Brief History Of Cannabis
  • September 7, 2022

    Cannabis, marijuana, ganja, hemp, dope, weed, etc., are all names for one of the most controversial plants in human history. While cannabis has been known to exist for millennia, it’s still a taboo, even in the U.S. Although the recreational and medicinal use of marijuana has been somewhat commercialized and has widespread use, the mystery of its origins remains unsolved even today. Multiple sources tell their own story; however, some are more reliable than others. Being a weed lover, I took quite some time to explore all available evidence, archeologic and historical records. So, where does the story start? Let’s find out.

    What is Cannabis?

    First things first, let’s cover the basics. Cannabis is plainly explained as a cannabinoid drug. However, this is not a valid explanation, especially if you aren’t familiar with scientific terms. Cannabis refers to three groups of plants with psychoactive effects, including Cannabis Indica, Cannabis Sativa (classified by Jean Baptiste Lamarck), and Cannabis Ruderalis (discovered by a Russian scientist, D.E. Janischevisky in 1924). When you dry the flowers of these plants, you’re left with one of the most popular “drugs.” Regardless, this isn’t an article about cannabis as a term, but we’ll cover what exactly cannabis is soon.

    The Origins

    You might think that cannabis is only known as one of the most popular recreational drugs. However, this is not true, as cannabis was also known for its use in food, rope, and medicine. Thus, its origins date back to at least the third millennium B.C. (before Christ). However, some sources state that it’s possible cannabis dates even further to the Pre-Pottery Neolithic period based on various archeological evidence (8800-6000 BCE). It’s unclear where cannabis was first cultivated, whether in Japan or China. However, the area of marijuana’s origin certainly was West China or central Asia.


    The first documented evidence of cannabis use dates back to somewhere around 2737 BC when it was listed in the father of Chinese Medicine’s pharmacopeia, Emperor Shen Nung. However, some say there is no evidence the emperor used cannabis himself. However, others consider that marijuana was first used 12000 ago in regions of Mongolia and Siberia. This claim is supported by evidence of burned marijuana seeds found in Siberia dating back to 3000 BC. What’s interesting is that both claims match the period of somewhere around 3000 BC. Yet, that’s not all. Large quantities of cannabis and burned seeds were found in the Xinjiang region’s noble people’s tombstones in 2500 BC.

    Another research states that cannabis had widespread usage in China.


    Cannabis may be a native plant to the Japanese archipelago. However, most cannabis researchers claim that it is far more possible that cannabis was brought to Japan from China and Korea. Cannabis was certainly cultivated in Japan before the neolithic period as a food source and for fabric material. Cannabis achenes were found in an archeological site in the Oki Islands. The plant was also crucial in ancient Korea as the discovered samples of hempen fabric date back to around 3000 B.C.


    Moving on to the Hindu Culture. It is considered that India’s primary God, Shiva, was named the “Lord of the Bhang” because cannabis was his favorite food. Shiva has both a male and a female presence. Speaking of the word bhang, the Hindus patented a specific drink that contained milk, cannabis, and other traditional ingredients.

    This drink was used for its anesthetic and anti-phlegmatic features. We’ll proceed with a more realistic view of the matter. The exact time when cannabis found its way to India isn’t known. However, the region of India was invaded by Aryans (an archaic Indo-European group).

    The common belief is that Aryans brought cannabis to India between 2000 and 1000 BC. When it was obtained, Hindus accepted cannabis as a cure for almost everything, including leprosy, fever, insomnia, dysentery, anxiety, etc. In addition, cannabis is highly valued in India for its role in the spiritual world and has a strong connection with tantric sex, sacred events, local customs, and prevalent religion.


    Next up is Europe, the old Continent. According to all available data, cannabis came to Europe from China. To be exact, it came from the Middle East. It was brought by a nomadic group called the Scythians. Scythians were also responsible for spreading the plant to Ukraine and Russia. In the 5th century, cannabis was spread to Germany by various German Tribes.

    According to Wolf, cannabis seeds were found in some Viking ships dating back to the 9th century.

    Herodotus described marijuana as an ancient Greek medicine used to treat inflammation, earaches, and swelling for therapeutic and recreational purposes.

    Romans boiled the plant and also used it for various medicinal purposes.

    From approximately 800 to 900 BC, Arabians used cannabis to treat syphilis.

    In future years and centuries, cannabis found its way to the entire European Continent, Africa, South America, and North America.

    The U.S.

    American culture is mainly based on the colonial time when hemp was firstly recognized in North America. How was hemp introduced to American folks? By Spanish traders as it was used for rope and textiles.

    The United States of America has a very controversial and rich history with its all-time favorite recreational herb. Marijuana was very popular, and when I say very popular, I’m referring to the fact that growing marijuana became an obligatory requirement in Virginia, Massachusetts, and Connecticut. But we need to mention a bit of a disclaimer here. Back then, marijuana didn’t have high THC levels, especially when compared to today’s strains.

    The Prohibition

    Now, you’ve probably heard that at one point, the U.S. led a strong anticampaign against the world’s most loved plant. However, it’s unclear what the reasons were, except for the plant’s psychoactive properties.

    Why am I stating this?

    Back in 1765, George Washington, one of America’s most loved presidents, wrote about possible medical marijuana use in his journals.

    In the middle of the 19th century, cannabis had widespread use as a universal medicine and a common ingredient in many products. At approximately the same time, marijuana cannabis became a certified opioid withdrawal treatment, nausea reliever, appetite stimulant, and pain killer granted by the U.S. pharma industry.

    Did you ever hear about Candy Hashish? It was a company featured in Vanity Fear that experienced a boom on the market in 1862. This was when marijuana started going downhill. The first step towards prohibition was the requirement of labeling all products containing cannabis issued by the American government in 1906. By 1930, many Mexicans started practicing cannabis and introducing the plant (especially the recreational part of consuming it) to the general public. Cannabis was then directly related to the Mexican community, and the public started getting scared, so the anti-drug campaigns began.

    Between 1914 and 1925, more than 20 states passed the law on marijuana prohibition. Furthermore, the Great Depression occurred by the end of 1930, resulting in an economic crisis and the loss of jobs, creating further stigmatization of the Mexican community. The Mexicans were perceived as cheap workers, representing a problem for American society. Being directly connected to Mexicans, cannabis was perceived as a dangerous drug and toxin that causes psychosis, paranoia,   violence, rape, and suicide. Unfortunately, in the following years, or to be exact, in 1942, cannabis was officially dismissed from the U.S. Pharmacopoeia. Doctors changed their perception of the plant and started discoloring any possible therapeutic and medical effects cannabis once had. Accordingly, in 1952, the Boggs Act stated strict mandatory punishment for owning or/and consuming a list of drugs, including cannabis.

    However, not all was lost, as the newly formed hippie movement practiced cannabis and still perceived it as a recreational and harmless drug. In 1965, there was an enormous increase in marijuana-related arrests.

    Anti-marijuana campaigns continued throughout the 20th and 21st centuries, and most American presidents, including Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and George Bush, signed multiple anti-drug laws. In just a year, from 1998 to 1999, Clinton’s administration spent over 25 million dollars to promote anti-marijuana advertisements on primetime T.V. channels.

    This is not the case only in America, meaning that most countries consider marijuana dangerous and mark it illegal. However, that didn’t stop scientists and cannabis enthusiasts from exploring marijuana’s potential medical benefits.

    Regardless, Asian countries, UAE, Singapore, Russia, and the Balkans, still have stringent policies regarding marijuana consumption. In specific parts of China, cannabis is correlated to the death penalty.

    Luckily, the hot cannabis topic is becoming even more appealing as several countries, like Croatia, Cyprus, Barbados, Australia, Argentina, etc., have legalized it for medical use.

    Besides medical marijuana, some countries have decided to legalize cannabis for recreational use.


    The first modern country to legalize cannabis for recreational purposes was Malta. Another great country to smoke weed in is Canada, where the minimum age requirement to buy cannabis from a legit dispensary varies from 18 to 21 years old. What’s funny about Canada is that edibles and weed need to be packed in more subdued ways, while the country is OK with sending cannabis via mail.

    U.S. states that have legalized cannabis for recreational use include Colorado, California, Alaska, Arizona, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Michigan, Massachusetts, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Virginia. Furthermore, other states are expected to pass the legalization law soon.


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