By Chris Conrad, adapted from the timeline originally published in
Hemp: Lifeline to the Future (Creative Xpressions, 1993, 1994)
8,000 BC — Civilization, agriculture & hemp textile industries begin in Europe & Asia, simultaneously. Worked hemp fiber found in pottery among the ruins of Catak Ur and in Eastern China.
3727 — Cannabis called a “superior” herb in world’s first medical text, or pharmacopeia, Shen Nung’s Pen Ts’ao, in China. Shen Nung was the legendary hemp farmer, philosopher, healer and benevolent monarch; many believe, he was a composite figure based on a number of actual persons.
1500 — Cannabis-smoking Scythians sweep through Europe & Asia in their Ox carts, settle down everywhere & invent the scythe to harvest hemp. They also use smoking huts with tripod stands where they burn cannabis flowers and inhale the smoke as a cleansing ritual.
1400 — Cultural & religious use of ganja, or cannabis, and charas, or resin (hashish), recorded among Hindus in India.
c.800 — Zoroastrians, Therapeutia, Coptics, Essenes, other African and Eurasian religions adopt cannabis incense and sacrament. Zoroaster is convinced by a hashish experience that all the gods were manifestations of the one real god: The first recorded monotheistic religion.
c.500 — Legend says Gautama Buddha survived by eating hempseed.
450 — Herodotus records Scythians & Thracians as consuming cannabis in their smoking huts from which they emerge laughing, and making fine linens of hemp, as good as those from flax.
420 — Somebody, somewhere, was smoking marijuana.
300 — Carthage & Rome use hemp in their naval and shipping growth and struggle for political & commercial power over hemp & spice trade routes in Mediterranean.
100 BC — Chinese make paper with hemp & mulberry.
Annum 0 — Jesus: “Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.” Matthew 15:11.
100 AD — Roman surgeon Dioscorides names the plant cannabis sativa and describes various medicinal uses. Pliny tells of industrial uses & writes a manual on farming hemp.
420 — Someone was smoking marijuana
500 — Oldest surviving botanical drawing of hemp diagramed in Constantinopolitanus.
c. 600 — Germans, Franks, Vikings, etc., all use hemp fiber.
c. 800 — Mohammed forbids alcohol use, but allows cannabis.
1000 — The English word ‘hempe’ first listed in a dictionary.
— Moslems produce hashish for medicine & social use.
1150 — Moslems take control of much of Spain, use hemp to start Europe’s first paper mill. Most paper is made from hemp for next 850 years.
1484 — Inquisitor Pope Innocent VIII outlaws hashish, education and use of medical plants, launches witch hunts throughout Europe.
1492 — Hempen sails, caulking & rigging ignite Age of Discovery & help Columbus & his ships reach America.
16-17th c. — Dutch achieve Golden Age through hemp commerce based on ships with hempen sails and rigging using wind power.
1545 — Hemp agriculture crosses the American continent, reaches Chile.
— Explorers report finding “wilde hempe” growing in North America.
1564 — King Phillip of Spain orders hemp grown throughout his empire, from modern-day Argentina to Oregon.
1619 — Virginia colony makes hemp cultivation mandatory, followed by most other colonies. Europe pays hemp bounties.
1631 — Hemp used as money throughout American colonies.
1776 — Declaration of Independence drafted on hemp paper.
1791 — President Washington sets duties on hemp to encourage domestic industry; Jefferson calls hemp “a necessity” & urges farmers to grow hemp instead of tobacco.
1800s — Cotton gins make cheaper fiber than hemp.
1841 — Dr. W.B. O’Shaughnessy of Scotland works in India, then introduces cannabis to Western science.
1850s — Petrochemical age begins. Toxic sulfite & chlorine processes make paper from trees, steamships replace sails, tropical fibers introduced.
1860 — First governmental commission study of cannabis & health conducted by Ohio State Medical Society.
1876 — Hashish served at American Centennial Exposition.
1890 — Queen Victoria’s personal physician, Sir Russell Reynolds, recommends using cannabis therapies for “mental, … sensorial … & … muscular” disorders.
1894 — Indian Hemp Drugs Commission (British) studies social use, comes out firmly against its prohibition.
1895 — First known use of the word ‘marijuana’ for smoking, by Pancho Villa’s supporters in Sonora Mexico.
1910 — African-American ‘reefer’ use reported in jazz clubs of New Orleans, said to be influencing white people.
— Mexicans reported to be smoking marijuana in Texas.
1911 — Hindus reported to be using ‘gunjah’ in San Francisco. Massachussetts adopts first marijuana ban.
1916 — USDA Bulletin 404 calls for new program of expansion of hemp to replace uses of timber by industry.
1920s — Alcohol Prohibition takes effect, Anslinger heads prohibition enforcement; Mellon is secretary of treasury; DuPont experiments with petrochemicals. Gang war as Al Capone’s Chicago mob takes over alcohol industry.
1930s — New machines invented to break hemp, process the fiber & convert pulp, or hurds, into paper, plastics, etc. 1200 hash bars in New York City. Racist fears of Mexicans, Asians & African-Americans leads to outcry for cannabis to be outlawed.
1935 — Compressed Agricultural Fiberboard invented in Sweden. DuPont Corporation Board warned that it will suffer economically unless a new federal tax plan is implemented to change the economic and social order in the USA. Harry J. Anslinger goes to work spreading false reports about ‘marijuana’ and crime. Nobody knows what “marijuana” is.
1937 — Marijuana Tax Act forbids hemp farming in the USA without a license from the Treasury Dept. Du Pont files patent for nylon.
1943-45 — Hemp for Victory program urges farmers to grow it.
1955 — Hemp farming again banned.
1960s — Hippies, pop music & Vietnam vets adopt cannabis. The Beatles become icons of marijuana smoking.
1969 — Timothy Leary sues US over Marijuana Tax Act, which is declared unconstitutional and overturned.
1970s — Congress passes Controlled Substances Act to replace the MTA, launches national commission on drugs, puts marijuana in the most restricted class of drugs pending a report from the national commission, puts DEA in charge of rescheduling drugs based on scientific research.
— Social use of cannabis receives widespread acceptance & policy of legal decriminalization sweeps the USA.
— President Richard Nixon declares “War on Drugs” seals off Mexican border with Operation Intercept, thereby leading to domestic cultivation taking root in the USA.
— Government-sponsored ‘studies claim to show new risks from marijuana smoking. Tax payers sponsor disinformation groups.
1976 — Holland adopts tolerance. Oregon and California decriminalize marijuana, making it a misdemeanor offense to possess less than an ounce with a $100 fine and no jail time.
1980s — Reagan/Bush war on cannabis: ‘Head shops’ that sell smoking apparatus outlawed. Urine testing, recriminalization, asset & property seizure, armed forces, prison camps, Just Say No, PDFA, DARE, tobacco & nuclear subsidies, etc. imposed. Beginning of indoor gardening on a national level.
1988 — DEA’s chief administrative judge rules the government should allow the herb’s medical use.
1989 — Price-per-ounce of cannabis higher than gold. It is the biggest cash crop in many states.
1990s — Voters pass regional medical cannabis measures. Interest in this & industrial hemp add new support to campaign for legal right to social use. Hemp Movement takes off.
1992 — Australia licenses hemp farm. Bush loses race for US president to admitted ex-pot smokers Bill Clinton & Al Gore.
1993 — England eases restrictions on hemp farming. News media declare hemp clothes and cannabis leaf logo hottest new fashion.
1994 — Canadian government permits hemp farm in Ontario province.
— Hemp Agrotech plants first commecial research crop in the United States since the post WWII era, but the crop is destroyed by prohibition agents just a week before harvest.
— November 15 declared Medical Marijuana Day
— Hemp Industries Association founded.
1995 — Human Rights and the Drug War project launched
1996 — California passed Proposition 215; medical marijuana legalized.
— Federal and state law enforcement agencies begin criminal conspiracy to overturn the law and undermine the will of the voters. California law enforcement agrees to ignore State Constitution and separation of powers, claim that federal law overrides state law, which the US Supreme Court finally rejected in 2010 in the San Diego v California case.
1997 — Feds try to silence doctors but are sued in return and are sued by San Francisco physician, Robert Conant
— February 15 declared new Medical Marijuana Day after Proposition 215 (2/15).
1998 — Nevada, Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Colorado, and Maine voters legalize medical cultivation and use;
— Ninth Appellate Court’s Conant v McCaffrey ruling protects physicians’ First Amendment freedom of association and speech rights to recommend or approve medical marijuana to their patients
1999 — National Academy of Science recognizes some medical value; Oakland establishes patient guidelines, authorizes four dispensaries to be licensed within the city.
2000 — Former cannabis consumer Al Gore refuses to support medical marijuana, loses White House bid to former cocaine abuser and alcoholic GW Bush, who launches new crackdown on medical use.
2001 — Rainbow Farm massacre; US Supreme Court US v Oakland Cannabis Buyers Coop rules that medical necessity is no defense from federal law for furnishing state-legal cannabis;
— Feds and local police assassinate marijuana activists at Rainbow Farm
— Feds raid Dr Mollie Fry and attorney husband Dale Schafer for providing medical marijuana to patients pursuant to California state law
— Feds raid the Santa Cruz medical marijuana collective Wo/Men’s Alliance for Medical Marijuana (WAMM) and city council begins passing out medical marijuana to patients whose source has been eradicated.
2002 — Seattle voters make marijuana possession the city’s lowest law enforcement priority.
2003 — California legislature passes Senate Bill 420 creating a voluntary and confidential ID card program, a safe harbor from arrest and prosecution, and collective cultivation and distribution
2004 — Oakland voters pass Measure Z
2005 — US Supreme Court Gonzalez v Raich ruling holds that medical use is no different than non-medical use, upholds federal drug laws under the Commerce Clause, but doesn’t overturn any state laws;
2006 — San Francisco County Supervisors and the City Council of West Hollywood pass LLEP measures for possession. Voters in the cities of Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara and Santa Monica also pass LLEP measures.
2008 — Barack Obama, who acknowledged smoking marijuana in his biography and voted to legalize hemp as an IL State Senator, is elected president.
2009 — The Holder press conference, memo on federal preemption, memo on scientific integrity, then Ogden Memo issued in October, setting policy discouraging prosecutions of medical marijuana use and operations consistent with state laws.
2010 — Prop 19, Kelly Decision, SB1449 makes possession an infraction, San Diego v California holds state medical marijuana laws are legal, states have right to legalize under state law but federal jurisdiction to arrest and prosecute patients and providers remains intact, as well; Federal IRS begins investigating more dispensaries
2011 — Oakland Cannabis Museum opens in Oaksterdam, first museum in the nation with an active cannabis garden among its displays.
— US Congressman Barney Frank (D, MA) introduced a bill that reclassifies marijuana from its current status as a dangerous drug with no medical value to instead allow doctors to prescribe it — not merely “recommend or approve.”
— Another bill, introduced by US Congressman Jared Polis (D-CO), will allow banks and other financial institutions to provide services to medical marijuana businesses without being subject to “suspicious activity” reporting requirements.
— A third bill, introduced by US Congressman Pete Stark (D-CA), changes the federal tax code “to allow a deduction for expenses in connection with the trade or business of selling marijuana intended for patients for medical purposes pursuant to State law.”
2012 — Oaksterdam University and the Museum are raided in April by federal agents seeking to shut down its garden and put OU out of business. The raid is a failure when agents are pursued through the streets by supporters of Richard Lee and his Oakland facilities. The university reopens the next day and the museum is moved to its new campus at 1600 Broadway.
2016 — Oaksterdam University moves to 1764 Telegraph and brings the museum to its new location. Due to campus restrictions, the garden is only available to students or by reservation.
2020 — Covid 19 forces the closure of the OU campus and the university moves its curriculum fully online.