How well do you know the history of cannabis? There are millions of people all around the world who use this plant for medicinal and recreational purposes. But, probably, they have no idea where it comes from or how it started. Its history dates back to thousands of years ago during ancient times of human civilization. Here is a guide to take you back to its early days and what the future might hold.
What is Cannabis?
Cannabis is the term for this group of plants: Cannabis sativa, cannabis Indica, and cannabis ruderalis. These three plants have psychoactive properties. When you dry the flowers after harvesting, what you have left is a popular drug in the world. For some, it’s marijuana, while others may call it the pot. There is also a group of persons who call it weed.
There are different names for it because as weed is becoming legal, people use it changes too. A lot of persons currently use the term cannabis when referring to weed. People agree it’s a more acceptable name, while some argue it’s neutral when you compare it to weed or pot. Also, the name marijuana is slowly fading. That is because it has a racist history to it.
Cannabis is a natural substance with strong positive effects. People take cannabis for its relaxing and calming effects. Some of the widespread weed strains are Blue Dream, Durban Poison, and OG Kush strains.
In some U.S. states, you may get a prescription to help with some medical conditions, like loss of appetite, chronic pain, and glaucoma. While cannabis is natural, with positive uses, it also has its harmful effects.
The Global History of Cannabis
The industrial and medicinal use of cannabis started in ancient times. And there are pieces of evidence to prove this. For instance, pottery fragments from Taiwan, from ten thousand (10,000) years ago, had hemp fabrics. Also, in China, people made clothing and textiles, ropes, and sails using cannabis plants. The seeds were a healthy source of nutrients, so they used them as food.
When you come across medical textbooks dating back to 2800BC, you notice they talk about the medicinal uses of cannabis. Further, there is burnt cannabis dating to 300BC in Serbia, near burial mounds. The ancient history of cannabis is exciting. One could say cannabis was a part of civilization because of its long history in human use.
The above evidence was what led scientists to assign the origin of cannabis cultivation to Central Asia. From Asia, it extended to Europe, Africa, and America. The modern history of cannabis didn’t begin until the late 1700s in the western world.
The Marijuana Tax Act was passed in 1937 in the United States. This act placed a tax on the sales of cannabis, marijuana, or hemp. However, the U.S Army and Department of Agriculture later encouraged farmers to grow hemp. This was after the Philippines fell to Japanese forces in 1942. Not only did they urge farmers to grow hemp, but they also issued tax stamps to them after cultivation.
Between the years 1942 to 1945, they were over four hundred thousand (400,000) cultivated acres of cannabis. This number of cultivations took place even without any changes to the Marijuana Tax Act. In 1957, the last hemp fields were planted in Wisconsin.
Cannabis, hemp, and marijuana stayed illegal after World War II. Although there were several attempts to change these policies. It was until 1969 that a Supreme Court case rendered the Tax Act illegal.
However, the Nixon Administration made some decisions based on racism and unscientific terms. They created the Controlled Substances Act, in which cannabis is inclusive.
Since the criminalization of cannabis in 1970, many people, predominantly people of color, have gone to jail.
Cannabis as a Recreational Drug
The earliest evidence to show the use of cannabis as a recreational drug is from the ancient Greek historian Herodotus. He narrated how people of a Eurasian society called Scythians inhaled cannabis. These people inhaled the fumes of the seeds and flowers after throwing on heated stones. To his Greek readers, this may not sound as intriguing. They preferred to get high by drinking wine.
Although the Europeans smoked and cultivated cannabis, it wasn’t the most popular drug. Tobacco rivaled alcohol in terms of popularity. The Europeans imported tobacco in the late 1500s from America. After about a century, coffee followed suit. They also imported this, but from Africa. The use and popularity of cannabis were not a match to tobacco, coffee, and alcohol.
In contrast, cannabis was a highly used substance after 800AD in the Middle East and South Asia. They use it in a concentrated form, called hashish. The spread of Islam was the chief reason for its popularity. According to Korean laws, it was a prohibition for Muslims to take alcohol or intoxicating substances. However, this law didn’t list cannabis specifically. Today, most Islamic countries prohibit the use of cannabis, as it is in most parts of the world.
Marijuana in the Western World
What’s the history of cannabis or marijuana in the western world? In 1753, Carl Linnaeus identified the cannabis Sativa plant. He was the first person to give it a taxonomic classification. After 32 years, Jean Baptiste Lamarck classified the indicator species of the plant – Cannabis indica.
It wasn’t until 1924 that they classified the third species, Cannabis ruderalis. However, the first clinical trials had started before then.
In the first half of the 19th century, William O Shaughnessy helped introduce cannabis into the western world. He was an Irish physician in India. And, also worked on a case report on the Gunjah plant, which is dried hemp in India. In his report, he mentioned in detail the effects of the drug on the Medical community.
William O Shaughnessy was also the first to conduct clinical trials of cannabis tinctures on mice, rabbits, and dogs. As the Napoleon troops left Egypt for Europe, the use of the drug became popular. While in America, the use of cannabis extracts increased in the 1800s.
The History of Cannabis Legalization
One of the leaps for medical cannabis in the U.S came from Francie Young. He was the administrative law judge for the Drug Enforcement Agency. In 1988 he made a statement defending the therapeutic effects of the substance on sufferers. He would go ahead to frown on the DEA for standing between sufferers and the benefits.
Until this very day, the DEA refuses to consider rescheduling cannabis. Under federal law, it remains on the list of Schedule I drugs. Regardless of this federal law, 33 states have legalized the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes. The number of legalized states will most likely increase in the future.
Marijuana, Hemp, and Cannabis
There’s always some confusion on what these terms mean and their relationship. It’s essential to understand each of the names of cannabis legality in the U.S. Most often, people use marijuana to refer to all thing’s cannabis. However, this is wrong because marijuana describes only a variety of cannabis plants.
There are three different species of cannabis, as you may guess by now from the history of cannabis. These are Cannabis sativa, cannabis Indica, and cannabis ruderalis. The first two are typically for recreation, while the latter is hemp.
Hemp and marijuana are both from the cannabis plant, which is the reason for the confusion. However, they have different properties and uses.
There are over a hundred cannabinoids in the cannabis plant. The popular and most-researched of these are THC and CBD. CBD is a non-psychoactive compound with numerous health benefits, while THC is a psychoactive cannabinoid. THC is the compound responsible for the “high” people associate with marijuana.
Marijuana refers to the derivative of the cannabis plant with a high amount of THC. On the other hand, hemp contains a low amount of THC and a high amount of CBD.
Hemp is usually grown for the industry, used for oils, foods, skincare products, and many others. The leaves, stem, flower, and buds of cannabis Sativa and Indica are often for smoking, brewing, and eating. In other words, although they are both a part of the long history of cannabis, their usage differs. This difference affects how the government regulates them.
The 2014 Agricultural Act permitted state departments and institutions of higher learning to research with hemp. Furthermore, in 2018, the Agricultural Improvement Act authorized states to control hemp production and research.
The federal laws concerning the use of cannabis are different. Cannabis is a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act. The federal government considers it as among the illicit drugs, like cocaine and heroin.
However, on the state level, more than 29 states legalized medicinal cannabis. Others also legalized its use recreationally for adults. While the federal government stays enforcing their laws and policies, the states can introduce them. So, individuals and industries who want to know more about growing cannabis should check with their state laws.
The Future of Cannabis
From the history of cannabis, it is clear that policies and laws are evolving. As this plant becomes more acceptable by the law and public, it’s growing immensely. There is a projection that the cannabis industry will be worth over $24 billion by 2025.
Also, the research into the medical use of cannabis is encouraging. Studies into the effect of a significant cannabinoid, CBD, reveals its benefit in pain, stress, and arthritis. It also has anti-inflammatory effects.
Today, the industry is different from where it was decades of years ago. So, we can say the future looks promising. Important health organizations and societies currently support the industry. Amongst these organizations are The American Public Health Association and The American Cancer Society.
The history of cannabis shows that this plant dates back to ancient times. Its uses were both medicinal and industrial. People used hemp in their clothing, potteries, food, and what have you. There are different names people use for this plant. To some, it’s a weed, while to others, it’s marijuana. There are also a set of people who would refer to it as pot.
Throughout the 1930s, from when it made its way to America, cannabis was illegal. There were fines and penalties attached to the use of this plant. Today, the use of cannabis is legal in many states of the U.S., mainly for medical reasons.
As people are identifying hemp’s health benefits, they are embracing it with open arms. Both institutions and individuals. Because of this, the industry is growing, and the government is relaxing some stringent policies too.