“Science Seeks to Unlock Marijuana Secrets”
Source: National Geographic, published in the June 2015 issue of National Geographic magazine, which has been updated on October 17, 2018.
Many of us know that cannabis is been around humankind pretty much for ever. The Chinese used it as a medicine thousands of years ago.
In most of the American history cannabis was legal. The first American colonists grew hemp and cannabis was used in medicines throughout the 19th century.
But then it all changed in the 20th century. Many of the Mexican immigrants smoked marijuana as a cheaper alternative to alcohol during the 1920 Prohibition. Then people started to associate the drug with immigrants and soon links were made between marijuana use and antisocial behavior, crime, murder and insanity. One by one, states passed legislation outlawing the drug.
For nearly 70 years the plant went into hiding, and medical research largely stopped. At some point marijuana even was classified as a Schedule I drug—a dangerous substance with no valid medical purpose and a high potential for abuse, in the same category as heroin.
But now, as more and more people are turning to the drug to treat ailments, the science of cannabis is experiencing a rebirth. Nevertheless marijuana is still classified as a Schedule I drug in the US.
In many US states cannabis is now legal for some medical uses, and a majority of Americans favor legalization for recreational use. Other countries all over the world are rethinking their relationship to cannabis too.
For many, cannabis has become a tonic to dull pain, aid sleep, stimulate appetite. It’s also thought useful as for example an analgesic, a bronchodilator, and an anti-inflammatory.
Even into the middle of the 20th century, science still didn’t understand the first thing about marijuana. There weren’t many scientist who wanted to besmirch their reputation by studying it.
Until one day in the early 60s a young organic chemist in Israel named Raphael Mechoulam, working at the Weizmann Institute of Science outside Tel Aviv, decided to peer into the plant’s chemical composition.