The History of Cannabis and CBD

Hemp had been one of the most significant crops for humankind up until this last century. It is astonishing to see how the widespread use of hemp has dropped to such a degree, that people barely recognize it as anything but a plant that “doesn’t get you high”.

The cultivation of hemp dates back thousands of years. Hemp was probably the earliest plant cultivated for textile fiber. Archaeologists found a remnant of hemp cloth in ancient Mesopotamia (currently Iran and Iraq) which dates back to 8,000 BC. Hemp is also believed to be the oldest example of human industry. In the Lu Shi, a Chinese work of the Sung dynasty (500 AD), we find reference to the Emperor Shen Nung (28th century BC) who taught his people to cultivate hemp for cloth. It is believed that hemp made it to Europe in approximately 1,200 BC. From there, it spread throughout the ancient world.

Over the years, hemp has played an important role in the development of human societies. It was used to make the 600-year-old Gutenberg Bible, as well as the sails of the English fleet of ships that defeated the Spanish Armada. In fact, at one point, it was illegal for farmers in England not to grow hemp.

Hemp was also held in high esteem by those in power in America. Founding Father and former President Thomas Jefferson is quoted as saying, “hemp is of first necessity to the wealth & protection of the country.”

History Of Hemp

Although hemp played a major role in the early development of North America, it was eventually overshadowed by cotton. Hemp harvesting was extremely labor-intensive. When the invention of the mechanical cotton gin at the end of eighteenth century made it easier to process cotton, hemp could no longer compete. Traditionally, hemp was processed by hand, this was very labour intensive and costly, not lending itself towards modern commercial production. In 1917, American George W. Schlichten patented a new machine for separating the fiber from the internal woody core (‘Hurds’). This reduced labour costs by a factor of 100, and increasing fiber yield significantly. Mr Schlichten and his machines disappeared, not surprisingly! For the next hundred years, the history of hemp cultivation took a turn for the worse.

Here’s what we found…You may have wondered why there isn’t a long historical record of science that backs the use of Cannabis and Cannabinoids. We were curious too, so we did some digging to learn more about the history of marijuana and CBD.


1800’s – Cannabidiol (CBD), a naturally occurring compound found in the cannabis plant dates back to the 1800’s when Queen Victoria used the plant and its extract to help reduce the pain and inflammation associated with her menstrual cramps.

1937 – This may be the year that the first known pieces of marijuana propaganda negatively influenced the view of marijuana use in society. Harry Anslinger, the first commissioner of the U.S. Treasury Department's Federal Bureau of Narcotics was influential in having the “Marijuana Bill of 1937” passed. This made the selling and growing of marijuana illegal, or subjected to high taxes.  Anslinger was also known to have propagated the story that marijuana made people more aggressive and more likely to commit violent crimes. He also spread the idea that a young man named Victor Licata, while under the influence of marijuana, was so violent that he hacked his family to death with an ax. However, it was discovered many years later that Licata may have suffered from a severe mental illness and there was no record of him ever using marijuana.

1940 – Scientists at the University of Illinois, isolated CBD science mechanisms for the first time from the cannabis plant. Their goal was to explore the components within cannabis and see what (if any) role these compounds had on the human body. At that time, researchers considered CBD to be a “very toxic” substance and thought that it was not an active component of cannabis. Because the mechanism of how it affected the body was not well understood, scientists thought it served no beneficial role within the human body.

1946 – Scientists wanted to study CBD’s health benefits and THC further by testing their consumption on lab animals. Researchers found that THC put mice and rabbits into a trance-like state, while CBD health benefits did not create any noticeable changes in behavior.

Late 1960’s – President Richard Nixon initiated actions to reduce the selling and consumption of drugs. Commonly referred to as Nixon’s War on Drugs, cannabis was made a Level 1 drug for its perception of being “highly addictive”. This may have been influenced by the negative perception of “hippies”, who were known for their heavy marijuana usage. Interestingly enough, more illicit drugs such as cocaine and heroin that have documented dependency issues and higher rates of addiction, were considered Level 2 drugs.

1964 – Dr. Raphael Mechoulam, a chemist at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, was the first to determine the CBD lab tested structure which led to additional discoveries related to CBD’s medicinal benefits. His team also verified that THC, not CBD, was responsible for the intoxication in humans.

1974 – Brazilian scientists found that CBD reduced the severity and frequency of seizures in animals. However, the effects of CBD on humans were found to be inconclusive. Later that same year, CBD was found to reduce nausea among cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.

History of Hemp

1999 – Researchers at The National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH) found CBD to be a prominent cellular antioxidant. Additional studies also discovered CBD’s neurological benefits in protecting the brain.

2003 – CBD is patented (U.S. Patent #6,630,507) as a “neuroprotectant” by the U.S. government.

2014 – For nearly 15 years, CBD research waned and was all but forgotten from mainstream media for its medicinal use. It was in this year, that CNN ran a special, highlighting how CBD helped to decrease a 5 year old’s seizures, from 250 a week to just a few a week. This was controversial because her parents were knowingly breaking the law to get CBD for her to improve her quality of life. As a result of the news coverage and public advocacy initiatives, President Obama signed the Agricultural Act of 2014, or the 2014 Farm Bill, which also included Section 7606. This allowed universities and state departments to cultivate industrial hemp for limited purposes, including for research.

June 2018 – With the passage of the Farm Bill and the number of states legalizing recreational and medicinal marijuana use, public sentiment shifted in favor of the use of CBD. In addition, the cannabis industry has grown to generate more than $591 million in 2018 and is expected to reach $2.2 billion in revenue by 2020. Most recently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Epidiolex (cannabidiol) [CBD] oral solution for the treatment of seizures. This is primarily for Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome. It can be administered to patients ages two years old and up. This marks the first FDA-approved drug that contains a purified drug compound derived directly from the cannabis plant.

December 2018 – Hemp Bill:  Led by House Majority leader and Kentucky representative, Mitch McConnell, this legislation was passed in December 2018. This bill fully legalizes hemp cultivation across the country and allows for further research into its medicinal value.

Over the years, the hemp industry has experienced a lot of ups and downs, but with the recent explosion in the popularity of CBD and a shift in demand for natural products, the industry is experiencing a renaissance.

Due to this new demand for hemp and hemp-based products, farmers and green-fingered entrepreneurs all over the world are turning to hemp cultivation as the next big thing.

If you have any questions regarding the history of cannabis and hemp or the composition of our CBD products, please feel free to shoot us an email at or DM us on Instagram @highlinewellness.

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