In 1997, a hemp rope was found in Czechoslovakia dating back to 26900 BC, making it the oldest known object associated with marijuana history to date. Since then, cannabis has played an important role in the development of cultures around the world. For thousands of years, cannabis was not only legal, but an important staple across the globe holding medicinal, commercial and spiritual value.
The Earliest Known Use of Cannabis in China
The cultivation of cannabis can be traced back at least 12,000 years, making it one of humanity’s oldest grown crops. Cannabis is believed to have first evolved from Central Asia. The earliest known evidence of cannabis comes from the Yangshao in China, along the Yellow River Valley.
The economy of Yangshao was cannabis-driven from 5000 to 3000 BC. Archaeological evidence shows that the Yangshao produced hemp pottery and woven cannabis fibre (hemp). Archeologists found that the hemp was used to make rope, clothes, fishing nets and even paper. It is even believed that the Chinese invented the first hemp paper. Cannabis seeds were also used to create CBD oil, for food and ailments in China.
According to legend, in 2700 BC, Chinese Emperor Shen Nug was the very first person to use cannabis as a medicine. The Emperor, also known as Chen, is considered to be the Father of Chinese Medicine. The Chinese were the first known people to use cannabis for medical issues such as constipation, fatigues, gout, and an anesthetic for surgeries.
One of the first references to marijuana occurred under the Chinese Emperor Fu Hsi reign. Fu Hsi made many mentions of “Ma”, the Chinese term for marijuana or cannabis. Records show that the Emperor also referred to cannabis as a popular medicine for both yin and yang.
Cannabis in Central Asia
Historical scholars often consider the Scythians in Siberia as the originators of cannabis. Around the 7th century, marijuana was a vital part of the Scythian culture. The Scythian’s used marijuana to pay tribute to deceased leader’s spirits and memories. Scythian men and women also smoked marijuana for pleasure and other religious rituals in addition to everyday life uses.
Cannabis in Europe and America
The history of marijuana has it recorded that the Chinese cannabis plant was first brought to Korea in 2000 BC. Korean farmers planted marijuana plants across Southern Asia, and the plant spread to India, Europe, the Middle Eat, the Ukraine and Southeast Russia.
The plant was reportedly brought to Germany by German tribes and to Britain by Anglo-Saxons around 1200 AD. During this time, marijuana was also being spread across the Middle East, South America, Africa and the Caribbean.
In the 1800’s, marijuana was widely used in Brazil by the lower class for medicine, spices, clothing and energy, but by the 19th century, cannabis was banned in Rio de Janeiro.
During the 1800’s, cannabis also gained popularity in Jamaica, from Indian laborers traveling to the region for work. In the 1930’s the Rastafarian movement began taking place, with marijuana at the forefront of the movement in a religious context and group ideologies.
It was during the Mexican Revolution that cannabis seeds first found their way to North America, brought by Mexican immigrants. In 1910, Mexican immigrants introduced marijuana to Americans as recreational, rather than for its medical uses.
In the 1970’s marijuana cultivation grew in huge amounts in Afghanistan, but by 1972, the Afghan government begun its efforts to regulate and limit the use of marijuana.
History of Cannabis in the United States
Throughout the 19th century, medical journals and news reports typically used the plant’s formal name, cannabis. The term marijuana came in to popular usage in the US early in the 20th century as way to play off anti-immigration sentiments during the Mexican Revolution.
In 1906, the Pure Food and Drug Act came into effect in the US. This act regulated the labeling of medicinal and food for products such as alcohol, cannabis, opiates and cocaine. In 1916, scientists of the department of Agriculture used hemp pulp for the manufacturing of paper. It was concluded that pulpwood was more favorable for this process.
Utah was the first state to prohibit the use of cannabis for non-medical uses in 1915. By 1941, 28 other states had followed in suit. The government appeared to mirror the actions of the states and the UK, who in 1928 banned marijuana for personal use.
In 1919, the 18th Amendment was added to the US Constitution, prohibiting the sale, manufacturing and transport of alcohol. During this prohibition, marijuana became a popular alternative to the consumption of alcohol, until its ban recreationally.
In 1936 an anti-marijuana propaganda film, “Reefer Madness.” was released in an effort to intimidate young Americans from the use of cannabis. The following year, in 1937, the Marijuana Tax Act was passed making weed illegal. In 1941, cannabis was removed off of the US Pharmacopoeia thereby terminating its status of medicinal use. In the years that followed, drug use penalties, including marijuana intensified with the passing of the Narcotics Control Act and the Boggs Act.
U.S. History of Marijuana: 1970s, 1980s, 1990s
In the 1970s evidence arose that supported cannabis use in glaucoma sufferers, marking the beginning of CBD history. During this time the Shafer Commission and President Nixon’s government began encouraging the re-legalization of marijuana and cannabis. This was not widely supported and California’s Proposition 19 did not receive a majority vote.
U.S. President Carter in the late 1970s began the decriminalization of cannabis for those who were caught with under an ounce. In opposition to President Carter, President Reagan came into office signing the Anti-Drug Abuse Act, sequentially raising sanction for the possession and distribution of drugs. This is marked as the beginning of the “war on drugs” in the U.S.
In 1996 major strides were taken in the U.S. towards the study and recognition of marijuana’s medicinal properties. This same year, California was the first state to re-legalize medical marijuana for certain illnesses, such as AIDS and cancer. Later that year Arizona followed suit with many other states; Vermont, New Mexico, Washington and Colorado.
Marijuana in the 21st Century
In the 21st century, governments have become more and more accepting of marijuana, both medically and recreationally around the world.
In 2001, Canada changed their federal laws in support of medicinal cannabis. Within three years, Canada became the first county ever to approve and support the use of marijuana medically across the whole country.
President Obama made strides to end the two-decade war on drugs in the US. In 2009 President Obama asserted that drug use is a public health issue rather than the U.S. Justice Department. In 2010, California Proposition 19 resurfaced and passed, illustrating voter’s perception of marijuana use. Colorado and Washington state both passed recreational use of marijuana in 2012 and Seattle became the home of the first legal recreational pot shop in 2014.
Since then many U.S. states are jumping on board with the legalization of recreational cannabis. However, the federal government still continues to classify marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug. Meaning that it is classified the same as LSD and heroine. Marijuana remains under this classification because of the government’s perception that marijuana has no safe level of use, no accepted medical use and a high risk of abuse and addiction.
Marijuana history has its roots throughout America and stretches all around the globe. The accepted uses of marijuana, medicinally, recreationally and as a product manufacturer is widely argued in cultures around the world today. Although cannabis history has come a long way to the marijuana laws and regulations we know today, marijuana’s place in everyday life is still being molded and established and will likely change in the years to come.