Throughout history marijuana has been used to serve many purposes in many different cultures. The purposes have changed over time as the culture changed. Marijuana, whose scientific name is Cannabis sativa, was used for congestion as early as 800 B.C. in India (Chevallier 180). China also was a country that used marijuana for medicinal purposes. They used it for any illness from constipation and malaria to absentmindedness and menstrual cramps. 11th-century monks used marijuana as an anesthetic in Scotland (Chevallier 19). Even Queen Victoria used marijuana as an analgesic (Chevallier 180). These uses fit the social norm of the time, because the main focus was on health rather than for psychoactive purposes. Therefore, up to this point in time marijuana remained legal.
During the prohibition, marijuana was widely used because of the scarcity of alcohol. Prohibition was repealed after just thirteen years while the prohibition against marijuana lasted for more than seventy-five years. Alcohol prohibition struck directly at tens of millions of Americans of all ages, including many of societies most powerful members. Marijuana prohibition threatened fewer Americans, and they had little influence in the districts of power. Only the prohibition of marijuana, which some sixty million Americans have violated since 1965, has come close to approximating the prohibition experience, but marijuana smokers consist mostly of young and relatively powerless Americans (American Heritage, pg 47). Alcohol prohibition was repealed and marijuana prohibition was retained, not because scientists had proved that alcohol was the less dangerous of the various psychoactive drugs, but because of the prejudices and preferences of most Americans (American Heritage, pg 47). .
Despite the legalization of marijuana, the government passed a few laws to allow scientists to study the effects of the drug on the human body.