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  • Olivia Castro

How Did Marijuana Become a Schedule I Drug?

Marijuana has had a very grueling history in America. We have seen marijuana go from a strictly illegal drug that was demonized to a medicine for those with debilitating medical conditions and then onto a recreational substance to be enjoyed.

There has been a major shift in the way marijuana is socially viewed. But why was marijuana even prohibited? How and why has it been vilified for so long that there are existing stereotypes about marijuana users and marijuana itself that exist to this day?

Today, we will be giving you all the tea on how marijuana became a Schedule I drug and why it was prohibited in the states. At Tennessee Marijuana Card, we believe that the only way we can move forward as a nation in support of medical marijuana legalization is to acknowledge marijuana history and shatter the stigma surrounding it.

You can stay connected to all things medical marijuana in Tennessee by reading our blog!

Marijuana Prohibition in America:

Let’s focus on the big question here. Why was marijuana made illegal in the first place?

Cannabis was very commonly used and also fully legal in the U.S. up until the passing of the “Marihuana Tax Act” in 1937. Before this bill was passed, doctors regularly used cannabis products to treat their patients! They would prescribe tinctures to treat migraines, aches, pains and many different ailments just like medical marijuana programs today.

Eventually rumors started to spread about what was called “reefer madness.” Reefer Madness was a propaganda film that was released in 1936 which was originally named “Tell Your Children.” This movie displayed depictions of marijuana users basically losing their minds. In the film people smoking marijuana would put themselves in risky situations, do dangerous things and attend “wild” parties. This made a lot of people afraid of marijuana use.

The stereotype of “reefer madness” actually existed before the film but the film solidified it as a cautionary tale for the nation to see and believe. Before the movie, the media had been claiming that Americans of Asian and Mexican descent had this reefer madness since their heritage was from a country that traditionally used marijuana.

Even though other white cultures in America also used marijuana, this racist propaganda embedded itself deep into American culture and gave politicians at the time a “reason” to push for marijuana prohibition.

The Marijuana Tax Act of 1937:

This leads us to discuss the “Marihuana Tax Act” of 1937. This was the bill that essentially criminalized marijuana. In an effort to deter people from using marijuana products, this bill placed a $1.00 tax on anyone who sold or cultivated marijuana.

To some, a single dollar may not sound like much today but remember this is right after the stock market crashed in 1929 and the country was still recovering. One dollar went a long way.

With this tax came additional provisions that citizens all over the country had to comply with. If they didn’t, a violation could carry a fine up to $2,000 and even imprisonment!

From 1937 to 1970, marijuana was more and more criminalized as more and more people were arrested. But to lawmakers' surprise, there was an increase in marijuana use! Instead of the tax act deterring people from using cannabis, it actually created a “risk premium” on it which therefore increased profits for those supplying marijuana at the time.

As the 1960’s began, America started moving into the civil rights, free love and anti-war era. The use of marijuana started to become one of the identities of these counter-cultures.

Those that were right-winged were not happy about this, of course. This gave lawmakers even more of an excuse to prohibit cannabis use.

The Controlled Substances Act of 1970:

In 1970, the Controlled Substances Act updated all federal drug laws in the nation. With this act, marijuana was scheduled as a Schedule I drug.

So what does this mean exactly? Schedule I is a category that is reserved for substances that have no medicinal value and have a high potential for abuse and addiction. We know that this scheduling is not based on facts as people, in this country and others, have been using marijuana medically for centuries and it is non-addictive.

At the time medical experts advocated on marijuana’s behalf sharing that the plant had medicinal properties. But the facts were overlooked and marijuana was labeled a Schedule I Drug and has been a Schedule I Drug ever since.

Making marijuana a Schedule I Drug was a political move for the administration at the time. This act put marijuana in a catch-22. Lawmakers claim there is a lack of research on marijuana being medicinal but there is a lack of research because research is restricted for Schedule I drugs. Under this scheduling, marijuana can just not win.

Entering The Medical Marijuana Era

Marijuana has medicinal properties. There is no denying that. Today, individual states have legalized medical marijuana programs on their own terms one by one!

Louisiana started the trend back in the 1980s and was followed in the 90’s by California, Alaska, Oregon and Washington. While there are a lot of states that have medical marijuana programs, Tennessee is still waiting to be on that list.

You can reserve an appointment to get your medical marijuana card in Tennessee with us today and stay in touch with us here for more up to date marijuana news and conversation!


Doctors Who Care. Relief You Can Trust.

At Tennessee Marijuana Card, our mission is helping everyone achieve wellness safely and conveniently through increased access to medical marijuana. Our focus on education, inclusion, and acceptance will reduce stigma for our patients by providing equal access to timely information and compassionate care.

If you have any questions, call us at (833) 781-5611, or simply book a medical marijuana evaluation to start getting relief you can trust today!

Check out Tennessee Marijuana Card’s Blog to keep up to date on the latest medical marijuana news, tips, and information.

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