Marijuana has been around for a while. Actually, cannabis and hemp have both been used for a really, really long time. It’s amazing actually, looking back through old historical records, books, and scrolls from thousands of years ago, to see that cannabis has always been extremely popular.
Since the history of weed goes back farther than most of us could possibly imagine, it stands to reason that there is still plenty we don’t know. Even in this day and age, with a plethora of information readily available on the internet, there are a lot of things even the most experienced toker would be surprised to learn. That’s why we thought it’d be fun to delve deeper into the life and times of marijuana to find out just how many facts there are that even we didn’t know.
What was the first mention of weed as far as history is concerned? When and where did it first appear? Who used it and what for? All of this and more will be answered as we begin our grand adventure into weedland by taking a look at the cannabis timeline.
In the beginning…
God created weed and hemp. Well, maybe. The jury is still out on that one, but what we do know is that the first proof we have of cannabis being used to make hemp was sometime between 10,000 and 8,000 BCE.
In what is now modern day Taiwan, once stood a small village. Upon discovering this ancient town, archeologists found a number of pieces of broken pottery. Pressed into these pots were strips of hemp cord, seemingly used as decoration.
Archeologists working on the site also discovered several long, rod-shaped tools that strongly resembled those used to separate hemp fiber from the stalk. This finding is widely regarded to be concrete evidence that hemp is one of the oldest crops there is. In fact, since agriculture is only about 10,000 years old, hemp may well be the crop that led to the development of modern agriculture as we know it.
Let there be weed
After 10,000-ish BCE, as the saying goes, it was all history from there. Trust me, if I went over every minute detail that’s known about the background of marijuana, I’d have to put it in a very thick book filled with very tiny print. Unfortunately, I don’t have the time to write that and you probably don’t have the time to read it. So, what follows is an abridged walkthrough of some of the more interesting highlights of cannabis and hemp history through the ages.
- 2737 BCE: Records from the reign of Emperor Shen Neng in China detail the first known use of cannabis as a medicine.
- 2000-800 BCE: Dried cannabis, known as Bhang, is dubbed “Sacred Grass” and named one of the five sacred plants of India.
- 700-600 BCE: Bhang is referred to as the “good narcotic” in Persian religious texts.
- 600 BCE: Hemp rope is used in Russia.
- 500 BCE: An urn containing cannabis leaves and seeds is found near Berlin, suggesting the spread of hemp and cannabis to Northern Europe.
- 200 BCE: Hemp rope makes its way to Greece.
- 100 BCE: Hemp paper is invented in China.
- 100: Imported hemp rope makes an appearance in England.
- 500-600: The Jewish text, Talmud, speaks of the euphoric aspects of cannabis.
- 850: Vikings take hemp rope and seeds with them to Iceland
- 900-1000: Scholars discuss the benefits and downsides of eating hashish as its use spreads through Arabia.
- 1000: Hemp ropes are used on Italian ships
- 1200: The aphrodisiac and intoxicating properties of hashish are mentioned in 1,001 Nights
- 1300: Pipes found in Ethiopia indicate cannabis has spread from Egypt to the rest of Africa
- 1378: One of the first bans on hashish is declared by Ottoman Emir Soudoun Scheikhouni
- 1533: Henry VIII requires farmers to raise hemp, assessing a fine for non-compliance
- 1600: England uses imported hemp from Russia
- 1606-1632: Hemp is grown in the colonies in Port Royal, Virginia, and Plymouth
- 1616: Settlers in Jamestown begin using hemp
- 1621: The Anatomy of Melancholy suggest marijuana as a treatment for depression
- 1753: Carl Linnaeus officially classifies Cannabis sativa
- 1798: Napoleon declares total prohibition as French soldiers begin to bring hashish back from Egypt
And that brings us right up to the 1800’s, when hemp plantations across America thrived. The reign of hemp and marijuana in the U.S. didn’t last long however. Little did George Washington know that a little over 150 years after he grew hemp on his own plantation, it and every other variation of the cannabis plant would become illegal in the United States. Within a very short time, we transitioned from a country that knew and reaped the benefits of cannabis to one that feared and vilified it, completely disregarding its use as a medicine and economic cash crop.
And It Was Good
Despite the tumultuous history of marijuana and hemp in the United States, it hasn’t always been bad news for our favorite plant. There are many countries around the world that have always sung the praises of cannabis and held it in high regard. With such widespread use, it’s no surprise that there are some pretty interesting stories surrounding marijuana. So, since we’ve already covered the heavy stuff, let’s take a look at some of the fun facts about cannabis that you probably never knew before!
- Hops (Humulus lupulus) and Marijuana (Cannabis sativa) are related, both being members of the Cannabinaceae family.
- Marijuana is totally legal in North Korea. In fact, citizens are encouraged to smoke weed in place of tobacco.
- Legalizing marijuana on a federal level would generate an estimated $8.7 billion in tax revenue. It wouldn’t solve the $17 trillion we owe in debt, but it sure would make a dent in it over time.
- Marijuana has been legal for personal use in Alaska since 1975. That’s 41 years.
- Some sects of Judaism consider marijuana to be kosher.
- Massachusetts became the first state to officially ban marijuana in 1911.
- Dr. James Munch, the U.S. Government’s “official expert” on marijuana from 1938-1962, once claimed, under oath, that two puffs of a joint turned him “into a bat.”
- In Bhutan, marijuana grows so readily that it is considered a pest and is used as pig feed.
- Rastafarians are legally allowed to consume cannabis while in Italy, as it is considered a religious act.
- People from India enjoy drinking marijuana milkshakes.
- Despite Colorado’s now relaxed stance on cannabis, the first arrest for marijuana possession in the U.S. was in Denver in 1937.
- The first thing ever sold on the internet was a bag of weed.
- When the 33 Chilean miners were trapped underground for 69 days, weed was dropped to them to help ease the tension.
- Marijuana residue was found on several of the pipes that belonged to William Shakespeare.
- After Tupac was cremated, his ashes were mixed with marijuana and smoked by the Young Outlawz.
- To overdose on marijuana, you’d have to consume 1,500 pounds in 15 minutes. Not only is that impossible but you wouldn’t actually die from the weed, you’d die from carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Marijuana is actually way less addictive than coffee.
You may have known some of these facts and some were probably a surprise to you. Either way, it’s clear that once you dive into it, the history of marijuana is far more interesting than you might have expected. And the best part? We’re still writing it.
Years from now, our descendants will look back. They’ll read about the fight that is going on in America today and see how hard we fought for common sense marijuana legislation. If you want to contribute to the next chapter of the cannabis history book, now is the time. Stand up, make your voice heard, and push for marijuana reform in your state. There’s power in numbers and, as cheesy as it sounds, when we all band together, we can truly accomplish anything.