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April 19, 2024 7 mins

The lord of bhang, Reefer Madness…weed has a checkered past. But for thousands of years it was used and celebrated by most cultures. It wasn’t until one pivotal moment in the early 20th century that it became demonized. Now its benefits have been rediscovered and its reputation somewhat salvaged.

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Speaker 1 (00:00):
All right, we had the Lord of bang reefer madness.
So how do we get from hiding weed from the
cops much less our parents, to having parents who legally indulge,
sometimes in front of their kids. Cannabis has had a
really long and occasionally rocky past, but now for a
lot of folks, it's not a whole lot different than alcohol.

I'm Patty Steele. From reefer madness to a casual smoke
with friends? How did that happen? That's next on the backstory.
The backstory is back. Weed was demonized for generations, but
its backstory is pretty captivating. It goes back thousands of

years and up until the twentieth century, most people had
no problem with it. Three thousand years ago in the
Middle East, records show that people would gather in a
large sort of tent and throw bunches of cannabis onto
a fire. When observer wrote, it delighted them and they
shouted for joy. I'll bet Hindus. In India, Assyrians, Greeks,

and Romans all used weed for health problems including pain, arthritis, depression,
menstrual issues, inflammation, lack of appetite, and asthma, and it
was celebrated by early Greek and Roman doctors for its
mood enhancing ability. It was also used for religious purposes.
In fact, Hindus gave Shiva, one of their supreme gods,

the title the Lord of Bang, their word for weed,
because they thought the cannabis plant was his favorite food.
I love that bang, pretty aptitle. Right, Let's head forward
to the nineteenth century. If you were dealing with pain
or any number of physical or mental issues, cannabis was
considered a medical marble, and it was also used by

adults and children to stop convulsions, treating epilepsy, Parkinson's MS,
and what they call tremors. So, what the heck happened? Well,
now it's the early nineteen hundreds. We see the beginning
of weed's descent from medical marvel to a vilified substance.
Why did that all happen? Excellent question. Well, it was

fueled by racism, politics, and fear. It was associated with
African American jazz clubs and also Mexican immigrants. In fact,
the term marijuana, with its Mexican Spanish roots, was popularized
to help fuel this fear in those days, making cannabis
look foreign and dangerous. And then came the nineteen thirties

and Ree for Madness, a film that was the epitome
of all the fear surrounding weed. It basically told everybody
that if you used weed, you'd turn into a psycho
nut job. They said it incited violence, madness, and immorality,
and within a year the Marijuana Tax Act of nineteen
thirty seven pretty much criminalized cannabis for decades to come.

But who was behind all this? I'm sure there were
the religious and social groups that had also pushed for
the prohibition on alcohol, which by the way, had been
legalized once again just a couple of years earlier. But
it was more than that. First, you had thousands of people,
including enforcement agents, who suddenly realized they had nothing else

to fight. With alcohol off the table, they wanted to work,
especially in the midst of the Great Depression. AH. Weed
is a perfect target. But most nefariously, you had the
liquor industry. Pot weed, marijuana, whatever you called it had
become a major competitor for liquor producers during prohibition, and

they wanted it out of the way. So the movie
re for Madness became a massive propaganda tool for the
liquor industry to fight the use of weed for folks
who just wanted to get festival or relax. Liquor producers
wanted to own that category. Thus the push to demonize
a plant that had been used medicinally and for religious

and cultural celebrations for thousands of years. But it went
a whole lot further. We get to the nineteen seventies
and President Nixon declared a war on drugs, categorizing cannabis
right with heroin and cocaine as a Schedule one drug,
calling it an enemy of the American people, and that
war was not just on substances, but on the communities

that used them. Now. On the other hand, the sixties
and seventies counterculture embraced weed as a symbol of peace, love,
and rebellion. The hippie movement, which was all about freedom
and spiritual awakening, embraced cannabis with music festivals like Woodstock,
which celebrated weed culture, calling it a natural and harmless high,

and that began the gradual shift in public perception. Weed
became a muse for all sorts of musical genres, from
rock and roll to reggae, hip hop. Bands like The Beatles,
Led Zeppelin, and The Grateful Dead often celebrated cannabis in
their music and lifestyles. It became a symbol of rebellion,

a way to reject societal norms and embrace that culture
of peace and love. Then, rappers like Snoop Dogg, Cypress Hill,
and Whiz Khalifa began celebrating cannabis in their lyrics and
even became entrepreneurs in the growing cannabis industry and from
a medical standpoint, in nineteen ninety six, California became the

first state to legalize medical marijuana. That opened the floodgates
for research and showed weed's potential for treating chronic pain, epilepsy,
and even reducing the growth and spread of certain cancers.
Pretty amazing. Today, the cannabis culture here in America is
evolving at an unprecedented pace. It's a booming industry with dispensaries, cafes,

and even cannabis infused restaurants sprouting up once again. It's
recommended by doctors to treat all sorts of illnesses and
other physical and mental issues. Its celebrated through art, music
and festivals, kind of like the wine industry. Is it
hard to embrace the change in thinking For some yes,
it's understandable. But remember this. As recently as three hundred

years ago. Tomatoes were villified. Why because aristocrats mostly ate
them off of pewter plates. And it turns out pewter
is infused with lead and the acid and tomatoes leached
the lead into the fruit and led to a lot
of deaths of prominent people from lead poisoning. Big shots
dying after eating tomatoes. They must be evil. Of course,

nobody really understood why, and they just thought tomatoes were
poison So you see, a lack of understanding is what
leads to misinformation about so many things in our lives.
And now the stigma about weed is being lifted. That
change is part of the ever changing tapestry of American values.
Cannabis is slowly being rebranded as a lifestyle choice and

a wellness trend, a major shift from the days of madness.
Hope you're enjoying the backstory with me, Patty Steele, Please
please subscribe, and if you have a story you'd like
me to dig into and share, feel free to dm
me on Facebook at Patty Steele or on Instagram at
Real Patty Steele. I'm Patty Steele. The Backstories a production

of iHeartMedia, Premiere Networks, the Elvis Durand Group, and Steel
Trap Productions. Our producer is Doug Fraser. Our writer Jake Kushner.
We have new episodes every Tuesday and Friday. Feel free
to reach out to me with comments and even story
suggestions on Instagram at Real Patty Steele and on Facebook
at Patty Steele. Thanks for listening to the backstory with

Patty Steele, the pieces of history you didn't know you
needed to know.

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