Just how long have humans been interacting with Cannabis? Hemp seeds were used as a food source in China since as early as 6000 BC. That’s 8000 years ago! Around 4000 BC, hemp paper and textiles became the norm in China. And, finally, in 2727 BC (4750 years ago), Ma, or cannabis, is mentioned in the Chinese Medicine texts, indicating it as a remedy for pain relief. By the 2nd century AD, a Chinese Dictionary called the Shuowen lists characters for both male and female cannabis plants.
The Vedas, a series of Sanskrit texts compiled in India between 1400-2000 BC, refer to Cannabis as a source of happiness and a joy giver, brought to us to “attain delight and lose fear.” It is referred to as Vijaya, or The Conqueror in Ayurvedic texts. In an ancient Persian text, it is called Vendidad, or The Law Against Demons (ref.1)
But it was all about the Scythians: a nomadic group that traveled from China to Russia and Ukraine, bringing cannabis and smoking devices with them. They hooked up the Russians, who then hooked up Germanic groups, who in turn brought it with them to Britain in the 5th century. That’s right, y’all! Vikings smoked weed and ate hemp seeds. Cuz there ain’t nothing like a soothing toke after a long day of pillaging. Over the next few centuries, the plant was brought to other areas of the world thanks to trading, invading, religious crusades, and nomadic tribes.
The history of Cannabis in North America is much more vague. Cannabis as a resource has been documented in our past; in 1619 it was actually illegal to not grow hemp in Virginia, Massachusetts, and Connecticut! As a narcotic, Cannabis was not introduced to the US until 1910 or so, during the Mexican Revolution. It was brought to America by refugees attempting to escape the violence of the war. Sadly, that is also where the negative connotations and propaganda around this wonderful herb began. Cannabis also boomed in New Orleans, to whom it was introduced by sailors and Caribbean immigrants. It became a source of medicine in 1850.
Throughout history, Cannabis has been a bringer of joy, relief from pain, and an artistic muse. Here are just a few famous creative types through history who used cannabis: Oscar Wilde, Andre Breton and most of his other surrealist cronies, Carl Sagan, Steve Jobs, Louis Armstrong, Queen Victoria of England, Pablo Picasso, American founding fathers James Monroe & Thomas Jefferson , and even William Shakespeare! Scientists have discovered cannabinoids in remnants of his smoking pipes.
So the next time you spark a bowl, think about the journey Cannabis has taken through time, and the many ways it has influenced our culture, not only in the past, but today as well. We are all a part of the future of Cannabis RIGHT NOW! And we hope it’s as Bob Marley said, and that “Herb is the healing of a nation…”