The History of Cannabis Sativa
We haven't always just been able to sign up at GreenRush and get cannabis delivered to our door. Generations of cannabis users have refined the art of cultivation and defined the plant’s history – a rich history stretching back thousands of years. Seriously, that OG Kush in your grinder is a product of one hell of a history – with cannabis cultivation going back as far as agriculture itself. With that said, let’s pay the plant the respect it deserves and find out where it all comes from. Here is the History of Cannabis.
A Brief History of Cannabis
Cannabis cultivation is old. Really old. In fact, historical relics containing remnants of either cannabis itself or signs of its use have been found dating as far back as 6,000 years. Therefore, the historical community places cannabis cultivation as old as cultivation itself, meaning people started growing weed as soon as they learned how to grow.
Hailing from the steppes of central Asia, somewhere in modern day Mongolia, weed was initially used as a spiritual and ceremonial aide. Throughout central Asia and even into China and Siberia, archaeologists have unearthed burial sites and tombs of noblemen that were laid to rest with mountains of marijuana. Earlier this year, in fact, archaeologists in China uncovered a burial site that’s thought to be the oldest example of a cannabis-laden resting place. The 13 large plants ‘were arranged diagonally like a shroud over the body of a dead man’, according to NPR, which is testament to the cultural importance cannabis held already 3,000 years ago.
Cannabis Goes Global
In the centuries that followed, cannabis would circumnavigate the world. Though the exact routes are unclear, farmers and traders would push the plant’s seeds further east, arriving in Korea and Japan around 2,000 B.C.E. In Japan, for instance, hemp would become one of the nation’s most important fibers, being used in early forms of paper, clothing, basic fishing lines and traditional geta (wooden sandals). And though the question of whether cannabis was smoked in Japan is still a bit of a historical hot-potato, the fact remains that the plant was elevated to national-institution style status, being featured on noble crests, and being planted in the gardens of temples to stave off evil spirits. Which makes the fact that Japan has some of the strictest anti-cannabis laws in the world even more absurd.
Further tribal movement and the growth of trade would gradually move the plant all through Asia and into Europe, reaching the shores of Britain somewhere between 500 C.E and 1,200 C.E. It has been postulated that it was a group of Iranian Eurasian nomads, the Scythians, who were the first to bring cannabis to the European continent.
Throughout this time, cannabis use remained primarily spiritual. Its utility did expand into pain treatment, however, with evidence of the plant’s application during childbirth and surgery being found in China and across the South Asian subcontinent. There has also been evidence of its use in Ancient Egypt, having been used to treat cataracts and sore eyes. With literature dating back to around 2,000 B.C., cannabis pollen has also been found in almost all royal mummy tombs throughout Egypt, cementing the fact that cannabis use is not a modern phenomenon. Punishing its use is.
Cannabis in the New World
Though there are conflicting stories of when exactly cannabis made it to the new world, the consensus among historians is that it arrived later than you think. While the Asians and the Europeans had been enjoying cannabis for centuries, it didn’t land in the USA until a few centuries ago. And while the conservative narrative attributes the influx of cannabis into the US on Mexican refugees escaping the Mexican Revolution, this is certainly not where the story starts.
Cannabis’ history in the North and South American continents began much earlier, way before the USA. It is likely that European colonizers brought the plant to the new world on boats and – as soon as it landed on the new, fertile soil – the plant blossomed. Literally. Its American origins start in Brazil, with the weed moving slowly north before being taken to Jamaica by the British.
Professor at the University of Kansas, Barney Warf, has postulated that weed was initially used to ‘pacify slaves.’ It became the go-to pastime for those tilling the fields and helped kept the ever-growing populations in check. And as the slaves began to indulge in more and more cannabis use, the more its relationship became engrained with the Afro-Caribbean populations in and around these areas.
Out of this encouraged consumption arose a very close connection to cannabis. It’s why in countries like Jamaica, the plant has been elevated to religious status, and why the country has such a strong association with the plant.
And this is where the Mexican Revolution comes back in. Contemporary historians tend to be in agreement that the influx of thousands of Mexican refugees, especially into Texas and along the east coast, drastically increased US exposure to cannabis. The immigrants brought with them their culture of smokeable cannabis and its widespread use prompted the first cannabis legislation.
Due to cannabis’ deep association with Mexican refugees and former slaves, the drug adopted an underworld reputation. It became a habit of the immigrant; of the impoverished black man, and it was not something that the noble white man would be caught doing.
Growing Legislation against Cannabis
Due to increasing cannabis use across the USA – perhaps as a result of the prohibition of alcohol – it was officially listed as a banned substance in 1937. It was now an underground pastime, something to be enjoyed out of the prying eyes of the middle class. Cannabis, after enjoying almost 7,000 years of unregulated, revered and celebrated use, had finally become illegal.
Today, the US government continues to classify cannabis as a schedule 1 controlled substance. This means that the federal powers that be see the plant as having ‘no accepted medical uses and no safe level of use.’ That’s what keeps it in the same legal category as synthesized drugs, ecstasy and LSD, or heroin, and crystal meth.
Across the world, however, cannabis is becoming legal (or decriminalized) in many western nations, including the Netherlands and Portugal, with calls for legislation against cannabis to be abolished worldwide. With the expansion of scientific research only proving what our forefathers knew thousands of years ago – that the plant offers incredible and all-natural health benefits – the global rhetoric seems to be ever more in favor of legalization.
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