The cannabis plant is very similar to hops; in fact, it is a direct relative of that plant. Why then, when hops are enjoyed around the world and heralded as one of the cornerstones of civilization in many via their fermentation to create beer, is cannabis hidden from public view and legislated away in many countries? Some would say that the reason for this is cannabis’s psychoactive effects, but hops enjoy many similar psychoactive effects once processed. Many would give the reason that hemp provides a direct competition to many large industries, such as logging for paper, but this is not the only reason why cannabis has been hidden from public view (though this is partially the case in the United States, where lobbying forced cannabis into scheduled territory).
To begin with why the cannabis plant has been the center of much controversy, first we must learn about what the cannabis plant actually is. The cannabis plant comes in two major strains; indica and satvia. It is indigenous to the Indian subcontinent and central Asia, although it can be grown anywhere (this is thought to be part of where its slang term “weed” has come from; as in, it grows like a weed, anywhere). Only the female plants of the cannabis family are capable of producing psychoactive reactions within the user, though male varieties of psychoactive cannabis strains are also considered illicit. When it comes to the actual structure of the plant, only the flower is capable of producing psychoactive effect, and not the leaves, although the leaves are popularized in imagery having to do with cannabis subculture. In order for the flowers to produce effect even, they must be cured. Much like its close cousin, hops, cannabis can also be processed into hashish, oil, or butter to be consumed as well. This versatile plant also comes in varieties in which the tetrahydrocannabinol levels are low enough to be considered inert, which makes the plant available for use in industrial hemp projects, even if the plant is illegal in the country where this is being processed.
Cannabis enjoys a long history of human use, which makes its current legal standing even more bizarre. There are reports from the ancient Greeks which detail their use in steam baths. This use has obviously persisted and progressed to the point where cannabis is the most widely used drug in the world. In the United States alone, there is a huge subculture for cannabis use, and this subculture has persisted to the point where legalization in many states is becoming more and more prevalent. Cannabis is not only popular because it grows everywhere and has very mild, temporary effects, but because its dependency factor is very low. This non-addictive drug can be enjoyed by anybody in any age group without ill effect, and is very safe overall to use. Unlike its cousin hops, when processed, cannabis seeds does not produce any risk of death or dependency like alcohol does, especially when these cannabis seeds are bought from reliable seed banks like Ice HeadShop. There are even many recorded medicinal uses of cannabis today, with medical dispensaries opening up across the United States and in many other countries across the world.
So, why does cannabis create such controversy today? Many choose to believe that this is because of its direct competition to major industries. Paper was already listed as one industry that cannabis stands to take down with its sustainable pattern of growth and harvest, but there are many others. Its medicinal uses stand to make pharmaceutical companies lose quite a bit of cash, since their products are more expensive for the average consumer to use and have far more side effects than cannabis has. For more controversy, cannabis arrests allow governments to have “easy money” from their citizenry; if something is made illegal that is so prolific, than it is quite simple to find someone who is using cannabis and arrest them, getting jail time and fees from them as if it were nothing.
With this being said, it is not like people alive today are unaware of the perhaps nefarious reasons for cannabis’ illicit status. Many civil interest groups are fighting back against what they believe to be an unfair categorization of the plant, and they are doing so with great success. This plant has made waves throughout civilization from the time humans encountered it, and the cult following that those who use have created has started to impact more than just the group of users themselves. Many modern pieces of art have been influenced by cannabis, and many outside of cannabis users recognize this influence. What also helps the public image that cannabis has nowadays is the widespread legal medicinal use that it has enjoyed in many parts of the world. These facts, which are becoming harder and harder for governments to hide, have made the legalization of cannabis pick up steam. After all, is there another plant which can produce industrial products such as paper and rope as well as reduce the anxiety of those who use it, or get users off of dangerous pain pills based in opiates while having the same powerful pain reducing effect? There does not appear to be another substance which can accomplish all of these things, which makes cannabis more and more popular with each passing year.
Though this innocuous little plant has been regulated away from public view for many years, all of the above reasons have brought it back into public view, and many are working tirelessly to get this “miracle drug” legalized in every country. While this might be an uphill battle as many systems of morality deem it to be bad for the public (think the term “the devil’s lettuce” for one) and there has been so much propaganda against it (remember “Reefer Madness”?), there remains one simple fact. Having cannabis stay illegal only means that the profits made from its trade are kept to the black market, encouraging and enabling gang violence and activity. These profits can easily be made by governments instead by legalizing and regulating the plant, as well as taxing its sale. Many cannabis activists believe that by educating the masses that they can change their mindset on the plant, but only time will tell if this is the case; and hopefully, it is.