Cannabis and Its Travels Throughout Human History

Cannabis is a plant but is not considered to be as harmless as morning tea. In America, the plant takes a position as a highly dangerous substance that should not be handled by just anybody. Cannabis has a long history with us humans. This companionship stretches back past biblical times and is even mentioned in the Bible!  But more on that later…

Our relationship with this plant first starts around 2900 BC in ancient China. In China, hemp's main use was in bow and arrow strings used in battle.  Hemp stalk strength and resilience to tension made it useful for this purpose. The Chinese also used cannabis as a popular medicine because it was felt it contained both the yin and yang (meaning it was a balanced herb).

Cannabis soon touches a few of our mainstream religions in about 1450 BC where the plant is used an ingredient in anointing oil. Who came up with this? That guy who parted the seas, Moses, actually used it mixed with olive oil to anoint people. Fourteen thousand years after Moses, Jesus took the practice and went around anointing others with the same cannabis and olive oil mixture. And soon after, Cannabis traveled all throughout the Roman Empire and Muslim World to be used as a treatment for certain ailments.

Now let's fast forward to something closer to modern times, approximately the16th century when our nation first began its construction as a country. It is likely that hemp was introduced to the New World by Chinese explorers. In Jamestown the Puritans were the first to actively cultivate hemp as part of their contract with the Virginia Company. Industrial hemp was a very versatile plant, and it was actually against the law to refuse to grow the plant! Some of our founding fathers even had close associations with the plant. For example, according to his diaries George Washington, our first president, owned a hemp farm and used it for medicinal and not solely industrial purposes .

During Napoleon’s invasion of Egypt, the hemp plant was found to be used and brought back to France. The French studied it for its medical and sedative properties letting it spread as mainstream medicine all throughout Europe. Not long after, the invasion of Russia and the War of 1812 was thought to be started due to Napoleon's attempt to stop production of hemp products used to make rope and sails for the British Navy. Cannabis quickly spread to England and even Queen Victoria used the plant to ease the pain she got from her menstrual cycle. Around that same time America accepted cannabis as medicine. Yes, America!

From about 1840 to 1911 cannabis became as common as aspirin in modern times. Cannabis could be seen sitting on the shelf of most pharmacies and people used it like any regular medicine. But common use was short lived and the restriction of its use has been profound.  

Even though marijuana wasn’t seen as a threat, in 1911 Massachusetts became the first state to outlaw cannabis. This was due, in part, to the perceived "immoral" trends popping up such as prostitution and bootlegging. With Prohibition in full swing and morality on an upswing, marijuana was caught up in the trend even though its use was not yet widespread. 

By the 1930s every state had strict regulations on marijuana and, coupled with huge taxes, growing hemp was out of the question. From the 1930s through 1971 when Nixon declared the “war on drugs”, laws on cannabis became even more strict.

Then in 1978 marijuana was once again available for medical use but only for a select few individuals through the compassionate use program. These laws have slowly become looser over the years. We now have 33 different states in America that allow for medical use of marijuana and that number continues to increase as research continues to show that the benefits may outweigh the risks when treating certain medical disorders.

Today, we enjoy the benefits of CBD or cannabidiol made from hemp in all the states and many have found it to be useful for afflictions such as epilepsy, autism and chronic pain. CBD oil comes in many forms including tinctures, edibles and vape juice.

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