Cannabis or marijuana is not something that suddenly grew in popularity. It was used since ancient times as a substance to achieve euphoria. It was used in Chinese in the form of a medicine as long back as 2737 BC from accounts of the Chinese Emperor Shen Nung. It then spread to India, then Africa and subsequently to Europe in 500 AD. It was prescribed as medication due to its sedating effects for diseases such as rheumatism, gout and malaria. But once it spread to India it was used as a recreational drug. It was a common alternative to alcohol for the Muslims as alcohol was forbidden under the Koran. It was not as seen as something dangerous back then.
But presently, in many places marijuana is classified as a Schedule I drug. It is grouped in the same category as meth and heroin, two extremely dangerous drugs that have the potential to be life-threatening and addictive. In 1545, it was the Spanish that brought marijuana to the United States. It was grown as a commodity along with tobacco and it was also sought after for hemp, a major cash crop. This all changed during the 20th century when marijuana was criminalized to vilify the people who used it, the Mexicans. There was no proof of that the use of marijuana would cause insanity or violent behaviour in its users. There was also no proof it was completely safe either because making it illegal and a schedule I drug meant it could not be researched upon to verify any claims of safety. But things are currently shifting slowly. Though it is still illegal federally, states have given the option to overrule this either for recreational and/or medicinal use. Colorado and Washington DC were among the first states to legalize marijuana. This was followed by a slew of other states, most recently California joining the ranks.
As stated before, India has had a long history of marijuana use, both recreationally and as part of religion. The British conducted studies in India after colonization and attempted to criminalize marijuana three times in 1838, 1871 and 1877 but was mooted all three times. It wasn’t until 1961 under the international treaty Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, that India was forced to criminalize marijuana. People were still allowed to use the seeds and leaves as it was used in the traditional drink consumed during Holi, bhang. Currently, efforts are being made to decriminalize the plant again with the movement getting a lot of traction. In July of 2017, the first-ever license to grow cannabis was given to Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), in collaboration with the Bombay Hemp Company (BOHECO), under medical research grounds.
Other countries that have some sort of legalization include Australia, Netherlands, Belgium, Russia, Peru, Portugal and many more with varying levels of legality. But the common trend is shifting to legalization as more and more is known about the plant. While much research still needs to be done, there is definitely a light at the end of the tunnel for people who use it regularly.