The history of the cannabis plant spans millennia and cultures. From its not-so-humble beginnings all the way up to the 21st century, it has had a wide variety of makes use of.
The multifaceted origins of the cannabis plant can be traced back to the steppes of Central Asia, ancient Chinese medicine, rituals in Hinduism, Herodotus’ writings, the colonization of America, African tribal culture and the Mexican Revolution.
To examine this enticing history of marijuana, let’s begin at the incredibly starting.
Hemp history, ancient China and ma
A single of humanity’s oldest cultivated crops, the cannabis plant was initially believed to have originated in Central Asia, in present-day Mongolia and southern Siberia. Even so, a current study carried out by John McPartland at the University of Vermont indicated cannabis could have originated higher up in the so-referred to as Roof of the Globe – the Tibetan Plateau.
By way of the evaluation of ancient pollen, McPartland and his colleagues drew the conclusion that cannabis initially emerged more than three,000 meters above sea level on the Tibetan Plateau in the vicinity of the Qinghai Lake about 28 million years ago.
When it comes to human use of the multipurpose plant, ancient Chinese culture presents terrific insight into the early history of marijuana. From hemp cloth, ropes, bowstrings and even paper to medicinal use, archeologists have discovered proof that the Chinese utilized cannabis as far back as 10,000 B.C.
The possibly mythical figure of Emperor Shen Neng is usually linked with the initially recorded mention of the use of cannabis for its healing properties. Back in two,700 B.C., Shen Neng advisable cannabis or ma as a remedy for a wide array of ailments, such as inflammation and nausea.
Shiva, lord of bhanga, and Vedic use of cannabis
No history of cannabis is comprehensive devoid of mentioning its origins in the ancient Sanskrit religious texts identified as the Vedas. These sacred texts started as an oral tradition that passed down by way of generations just before lastly becoming written involving 1,500 and 500 B.C.
The fourth text, the Atharva Veda, mentions 5 sacred plants of the earth, 1 of which, identified as bhanga, is believed by lots of scholars to be cannabis.
In Hinduism, cannabis or bhang is linked with Shiva, the god of destruction. According to legend, Shiva initially found the miraculous properties of cannabis following ingesting poison in the popular myth of the churning of the ocean of milk.
This episode in Hindu philosophy, identified as the samudra manthan, also explains the origin of amrita, or the nectar of immortality. In 1 version of the story, anyplace drops of the elixir of immortality fell, cannabis plants sprung out.
Currently, bhang is a well-liked beverage all through the Indian subcontinent and can be most effective described as a sort of weed milkshake with its roots going back as early as 1,000 B.C.
Marijuana in the Bible?
In 1936, anthropologist Sula Benet proposed that cannabis is described in the Bible, but that its presence was erased in the course of the initially translation of the scriptures by the Greeks in the third century B.C.
A single of these situations exactly where she argues cannabis could have been described is when Moses receives guidelines from God on how to construct the tabernacle – or God’s earthly dwelling.
The passage goes as follows:
“Then the Lord mentioned to Moses, ‘Take the following fine spices: 500 shekels of liquid myrrh, half as a great deal of fragrant cinnamon, 250 shekels of fragrant calamus (cannabis), 500 shekels of cassia – all according to the sanctuary shekel – and a hin of olive oil. Make these into a sacred anointing oil, a fragrant blend, the operate of a perfumer. It will be the sacred anointing oil.”
Scythians take their cannabis baths
The terrific historian Herodotus records in his Histories that the Eurasian nomad folks identified as the Scythians utilized cannabis in unique steam baths.
He describes Scythians putting hemp seeds inside a dish with hot stones, which in turn “provides out such a vapour as no Grecian vapour-bath can exceed the Scyths, delighted, shout for joy, and this vapour serves them as an alternative of a water-bath for they never ever by any likelihood wash their bodies with water.”
Far more not too long ago, the earliest proof of human consumption of cannabis as a drug was found. An international group of researchers discovered that wooden bowls excavated from burials at Jirzankal Cemetery in western China contained traces of burnt cannabis with tetrahydrocannabinol or THC – an indication it was utilized for its thoughts-altering properties.
Marijuana tends to make its way to Africa
The initially situations of recorded cannabis use on the African continent came in the 17th century.
João dos Santos, a Dominican missionary, described in his account of the Portuguese colonization of Africa, Ethiopia Oriental (1609), that the locals utilized cannabis in the area of the Cape of Excellent Hope. The folks referred to as it “bangue” and utilized it for a wide variety of purposes from suppressing hunger to tribal ceremonies.
In 1658, the Dutch colonist Jan Van Riebeeck recorded that the Hottentot tribe valued hemp, or dagga as they dubbed it, a lot more than gold, writing at 1 point that it “drugs their brain just as opium.”
Colonization, revolution, racism
The Spanish brought the plant to the New Globe exactly where it was extensively cultivated all through colonial instances. As it is uncomplicated to develop and has a wide array of makes use of, it is uncomplicated to recognize its omnipresence in early colonial history.
American colonists created great use of the versatile cannabis plant – Virginia even passed a law in 1619 requiring hemp to be grown on just about every farm in the colony – and was even utilized as currency at 1 point in Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Maryland, flourishing till the Civil War when other supplies replaced marijuana.
Even so, refugees fleeing north from Mexico in the course of the armed struggle of the Mexican Revolution (1910-1920) initially introduced Americans to the joys of recreational marijuana use.
Even so, these folks escaping the bloody conflict quickly came to the forefront of the nicely-identified anti-immigration and anti-marijuana campaigns of the 20th century in the United States.
In 1930, the Federal Bureau of Narcotics was established, a forerunner of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), which is credited with criminalizing cannabis below the helm of its initially commissioner Harry J. Anslinger.
The racist roots of marijuana prohibition are apparent from quotes from Anslinger, such as this 1:
“There are 100,000 total marijuana smokers in the US, and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos, and entertainers. Their Satanic music, jazz, and swing outcome from marijuana use. This marijuana causes white girls to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers, and any other folks.”
An intriguing film that encapsulates the anti-marijuana frenzy of the instances is Reefer Madness.
from 1936 which depicts various higher college students driven to madness by the dangers of pot.
The following year, Congress passed the contentious Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 which basically created marijuana illegal in the United States.
Marijuana in today’s society
According to a survey carried out by Yahoo News and Marist College in 2017, practically 55 million Americans, or 22%, utilized marijuana after or twice in the year preceding the study, even though
about 35 million had been described as typical customers – and in the meantime, pot was legalized or decriminalized in various extra states. This is a hugely critical issue, as 27% of marijuana abstainers in the identical survey cited its illegality as the primary purpose they maintain away from pot.
Either way, marijuana’s status in today’s pop culture is undeniable. What’s even a lot more intriguing is the way its perception has changed in modern politics. Through the presidency of Ronald Reagan (1981-1989), marijuana was identified as “probably the most harmful drug in the United States currently.” His administration’s enforcement of anti-cannabis policies was largely followed by President George H.W. Bush.
Currently, nonetheless, the image is really unique. Practically just about every 2020 Democratic presidential candidate supports removing marijuana from the federal list of controlled substances and its legalization could shape up to be 1 of the leading difficulties presidential hopefuls tackle in debates.
With a lot more than half of Americans supporting pot legalization in 2019 and a lot more than half of US states legalizing it to some degree, cannabis has come a lengthy way in US politics, and its history offers hope that 1 day it will be universally recognized for its prospective advantages.