Marijuana history

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Your history is still in the making. Commit to never drive high.

Marijuana History timeline

Have you ever wondered when marijuana was first used in a “recreational” way? How about who discovered Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)? Here are a few fast facts about the colorful history of cannabis, marijuana, hemp or pot — whatever you choose to call it. 

  • While differing opinions abound, the most popular is that cannabis was first used as an herbal medicine in Asia starting around 500 B.C.
  • The cannabis or hemp plant originally evolved in Central Asia — eventually being introduced to Africa, Europe and finally, the Americas. 
  • Sir William Brooke O’Shoughnessy, an Irish doctor, found that cannabis extracts could help lessen stomach pain and vomiting in people suffering from cholera in the 1830s.
  • Marijuana wasn’t widely used for recreational purposes until the early 1900s. 
  • THC, the active and impairing compound in cannabis, was discovered in 1964 by Dr. Raphael Mechoulam 
  • California was the first state to legalize medical marijuana in 1996.
  • Colorado was the first state to legalize cannabis for recreational use in 2012. 

Your history is also still in the making. Any level of active Delta-9 THC in your system can put you at risk of a DUI. An analysis of 60 studies concluded that marijuana causes impairment in every performance area that can reasonably be connected with safe driving of a vehicle, such as tracking, motor coordination, visual functions, and particularly complex tasks that require multi-tasking.

Commit today to never drive impaired and continue your story, safely. More is still to come. Plan a ride, every time. 

Visit for more news and resources on marijuana-impaired driving. For printed versions of this graphic to use for educational purposes, please contact Sam Cole at [email protected].

A portion of this content in this article adapted from The History Channel.