “Growing hemp is of utmost importance to the nation,” said Thomas Jefferson.
  3. “We shall, by and by, want a world of hemp more for our own consumption,” said John Adams.

The founding fathers knew that hemp production and its many uses, as cloth for sails, rope for ships and fiber for shoes, would make America stronger through its use in peace and in war. So — what happened to Americans’ perception of hemp and cannabis between the founding of our nation and now?


After the Mexican Revolution of 1910, Mexican immigrants moved 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 crimes were attributed to marijuana and the Mexicans who used it.

The panic over cannabis use went nationwide, and as a result the U.S. Congress passed the Marihuana (sic) Tax Act of 1937 — which effectively made possession or transfer of all cannabis (marijuana and hemp) illegal throughout the United States under federal law, excluding medical and industrial uses, through imposition of an excise tax on all sales of hemp. This is a case where legislatures did not consider the differences between hemp and marijuana.

But after the Philippines fell to Japanese forces in 1942, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Army urged farmers to grow hemp fiber. The U.S. Government issued cultivation tax stamps to farmers, and without any change in the Marihuana Tax Act, more than 400,000 acres of hemp were cultivated between 1942-45. The last commercial hemp fields were planted in Wisconsin in 1957.

After 50 years of state and federal criminality, in 1996 California became the first state to permit legal access to, and use of, botanical cannabis for medicinal purposes under physician supervision with the enactment of the Compassionate Use Act.

Early legalization and the endocannabinoid system (ECS)

What does all this history matter to your practice? Let me explain the endocannabinoid system.

Discovered in 1992 at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Professor Lumir Hanus, PhD, along with American researcher William Devane, PhD, discovered the endocannabinoid anandamide. The discovery of these receptors resulted in the uncovering of naturally occurring neurotransmitters called endocannabinoids.

Your body actually has cannabinoid receptors, and a complete functional system, that has cannabinoids as its main component — just like blood is the main component in your circulatory system. Endocannabinoids (eCBs) and their receptors are found throughout the human body: nervous system, internal organs, connective tissues, glands and immune cells. The ECS system has a homeostatic role, characterized as “eat, sleep, relax, forget and protect.”

University studies have been conducted quantifying cannabinoid effects on pain conditions including neuropathic pain, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis and mixed chronic pain. Fifteen of the 18 included trials demonstrated a significant analgesic effect of cannabinoids compared with placebo. Cannabinoid use was generally well-tolerated; adverse effects most reported were mild to moderate in severity. Overall, evidence suggests that cannabinoids are safe and moderately effective for neuropathic pain with preliminary evidence of efficacy in fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis.

The U.S. Government patent on CBD

Just a few years after the discovery of the endocannabinoid system, the U.S. Government poured millions of dollars into research on CBD and cannabis and cannabinoids — resulting in a U.S. patent. Yes … the U.S. Government holds a patent on cannabinoids. Patent #6630507was issued to the United States of America in 2003 as represented by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

What does that patent say? Directly quoted from the U.S. Patent Office, “Cannabinoids are found to have particular application as neuroprotectants, for example in limiting neurological damage following ischemic insults, such as stroke and trauma, or in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and HIV dementia. Non-psychoactive cannabinoids, such as cannabidiol, are particularly advantageous to use because they avoid toxicity that is encountered with psychoactive cannabinoids at high doses useful in the method of the present invention.”

Also note the patent was issued in 2003, when the entire cannabis family was still considered a Schedule 1 Drug — meaning that it has a high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, and a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision.

The future of CBD and cannabis

The history of cannabis in America is fascinating, and it is far from over. Currently, hemp-derived CBD/cannabinoids are federally legal in all states, as long as they have less than 0.3% THC (Delta 9) by weight. In addition, many states have approved medical or recreational marijuana (see below).

It will be interesting to see how the U.S. government reacts in the near future; but we do know one thing about CBD and cannabis: It will be fun to watch as patients continue to clamor for these natural healing substances.

JOE KRYSZAK, MBA, is president of Stirling Professional CBD, the brand built by and for chiropractors and professional offices, giving back to the chiropractic industry. Since 2014, Stirling has grown, extracted and produced the purest CBD available. Stirling Professional brings amazing CBD+ products to your patients with the industry-leading lineup of 2,500-mg CBD lotions, THC and THC-free capsules and gels, and four great solutions for better sleep. We bring affordable solutions to your patients. For more information, go to stirlingprofessional.com.

Darwin Sese
Darwin Sese

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