The history of marijuana use dates back as far as 2700 B.C. in China. Legend states that it was found useful in treating rheumatism, gout and oddly enough absent-mindedness.
From China, its use spread to Korea, India and then to Eastern Africa. Marijuana use started to show up in the Arab world where hashish was used for its intoxicating effects since alcohol was banned by the Koran.
In the mid-1500s the Spanish brought cannabis to the new world where the plant was grown for hemp to be used for clothing and especially rope for the rigging of ships.
It shortly found its way to America where they need for hemp was so strong that in 1619 the Virginia assembly passed legislation requiring every farmer to grow hemp. It was allowed to be exchanged as legal tender in Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Maryland.
By 1890 hemp had pretty much been replaced by cotton., but the use of marijuana continued to grow as an ingredient in patent medicines.
The introduction of smokable cannabis to the US largely begins after the Mexican Revolution of 1910. There were a number of refugees crossing the border from the violence of the revolution at the time, and they brought smokable cannabis with them.
It was in the 1920s that marijuana began to catch on. Some historians say its emergence was brought about by Prohibition. Its recreational use was largely restricted to jazz musicians and people in show business. “Reefer songs” became the rage of the jazz world. Marijuana clubs called tea pads sprang up in every major city. These marijuana establishments were tolerated by the authorities because marijuana was not illegal, and patrons showed no evidence of making a nuisance of themselves or disturbing the community. Marijuana was not considered a social threat.
This mindset did not last long. Because marijuana was grown and brought into the US and mostly smoked by Mexicans and musicians who were predominantly black the Federal Narcotics Bureau controlled by Harry J. Anslinger in 1930 started on a vicious campaign claiming that:
“There are 100,000 total marijuana smokers in the US, and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos, and entertainers. Their Satanic music, jazz, and swing result from marijuana use. This marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers, and any others.”
“…the primary reason to outlaw marijuana is its effect on the degenerate races.”
“Marijuana is an addictive drug which produces in its user’s insanity, criminality, and death.”
“Reefer makes darkies think they’re as good as white men.”
“Marihuana leads to pacifism and communist brainwashing”
“You smoke a joint and you’re likely to kill your brother.”
“Marijuana is the most violence-causing drug in the history of mankind.”
By 1931 29 states had outlawed Marijuana. Forced to go underground many slang names were used. My favorite is “Jive.”
Some very cool songs about Jive and The Jive Man were written. I have linked them here so you can enjoy them. Leroy “Stuff” Smith and Jack Palmer, here comes the Man With the Jive
Watch and listen to Cab Callaway and arguably the best tap dancers ever, the Nicholas Brothers perform Jumpin Jive.