subscribe: Posts | Comments

History of Cannabis

Across the world the speed at which the re-legalization of Cannabis is staggering. Interestingly enough, the illegalization of this substance was just as rapid. Happening really from the beginning of the 20th century to today, it is the first time in human history where such prosecution of the plant is so common place. Luckily, just like the alcohol prohibition that came before it the popular opinion has shifted in favor of legalization. All throughout historical record Cannabis has been commonly used as a recreational substance, a tool, and a medicine. Let’s take a look at what led us to the state of affair that is modern societal Cannabis culture.

The lineage of Cannabis agriculture has been traced back to at least 12,000 year, making it one of the oldest cultivated crops. The Yangshao culture of china, from 5-3,000 b.c. along the Yellow River valley actually had an economy that was cannabis-driven. They wore hemp clothing, wove hemp, and produced hemp pottery. This area is also where Cannabis most likely evolved, in the Central Asian regions. In 2737 BC the Chinese emperor Shen Nung documented the plants effectiveness in treating rheumatism and gout. The ancient Chinese used just about every part of a the Cannabis plant for everything from intoxication to medicine to rope, Cannabis was prevalent both as a psychoactive and as a tool in Ancient Chinese culture.  Even their tombs were filled with sacrificial vessels with the plant for the afterlife.

Chinese CannabisAbout 2000 BC or a bit earlier coastal farmers in China took cannabis to Korea. After then it reached India sometime between 2000 BC and 1000 BC during the Aryan invasion. Here Cannabis was called Bhang and it became an active role in their religious rituals, as well as used for producing clothes and medicines. Another ancient culture with a similar Cannabis filled background are the Ancient Egyptians. They used it medicinally primarily to life spirits and provide relief to sore eyes from cataracts. Beyond this Cannabis pollen has been found on all known royal Egyptian mummies. The Greeks, too make mention of Cannabis’ medical use for earache, edema, and inflammation in 200 BC.

By the 5th century Cannabis had arrived in Britain during the Anglo-Saxon invasions. It had successfully traveled across the entirety of Europe and Asia influencing all cultures it touched. The next move came from the Spanish who brought it to the Americas in the mid-1500s, followed by the English bringing Cannabis to Jamestown in 1611 where it became the most popular commercial crop besides tobacco. From here Cannabis was relatively common place, with even the founding fathers of the States growing the plant. No one had any issues with it, in fact it was seen as primarily a useful tool for medicinal purposes and industrial.

During the 19th century Cannabis was freely available, like most other drugs that are banned today, at drug stores as a refined liquid known as Hashish. It was also a common ingredient in many medicines and over-the-counter brews for various ailment. Oddly enough, it was never seen really as a recreational drug. It was said to make one feel good, but beyond that there was definitely not the recreation Cannabis culture we have today.

The practice of actually smoking the Cannabis bud was brought over by Mexican immigrants to the States during the first decades of the 20th century. There was much bigotry towards these people as they came to the country, and this has tinted the smoking of Cannabis with that hatred and played no small part in the banning of the substance outright. Thus, with the public now associating Cannabis with this group of immigrants it was began to be seen as an evil “drug” and between 1914-1925 twenty-six states passed laws banning the plant with little to no public outcry or debate.

Now with the beginning of prohibition starting, certain newspapers began running largely untrue ad-campaigns against Cannabis and other narcotics. They blamed everything going wrong in the country on the plant, and the immigrants who brought it here. It was depicted as a drug of murder, madness, and cruelty that will undermine the youth and corrupt the good people of the US.

Soon after this public scare campaign the nation’s top narcotic officials jumped on the case, producing horrific images of gore – suicide, robberies, murders – all allegedly committed by users of Cannabis. Some officials attempted to argue back about the untruth involved with this kind of campaigning, but they were immediately attacked and silenced every time due to a paranoid and fearful populous.

TAX ACTThe Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 was the first step in the full banning of Cannabis. As the federal government could not legally ban a medicine due to the 10th amendment a heavy tax was placed on any buyer, sellers, and producers of the substance. This was a controversial decision as all it did was place heavy legislation on any doctors who wished to prescribe Cannabis to their patients, thus making them less likely to do so, and anyone who used industrial hemp now had to find more viable alternatives.

By the 1950s jail time was added to anyone found with Cannabis on their person through the Narcotics control Act and Boggs act. These acts made first time possession of Cannabis punishable by two to ten years in prison plus a fine of up to $20,000. It wouldn’t be until the 1970’s that this was repealed.

Finally, in the 1960s people began to see Cannabis for what it really was – for what we’ve always known it was until propaganda got the better of us. College students during this era started this trend, as they tried the substance and couldn’t figure out why it was illegal in the first place. Still, during this era President Nixon decided to push against the arising counter-culture with his war on drugs as he was unable to come to terms that there is a difference between Cannabis and hard drugs. From here on there has been a constant battle between the Federal government of the US, who’s influence has spread around the world with their drug laws. Slowly, but surely the tide of change is coming however. As states in the US legalize and countries such as the Netherlands have maintained their stance of pro-cannabis.