A History of Alcohol Policy in the United States As marijuana policies are re-examined in the United States, it may be useful to look at our history of alcohol policy for guidance. Alcohol has been a part of American culture for hundreds of years. Some Native American tribes used alcohol for ceremonial purposes during the precolonial era. In the sixteenth century, the pilgrims landed the Mayflower illegally at Cape Cod rather than at their chartered destination in Virginia because they were looking to replenish their supply of beer. By the 1820s, Americans of all ages were drinking more than at any point in our history—consuming on average about three times as much alcohol per day as their counterparts do now in the twenty-first century. Widespread overconsumption and public drunkenness led to the temperance movement, which gained momentum through the formation of the American Temperance Society in 1826. Temperance groups called for abstinence from alcohol and gained cultural momentum, resulting in increased demands for government prohibition. Maine passed a law in 1851 prohibiting the manufacture and sale of liquor, only to repeal it five years later. The temperance movement eventually lost steam during the Civil War, but it was revived afterward. In 1881, Kansas made history when it amended its constitution to outlaw alcoholic beverages. Other states began to follow suit. The outbreak of World War I in 1914 spurred calls for nationwide prohibition, due to the need for devoting the nation’s barley crop to bread rations for soldiers, rather than to beer production. In 1920, Congress ratified the Eighteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, making the production, import, transport and sale of alcohol illegal nationwide. The separate Volstead Act (designed to enforce Prohibition) went into effect the same year. Estimates indicate alcohol consumption fell sharply during the first few years of Prohibition, and even though it rose a bit during later Prohibition years, overall consumption still remained 30 to 40 percent below pre-Prohibition levels. At the same time, illegal activities rose during Prohibition. Illegally distilled spirits, such as moonshine and bathtub gin, were produced in mass. Speakeasies that served illegal alcohol gained popularity. Bootlegging, the dangerous illegal transportation of alcohol, became incredibly profitable. Organized crime groups grew in size, were well-funded and became increasingly violent. Law enforcement, overstretched by insufficient resources, struggled to carry out the laws associated with Prohibition. Lack of coordination between federal, state, and local authorities complicated enforcement efforts. In addition, methanol poisonings increased due to the poor quality of amateur homemade alcoholic beverages. And lawmakers who drank alcohol themselves were exposed as hypocrites. Cries for repeal of the Eighteenth Amendment increased, particularly in urban areas. Prohibition laws were intended to curb violence and crime, but the opposite happened. And the black market for alcohol disrupted the legitimate economy, which also suffered from the rising costs of Prohibition enforcement and the collapse of the stock market in 1929. With the onset of the Great Depression, state governments began looking again at the tax revenue that legal alcohol sales could generate. In 1932, Franklin D. Roosevelt secured the Democratic nomination for president and won on a platform that supported ending Prohibition. Soon after his election, in 1933, Congress proposed and the states approved the Twenty-First Amendment, which repealed both the Eighteenth Amendment and Volstead Act. A few states continued statewide prohibition, but by 1966 all of them had abandoned it. While the federal government regulates production of alcoholic beverages, taxes alcohol sales and requires a Surgeon General health warning on alcoholic products, alcohol sales are now regulated primarily by state and local governments. As a result, there are differences throughout the nation regarding when alcohol is sold, where it is sold, how it is sold, what varieties are sold and so on. In fact, some dry communities still exist. After Prohibition, the drinking age in most areas of the country was eighteen. Eventually, all states adopted a minimum drinking age of twenty-one, encouraged to do so by the National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984, which tied the age requirement to federal highway funds. Also of note: home brewing of beer and wine, unlike the federally regulated production of distilled alcohols, is now legal in all states (Mississippi and Alabama were the last to legalize this activity in 2013). However, home brewers are not allowed to sell the wine and beer they produce. A History of Marijuana Policy in the United States Varieties of cannabis plants are also known as hemp plants, although the word hemp is more commonly used when referring to fiber derived from such plants. Hemp, the fiber, has been used extensively throughout history for items such as rope, paper, fabrics and sail canvas. Hemp fiber also can be used to create concrete-like blocks for construction projects, bioplastics, jewelry and biofuels. In colonial America, hemp production was a requirement of English rule, and George Washington himself grew it as one of his main crops at Mount Vernon. At that time, hemp plants were low in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active component of cannabis, and valued mostly for their role in industry. Medicinal use of cannabis did not make its first appearance in America until the 1850s, when products with cannabis extracts were first produced and sold for the purpose of treating maladies such as pain and muscle spasticity. Soon after, pharmaceutical regulations were introduced in individual states. Products containing habit-forming substances like cannabis were often labeled poison and, in some cases, were available only with a physician’s prescription. In the early 1900s, California passed the Poison Act, which was intended to make it a misdemeanor to be in possession of cannabis products not intended for medicinal use. However, it unexpectedly was applied to medicinal use as well. Eventually, similar laws passed in other states. The Federal Bureau of Narcotics was established in 1930 to enforce legislation that regulated and taxed products derived from opium and coca plants, and Harry J. Anslinger was appointed commissioner. Anslinger, a supporter of Prohibition, enforced criminalization of marijuana and publicized his belief that it incited violence and lewd sexual behavior. All states soon had laws regulating cannabis, and the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 made possession or transfer of cannabis illegal on a federal level while imposing a tax on medical marijuana and industrial hemp. Stricter punishments for marijuana offenses were put in place in the 1950s. And, although the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 unconstitutional in 1970, passage of the Controlled Substances Act that same year placed cannabis in the Schedule I federal classification, where it remains today, making both medical and recreational marijuana illegal in the eyes of the federal government. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) was created in 1973 to enforce federal drug laws. Changes toward more lenient marijuana policy began in the 1970s, with some states decriminalizing it, or significantly reducing the penalties for illegal use. In 1996, California legalized medical marijuana, but the U.S. Supreme Court successfully upheld the ability of the DEA to enforce the Controlled Substances Act, even when it conflicts with such a state law. In 2005, the Supreme Court once again upheld the DEA’s authority in such conflicts. Still, more states continued to reduce penalties for marijuana-related charges, and some continued to pass medical marijuana laws. Then, in 2012, Washington and Colorado legalized recreational marijuana, with intentions to regulate it like alcohol. Colorado created a Marijuana Enforcement Division, and Washington placed marijuana regulation under its State Liquor Control Board. Since then, other states have passed laws legalizing recreational marijuana, and several have approved medical marijuana programs. In 2013, the Obama administration said the federal government would not challenge state legalization efforts. Two years later, the Obama administration eased some restrictions on cannabis research to study its potential as medicine. Meanwhile, various bills have been introduced in Congress to reclassify federal scheduling of marijuana, reduce or eliminate penalties for minor marijuana violations and legalize medical marijuana nationally. A Brief History of Marijuana as Medicine Some have viewed marijuana as having medical value throughout history: The Chinese emperor Fu Hsi referenced it as a popular medicine in 2900 BC, and the herb was included in the Chinese Pharmacopeia, the Rh-Ya, in 1500 BC. By 100 AD, the Chinese had more than one hundred medical uses for marijuana, including treating gout, malaria and absentmindedness. In 200 AD, surgeon Hua T’o performed a number of surgeries using an anesthetic made from cannabis resin and wine. The original Hebrew version of the book of Exodus refers to a “holy anointing oil” that combined olive oil, fragrant herbs and kaneh bosm (cannabis). The ancient Egyptians prescribed cannabis for glaucoma, inflammation, “cooling the uterus” and administering enemas. Bhang, a drink that combined cannabis and milk, was used as an anesthetic and antiphlegmatic in India around 1000 BC. By 600 BC, Indians believed it could prolong life, improve thinking and judgment, reduce fevers, induce sleep, cure dysentery and cure leprosy. The Persians of 700 BC listed cannabis as the most important of 10,000 medicinal plants. The Greeks of 200 BC used it for earaches, edema and inflammation. In 70 AD, a Roman army medical text declared kannabis useful for treating earache and suppressing sexual longing. Soon thereafter, Roman author Pliny the Elder noted that the roots of cannabis boiled in water eased cramped joints, gout and violent pain. Across Arabia in the ninth century, cannabis was used to treat a variety of ailments, including migraines and syphilis. In England in 1621, clergyman Robert Burton suggested using cannabis to treat depression in his book The Anatomy of Melancholy. Other British herbalists suggested cannabis for gout and joint pain. Later, in Victorian England, cannabis was used for muscle spasms, menstrual cramps, rheumatism and convulsions; to promote uterine contractions in childbirth; and as a sleep aid. In colonial America, hemp was raised as a fiber crop; however, George Washington made notes in his diary of 1765 about his interest in the medicinal uses of the plant. By 1840, marijuana had become part of mainstream Western medicine, and was added to the U.S. Pharmacopeia in 1850. It was also included in patent medicines. Newer uses included increasing appetites, treating opium withdrawal, and suppressing vomiting and nausea. In the United States from 1900 to the 1930s, cannabis was included in many medications. The American pharmaceutical companies Parke-Davis and Eli Lilly sold extracts of cannabis for use as an analgesic, antispasmodic and sedative, while Grimault and Co. marketed marijuana cigarettes to treat asthma. Cannabis was prohibited in the United Kingdom under its Dangerous Drugs Act in 1928. In the United States, all states had enacted laws regulating marijuana by 1936. Its use in medicine was replaced by aspirin as well as by morphine and other opiates. By 1942, it was removed from its place in the U.S. Pharmacopeia and was considered to have no therapeutic legitimacy.