Cannabidiol (CBD) is abundant in the hemp plant. It is also found in significant quantities in the marijuana plant. There is a misconception that hemp and marijuana are different types of plants. In reality, both are descended from cannabis, a flowering plant in the Cannabaceae family.
It is the law that distinguishes the two plants, not science. Legally, “hemp” is cannabis with a THC content of 0,2% or less by dry weight. Marijuana ”is cannabis with more than 0,2% THC. Marijuana is intoxicating, but not hemp. Although both plants contain CBD, most suppliers source from it CBD products their cannabidiol from hemp.
The cannabis plant has a long and eventful history, which we cover in this article. In it, we go back thousands of years to investigate the origins of cannabis use among humans. We trace their journey to the United States, followed by the scientists' discovery of the various cannabinoids in the plant. Finally, let's take a look at the future of cannabis.
When was marijuana discovered?
It is impossible to give an accurate picture of when people first discovered the cannabis plant. In general, the span of recorded history is around 5.000 years. We therefore rely on archaeological finds and carbon dating. In 1997 a hemp rope was discovered in the Czech Republic that is almost 29 years old.
Recent research from the University of Lausanne in Switzerland suggests that cannabis was cultivated in northwest China about 12.000 years ago. The researchers came to this conclusion by analyzing the genomes of 110 plants worldwide. However, the study also found that farmers only began breeding different varieties for drug or fiber production only 4.000 years ago.
It is said that a Chinese emperor named Sheng Nung died in 2737 BC. Used cannabis as medicine. The problem is, there is no evidence that it ever existed! The first confirmed, legitimate mention of cannabis as medicine can therefore be found in the Ebers Papyrus in Egypt in 1.500 BC.
A Chinese medical collection from AD 1 mentions cannabis as a cure for over 100 medical problems. Marijuana was used in dozens of countries during the Middle Ages.
Cannabis use spreads with a handful of restrictions
It wasn't until the 14th century, thousands of years after its discovery, that cannabis became illegal everywhere. At that time, the Emir of Joneima banned consumption in Arabia. Other notable restrictions did not apply until 1787, when the newly crowned King of Madagascar, Andrianampoinimerina, forbade it. Anyone who consumed marijuana in the country was subject to the death penalty.
In the 19th century, cannabis was banned in several places. Mauritius, a British colony, banned it in 1840. The Sri Lankan Opium and Bhang Ordinance of 1867 ensured that only licensed dealers were allowed to sell the substance.
The colony of Natal and Singapore banned marijuana in 1870. Greece banned the use, import and cultivation of the plant in 1890. Nevertheless, a growing number of people were consuming cannabis for medicinal reasons and enjoying its intoxicating properties.
There is evidence that cannabis received the Royal Seal of Approval in the UK. Rumor has it that Queen Victoria used it to relieve her menstrual cramps and the royal doctor prescribed it for her!
Despite some bans, most countries accepted the use of cannabis until the beginning of the 20th century. That included the United States.
When was marijuana discovered in America?
It is widely believed that the British, Spanish, and Portuguese introduced cannabis to America. Certainly the plant was widespread in Europe during the Age of Discovery. However, according to reports, Sir Walter Raleigh was delighted with the prospect of harvesting hemp in America in 1585. A friend told him that wild hemp grew in an area that would later become known as Virginia.
The first settlers established Jamestown, Virginia, in 1607, the first permanent English settlement on the American continent. They arrived expecting to find gold and silver, but were bitterly disappointed. Without the generosity of the indigenous people, they would have starved to death in the first few years.
The European settlers introduced hemp into America and ordered the colonies to grow it.
The first formal order to grow hemp in the colonies was issued in 1611. Eight years later, the Virginia Company instructed each Jamestown colonist to plant 100 hemp plants. This was mainly done to prevent the colonists from growing tobacco everywhere!
Cannabis cultivation played an important role in the founding of the United States. Believe it or not, the cannabis plant appeared on the ten dollar bill back in 1900! In the 1850s, American pharmacies began selling medicinal preparations made from cannabis. This happened after William O'Shaughnessy introduced the plant to Western medicine in 1839.
The ban on marijuana
Even in the early 20th century, cannabis remained a popular medicinal product in the United States. Then everything changed. In 1906, the Pure Food and Drugs Act introduced mandatory labeling for drugs. In the same year, the sale of cannabis was restricted to licensed pharmacists.
It was the beginning of restrictions, and the mood for prohibitionists was building. Massachusetts was the first state to ban marijuana in the early 1910s, and several states followed suit.
In the course of the Mexican Revolution of 1910, there was a massive increase in Mexican immigrants to America. This event provided narrow-minded people with an excellent opportunity to spread their message of intolerance across the country.
When Harry J. Anslinger was appointed head of the newly formed Federal Bureau of Narcotics in 1930, it was the beginning of the end for cannabis legalization. The Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 banned cannabis use across the United States. Hemp was included in the ban, so CBD, THC, and other cannabinoids were now illegal.
Within a few decades, the United States was using its international influence to ensure that cannabis was banned almost worldwide. The Controlled Substances Act of 1970 classified cannabis, including hemp, marijuana, and all related cannabinoids, as a Category I drug in the United States. This meant that it was considered highly addictive and of no medicinal value.
But despite the ban, researchers continued to try to learn more about the cannabis plant. Who knows how quickly they would have made their discoveries if the plant weren't illegal! But as it was, progress was slow, and it took many decades to get there.
When was THC discovered?
Dr. Raphael Mechoulam and his colleagues from the Israeli Weizmann Institute for Science were the first to identify the structure of THC in 1964. He is considered the godfather of modern cannabis. Without his discoveries, we would not know that THC is the intoxicating compound in marijuana, or that CBD is a non-intoxicating compound with hundreds of potential medicinal benefits.
It was research that took a century to complete. The use of hashish in Pakistan and cannabis resin in India in the 1800s piqued scientists' curiosity about the plant's ingredients. There was no discovery until 1940, but it wasn't until Mechoulam stepped on the scene that the scientists knew what they had found. In addition to his research on THC, Mechoulam was also one of the first to discover cannabidiol.
Unveiling the secrets - CBD background
Until the mid-20th century, researchers knew virtually nothing about the chemical structure of CBD or other cannabinoids. Century practically nothing about the chemical structure of CBD or other cannabinoids. People have used the cannabis plant for thousands of years without knowing why it produces its unique effects. The history of cannabis and CBD changed in 1940 and there was no going back. Let's take a look at some of the key cannabis-related discoveries from the past 80 years.
The History of CBD: A Brief Chronological Cannabis Timeline
1940: Roger Adams isolates CBD from marijuana but wasn't sure what he found
Most people attribute the discovery of CBD to Raphael Mechoulam. But few know that it was first isolated from the Cannabis sativa L. plant by Roger Adams in 1940. Adams was a Harvard graduate and noted organic chemist from the University of Illinois. He spent several years of his career researching the chemistry of marijuana.
However, when he separated CBD as an isolated chemical compound from the rest of the plant, he did not accurately describe its chemical structure. As a result, it wasn't until years later that other researchers found out that Adams was the first to extract CBD from the marijuana plant.
1946: Dr. Walter S. Loewe carries out the first CBD tests on laboratory animals
Shortly after Dr. Adams had isolated the first cannabinoids from marijuana, scientists began testing them on laboratory animals. This happened despite the fact that they had not yet determined the exact nature of the chemical structures with which they were working.
The best documented of these first experiments were carried out in 1946 by Walter S. Loewe. He carried out experiments on rabbits and mice with the cannabinoids THC, CBD and CBN. His results showed that THC induced catalepsy (a type of induced trance) in mice, while CBD appeared to have no discernible effects on behavior. The observations also showed that THC produced a “central excitatory effect” in rabbits, whereas CBD did not.
These were of course the first indications in the laboratory that CBD has no psychotropic effects. However, since the structures of the cannabinoids had not yet been identified, the scientists did not know which compound was responsible for producing which reaction.
1964: Raphael Mechoulam isolates and describes the chemical structure of CBD
In fact, Dr. Adams was the first to isolate CBD as a chemical compound. However, it is difficult to give him full credit for the discovery because he did not describe the chemical structure of the compound. This honor goes to the scientist Dr. Raphael Mechoulam, who identified the stereochemistry of CBD in his laboratory at the University of Jerusalem in 1963.
Late 1960s: Mechoulam and his staff begin testing their isolated cannabinoids on primates
Some of the first subjects Mechoulam tested its newly discovered cannabis compounds on were primates. It wasn't long before he realized that it was not CBD, but THC that was responsible for the sedative, intoxicating cerebral effects of the substance.
Mid 1970s: CBD oil is cleared for medicinal use by the British Pharmacopoeia
As soon as Dr. Mechoulam had identified the specific structures of the active cannabinoids in marijuana, interest in the plant and its use as a potential drug soared. In the early to mid-1970s, the British Pharmacopoeia (a publication of quality standards for medicinal substances in the UK) issued an approved cannabis tincture that (likely) CBD in a full spectrum oil for therapeutic use.
1978: New Mexico becomes the first US state to legally recognize cannabis as a medicine
New Mexico state law (called the Controlled Substances Therapeutic Research Act) did not specifically mention CBD as an isolated therapy. However, the legislation was a landmark in the United States as it marked the first case of cannabis compounds to be legally recognized for their medicinal potential.
February 1980: Mechoulam partners with South American researchers to publish a study on cannabis and epilepsy
Dr. Mechoulam and a team of researchers from the Santa Casa Medical School in Sao Paulo, Brazil, conducted a study on 16 people (many of them children) with severe epilepsy. It is believed to be one of the earliest double-blind studies of CBD in clinical subjects.
The studies showed that all subjects who received CBD improved in condition with little or no side effects. This would prove to be one of the most significant breakthroughs in the history of clinical marijuana research.
1980s: Mechoulam's publication on CBD for epilepsy goes largely unnoticed in the medical and pharmaceutical industries
The research of Dr. Mechoulam and his colleagues should have sparked global endorsement and support for the medicinal use of CBD. Instead, their efforts went virtually unnoticed. This was likely due to the stigma of cannabis, which has grown immensely since the “psychedelic” marijuana-based counterculture movements of the 1960s and 70s.
Speaking of the lack of interest in his team's groundbreaking discovery, Mechoulam was quoted as saying, “Who was interested in our results? Nobody! Even though many of the epilepsy patients were children who had 20, 30, 40 seizures a day. And what did they do? Nothing!"
1988: Howlett & Devine discover the first cannabinoid receptor
Allyn Howlett and William Devane were the first to discover a cannabinoid receptor. They found it in a mouse. This made it clear to them that if the body has cannabinoid receptors, it must naturally produce them.
1992: Mechoulam & employees discover 2-AG and anandamide
Together with Devane, Lumir Hanus and others, Mechoulam discovered 2-AG and anandamide, two of the most important cannabinoids produced by the body.
1996: California becomes the first US state to legalize medical marijuana
The first medical legalization of marijuana did not provide any specific characteristics for CBD. Nonetheless, California's decision to legalize marijuana in 1996 was revolutionary in that it paved the way for the spate of public support and research that was to come.
The Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana in Fairfax was the first medical marijuana dispensary to open on American soil. It quickly paved the way for other states to follow, including Oregon, Alaska, and Washington in 1998, Maine in 1999, and Hawaii, Nevada, and Colorado in 2000.
October 7, 2003: The US government patents CBD as a neuroprotective agent under US Patent No. 6.630.507
It was probably one of the most confusing gestures in federal cannabis law history. The US Department of Health and Human Services received a patent on CBD and other active cannabinoids for their use as neuroprotective therapies.
It was great news that the government recognized CBD as an effective drug. However, it was hypocritical for not removing cannabis - or CBD - from the list of approved narcotics.
2013: The story of Charlotte Figi becomes known
Charlotte Figi was born with an extremely severe and rare form of chronic epilepsy called childhood myoclonic epilepsy or Dravet's syndrome. This condition is unique among childhood epilepsy in that it is untreatable, meaning that it does not respond to medication.
From the age of three months to the age of five, little Charlotte routinely suffered over 300 seizures a week. No medication could stop the seizures or reduce their intensity.
In 2013, however, a nationwide announcement surfaced on CNN. It was revealed that Charlotte's seizures were almost completely gone when she began using a medicinal cannabis strain high in CBD as a last resort. The story received widespread attention nationwide and almost certainly kicked off legislation to support CBD as a recognized medical therapy.
2014: Several states pass laws to legalize CBD
The legalization of CBD for medical purposes in Alabama, Florida, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, and Wisconsin in 2014 marked a milestone in cannabinoid history. These events ensured that CBD was legally recognized for the first time in states where medical marijuana was not legal.
June 2018: FDA approves Epidiolex for the treatment of seizures associated with Dravet Syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved Epidiolex for the treatment of patients with seizures related to Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome. Developed by GW Pharmaceuticals, Epidiolex contains CBD and is used on patients aged two years and over.
In many ways, it was a landmark decision. It was the first time a drug containing CBD had been approved by the government. However, there is no evidence that the FDA intends to approve CBD on its own.
December 2018: The Agriculture Act 2018 is signed
December 20, 2018 was a historic day in the history of CBD. It was the day the Agriculture Act 2018 was signed. This legalized the production of industrial hemp. For the first time in over 80 years (with the exception of the “Hemp for Victory” program during World War II), growing hemp became legal in the United States.
Any state could submit a pilot program to the USDA or the terms of the Farm Bill agree. It allowed licensed farmers to grow hemp with a maximum THC content of 0,2% by dry weight. However, it is important to know that Farm Bill did not legalize CBD. Instead, it fueled the growth of the CBD industry as most of the hemp grown in America is used to make cannabidiol products.
Now that our timeline of cannabis history is complete, let's find out what the future holds for the CBD market in particular.
The History of CBD Oil - Cannabidiol Reaches Mainstream
After Mechoulam and his colleagues found anandamide and 2-AG, this opened the door for more CBD discoveries. The scientists found CB1 and CB2 receptors in humans. This confirmed that our bodies were responding to cannabinoids like THC and CBD because they were designed for that purpose. Scientists chose to refer to all of our cannabinoid receptors as the "Endocannabinoid System" (ECS).
The realization that the ECS plays a vital role in regulating and strengthening body systems and functions helped bring CBD into the mainstream. However, the stigma surrounding the cannabis plant prevented real progress for over a decade. The story of Charlotte Figi may have opened the door to greater adoption of CBD.
Important scientific discoveries over time have given cannabidiol new support. These include the discovery of the ECS and the idea that CBD could help people with epilepsy.
Even before the 2018 Agriculture Act legalized hemp cultivation, there were thousands of CBD brands. Many of them took advantage of the hype and lack of regulation to make low quality products and make quick money. The world-wide value of the CBD industry is estimated at $ 2020 billion by 2,8, and it is only just beginning.
CBD & cannabis - what does the future hold?
For millennia, people have been able to use the cannabis plant and the cannabinoids associated with it without any legal problems. However, in the early 1900s, prohibition began in several American states. Within half a century, the cannabis plant was practically illegal worldwide.
After a decades-long struggle, cannabis advocates finally achieved a breakthrough in California in 1996 when the plant was legalized for medicinal use. Today there are marijuana programs in place in the vast majority of states. We are rapidly approaching a situation where recreational cannabis is available to more Americans than it is not. Canada has now fully legalized marijuana, and Mexico is likely to follow suit soon.
The path to making CBD legal is perhaps a little more straightforward as it doesn't induce intoxication. Almost every American state allows CBD to be used, even if it's not legal at the federal level. There are also dozens of countries around the world that allow the manufacture, sale and use of the cannabinoid.
Estimates vary, but the value of the CBD market could exceed $ 2028 billion globally by 13. Already it seems like an unstoppable juggernaut, and its legalization in the United States will certainly come at some point. There is also a growing desire among legislators to legalize cannabis in the United States. An overwhelming majority of citizens want some form of legal marijuana. Maybe politicians will listen to the public for a change.