The history of cannabis

This is a summary of key points from HIGH POINTS: AN HISTORICAL GEOGRAPHY OF CANNABIS detailing the origins of the first use of cannabis.

Who was the first person to smoke weed??

The earliest use of cannabis may have occurred 12000 years ago during the domestication of crops and before recorded history to include paintings of cannabis discovered on Yangshao-era pottery dating to 6,2000 BC.

However, the first evidence of use was found in the form of burned and unburnt cannabis seeds in:

  • the burial mounds of Pazaryk tribes in Siberia at 3,000 and 2,500 BC.
  • Neolithic sites ranging from Finland to Bulgaria in 3000 BC
  • and as an anesthetic for emperor Shen Nung in 2737 BC according to  carbon-14 dating.
  • Viking ships dating to the mid 9th century

Cannabis continued to spread rapidly making way through the Silk road to Mongolia, Turva, and the Middle East In 2000BC. From China, it eventually made way to Japan and Korea in 2000BC. Migration from India took the plant to Tibet and Nepal 500-600AD. 

To Eastern Europe, Cannabis eventually migrated to Germany via Teutonic tribes and eventually to Britain during 5th-century invasions.

Cannabis pollen was even uncovered from the tomb of Ramses II


Empires such as the British were interested in hemp which could be used for a variety of items to include sails, paper, rope, and clothing. Russia became the primary supplier of cannabis... which led empires, such as Britain to seek out their own sources. Queen Elizabeth imposed a decree to require the growing of hemp from certain landowners as well as colonial American companies. 

Latin America

Cannabis continued to spread with the rise of capitalism being introduced to Latin America Multiple times. European contact with Latin America popularized its usage with the introduction of the pipe for its desirable mind-altering effects. The Portuguese and Spanish both aided in its increased Popularity. Cannabis was quickly adopted by the indigenous mestizos that were no stranger to hallucinogenic drugs. Integration with subculture was quick. In addition, the Spanish made efforts to develop the plant for its hemp byproduct which could be used for sustaining its imperial fleet.


Cannabis and hemp Usage

  • Hemp found its usage in chines manufacturing for rope clothing and sails.  The Daoist and Shinto burnt hemp in ceremoniously. The Japan Jomon culture used hemp patterns in pottery. In India cannabis was used religiously where it is still offered to the god Shiva on Shivaratri day.
  • In the 1500's Portuguese physicians recommended22 cannabis for treating ills
  • Assyrians, Egyptians, and Hebrews burned cannabis as an incense 1000BC
  • Hemp was used for priests robes in Solomon's temple
  • Jews may have used hashish
  • In Greece cannabis was used for both its fiber and psychoactive properties
  • Romans taxed the plant
  • The Middle East used the herb as a sacred medicine
  • 1911 Revolution curtails Opium exports leading to increased cannabis usage
  • Alcohol and cannabis was used to appease workers
  • Indian workers took cannabis to Barbados and Jamaica where it was tolerated as long as sugar cane was produced
  • Twenty-Four states have decriminalized the possession of one-ounce weed
  • Canada has legalized the use of cannabis
  • Britain has cannabis downgraded from a scheduled 1 to a class 3 drug


Origin of Cannabis Nicknames

Cannabis - The scientific name of the plant, cannabis is colloquially the most commonly used term for the herb.

Ganja - Mentioned in the Indian Bhagavad-Gita where cannabis is said to spiritually connect to the god Ganga

Reefer - On sailing ships reefing a sail reduces the area of the sail and "reefer" is the term used for the sailor that does it. A reefed sail looks much like a joint.

Marijuana - Believed to originate from the Chinese term for hemp seed flower "ma ren hua."

Dope - Applies to a wide range of drugs to include cannabis, dope come from the Dutch word doop, meaning sauce. 

Pot - A Spanish term Potacion de guya is a term used for alcohol steeped in Canibus leaves. Translates to "potion of grief." Now shorten to pot. 

Grass - In Hindu cannabis is mentioned as sacred grass - Not to mention the herbs eerie look alike.

Weed -  Originating from African-American slang who can forget about "smoke weed every day?"

Effects of Cannabis

Cannabis is a psychoactive drug used to obtain a high. Its cousin widely known as hemp is the Cannabis Sativa L which is not psychoactive. Each variant of cannabis has its own subspecies. Applications of cannabis include hemp include rope, clothing, paper, and sail making. Very closely related but nonidentical to its psychoactive cannabis sativa. The sticky resin produced frofemalefemail is rich in cannabinoids. Contains the psycoactive THC. 

The Decline of Marijuana


  • The Tenants of Confucianism frowned on the use of cannabis leading to its decline in both China and Japan.
  • In 1484 Pope Innocent VIII linked cannabis to witchcraft 
  • Governor of Cairo initiated a crackdown on the use of cannabis
  • The invention of the Cotton Gin decreased the need for help
  • Was used as a scapegoat for Britain to explain disorder in India which was primarily a result of taxation. The colonial government concluded that cannabis produces insanity.
  • British sought to protect the plant but was pressured by the League of nations to limit the use of the drug, Now having it classified as a poison.
  • Reefer Madness -In America concentrated amongst Mexican immigrants and racism - cannabis was used as a tool to spike emotions to regard cannabis as the leading cause of property crime and murder. 1920 not only saw the prohibition of alcohol, but the prohibition of many other substances to include cocaine and cannabis. While prohibition restricted the manufacture and distribution of alcohol, marijuana prohibited all to include possession and consumption. Cotton growers were seen to be the driving force behind the outlaw of cannabis and its byproduct hemp.  29 states outlawed the plant by 1931. Cannabis depicted as a drug that only destroys to include the film Reefer Madness... Cannabis was eventually criminalized. 

Consequences :

cannabis is viewed as a schedule 1 controlled substance by most governments. Despite the fact, cannabis the most widely used illegal substance to date. Penalties for consuming, possessing or distributing cannabis can range from fines to years in jail. Cannabis users can potentially be convicted as a felon restricting access to government programs that do not apply to murderers or rapists. Nonviolent cannabis users utilize a good proportion of rehabilitation prison space. Cannabis has never been documented to kill in contrast to tobacco and alcohol usage.Cannabis remains a sociological and political debate. 


     Origine of Hashish

    In the middle east, the popular form of ingesting cannabis was eating. IT was not until the introduction of tobacco that smoking hashish became popular. Hashish is an extract of the cannabis plant highly concentrated in THC( the psychoactive element that results in the high.)The recreational use of hashish spread during the Mongol invasion in the 13th century. Muslims were forbidden from consuming alcohol, Nothing states that cannabis cannot be consumed.


    Cannabis has a history of use predating modern records. Governmental acceptance and distrust has long aided its rapid spread as well as its criminalization. Modern era of acceptance has now lead to its resurface as a taboo to to itsacceptance. Time will tell how accepting society can be. 

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