Marihuana is the North American name of a weedlike plant whose unusual products have enjoyed a long, frequently strange, and, especially in the West, ambivalent association with mankind. Definitively labeled Cannabis sativa by Linnaeus in 1753, the plant is in most parts of the world better known by its popular name, Indian hemp. Requiring little more than a climate with hot summers, cannabis can be, and is, grown both legally and illegally all over the world, wild or cultivated, for utilitarian or intoxicant use, from Calcutta to Beacon Hill.
At least as interesting as its fascinating psychoactive properties and as ancient as its medicinal applications is the controversy its use as a euphoriant has invariably generated. The first recorded use of marihuana is to be found in the Herbal, an ancient equivalent of the U.S. Pharmacopoeia, written about 400 to 500 B.C. And even then there were those who felt that the road to Hades was lined with hemp plants, and others who felt that the path to Utopia was shaded by the freely growing Cannabis sativa.
Few drugs in the United States have produced as much affective heat as cannabis, particularly during the last decade. The controversy essentially revolves around the question of how dangerous or safe the drug is. The established belief views marihuana as an addicting drug that leads to personality deterioration and psychoses and to criminal behavior and sexual excess. For many, its use seems to forebode such catastrophe to the individual and the country that only laws that are Draconian in intent and execution will contain the threat. This view is epitomized in several of the Southern states -- Georgia, for example, where the first offense for the transfer or sale of marihuana from an older person to one below the age of 21 carries the penalty of life imprisonment, a