The U.S. has a connection with marijuana that dates back to the Colonial Era. Early farmers were encouraged to grow cannabis crops by the government to aid in the production of hemp-based commodities like rope, sails for the shipping industry, sacking, and clothing. The oil extra of hemp seeds was also used in paints, soaps, and varnishes. Even George Washington grew hemp on his Mount Vernon farm as a cash crop and to aid in his fishing operation located along the Potomac.
Towards the end of the 19th century, marijuana was a frequent ingredient in medicinal products which were openly offered in pharmacies. After the Mexican Revolution of 1910, the U.S. saw an influx of Mexican immigrants who enjoyed using marijuana for recreational purposes. Per usual, irrational fear and prejudice towards the plant blossomed because the drug was now being associated with immigrants. Campaigners seized on the opportunity to warn of the encroaching “Marijuana Menace.”
When the Great Depression hit, vast unemployment increased anti-immigrant sentiment and escalated government concern about the use of the drug. By 1931, 29 states had outlawed marijuana. In 1937, Congress passed the Marijuana Tax Act. To properly understand the history of marijuana legalization in the U.S., we have to look deeper into how it became illegal in the first place.