Humans have been using the cannabis plant for over 10,000 years of our history. Nowadays, cannabis is used recreationally, medicinally, and for making textile materials. When did we start using cannabis for each of these purposes? We were curious, so we did some research to find out more about cannabis history. Where did cannabis originally came from and how did we get to where we are today.
First Cases of Hemp Use (8,000+ BC – 6,000 BC)
Cannabis History of Textile Use in Taiwan (8,000 BC)
The first evidence of cannabis use was in modern day Taiwan. Pottery in an ancient village site contained cords of hemp. The village dates back nearly 12,000 years so cannabis is one of the first cases of human agriculture. Some scientists suggest cannabis could be the first agricultural crop, which would mean cannabis helped develop civilization itself.
Cannabis History of Food Use in China and Japan (6,000 BC)
The next case of hemp use is in 6,000 BC China. Back then, hemp seeds were pressed for oil which was used for cooking or as a salad dressing. Also, seeds were roasted or eaten raw as a snack. A similar case of hemp seed use was recently discovered in Japan. Furthermore, the Japanese seeds dated back 10,000 years, giving us insight on the first nutritional use of cannabis.
Cannabis History of Medical Use (2,737 BC – 800 BC)
Ancient China (2,737 BC)
Marijuana was used for medicinal purposes as early as 2737 B.C. First, Emperor Shen Neng of China was recorded prescribing marijuana tea to treat gout, rheumatism, malaria and even poor memory.
India (2,000 BC – 800 BC)
Likewise, bhang was used by Hindus starting thousands of years ago. A Hindu sacred text Atharvaveda (Science of Charms) refers to cannabis as “Sacred Grass.” Furthermore, it was used by Indians medicinally and ritually as an offering to Shiva.
Cannabis’ Journey From East to West
Most evidence of early cannabis use points to the Asian continent. However, cannabis’ next stop would be in the Middle East.
Scythia (1,500 BC)
While cannabis continued to be used in china for food and fiber, the Scythian culture picked up on using cannabis to weave hemp clothing. Scythia reached parts of modern day Iran, Afghanistan, Russia and more. The Scythian kingdom connected eastern Europe to Central Asia. So, they probably were responsible for cannabis’ eventual arrival to the European continent. In 430 B.C., Herodotus reported on both ritual and recreational use of Cannabis by Scythians. This places the origin of marijuana’s recreational use close to the Middle East.
Persia (700 BC – 600 BC)
Next stop on the timeline, Persia. An ancient Persian religious text of several hundred volumes referred to bhang as a “good narcotic.” Persians were the first to note marijuana’s sleep causing properties.
Cannabis Use Begins in Europe (47-200 AD)
Greece (47-200 AD)
The Greek scholar Plutarch mentions the Thracian use of cannabis as an intoxicant. To clarify, the Thracians are a tribe of Indo-Europeans that inhabited southern Europe. Between 130 and 200 AD, the Greek physician Galen prescribed medical marijuana to patients.
Rome (50-70 AD)
Pliny the Elder, a Roman philosopher mentioned hemp rope and marijuana’s pain relieving effects in The Natural History. Similarly, Dioscorides, a physician in the Roman army listed marijuana as a medicine in his Pharmacopoeia.
Recreational Use of Cannabis Rises in Popularity (1090 – 1300)
The use of hashish is mentioned in the tales of a group of assassins. Another persian legend details Sufi master Sheik Haydar’s personal discovery of Cannabis. More specifically, Haydar claims to have invented hashish. Then, it spread it to Iraq, Egypt, and Syria.
Cannabis found in Ethiopian pipes dates back as early as the year 1300. Moreover, Egypt may have been the bridge that brought cannabis to the rest of Africa.
First Cannabis Prohibitions (1253 – 1378)
Egyptian authorities were the first to initiate a drug war. In 1253, hashish eaters had their teeth yanked out. On the other hand, cannabis growers of the time received the death penalty.
Ottoman Empire (1378)
One of the very first recorded cases of prohibition was in the Ottoman Empire. In 1378, Ottoman Emir Soudoun Scheukhouni blamed cannabis for laziness. Then, he declared the world’s first law against eating hashish.
Cannabis Sets Sail (1600 – 1900’s)
American Colonies (1606-1632)
According to cannabis history. Marijuana was brought to the Americas by French and British colonists. However, only hemp was cultivated in the colonies. In 1606, the French brought hemp to Port Royal in Canada. In 1611, the English cultivated hemp in their Virginia colony. Then later again, in the Plymouth colony.
United States (1840 – 1915)
In America, medical preparations with a Cannabis base were available by the 1840s. Additionally, cannabis is added to The U.S. Pharmacopoeia ten years later. From 1850 to 1915, cannabis was widely used as a medicinal drug in pharmacies and general stores. After the Harrison Act of 1914, marijuana use became a crime for the first time in the U.S.
Recreational use of Cannabis is banned in all of Britain while the United States bans the plant state by state.
United States (1937 – Today)
A year after the spread of the Reefer Madness propaganda film, Congress passed the Marijuana Tax Act. The Marijuana Tax Act criminalized marijuana. In 1986, President Reagan signed the Anti-Drug Abuse Act, which reinstated mandatory minimums and raised federal penalties for possession and distribution of marijuana. Fortunately, California re-legalized marijuana in 1996. Since then, several states and even countries have followed and many others are making attempts to legalize marijuana. On the not so bright side, Cannabis remains on the schedule I list making it federally illegal.