David V. Patton


Perhaps the best way to understand early-Twenty-First Century state and federal cannabis law in the United States is to examine the relevant history. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.’s statement is apropos: "[A] page of history is worth a volume of logic." This article begins by discussing the early history of cannabis and its uses. Next, the article examines the first state and federal marijuana laws. After a brief comparison of alcohol prohibition to cannabis prohibition, this article addresses cannabis laws from the 1920s to the early 1950s. Then, the article takes up the reorganization of the federal drug regulatory bureaucracy since its inception. Addressing the current era of cannabis laws and regulations, this article recounts how marijuana became a Schedule I drug. The discussion then turns to changing social attitudes towards cannabis as reflected in presidential politics and popular culture. Starting with the late-1990s, this article describes the development of state and federal cannabis laws and policies up to the present day.