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A cannabis user rolls a joint
History of Cannabis

The use of cannabis is believed to stretch back 4,000 years.

The compound which gives cannabis its mood-altering properties is known as THC.

Cannabis has been used as a medicine for thousands of years all over the world including India, China and the Middle East.

In China, it was used to treat conditions such as malaria, constipation and rheumatism.

But it was not until the middle of the nineteenth century that doctors in the west began to take an interest.


Queen Victoria
Queen Victoria was prescribed cannabis
Even Queen Victoria was given it by her doctor to relieve period pain and in the United States it could be bought freely in shops.

It was the invention of the syringe towards the end of the 19th century that marked an end to its widespread medicinal use.

Injecting drugs meant they could take effect a lot faster. Cannabis cannot be dissolved in water, so therefore cannot be injected.

The arrival of other drugs, such as aspirin, also contributed to the reduction in the drug's use.

Cannabis was made illegal in the UK in 1928. It followed an international drugs conference in Geneva when an Egyptian delegate convinced everybody that it was a threat to society and as dangerous as opium.


That did not stop the recreational use of cannabis which began in earnest during the fifties when migrants from the Caribbean arrived in the UK.

White jazz musicians playing in clubs in Soho in London were among the first to use it. And the first ever drugs bust was in 1952 at the Number 11 Club in Soho.

During the flower power years of the sixties it soared in popularity.

Revellers at a pop festival during the sixties
Revellers at a pop festival during the sixties
In 1968, the Wootton Report, a Home Office investigation into the effects of cannabis concluded: "There is no evidence that this activity is causing violent crime or aggression, anti-social behaviour, or is producing in otherwise normal people conditions of dependence or psychosis requiring medical treatment."

More than thirty years after the Wootton Report, it is still illegal to grow, produce, possess or supply the drug to another person.

But that all-encompassing ban may soon be relaxed after the Home Secretary, David Blunkett, recently announced that he may allow it for medicinal use if current trials of the drug are successful.

See also:

24 Oct 01 | UK Politics
Cannabis laws to be relaxed
24 Oct 01 | Business
Cannabis free-up boosts drug firm

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