NOTE: This piece will a snippet of looking at the History of Cannabis Consumption throughout the world. To write the entire chronological journey of cannabis and humanity would take years to complete. This is why I decided to give you a ‘bird’s eye perspective’.
Cannabis consumption has become a prevalent topic within the global political landscape. Despite the recent surge in popularity, the fact of the matter is that cannabis consumption is almost as old as humanity itself. In fact, some historians believe that cannabis might have been the first crop to ever be farmed by our ancient ancestors. This would literally mean cannabis has been around since the dawn of civilization as we know it today.
While we look towards the future of cannabis consumption all over the world, it’s worthy to take a step back into the pages of history [which is probably written on hemp anyway].
The History of Cannabis Consumption: The First Toke Recorded in History
As mentioned, cannabis has been around since the dawn of civilization. However, the first recorded instance of someone ‘smoking it’ is traced back at least 5,000 years ago. The discovery happened in Romania in an ancient burial site where a “smoking cup” was discovered containing hemp seeds.
Nonetheless, the first documented uses of cannabis goes back roughly 10,000 years in Asia. The plant was first discovered in Taiwan where the remains of the ancient societies found tools used to process the hemp stalk.
The practice of using hemp for clothing spread all over Asia and became one of the main sources of fiber for a wide array of applications.
Additionally, hemp was used when the Chinese discovered Paper. Prior to the discovery of paper, the Chinese used to write on bamboo tablets. Which made transportation and inscription a difficult process. Paper was eventually discovered by combining hemp fibers with mulberry tree bark and laying it in water. I’m not jumping into the history of paper, but this interlaces with the history of cannabis.
Nonetheless, the discovery of paper was a significant advancement for humanity and occurred roughly in A.D. 105.
The Chinese were responsible for taking cannabis and processing it in a variety of forms. They used it for food, medicine, clothing and even for spiritual practices. It’s also important to note that the Chinese were the first to document the psychedelic effects of cannabis.
Cannabis A Global Phenomenon
While some of the earliest recorded use of cannabis is in China, it is by far not the only place where it was prevalent. In fact, cannabis has been found all over the planet in different cultures and continents. From the Hindi Vedas to the Vikings, the Ancient Egyptians and the Mayans all had access to this plant.
In fact, the use of hemp and cannabis became so prolific throughout the world that it was a staple in the economies of many great empires. The first settlers in what is now referred to as the United States, were ordered by the crown of England to grow hemp since hemp fibers were used within the British Navy.
It was only over the past hundred years or so that the demonization of cannabis was pushed within the global narrative. Prior to the 1900s, Hemp was fundamental within every aspect of society.
The Dawn Of Prohibition
As mentioned, it wasn’t until the early 1900s that the narrative surrounding hemp became negative. In 1937, cannabis/hemp officially became a ‘controlled substance’. However, the first prohibition of Marijuana over the last century, and arguably the dawn of modern prohibition is tracked to South Africa.
First prohibited in the 1870s in South Africa and was mostly fueled by racial rhetoric. Seeing that predominantly blacks and Indians smoked cannabis, and it would ‘interfere with their labor’ within mining establishments, the government made it illegal.
The notion of “moral degradation” was also attached to these clauses. This idea made its way across the ocean to the United States where the major issue with immigrants was the prime focus of the white establishment. The first “anti-drug” laws were directed to Chinese immigrants in the early 1900s. This was targeted to their opium dens; however, race was the primary motivator.
Two other minority groups in the US were also prominent consumers of cannabis – African Americans and Mexicans.
Right after the end of alcohol prohibition, a man by the name of Harry J. Anslinger was out of a job. Not to go into too much detail. He conspired with Randolph Hearst and the DuPont’s to create a false narrative concerning the ‘dangers of marihuana’.
Prior to the introduction of the word “Marihuana”, the US referred to the plant as Hemp or Cannabis and was used in medicine, clothing, food and much more. In fact, Popular Mechanics called it the first “Billion Dollar Crop” because of its potential.
Nonetheless, the Anslinger-Hearst-DuPont trio managed to convince lawmakers about the “scourge of marijuana” by releasing countless fake articles and pushing the rhetoric that this “drug is dangerous”. Lawmakers passed the “Marihuana Tax Act of 1937” which didn’t make cannabis ‘illegal’ but required a special stamp to grow it. A stamp that would never be released to the public.
During WWII, the US government needed hemp once more and a special ordinance was passed to allow American farmers to grow hemp for the war effort. It was considered patriotic.
The Dawn Of The Drug War
The Drug War was established in 1971 by dear old President Nixon. Despite the fact that he received a report suggesting that the US decriminalizes and even legalizes cannabis; he declared war on the plant and many other substances. The Controlled Substance Act, with no scientific basis, prohibited a long list of drugs including marijuana.
Why did this pass? Racism of course! Nixon needed to squash anti-war protests and noticed that hippies and blacks were smoking marijuana. Not being allowed to stop people protesting, the drug war was a smoke screen used to achieve his agenda without “breaking the law”.
Since then more than 20 trillion dollars have been spent on the drug war. Millions of people arrested and drug use only became more prevalent over the US.
In 1997, cannabis was first legalized in the US for medical purposes in California. Since then, the plant has gained popularity all over the country and the world. Now, 1 in 5 Americans live in a state where cannabis is legal in one way or another.
The End is Nigh
It’s only a matter of time until we fill out another page in the history books, when the prohibition on cannabis is lifted. We can see the trends moving towards a cannabis friendly world…it’s around the corner and the next chapter of cannabis and humanity will commence.