History of Marijuana
Marijuana grows in many parts of the world and had a long history of use. This is particularly true of
Asia and Africa where the warm climate enables the plant to thrive.
Throughout history, the versatile cannabis plant has been used for a multitude of purposes, from
making rope, paper and cloth to its many medicinal uses. The partnership between man and Marijuana
has probably existed for over 10,000 years, ever since man discovered agriculture. It is a plant that
serves five purposes: for hemp fibers, for its oil, for its seeds, as a food and for its narcotic qualities.
It's been around for thousands of years
Mainly due to its variety of uses, Cannabis has been taken across the Globe. We cannot know for certain which use of the plant came first, but remains of hemp fibers have been found in the earliest archeological sites in Asia. There is evidence of fiber in China dating from 4000 B.C., and hemp rope and thread from Turkistan dating from 3000 B.C. Stone beaters for pounding hemp fiber and hemp cord have also been found in ancient sites in Taiwan. Hemp fabrics have been found in Turkey dating to 800 B.C. and there is some evidence of use in Ancient Egypt between three and four thousand years ago.
It is possible that the consumption of its seeds predates hemp fiber production. They are very nutritious and it is difficult to imagine the hunter-gatherer early man missing such an opportunity. Hemp seeds have been used as food in Eastern Europe since early times, but its religious and medicinal use may even predate food as its first economic use (These can be indistinguishable in folk medicine). Central Asia is thought to be the home of Cannabis, but is has spread all over the Globe, except for the Arctics and wet tropical areas. It spread at a very early date to Africa where it was quickly accepted into the native pharmacy.
INDIA AND ASIA
Tradition in India maintains that the Gods sent man the Hemp plant so that he might attain delight, courage, and have heightened sexual desires and experiences. When nectar dropped down from heaven, Cannabis sprouted from it. In another story, the Gods, aided by Demons, churned up the milk ocean to obtain Amrita (nectar). One of the resulting nectars was Cannabis. It was consecrated to Shiva and was Indra's favourite drink. This plant of the Gods has been held in India to bestow supernatural powers on its users.
In China, a compendium of medicines compiled for the Chinese Emperor Shen Nung in about 2727 BC is the earliest tangible record found so far of cannabis use. In these early times, the use of Cannabis as an hallucinogen was undoubtedly associated with Chinese Shamanism. This eventually declined and by European contact some 1500 years later, its main value in China was as a fiber source.
Folklore dictates that Cannabis was brought to Persia by an Indian pilgrim between A.D. 531-579, but it is known that the Assyrians used Hemp as an incense during the 1st Millenium B.C. At first it was widely prohibited amongst Muslims, but it quickly spread west throughout Asia Minor. As early as 1271 Marco Polo describes its consumption in the secret order of the Hashishins.
Cannabis extended early on into Africa from Asia. It is also widely believed that Hemp was introduced into Africa with slaves from Malaysia. The plant has entered into primitive native cultures on both a social and religious level. The Hotentots, Bushmen and Kaffirs used it for centuries as a medicine.
Hemp was first introduced to this continent as a commercial crop. Hemp cultivation began in Canada in 1606, then in Virginia in 1611. The Pilgrims also took the crop to New England in 1632. It was essential for cultural development, meeting the basic needs of the people i.e. clothing, textiles, rope, paper. It then became an established crop due to the need for its product in industrial use plus its versatility. In
Jamestown in 1619, one of the first laws passed in the new country of America, required farmers to grow Hemp. It was legal tender from 1631 to the early 1800's.
Mexican laborers introduced the smoking of Marijuana into the U.S.A in the early part of the 20th Century and its use spread across the South. By the 1920's its use was established in New Orleans, confined mainly to the poor and minority groups.
William Randolph Hearst was one of the main instigators of The Marijuana Tax Act along with Andrew Mellon and Harry J. Anslinger (Mellon's nephew). The 1920's had seen the development of synthetic products from hemp, a renewable biomass resource, the development of patent fuel additives and numerous new synthetic products. That, along with the development by Ford of cannabis carbohydrates, threatened the timber industry (Hearst) and the oil industry (Mellon).
Anslinger (Commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics – predecessor to the DEA), along with the Hearst newspaper chain, spread malicious stories on ‘the terrible drug marijuana' linking it to rape, thefts, murder and ethnic minorities. Another motivation for Hearst's support of this ‘campaign' may lie in the fact that Pancho Villa had recently ‘acquired' 800,000 acres of Hearst's prime timberland. Racism and ignorance certainly fueled the success of this ‘campaign'. Anslinger continued with his crusade against Hemp until his retirement in the 1960's. His campaign had been felt around the world and was ultimately successful in the prohibition of Cannabis in many countries around the world.
In around 500 B.C. the Greek writer Heroditus describes the use of Cannabis by the Scythians and recent archeological excavations in Central Asia support this use. It has generally been accepted that the Scythians spread the use of Cannabis westward to Europe from Asia.
It arrived in Europe from the North. The Romans used hemp ropes and sails produced in Gaul and though it was not grown in Ancient Rome, its use was documented by Lucilius in 120 B.C. and Pliny the Elder outlined its preparation and different grades in the first century A.D.
Henry the VIII promoted the cultivation of Hemp in England to support the Navy. The Maritime supremecy of Elizabethan times caused demand to grow, although is does not seem to have been used in Medieval Europe as an hallucinogen. It was highly valued in Medicine and its uses can
be traced back to early classical physicians such as Discorides and Galen. Marijuana was legal in the U.K. until 1928.