April 13, 2022

History of CBD (With A Timeline!)

CBD has a loooong and glorious past. It’s ripe with drama and intrigue!

Today, we’ll look at key moments in CBD’s history. Get cozy and prepare for an interesting overview of the events, milestones, people, and more that made your favorite CBD products possible.

It’s Ancient History

We don’t know exactly when people first realized that cannabis was a useful plant or began intentionally cultivating it. But, we do have proof of cannabis being purposefully used — in a multitude of ways — since ancient times. For example, archaeologists and historians have found remnants of hemp cloth and other textiles from tens of thousands of years ago.

Here are some impressive dates and artifacts we were able to dig up:(1,2)

  • 29,000 years ago — A hemp rope is found in Czech Republic

  • 12,000 years ago — Evidence of domesticated cannabis unearthed in China

  • 2,700 BCE — Records from oldest existing pharmaceutical lab show cannabis used in China for pain, constipation, female reproductive health issues, and malaria

  • 2,000 BCE — Specialized strains bred for medicinal vs textile use

  • 1 BCE — Wine+weed surgical anesthesia developed in China

  • Circa 500 CE — First verified record of medicinally-used cannabis found in Egypt

  • 1300s — Cannabis starts becoming illegal in various locales

  • 1538 — New Herball published declaring hemp as essential to the herbalist’s medicine kit

  • 1585 — Reports of wild hemp growing in the Americas reaches European explorers

  • 1611 — Jamestown colonists began being ordered to grow hemp

  • 1652 — The English Physitian describes hemp extract as helping with inflammation and pain

  • Mid-1700s — George Washington grew hemp and had interest in its medicinal properties

  • Late 1700s — Thomas Jefferson begins farming hemp

  • 1838 — On the Preparations of the Indian Hemp, or Gunjah published by Irish doctor William Brooke O'Shaughnessy

  • 1850s — Medicinal cannabis formulations widely on sale in American pharmacies, spurred by Dr. O'Shaughnessy’s book

  • Mid-1800s — Queen Victoria rumored to use CBD to alleviate menstrual cramps

  • Late 1800s — First cannabinoid is isolated

  • 1893 — India’s Hemp Commission notes cannabis’s medicinal uses but concern over intoxicating effects

  • 1937 — The Marihuana Tax Act made cannabis (including hemp and CBD) illegal in the US

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but you get the picture. Recorded history of cannabis use in remedies, religion, and recreation goes back about 5,000 years, and we know for certain that cannabis was used extensively in the Dark and Middle Ages in other parts of Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and Europe.(2) But, we’re going to jump forward to when significant advances in the science, medicine, commercialization, and culture of cannabis kicks in.

CBD In The Modern Era

What defines the “modern era?” Well, generally speaking, cannabis research really took off in the 1940s and 1950s. We’re putting a stake in the ground at the point when CBD was officially identified.(1,3,4,5,6)

What Happened When

  • 1940 — Roger Adams isolated CBD from Cannabis

  • 1942 — Cannabis is removed from the United States Pharmacopoeia

  • Circa 1944 — CBD shown to prolong barbiturate-induced sleep

  • 1946 — CBD is shown to not cause catalepsy (trance-like condition), corneal areflexia (when the muscles don’t respond to stimuli), or psychotropic activity

  • 1951 — Boggs Act increased legal penalties for possession of cannabis

  • 1956 — Enactment of Narcotic Control Act further expands possession penalties

  • 1963 — Researchers are able to explain the structure and chemistry of CBD

  • 1965 — Raphael Mechoulam and his team synthesized CBD

  • 1960s to early 1970s — Cannabinoid pharmacology research increased dramatically (mostly related to THC, mostly in response to the burgeoning drug culture in Western countries)

  • 1970 — Controlled Substances Act prohibits cannabis under federal law

  • 1970s — Investigations into how cannabinoids work in the body are ongoing

  • Mid-1970s — UK releases [what’s thought to be] a full-spectrum CBD tincture for therapeutic use

  • 1978 — New Mexico is the first state to legally recognize cannabis as a medicine

  • 1980 — Study finding CBD helped epileptic patients reduce seizure frequency published

  • 1988 — Allyn Howlett's lab proves that cannabinoid receptors exist

  • 1988 — Evidence of cannabinoid interaction with receptors found

  • 1990 — CB1 receptor cloned

  • 1992 — Endocannabinoids and the endocannabinoid system (ECS) are discovered

  • 1996 — California is the first state to legalize medical marijuana

  • 2000 — Colorado approves medical marijuana, which paves way for CBD-based treatments for epilepsy

  • 2003 — US governments patents CBD as a neuroprotectant

  • 2013 — Story of Charlotte Figi’s CBD-based epilepsy treatment emerges

  • 2014 — Farm Bill allows hemp to be planted for research and many states legalize CBD

  • Mid-2010s — Many states and US territories continue decriminalizing and/or legalizing recreational and/or medical cannabis (both hemp- and marijuana-derived)

  • 2018 — Epidiolex gains FDA approval to treat specific cases of intractable seizure disorders

  • 2018 — Farm Bill federally legalizes hemp and its byproducts (including CBD) as long as they contain no more than 0.3% THC by weight

All the hard work since the 1940s brought CBD to the forefront. The research started unlocking some of CBD’s mysteries and showed that it was likely a safe substance for therapeutic applications.(7,8)


Currently, CBD is experiencing a heyday. It seems that every news cycle brings word of recent or forthcoming relaxing of CBD (and cannabis) laws, diverse product launches, and exciting scientific discoveries.

Cannabis is big business and center stage in government and politics. More and more people are embracing plant medicines and welcoming CBD into their self-care protocols. As a society, hemp and marijuana products are being ever-more accepted as mainstream.

Stats and trendlines — both on the business and consumer side of things — showcase this quite well. (And you can explore this in these posts: The CBD States Of America — Where’s CBD Most Loved, How The Covid-19 Pandemic Changed The Cannabis Industry, The State Of CBD Around The World, and CBD Statistics 2021: Mid-Year Check-In For The Inquiring Mind.

A Future Filled With CBD

No one knows what tomorrow holds for CBD. But with the current level of societal interest and academic and clinical research — it’s sure to be exciting and momentous. We anticipate revelations that deepen our knowledge and understanding of how CBD can continue supporting and improving our health and well-being.

And if past data is a clue to what’s ahead, we’ll probably continue to see an expansion in functional wellness trends.

Another Look Back

In this post we focused more on the event highlights of the last 250ish years. But, maybe this post piqued your curiosity so much that you want to learn more — but through a different lens. If so, add these cannabis history posts to your reading list:

  • Cannabis Archaeology: How The Ancient World Used Hemp & Marijuana

  • Notable People In The History Of CBD

  • A Look At Hemp & CBD Use Throughout History

  • A Long, Strange Trip: Psychedelics Then & Now

The Yesterdays, Today & Many Tomorrows of CBD

CBD — as well as hemp and marijuana in general — have been in practical and popular use for hundreds of generations.

In more modern times, CBD has experienced or been part of countless scientific discoveries, medical innovations, regulatory changes, and cultural shifts.

It’s likely that, as our understanding of CBD and its potential benefits mounts, CBD will continue being a major presence in the business and personal pursuit of health and wellness.



  1. Camilo Maldonado, J. (2016). Meet the “Father of Cannabis,” the Man Who Discovered Why Weed Makes You High. Vice. https://www.vice.com/en/article/mvxde4/raphael-mechulam-father-cannabis-discover-thc

  2. (2022). Historical Timeline - Medical Marijuana. ProCon.org. https://medicalmarijuana.procon.org/historical-timeline

  3. Pertwee, RG. (2006). Cannabinoid pharmacology: the first 66 years. British Journal of Pharmacology. https://doi.org/10.1038/sj.bjp.0706406

  4. Young, S. (2013). Marijuana stops child’s severe seizures. CNN. https://www.cnn.com/2013/08/07/health/charlotte-child-medical-marijuana/index.html

  5. Bridgeman, MB, et al. (2017). Medicinal Cannabis: History, Pharmacology, And Implications for the Acute Care Setting. P & T: A Peer-Reviewed Journal for Formulary Management. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5312634

  6. Burstein, S. (2015). Cannabidiol (CBD) and its analogs: a review of their effects on inflammation. Bioorganic & Medicinal Chemistry. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bmc.2015.01.059

  7. Julia, N. (2022). What is the History of CBD? CFAH. https://cfah.org/history-of-cbd

  8. (2018). Cannabis History: A Timeline on the History of CBD & THC. WayofLeaf. https://wayofleaf.com/blog/history-of-cbd

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