Cannabis throughout History
The first step of our research was to establish a timeline of the use of cannabis throughout recorded history and the main events to cover. It’s pretty crazy how this plant has been there for so long and, in perspective, how quickly Human Kind has lost over 10,000 years of acquired knowledge.
Here’s the different steps if you want to skip straight to one:
- Ancient Era
- Early Asian Culture
- Spreading throughout the Ancient World
- Spread of Cannabis in Mediterranean Cultures
- Widespread Usage in Human Culture
- Spread in the Arab World
- Marijuana in Early Europe
- Spread of Hemp in the America’s
- Weed throughout the world
- The 20th Century
- Let the Banning begin
- Weed keeps developing
- Widespread bans of Cannabis
Timeline of Marijuana through Time:
10,000+ BCE – Hemp cords were found used in potteries within an ancient villages site located around Taiwan. As a reminder, this is also the first signs of humans settling and developing Agriculture.
Some argue that Marijuana could be part of the first cultivated plants in history. This could actually make sense if the need for hemp fibers were important enough in the daily lives of early humans.
We all know that cultivating marijuana isn’t the easiest task at some moments, so imagine back then before the 12,000 years of breading, no way to do so and have a nomadic way of life.
As stated in the chapter covering the History of hemp in the Great book of hemp :
“An abundance of evidence from burial pits and other sites through-out China demonstrates the continuous cultivation of Asian hemp from prehistoric times. A twelve thousand years old Neolithic site unearthed at Yuan-shan included remains of coarse, sandy pottery with hempen cord marks covering the surface, along with an incised rod-shaped stone beater used to pound hemp.”
Cannabis has been around and used for a long, long, time…
6,000 BCE – Signs that Marijuana Seeds and Oil was used for food in China were found.
4,000 BCE – Archaeologists have found textiles made out of help in China and Turkestan.
Ancient Asian Culture
2,737 BCE – The First signs of Medical Marijuana in the Traditional Medicine Book of the Emperor Shen Neng of China.
He prescribed Weed to treat a range of diseases such as gout, rheumatism, malaria and many other symptoms.
2,000 – 800 BCE – Multiple signs of usages across Asia are found, from textile to medical applications as well as the psychotropic effects.
This is also the time where Bhang (Cannabis leaves, seeds and stems dried up) appears in India. It is mentioned as the “Sacred Grass” in the Hindu sacred text of Atharvaveda (the science of Charms).
Since then, in India it is consumed daily by the followers of Shiva, is used medicinally and ritually as an offering to Shiva.
1,500 BCE – Ganja cultivated in China for its fiber and for food. Signs show that Hemp was cultivated to the same extent as Silk.
First signs of usage in the Scythian Culture. Scythians were a Eurasian Nomadic tribe originally of Iranian stock that migrated west from Central Asia to southern Russia and Ukraine;
They are believed to have brought Marijuana with them, introducing it to the First Slavic and European cultures.
Marijuana Spreads throughout the Ancient World
700-600 BCE – First signs of Marijuana in Ancient Persia. The Zoroastrian Zendavsta, an ancient persian religious text, refers to Bhang (Indian term for the Marijuana plant) as a “good narcotic”.
750 BCE – Oldest traces of marijuana found in the Middle East date back to 750 BCE. Cannabis residues were found on an Iron Age shrine known as the ‘Holy of Holies’.
600 BCE – Usages of Hemp Rope found in Southern Russia
700-300 BCE – Religious usages of Marijuana in the Scythian Culture. Cannabis Seeds were found as offerings in royal tombs.
430 BCE – The Greek Historian Herodotus reports the recreational and ritual usage of Cannabis by the Scythians.
200 BCE – Hemp Ropes appear in Greece.
100 BCE – The first evidence of Paper made out of Hemp found in China
100-0 BCE – The First written signs of psychotropic effects of Ganja found in the herbal Pen Ts’as Ching.
0 – 100 AD Siberian tomb uncovered containing a Gold and Glass Samaritan Stash box that was storing Hashish, Coriander and salt.
Widespread Usage of Marijuana in Human Cultures
570 AD The Merovingian and Frankish Queen Arnegunde was found buried in hemp shroud and clothing.
500 – 600 AD The Sacred Jewish book, the Talmud talks about the euphoric properties of Weed.
850 AD Signs of usage of Hemp ropes in Viking and Danish cultures.
This now shows that even the northern European cultures are now using Hemp materials. There are also signs that the Danes and Vikings cultivated Marijuana.
This travel of Cannabis throughout these different lands also shows how man-kind had adapted and domesticated this plant to the environment.
From the humid lands of China, to the Cold lands of the Vikings passing by the arid desert of the Middle east, we’ve trained weed to grow everywhere.
(Note: The agriculture of Weed in the northern lands is what gave us the sub-strain of Cannabis Sativa, Cannabis Sativa-Indica)
Cannabis Usage spreads through the Arab World
900 AD First signs that the Arabic cultures learned Hemp Paper-Making techniques.
900 – 1000 AD Signs that there were debates within the Arabic Scholar Community about hashish. At the same time its use spreads widely throughout the whole Arab world. This mean that usage was spreading from Mecca to Kabul to the east and to Spain to the west.
1000 AD Usage of hemp ropes widely found on Italian Ships.
First written warnings of the potential dangers of Marijuana in the Arabic Physician Ibn Wahshiyah’s On Poisons book.
1090-1124 AD Some of the earliest tales of the use of Hashish by paramilitary organisations as a hypnotic in Khorasan, Persia.
At this time Hashish smoking becomes very popular within the middle east.
1155-1221 AD Legends in the Persian Culture of the Sufi Master Sheikh Haydar’s personal discovery of Weed and alleged invention of Hashish, which then spread to Iraq, Egypt, Bahrain, Syria and the other Mediterranean Arabic Countries.
1171-1341 AD Cannabis is introduced to Egypt by mystic Syrian devotees under the Ayyubid Dynasty.
1200 AD Hashish is present in the famous collection of Arabian tales, 1001 Nights, where it is described as intoxicating and aphrodisiac.
1300’s Ibn al-Baytar of Spain describes the plant as psychoactive.
Arab traders bring Marijuana to the Mozambique coast of Africa.
Marco Polo’s gives second hand reports of Hashish usage.
Ethiopian pipes containing marijuana residue dating from that time period have been found. This suggests that the usage spred from Egypt to the rest of the African continent.
1378 AD First prohibition of Marijuana in recorded History – The Ottoman Emir Soudoun Scheikhouni issues an edict against eating Hashish.
Marijuana in Europe
1532 AD In the french writers book “Gargantua and Pantagruel” there are mentions of Marijuana’s medicinal effects.
This shows that, Cannabis was well accepted in the 16th Century French Culture.
1533 AD In England, King Henry the 8th fined farmers if they did not grow hemp.
1563 AD Report from the Portuguese Physician Garcia da Orta talk of the medicinal effects of Cannabis
1600 AD England starts to import Hemp from Russia.
The fines for not growing Hemp and the beginning of imports show the strategic importance of Hemp within a countries economic development at the time.
European Hemp in the America’s
1600’s The French and the British start cultivating Hemp in their colonies, especially in Port Royal, Virginia and Plymouth.
1616-1619 The first permanent English settlement, in what is now Virginia, Jamestown pass a law that makes the cultivation of Indian Hemp mandatory
1621 Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy suggests marijuana may treat depression.
1631-1632 Massachusetts and Connecticut pass laws similar to Virginia. The use of the hemp is mainly for rope and fabric (George Washington grew Marijuana as one of 3 main crops)
1600-1700 Hashish grows in consumption and becomes one the the main trade items between Central and South Asia
1760-1790 AD Dispensaries start having Medical Marijuana in their stocks.
1794 AD Kentucky starts to grow hemp massively.
1798 AD Second Prohibition of Marijuana in History – After discovering that the Soldiers returning from Egypt bring back the tradition of smoking hashish, he declares total prohibition, although it strongly remained in the culture (the french now being one of the biggest smokers of Hashish in the word).
1800’s Cannabis plantations flourish all over the North American continent and especially in in Mississippi, Georgia, California, South Carolina, Nebraska, New York, and Kentucky.
Weed Throughout the World
1830’s Sir William Brooke O’Shaughnessy, an Irish doctor studying in India, found that cannabis extracts could help lessen stomach pain and vomiting in people suffering from cholera.
1840’s Medicinal Cannabis based solutions are available on the market in most of the world. In Persia Hashish is even available in pharmacies. Multiple publications about Marijuana come out. From O’Shaughness’s paper in the English Medical Journals to the French Moreau in his book Hashish and Metal Illness’s. Cannabis is in the center of discussions within the intellectuals of the time.
1850 Marijuana is added in the U.S Parmacopoeia, which is a recollection of recognized pharmaceutical drugs and their usages.
1850-1915 Marijuana was used widely throughout the United States and Europe as a medicinal drug. It could be purchased easily in stores and pharmacies.
1856 The British set up a tax in Indian on Ganja and Charas (Indian style of Hashish).
1857-1858 Multiple writings in France and the US about marijuana; In Beaudelaire’s book On the Artificial Ideal and Ludlow’s The Hasheesh Eater.
1890 Hashish being banned – In Greece the Department of the Interior prohibits the cultivation and use of Hashish and in Turkey the use of Hashish is made illegal. At that time it is known that Queen Victoria was under a medical marijuana treatment prescribed by her chief physician Sir J.R Reynolds.
1894 In India, the Hemp Drugs Commission issues a report starting that between 70,000kg and 80,000 kg of hashish are legally imported from Central Asian countries every year.
The 20th Century – The End of Thousands of Years of Partnership
Early 20th Century Hashish smoking is still very popular within the Middle East.
1906 The Pure Food and Drug Act is passed in the USA. This Act labels products containing Alcohol, Opiates, Cocaine and Cannabis among other drugs.
1910 – End of the Mexican Revolution creates a influx of Mexican Immigrants which increases the habit of recreational use of Marijuana. The usage in the United States was more of a medical than recreational one.
The Distrust in Marijuana Begins
1914 The Harrison Act – This act defines Marihuana, among other drugs, as a crime. At this time, Marihuana was associated to Mexican’s do to their recreational use, not hemp and Cannabis for Textile and Medical usages, although the law does not exclude them.
1916 The Chief Scientist of the USDA (United State Department of Agriculture) Jason L. Merrill and Lyster H. Dewey studied paper made from hemp.
Their studies concluded that Hemp Pulp was “favorable in comparison to those made from wood pulp” in the USDA’s bulletin number 404 (here’s the archives link to all the content of that research).
They report that “1 acre of Hemp, in annual rotation over 20 years, would produce as much pulp for paper as 4.1 acres of trees being cut down of the same time period.” Furthermore, “This process would only use 1/7th to 1/4th as much polluting sulfur-based acid chemicals […] or even none if using soda hash; the problem of Dioxin contamination of rivers is also avoided in the hemp paper making process since it does not need to be bleached with chlorine. Instead the use of Hydrogen Peroxide can be done, which is safe.”
They concluded by the following:
If the new hemp paper process were legal today (1916), it would soon replace about 70% of wood pulp paper usage, including printout paper, corrugated boxes and paper bags. – Jason L. Merrill
So basically, Hemp has a much higher yield, is much safer for the environment.
The country already had the equipment through its cotton, wool and linen industries so the initial investment was not high in order to start production.
Unfortunately this small investment needed was not made, and now 100 years later we’re losing a huge amount of earths forests in order to make these products
1915-1927 Cannabis starts to be prohibited in non-medical usages. The first Prohibitions go as follows:
California (1915), Texas (1919), Louisiana (1924), and New York (1927). (Funny how CA was already in the forefront of whatever was going on)
1919 The Prohibition Begins – 18th Amendment bans the manufacture, transportation and same of alcohol which positions Marijuana as an attractive alternative. Its recreational use increases strongly.
1920 – In Greece, the dictator Ioannis Metaxas rages war against Hasish smokers.
1924 In Russia the classification of another major strain is made, Cannabis Ruderalis is born.
Let the Banning of Marijuana Begin
1926 Lebanon bans the production of Hashish
1928 Great Britain bans Recreational use of Marijuana
1930 The imports of Ganja and Charas in the indies continue to soar. The English Crown taxes over 91,000 kg of imports to the Northwester Frontier and the Punjab region of India. These imports originate for the Chinese Turkestan region.
1933 End of the Prohibition – Congress repeals the 21st Amendment and alcohol is legal again. Within just 4 years Marijuana will be fully prohibited.
Note: While the prohibition of alcohol lasted 14 years, we’ve been stuck for 80..
1934-35 The Chinese government decides to end all culture of Marijuana and Charas (Hashish) Trafficking. The production becomes illigal in Chinese Turkestan
1936 Strong U.S Government campaigns done in order to position Cannabis as a dangerous drugs. Propaganda films such as Reefer Madness are shown in theaters.
These propaganda films show teenagers smoking and then going crazy, having sex, killing family member while their friends are laughing or plain old suicide.
The aim of these movies was to change the perception of Marijuana and scare the youth away from Cannabis.
Check out the trailer on the right hand side, you’ll be amazed. The third voice pushed everyone to see this film, almost like a public hazard warning; “See this movie before it’s too late”.
This is why the older generations have such a bad view of Cannabis, it’s been pounded in their minds as a dangerous drug (where-as cigarettes are presented as safe”)
Reefer Madness Trailer – A Marijuana Ban Propaganda film
1937 After a successful disinformation campaign, the U.S Congress passes the Marijuana Tax Act, criminalizing Cannabis. In response Dr William C. Woodward, an early defender of Medical Marijuana, testified on behalf of the AMA (American Medical Association) against the Act. This is the gist of what he said
“The American Medical Association knows of no evidence that marijuana is a dangerous drug”
and then warned Congress that a prohibition would
“lose sight of the fact that future investigation may show that there are substantial medical uses for Cannabis.”
His comments were ignored.
On the other hand, A part of the testimony for Congress to pass the 1937 act derived from articles in newspapers owned by William Randolph Hearst. This man also had significant financial interests in the timber industry, which… manufactured newspaper. It’s good to see how things haven’t changed since the late 30s..
1938 The supply from China to India in Charas nearly dropped to 0.
The US company DuPont patents the process of creating plastics from coal and oil, as well as new processes for creating paper from wood pulp.
Cannabis is fully taken out of the Citizens every day life
1941 Marijuana is removed the U.S Pharmacopoeia. Its use as a medicinal drug is no longer recognized in the USA.
The same year in India the government considers the cultivation of Kashmir to fill the gap of Hashish production in Turkestan.
1942 U.S Scientists working at the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the CIA’s predecessor, develop a first “truth serum” from Marijuana extracts. Its code name was given “TD”, for Truth Drug.
It was said to be injected into food or tobacco cigarettes in order to help loosen the reserve of recalcitrant subjects.
1951 2 Acts increase all drug penalties and lay down mandatory sentences for the usage of said drugs. The Boggs Act and the Narcotics Control Act.
1960 Researchers from the Czech Republic confirm that Marijuana has antibiotic and analgesic effects
1963 The Turkish government starts applying the restrictions and Hashish. The police seize over 2.5 tons of hashish.
The Cannabis Plant keeps on developing
1965 First reports of the Afghani strain Cannabis Afghanica produced in the northern regions of Afghanistan.
1967 Red Lebanese hashish reaches California
1970-72 Afghanistan increases its agriculture of Marijuana. Huge fields are transformed into Weed crops.
Afghani Hashish strains are introduced to North America for seed production.
By the end of 1972, Westerners bring metal sieve cloths to Afghanistan and pressure the law enforcement to place efforts against hashish production in Afghanistan.
Bans and Restrictions continue, all common sense shows otherwise
1970 The US NORML (National Organization for the reform of Marijuana Laws) forms.
The same year the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act was passed and repeals mandatory penalties for drug offenses. Marijuana was placed separately from other Narcotics.
1971 First research findings suggesting that Marijuana could help for Glaucoma.
1972 The Shafer Commission, appointed my Nixon (of all guys) urged for Marijuana to be re-legalized. Their recommendation was ignored but the U.S Medical Research community picks up pace.
California makes the first attempt of re-legalizing marijuana with Proposition 19, which fail with 66% of people voting against the bill.
1973 The Afghan government makes the production and sale of Hashish illegal. It will later be replace by opium.
In Nepal, the sale of Cannabis and Charas is made illegal also.
1975 First appearance of the cannabinoid-based medication “Nabilone”.
1976 In the USA, while the drug is illegal, the Federal Government creats an Investigation
1976 The U.S. federal government created the Investigational New Drug (IND) Compassionate Use research program which allows patients that need it to receive up to 9 pounds of Cannabis for the Government and paid for by federal dollars.
At the same time, the US FDA continues to list marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug; meaning it’s “A high potential for abuse with no accepted medical value”.
Makes perfect sens right..?
1977 The world wide known scientist Carl Sagan proposes that Marijuana may have been the world’s first agricultural crop, leading to the development of civilization itself. Here’s a couple famous quotes of his on the subject:
The illegality of cannabis is outrageous, an impediment to full utilization of a drug which helps produce the serenity and insight, sensitivity and fellowship so desperately needed in this increasingly mad and dangerous world.” — Carl Sagan
“It would be wryly interesting if in human history the cultivation of marijuana led generally to the invention of agriculture, and thereby to civilization.”—The Dragons of Eden, Speculations on the Origin of Human Intelligence p 191 footnote. Carl Sagan
1977-81 U.S President Carter and his dug policy assistant pushed for the Decriminalization of Marijuana. The president himself went to plea the congress to abolish the Federal Criminal penalties for anyone caught with less than an ounce of weed.
1980s Morocco becomes of the largest countries producing and exporting Hashish. At this point it has possibly become the largest country producing and exporting hashish. Its production in mainly intended for Europe.
1985 The FDA approves dronabinol, a synthetic TetraHydroCannabinol (THC), for cancer patients.
Let the Paradox Continue
1986 The US President Reagan signs the Anti-Drug Abuse Act which reinstates mandatory minimums for drug penalties and increases federal penalties for possessions and distribution of drugs.
The USA officially begins it’s international “war on drugs”
1987 The Moroccan government crack down on the Cultivation of Marijuana, especially in the region of the “Rif Mountains”, where most of the production is concentrated (still true to this day).
Marijuana is now illegal in Morocco, although the cultivation and consumption is widely common in the country.
1988 After long and tough hearings, the US DEA Judge Francis Young finds that Marijuana has a clearly established medical use and as such should be reclassified as a prescriptive drug.
He is ignored.
1992 Due to a surge in in requests for Medical Marijuana by AIDS Patients, the US government closes the Compassionate Use Program which provided medical marijuana to patients in need.
That same year the pharmaceutical medication, Dronabinol (synthetic THC), is approved for AIDS-related syndroms
1993 Publicly, the Moroccan government resumes efforts to eradicate the cultivation of Cannabis.
1995 Hashish-making equipment appears. First locally produced hashish’s start in Amsterdam Coffee Shops..
The Road Back to our Long Lost Partner (re-legalization)