The Cannabis Question Everyone Forgets to Ask
These days, we see many questions about cannabis and the cannabis industry flitting about.
What are the true risks of regular usage? What are the true benefits? How can laws be drafted to promote the benefits while minimizing the dangers?
All of these questions are important, pragmatic, and, of course, relevant, but, interestingly, one of the biggest and oldest questions pertaining to cannabis just doesn't come up in conversation very often: Why was this plant made illegal in the first place?
The history of American cannabis starts before the country existed — going back all the way to the 17th century, when production of hemp was encouraged by the government for the manufacture of rope, sails, and clothing.
The usefulness of the plant was so recognized that in 1619, the Virginia Assembly passed legislation requiring every farmer to grow hemp.
It was even exchanged as legal tender in Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Maryland.
Domestic production continued to grow until after the Civil War, when alternative materials replaced hemp in many of its popular applications.
It wasn't until the late 19th century, however, that the medicinal benefits of cannabis became widely appreciated, as it became a popular ingredient in many therapeutic products available in public pharmacies.
In the 20th century, things started to get... well, let's just say complicated.
The Great Depression brought massive unemployment, a radically decreased average per-capita income, and, soon enough, increased public resentment for Mexican immigrants.
A cultural association with the plant escalated public concern and inspired a campaign of questionable research that soon linked the use of marijuana with violence, crime, and other socially deviant behaviors, primarily committed by "racially inferior" or underclass communities.
Conspiracy theorists claim that two of the biggest culprits in the push for prohibition were newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst and chemical giant DuPont — both of whom stood to reap substantial rewards from the cessation of all hemp usage in paper.
By 1931, 29 states had outlawed marijuana.
We Chose Our Poison...
While cannabis slid into illegality, a far more prevalent intoxicant was heading in the opposite direction.
The 21st Amendment was ratified in 1933, ending 14 years of Prohibition and allowing, once again, for the legal production and sale of alcohol in the U.S.
In 1936 came one of the single biggest strikes against legality when propaganda film Reefer Madness was produced by the French director Louis Gasnier.
The response nationwide could only be described as "mass panic," with marijuana usage portrayed as a one-step, one-way trip into criminal insanity.
After that, the Motion Pictures Association of America, composed of the major Hollywood studios, banned the showing of any narcotics in films.
By 1937, Congress passed the Marijuana Tax Act, effectively criminalizing marijuana and restricting possession of the drug to individuals who paid an excise tax for certain authorized medical and industrial uses.
It would be almost 60 years before any U.S. jurisdiction would decriminalize the plant, allowing for limited sale and usage of cannabis for individuals suffering from severe terminal diseases, such as AIDS and cancer.
Those six decades between the Marijuana Tax Act and the passage of California's Proposition 215 in 1996 were a huge setback for cannabis research, but not entirely lost.
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Making Up For Lost Time
With long-known medicinal benefits, marijuana, as an illegal cottage industry, gave way to an explosion of legal scientific testing and development, leading up to where we are today: a virtual golden age for cannabis in all of its applications, from recreational to industrial.
Two of the most exciting and important areas of development currently underway are medical research in the area of degenerative neuropathological diseases, such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, and indoor farming technology.
Age-related sicknesses of the mind are becoming a greater problem as the population grows older, with annual costs for Alzheimer's alone expected to quadruple in the next 30 years, from $250 billion to over $1 trillion — becoming the costliest single disease in history.
As of now it's without a cure, but the focus of some of today's cannabis research has the potential to put an end to this scourge once and for all.
Seemingly unrelated but an equally large problem for humanity as a whole is the limitation of traditional farming techniques.
Arable land is diminishing, while demand for food production soars alongside the population. The cannabis industry is now on the forefront of developing a whole new kind of farming — one that grew out of the decades of covert cultivation.
That development allows for highly controlled, highly efficient, incredibly productive farming in urban environments.
I've spent months researching both questions, and you'll be shocked at what I found...
Two companies on the very cutting edge of both of these fields of research.
Neither is widely known, and both are fairly small, but the innovations they've made have the potential to disrupt both industries.
These aren't just companies with good future potential. They're companies with the potential to change the world.
In the case of optimized urban farming, it's a change that could help us overt a food shortage, the likes of which humanity has never seen before.
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Fortune favors the bold,
Coming to us from an already impressive career as an independent trader and private investor, Alex's specialty is in the often misunderstood but highly profitable development-stage microcap sector. Focusing on young, aggressive, innovative biotech and technology firms from the U.S. and Canada, Alex has built a track record most Wall Street hedge funders would envy. Alex contributes his thoughts and insights regularly to Wealth Daily. To learn more about Alex, click here.
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