The process of globalization makes it hard to source most of the products we use, foods we eat, and substances we ingest. Unless we grow something in our backyards or build it ourselves, it’s hard to say where in the world it came from.
The history and journey of the things in our lives, though, tend to be pretty interesting when we get down to the bottom of them. We’re going to take a look at the history of weed today, giving you an idea of how it came to be the beloved plant that we know now.
Hopefully, the information below can deepen your appreciation of the plant. Let’s get started.
A Wide Look at the History of Weed
The origins of the human use of cannabis are hard to date. We know, however, that people started using the plant by at least 500 B.C. in Central Asia. Specifically, it grows naturally in the subcontinent of India, which is where we see the first instances of its use.
The weed that grew back then, though, might not have hit the same way that it does when it comes out of the dispensary. It had some THC content as all cannabis does, but the levels wouldn’t have been as high as what we experience now.
Small amounts of THC, though, make a difference when it comes to decreasing nausea and producing hunger. The CBD content of cannabis would also have been able to reduce pain.
So, cannabis was used as a medicinal plant at that time. There might have been some use in religious ceremonies as well once the psychoactive properties were acknowledged.
Interaction in the East and Europe
People were traveling, trading, and migrating long before anyone from Europe set foot in North America. In fact, people were moving around a significant amount in 500 B.C. when cannabis use began.
As a result, the understanding and cultivation of cannabis spread throughout areas of Asia, Africa, and Europe. A good example of the length that ancient peoples could travel can be found in an artifact discovered in Sweden.
A Viking ship, dated back to 834 AD, was discovered containing a miniature sculpture of the Buddha in its bow. The sculpture is thought to have come from Northern India.
We don’t often think about ancient cultures traveling thousands of miles back and forth, but they did. When they did that, they traded, looted, and discussed their ways of doing things.
They may have even smoked some marijuana in the process. Cannabis also got its legs when cultures and religions spread throughout the land. It’s interesting to think that a substance that produces a sense of peace could have spread as the result of imperial force and brutality.
That’s a discussion for another day, though.
The Spread of Islam
The use of hashish was common in Islamic cultures in the ancient world. Its use flourished in the Middle East, ranging from Afghanistan to Morroco to Northern India.
The Greek historian Herodotus, a man who lived around 400 years after the first known use of cannabis, claimed that people he met from the Middle East often smoked hashish.
The period from 800 A.D. to around 1400 A.D. was known as the “Islamic Golden Age.” This was a period of great expansion in a number of areas. The Islamic empire spread from Eastern Russia, down to Northern India, through the Middle East, and across Northern Africa up through Spain.
Advancements in the sciences, arts, spirituality, and more were impressive at that time. One side effect of their expansion was the deliverance of cannabis to millions of people throughout that region. People gained knowledge of how to cultivate, smoke, and use cannabis in various ways.
After regions of North and South America were colonized, settlers utilized the hemp plant for a number of things. It was so important, in fact, that farmers were often required to grow hemp to help their communities.
People used hemp for clothes, medicine, sails for ships, and much more. It’s notable that George Washington himself was a cultivator of hemp. He wasn’t just growing it for utility, either!
Evidence from his journals suggests that he grew two sections of the hemp crop. One was the mass-cultivated hemp grown for utility purposes. His second crop was grown in a second area, and he tried to separate the male from female plants for some reason.
It turns out that the female plants produce flowers with higher THC content. Not that it matters too much at this point in American history, but Thomas Jefferson also smoked hemp to relieve his migraines.
Development of Hemp Use in the United States
Hemp was a common crop in The United States until The Marijuana Tax Act of 1937. This act made the growth and use of marijuana illegal except in industrial settings.
This act might have come under the guise of the government’s interest in the wellbeing of the people, but we know now that the reasons were rooted in fear and xenophobia.
After the Mexican revolution in 1910, there was an influx of Mexican immigrants who brought more refined cannabis to use than what Americans were used to. Cannabis was smoked and refined already, but the presence of cannabis was distinctive in the Mexican community and demonized as a result.
The onset of the Great Depression offered the opportunity for White Americans to create scapegoats and produce fear of outsiders taking jobs and harming communities. This occurs in a lot of instances of economic hardship or struggle.
Mexican Americans and Black Americans were both targeted as the objects of this fear. By the 1930s, cannabis was also associated with the Black community. The criminalization of cannabis was created in an effort to target and imprison as many people of these communities as possible.
The Commissioner of The Federal Bureau of Narcotics, Harry J. Anslinger was the man responsible for this Act. Playing on the fear and insecurity of the society, he knew that a law targeting minority groups would work in his favor.
If there’s any doubt about his viewpoints, it’s worth noting that he said cannabis “made Black people forget their place in society.”
Hippie Movement and Beyond
People still used cannabis in private throughout the 20th century. As we know, just because something is illegal doesn’t mean the curious masses won’t give it a shot.
When they do so, they tend to recognize the value and medicinal benefits of the drug. Open use of cannabis started to flourish, though, in the 1960s and 70s with the Beat and Hippie movements.
While still a countercultural effort, these movements captured the imagination and spirit of millions of people throughout those two decades. The use of cannabis was inherent in the process and led to the inspiration for a lot of pivotal art and music that would define future generations.
The use of cannabis by hippies was beneficial in the sense that it opened up awareness to a lot of people that might not have otherwise known. On the other hand, “hippies” were demonized in the media.
Cannabis was used as a scapegoat for the odd or harmful behavior that hippies were thought to display by mainstream America.
The War on Drugs: Nixon to Reagan
As the expansion of the mind through drug use started to take hold of American youth, there were whispers of rebellion, upheaval, protests, and general dissent.
Regardless of the reasons for doing so, those words are never welcomed by the U.S. government. As a result, the research and investigation into drugs like LSD and cannabis was stopped, and anti-drug propaganda was immediately worked into the fabric of American media.
In the early 70s, Richard Nixon started the War on Drugs, expanding the size and freedom for government agencies to arrest and punish individuals for drug-related crimes.
One of Nixon’s aides was recorded saying that the “war” was created to target the political left and the Black community. They sewed distrust and vilified both communities and used the law to break them down systematically.
Those efforts were extrapolated by Ronald and Nancy Reagan in The 80s.
We still see the ripples of those actions in society today, as Black Americans face a larger threat of arrest for marijuana convictions than any other racial group, most notably whites. Further, thousands and thousands of men and women are currently in jail or prison even though the laws that convicted them have been lifted.
In the United States as well as many other countries, efforts are being made to legalize cannabis for recreational and medical use. In The U.S., cannabis has been legalized for recreational use in 17 states, and more will follow in the coming years.
These changes have been made by a longstanding effort of the people to change the laws. Additional help has been given by the acknowledgment of medicinal benefits from THC and CBD products.
Research has increased, although there’s still more to learn. Some argue that we’d be a lot further along with drug research if it weren’t for the halt placed in the 1970s.
Current Cannabis Culture and Products
Now that there are states that have legalized cannabis, cultural acceptance and interest have boomed. It might be the support from researchers, or it could just be that so many people are interested in cannabis now.
There are thousands of different products and services that incorporate cannabis, and the potential of the plant is starting to be explored. Further, a lot of people are using the drug to treat illnesses and find relief from pain.
Cannabis is an excellent alternative to opioids and other pain medication in response to moderate pain. There isn’t yet a cannabis option that addresses severe pain, such as that which comes after a major injury.
What’s more, is that the cannabis products available today have very high potency if you want them to. There’s a degree of variability among products that has never existed in the past.
Technology is used to cultivate cannabis in unique ways, changing the flavor, chemical content, and potential effect upon users. Stores and other sellers like this company also offer unique and unusual options that have infused cannabis into the products.
At this point in history, you’d be hard-pressed to find a culture or country that didn’t use cannabis. Except in the countries that strictly prohibit the use of the drug, cannabis is used extensively by many people.
People find a great deal of joy in its use. It can relieve your pain, make you laugh a little bit, or even open your mind to new thoughts and ideas that you might not have had otherwise.
It’s something to be celebrated that there’s the availability to use cannabis now. People have been fighting for a long time, and it wasn’t until the last ten or fifteen years that a lot of places started to see efforts for legalization.
While it’s exciting that cannabis is finding legalization, it’s important to note the toll that criminalization has taken on a lot of families and individuals. There’s an inconsistency in the fact that something can be legal, but a person can be kept in jail for a crime that no longer exists.
That paradox speaks more about the nature of the “crime” than the person who committed it. If people can become aware of these injustices and support those who are trying to repair them, some change is sure to come and relieve people and families who are still suffering from the war on drugs.
There’s a lot more to cannabis than we could cover today. Stay informed for more updates in the cannabis industry, federal laws, and more!
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Hopefully, our exploration of the history of weed gave you some information that you didn’t have before. It’s a complex history, but it’s useful to know where things come from so you can see where they’re going.
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