Read this article and discover the History of Cannabis!
Cannabis is known by a number of different names; weed, marijuana, pot, and many more. Through archaeological evidence, researchers have discovered that humans began using cannabis at least as far back as the third millennium BC, in China. Its various roles in many human civilisations throughout history makes it a very interesting plant to explore, with myriad uses and a long line of users.
Ancient Uses of Cannabis
Marijuana had a diverse range of uses to its first cultivators. The plant was cultivated to enable the manufacture of hemp, which civilisations used to make fibre, pottery, clothing, an early form of paper, and an array of other products. Furthermore, cannabis was also a very popular medicine, used in China due to its possession of both ‘yin and yang’, in Ancient Egypt, India and other parts of Asia, cannabis was commonly prescribed for various infections and diseases such as inflammation, earaches, and malaria. Its psychoactive properties were also popular in the context of both religious and recreational use.
Global Spread of Marijuana
Stemming from China, the use of hashish (cannabis resin) began to spread to the Middle East. Countries including Iraq and Iran saw the plant spilling over into the Persian world. By the 16th century, Arab and Indian Hindu travellers introduced recreational cannabis use to Syria, Egypt, and other parts of Africa. Marijuana then arrived in Europe and was slowly introduced to the Western Hemisphere by the Spaniards in the mid-17th Century. Marijuana, cannabis, hemp, dope, was now omnipresent.
History of Cannabis in America
Cannabis cultivation played a major role in the US. George Washington grew hemp at Mount Vernon as one of his three primary crops. Despite the use of hemp/cannabis becoming increasingly popular for medical and recreational use, its use for fibre, rope and fabric later became ubiquitous as farmers saw the plethora of uses for the plant. The cannabis plant, at this point in time, had generally positive connotations attached to it, and it was only later on in time, moving into the 19th and 20th Century, that restrictions started to be put in place, and the negative stigma started latching on to the plant.
By the early 1900s, cannabis restrictions began to rise to the surface. Events such as the Pure Food and Drug Act, the International Opium Convention, and the Uniform State Narcotic Drug Act – which all took place in the early half of the century – began to tarnish cannabis’ reputation. Once the Marihuana Tax Act had been put in place in 1937, marijuana became illegal to possess or transfer throughout the United States under federal law, excluding medical and industrial uses. Over the 20th Century, many acts and laws were passed, with many research papers being conducted to try to further understand the negative externalities and benefits of the plant.
In the early 1970s and 1980s, a number of states passed legislation addressing the medical use of cannabis. New Mexico was the first to do so in 1978, and by the end of 1982 over thirty states had followed suit. Following a large number of decriminalisation acts over the decades, the second wave of decriminalisation began in the 21st Century.
Marijuana is now legal for all adults in 11 states, and for medical purposes in 34. As the new presidency begins, it has been forecasted that many more states will legalise cannabis for both recreational and medical use.
How is Cannabis restricted in the rest of the world?
Restrictions began as early as the 14th Century. However, it was in the 20th century when cannabis saw international restrictions throughout most of the world. Despite international stigma to cannabis, the Netherlands became the first country to legalise cannabis. As other countries followed, more nations, scientists, and governments are realising the medical benefits of cannabis as well as the economic potential of this industry. In 2020, the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) stated that they would follow the World Health Organisation’s recommendation to remove cannabis from the ‘most dangerous’ drug category – a great achievement for cannabis advocates.
As the number of countries legalising the use of cannabis increases, the economic and medical benefits will be more visible, creating a blossoming and remarkable industry.
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