Nowadays, it’s a challenging task to find a person who hasn’t heard of or haven’t had an experience with, cannabis. Although throughout the last century cannabis has been referred to as a drug with strong potential for abuse, we can now observe what I would like to call a “revitalization” of marijuana culture.
Long before the dark propaganda about cannabis started to loom over the world, the herb has been used by some of the greatest civilizations for centuries. They cultivated marijuana because of its therapeutic properties, many of whom used cannabis on a daily basis. Cannabis pollen was found on the mummy of Ramzes II, which is a good indicator that what we know about weed today is merely a small part of the knowledge our ancestors possessed.
So where did we go wrong? How come did this once praised plant become an object of aggressive activities of authorities all around the world? Are we really starting to rebuild the cannabis culture once and for good? Let me take you on a short journey through the history of cannabis use.
The Origins of Cannabis
Cannabis is believed to originally come from Central Asia, mainly from the regions of Mongolia and South Siberia. However, when we talk about cannabis, we have to distinguish two different subspecies, i.e. Cannabis Sativa L., also known as hemp, and Cannabis Sativa – the one you get your creative high from. In ancient times, people cultivated both subspecies, and the earliest traces of cannabis reach as far back as to the period between 8,000 – 7,000 B.C. As the Columbia History of the World (1981) says, “first woven manufactory made of hemp fibers was built”.
The Use of Cannabis Throughout History
You already know that cannabis derives from Asia, but it was in China (5,000 B.C.) where archeologists found historical evidence of the use of hemp for textiles, ropes, paper, and various oil.
Speaking of oil, hemp seeds were used to produce food because of their rich nutritional profile. In 2,700 B.C., the Chinese emperor Shen Nung discovered the healing properties of cannabis, as he found it successful in relieving chronic pain and treating gout. In 1,500 B.C., Chinese physicians made the earliest written record of the medicinal use of cannabis in the Chinese Pharmacopeia.
The use of cannabis spread all over Asia and soon found its home in Korea, 2,000 B.C. The next great country to welcome the herb was Egypt, where Egyptian doctors made spectacular discoveries about the medicinal use of weed. People of Egypt treated enemas, inflammation, and glaucoma with marijuana.
Cannabis reached India in 1,000 B.C., when it was used as a mixture of milk and the cannabis plant for anti-phlegmatic and anesthetic use. There are written record in a Persian language, where the bhang mixture was mentioned. Actually, cannabis was listed among other herbs as one of the most useful plant.
The spiritual, medicinal, and recreational use of cannabis was rooted in Asian, African, and European countries. Poland was once a country rich in hemp fields, until the plant became rescheduled as harmful and thus prosecuted.
United States and The War on Cannabis
Source: The Junky G
The first marijuana law was introduced to the people of America in 1607 in Virginia, James Town. Interestingly, this act made it mandatory for farmers to grow hemp. In fact, people could go to jail for refusing to grow the Indian hempseed. Between 1631 and 1800, cannabis so much appreciated in America that some U.S. citizens were allowed to pay their taxes with hemp.
Alas, in the rise of 20th century, U.S. authorities started to link the use of marijuana to violent acts committed by illegal Hispanic immigrants. As the wave of the propaganda managed to crush the image of cannabis, Utah became the first state to officially ban marijuana in 1915. By 1935, weed became banned in 29 states, which was followed by the enforcement of Marijuana Tax Act by Federal Bureau of Narcotics, under the leadership of Harry Aslinger in 1937. The fact that hemp, unlike marijuana, doesn’t have any psychoactive tendencies, was completely disregarded by authorities. Many see it as a result of lobbying by fossil and paper market industries, to which hemp was a serious competition. The whole situation deteriorated in 1975, when Richard Nixon declared the War on Drugs. Cannabis prohibition resulted in many unwarranted searches, unfair convictions, and overcrowded prisons. All of this misery happened in less than a century.
Contemporary Cannabis Culture
Source: Time Magazine
Thanks to the development of social media and independent sources of solid knowledge, the marijuana movement is gaining power once again. Weed is now completely legal in 5 states, with others to respect the medical marijuana laws, and it seems that we are witnesses to the recuperation of cannabis culture in times that allow us to fully explore and use the potential of powerful therapeutic properties of weed.
Are you curious about the history of marijuana? What books or articles do you recommend? Let’s share some knowledge, folks!