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A virtue and a vice: Benefits of legalized cannabis may outweigh risks

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Man’s relationship with marijuana goes back millennia. Most ancient cultures were acquainted with the drug and hemp crops were first grown over 10,000 years ago. The Chinese used cannabis for medicinal purposes 5,000 years ago, followed by other ancient civilisations including the Egyptians, Greeks, Romans and medieval Arabs who also used the drug to treat a wide array of ailments. Cannabis has been associated with both love and war – the legendary Arabian Nights folk tales note the narcotic’s aphrodisiac properties whilst the Hashshashin (“hashish smoking”) warriors, a 11th-13th century Shiite sect based in Persia from which the English word assassin mistakenly derives, were given cannabis to induce a hypnotic state and eliminate the fear of death. More recently, during World War II US scientists found a potent extract of marijuana that could be used as a truth serum.

The recreational use of cannabis was prohibited across much of the world in the early 20th century (1928 in the UK and the early 1930s across the US), around the same time as a number of other stronger narcotics, such as opium, were being banned.

Regardless of the real adverse health effects of smoking cannabis, US print and film media campaigned to demonize the drug by playing on societal prejudices and associating its use with newly arrived Mexican immigrants. Other crass propaganda from the USA’s newly created Federal Bureau of Narcotics’ first commissioner Harry Anslinger blamed the drug for causing “white women to seek sexual relations........

© RT.com