Cannabis History From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Cannabis is indigenous to Central and South Asia. Evidence of the inhalation of cannabis smoke can be found in the 3rd millennium BCE, as indicated by charred cannabis seeds found in a ritual brazier at an ancient burial site in present day Romania. In 2003, a leather basket filled with cannabis leaf fragments and seeds was found next to a 2,500- to 2,800-year-old mummified shaman in the northwestern Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region of China.
Cannabis is also known to have been used by the ancient Hindus of India and Nepal thousands of years ago. The herb was called ganjika in Sanskrit (गांजा,ganja in modern Indo-Aryan languages). The ancient drug soma, mentioned in the Vedas, was sometimes associated with cannabis.
Cannabis was also known to the ancient Assyrians, who discovered its psychoactive properties through the Aryans. Using it in some religious ceremonies, they called it qunubu (meaning “way to produce smoke”), a probable origin of the modern word “cannabis”. Cannabis was also introduced by the Aryans to the Scythians, Thracians and Dacians, whose shamans (the kapnobatai—”those who walk on smoke/clouds”) burned cannabis flowers to induce a state of trance.
Cannabis has an ancient history of ritual use and is found in pharmacological cults around the world. Hemp seeds discovered by archaeologists at Pazyryk suggest early ceremonial practices like eating by the Scythians occurred during the 5th to 2nd century BCE, confirming previous historical reports by Herodotus. One writer has claimed that cannabis was used as a religious sacrament by ancient Jews and early Christians due to the similarity between the Hebrew word “qannabbos” (“cannabis“) and the Hebrew phrase “qené bósem” (“aromatic cane”). It was used by Muslims in various Sufi orders as early as the Mamluk period, for example by the Qalandars.
A study published in the South African Journal of Science showed that “pipes dug up from the garden of Shakespeare‘s home in Stratford-upon-Avon contain traces of cannabis.” The chemical analysis was carried out after researchers hypothesized that the “noted weed” mentioned in Sonnet 76 and the “journey in my head” from Sonnet 27 could be references to cannabis and the use thereof. Examples of classic literature featuring cannabis include Les paradis artificiels by Charles Baudelaire and The Hasheesh Eater by Fitz Hugh Ludlow.
John Gregory Bourke described use of “mariguan”, which he identifies as Cannabis indica or Indian hemp, by Mexican residents of the Rio Grande region of Texas in 1894. He described its uses for treatment of asthma, to expedite delivery, to keep away witches, and as a love-philtre. He also wrote that many Mexicans added the herb to their cigarritos or mescal, often taking a bite of sugar afterward to intensify the effect. Bourke wrote that because it was often used in a mixture with toloachi (which he inaccurately describes as Datura stramonium), mariguan was one of several plants known as “loco weed“. Bourke compared mariguan to hasheesh, which he called “one of the greatest curses of the East”, citing reports that users “become maniacs and are apt to commit all sorts of acts of violence and murder”, causing degeneration of the body and an idiotic appearance, and mentioned laws against sale of hasheesh “in most Eastern countries”.
Cannabis was criminalized in various countries beginning in the early 20th century. In the United States, the first restrictions for sale of cannabis came in 1906 (in District of Columbia). It was outlawed in South Africa in 1911, in Jamaica (then a British colony) in 1913, and in the United Kingdom and New Zealand in the 1920s. Canada criminalized cannabis in the Opium and Drug Act of 1923, before any reports of use of the drug in Canada. In 1925 a compromise was made at an international conference in The Hague about the International Opium Convention that banned exportation of “Indian hemp” to countries that had prohibited its use, and requiring importing countries to issue certificates approving the importation and stating that the shipment was required “exclusively for medical or scientific purposes”. It also required parties to “exercise an effective control of such a nature as to prevent the illicit international traffic in Indian hemp and especially in the resin”.
In the United States in 1937, the Marihuana Tax Act was passed, and prohibited the production of hemp in addition to cannabis. The reasons that hemp was also included in this law are disputed—several scholars have claimed that the Act was passed in order to destroy the US hemp industry, with the primary involvement of businessmen Andrew Mellon, Randolph Hearst, and the Du Pont family. With the invention of the decorticator, hemp became a very cheap substitute for the paper pulp that was used in the newspaper industry and Hearst consequently believed that his extensive timber holdings were at threat. Mellon, Secretary of the Treasury and the wealthiest man in America at that time, had invested heavily in DuPont‘s new synthetic fiber, nylon, and believed that the replacement of the traditional resource, hemp, was integral to the new product’s success.
The United Nations’ 2012 “Global Drug Report” stated that cannabis “was the world’s most widely produced, trafficked, and consumed drug in the world in 2010”, identifying that between 119 million and 224 million users existed in the world’s adult (18 or older) population.