Global History of Cannabis
Cannabis, also known as marijuana, pot, weed, etc. has a very long history, so long that historians are still looking into the subject and trying to find its original origins. What we do currently know about the history behind it is that its history is very global. In fact, historians have been able to find the first recorded use of cannabis as a medicinal drug, which occurred in the year 2737 B.C by the Chinese emperor Shen Nung.(HILLIARD) It should be noted, however, that the idea that Shen Nung being real or mythical has been discussed and debated. This is simply because the first emperor of China was born significantly later than Nung. (Blaszczak-Boxe) Nung documented how the drug was effective when treating pain for rheumatism, which is defined as any disease marked by inflammation and pain in joints, muscles, as well as gout. In addition to that, the ancient Chinese used every signal part of the cannabis plant; the root was used for medical purposes, the stem was used for rope, as well as textiles, the flowers and leaves were used for intoxication as well as medical purposes, and the seeds were used for food and oil. (HILLIARD)
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One advancement that was huge and has a large impact on our everyday lives is the invention of paper, which was credited to the Chinese. Prior to this invention, the Chinese would carve their writings onto wooden tablets and bamboo slips. Because of this, Chinese scholars would have to be physically fit if they wanted to spend time learning. The first alternative to carving writing into wood was to use paint to paint the words onto silk fabric; however, silk was not inexpensive. A man named Ts’ai Lun decided that making paper out of fiber would be the best possible solution. No one really knows how he made it and what materials he used to make it, it is a possibility that the whole thing was a lot of trial and error until he eventually got it right. The final method that actually created the paper involved crushing hemp fibers, along with mulberry tree bark, into a pulp and then placing the mixture into a water pump. (“Marijuana- The First Twelve Thousand Years”)
Around the year 2000 B.C, costal farmers had brought the plant to Korea. From there, cannabis was brought to the South Asian subcontinent between the year of 2000 B.C and 1000 B.C. (Blaszczak-Boxe) At the time, the region was being invaded by the Aryans. The drug became widely used in India, where it was celebrated and was said to be one of “five kingdoms of herbs… which release us from anxiety.” (Blaszczak-Boxe) The Aryan religion grew through India; people who practiced the religion worshipped the spirits of plants and animals, and it happens that cannabis played an active role in their rituals. (HILLARD) There has even been poetry from India, from that time period, that mentioned the use of marijuana.
Around the same time as it was brought to Korea, it had a use in ancient Egypt. It was written on scrolls that the plant was used for medicinal purposes, for example, to treat sore eyes and cataracts. It is said that Egyptian women would use cannabis as medication to relieve bad humor as well as sorrow. (HILLIARD) Below is a map with dates that shows when cannabis had gotten to each country and what country had brought it. (Blaszczak-Boxe)
It took a while for cannabis to come over to North America, and when it did, it was brought over by Mexican immigrants, and it was known at “marijuana”, which most likely originated in Mexico. (Bushak) It wasn’t introduced to North America until around the year 1910, and when it was brought there and word spread out about it, it was mostly used for recreational purposes. It wasn’t until the year 1914 that drug use was even declared a criminal offense in the United States. After marijuana had become more common in the United States, it wasn’t too long after laws were made against it. By the year 1937, 23 states had outlawed marijuana, and in addition to that, the government passed the “Marihuana Tax Act”, which made the use of non-medicinal weed illegal. From there, we jump to the year 1970, which was the year marijuana was classified as a Schedule 1 drug, along with LSD, Heroin, and MDMA. Labeling it a schedule drug means that they declared it had no medical uses, that it has a higher potential for abuse, and that there is a lack of safety for use of the drug under medical supervision.
While that all was a big change from the previous history of cannabis, more change is still to come. More recently, for example, in April 2015, there were 23 states recorded that have legalized cannabis for medical purposes. This policy is enforced by health care providers; since it is for strictly medical purposes, you do have to meet certain qualifications. The most common uses for cannabis medically in the United States is for children with epileptic conditions, or cancer patients who use cannabis to ease side effects of chemotherapy and radiation. (Bushak)
It is always a lot to think about when you take a look at the history of something; there is always something new to learn and discover. I think, personally, that it is outstanding that cannabis was once a part of people’s religion and even worshiped, and in modern day America, it is still a thing professionals are looking into, still trying to figure out, and it has such a negative cogitation to it.