In honor of 4/20 yesterday, we are sharing the history of Cannabis. It has been used for thousands of years in a variety of manners – tools, food, and medicinal purposes to name a few. Over the years this plant has been celebrated, shunned, and is being brought back into the spotlight once again. The history of Cannabis doesn’t begin in the recent years of re-legalization, nor in the 1970’s when the war on drugs began. The history of Cannabis begins several thousands of years ago in Taiwan.
As far back as 8000 BCE1 in Taiwan, Cannabis (Hemp) was used to create pots, fishing nets, ropes, paper, clothes, and other various items. Around 6000 BCE in China, Cannabis seeds were recorded as being used for food and oil. The first known use of Cannabis for its medical qualities can be linked to the Chinese Emperor Fu Hsi in 2900 BCE. He made references to “Ma” (the Chinese word for Cannabis) and considered Cannabis to be a medicine that demonstrated both yin and yang. 200 years later, around 2700 BCE, Emperor Shen Nung of China is said to have discovered the healing qualities Cannabis possesses. He concentrated on its potential as a medication for rheumatism, malaria, gout, menstrual problems, among other health issues.
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Moving southwest to India, Cannabis has a long history cloaked in legends and religion. The earliest mention of Cannabis has been found in The Vedas, or sacred Hindu texts. These writings may have been composed anywhere from between 2000 to 1400 BCE. On their website, THC Museum states that “The Vedas call cannabis a source of happiness, joy-giver, liberator that was compassionately given to humans to help us attain delight and lose fear.”2 Bhang, an edible mixture consisting of dried cannabis leaves, seeds, and stems and typically mixed with milk to make into a drink, is mentioned in another Hindu sacred text, Atharvaveda. Also, around the same time period [2000 BCE], Ancient Egyptians were prescribing Cannabis to be used as treatment for glaucoma, inflammation, and as a suppository to treat hemorrhoids.
Around the 1400s – frames, sails, ropes, and cords made from Cannabis (Hemp) began to emerge on Italian ships. Hemp sails would eventually replace flax sails as those rotted more quickly due to the salt spray from the ocean. King Henry VIII of England created a law in 1533 to satisfy the increased demand for rope and sailcloth of his navy, in which all landholders had to use ¼ of an acre to cultivate Cannabis (Hemp) for every 60 acres of land that they tilled. Queen Elizabeth I reintroduced this law and imposed a fine for any lord who failed to comply. Around the time of Shakespeare, who also used Cannabis for its mind-stimulating properties, Jamestown settlers brought Cannabis to North America. George Washington’s diary illustrates his particular interest in the medical use of Cannabis; focusing on growing Cannabis with a high Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content, or in other words, Marijuana.
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In 1850, Marijuana made its way onto the United States Pharmacopoeia as a treatment option for numerous afflictions. From then until 1915, it was easily accessible for purchase at pharmacies and general stores. In 1914, the Harrison Act in the United States defined the use of Marijuana, amongst other drugs, a crime.3 In 1936, a propaganda film titled Reefer Madness, which was originally dubbed Tell Your Children, was created and distributed to intimidate American youth away from using Cannabis. A year later, the U.S. Congress passed the Marijuana Tax Act, criminalizing the plant that not a century before had been put on the United States Pharmacopoeia. Although in 1941, Cannabis was removed from the U.S. Pharmacopoeia and the medicinal uses, once celebrated, were no longer officially recognized in America. Fast forward to the 1970s, the Nixon administration started the war on drugs by declaring drug abuse to be “public enemy number one”. In 1986, President Reagan signed the Anti-Drug Abuse Act continuing the war on drugs era.
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Escaping Reefer Madness
In 2022, while Cannabis remains classified as a Schedule 1 substance under the Controlled Substances Act. Schedule 1 substances are considered to have a high potential for addiction with no accepted medical uses. As of the publishing of this article—37 states, 4 territories, and the District of Columbia—allow the medicinal use of Cannabis products.4 Here in Oklahoma, the voters of the state approved State Question 788 on June 26th 2018. We have been enjoying the benefits of medicinal Cannabis use for almost 4 full years now. If you aren’t sure where to begin your journey with Cannabis or even if Cannabis is right for you, we are here to help! Reach out to our patient line at (301) 778-HAWK (4295) to schedule your Patient Care Consultation with our CEO Jennifer Hawkins today!
Source 2 : THC Museum
Source 3 : Pot Luck Expo
Source 4 : National Conference of State Legislatures
Source 5: Bhang Recipe