The History of Cannabis Use
From Egyptian pharaohs to Queen Victoria to the fifth president of the United States and the Ancient Greeks, cannabis has been used by humans for centuries. The Scythians are believed to have thrown hemp seeds onto hot stones to produce a steam “vapour-bath” of fantastic qualities. Carl Sagan, an American astronomer, cosmologist, and astrophysicist, wrote an essay about his experiences smoking the herb and openly advocated for its legalization. Cannabis residue was even found on clay pipes inside Shakespeare’s home, perhaps giving him some inspiration for his greatest works. The plant has played a significant role in our history and has been used by many influential persons over the years, but where did it all start?
As one of humanity’s oldest cultivated crops, cannabis has a history with us dating back to as far as 10,000 B.C. However, the earliest record of cannabis being used medicinally comes from about 4,000 B.C., acting as an anesthetic during surgery. But even as a psychoactive, cannabis dates back into the B.C.s. Mummified nugs were found in the Xinjiang-region tombs of nobles, buried at approximately 2,500 B.C. The herb was also widely used in India during the time South Asia was invaded by the Aryans (2,000-1,000 B.C.). Sana (or cannabis) was praised in the Atharva Veda (or Science of Charms), a Hindu sacred text, as one of the five kingdoms of herbs that “release[s] us from anxiety.”
Over the years, cannabis moved to southeast Russia, the Ukraine, then from Germany to Brittan during the 5th century, most likely due to the Anglo-Saxon invasions of the time. From there, it traveled to Africa, then South American, and, eventually, to the United States. It wasn’t until the Mexican Revolution of 1910-1911 that cannabis made its way to the States, fleeing with the immigrants that escaped the country. It was only a short few years after that, in 1913, that the first bill criminalizing the cultivation of “locoweed” became a reality in California. However, the first state to outright outlaw the plant was Utah in 1915, taking no note of the difference between Cannabis sativa (psychoactive) and Cannabis sativa L. (hemp). When the Great Depression hit, high unemployment left Americans looking for someone to blame, and the newly immigrating Mexicans were an easy target, their “evil weed” as their companion. By the early 1930s, over half of the states in America had made the plant illegal, and in 1937, the Marijuana Tax Act officially put cannabis under Federal legislation, criminalizing its possession. Since then, the plant has seen a tug-of-war battle over its legality. The War on Drugs, then the Compassionate Use Act of 1996, and now, the recreationally legal status in eleven states. Our history with cannabis use has seen a crazy up-and-down rollercoaster over the last century, but our long history before displayed a unique and powerful synergy with the plant.
Whether used in a psychoactive nature, for spiritual purposes, or as a medicinal aid, cannabis has been a loyal companion to us for most of its time since discovery. Although there was a rough patch during the 1900s, we as the human race seem to be returning to the loving relationship we used to have with this herb. We hope to continue educating the new observer of the magnificent and wondrous applications cannabis offers so we can continue mending the bridge of its use in the modern-day.
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