The Evolution of Cannabis

Cannabis happens to be the earliest of crops which was cultivated by mankind and there is plenty of information available on usage of cannabis by different cultures and people throughout the history. Archeological findings and the historical documents reveal how and when cannabis spread in particular areas of the world.

The most common form of cannabis, marijuana has been consumed for attaining euphoria since ancient time described in the Chinese medical history from 2737 B.C and it spread from China to India and then to North Africa and eventually got to Europe around the early times of A.D 500.

The writings of the Chinese emperor Shen Nung were the first direct reference to the cannabis plant as a psychoactive agent dating far back as 2737 BC. Its medicinal properties were given more importance and the writings focused on its powers to treat gout, malaria, rheumatism and weirdly, absent-mindedness. Its intoxicating qualities were mentioned as well.

Islam prohibits the use of alcohol. Muslims introduced hashish which spread rapidly in the 12th century in North Africa and Persia (Iran). The sacred Hindu texts, Atharva Veda also mentions the use of Cannabis. It is quite well documented and seems to have been compiled 2000-1400 years BCE. The ancient Yamnaya culture now the Northern Europe made use of cannabis as a rope and for its intoxicating properties as early in the third millennia BCE.

Evidence also suggests that hemp was used by the Egyptians in ancient times as early as 1550 BCE and it was introduced much later in the rest of Africa. New World had no knowledge of it until the colonists introduced it.

Early expansion of the two distinct varieties of cannabis the THC hemp type and the drug variety in the eastern and southern Asia advocates that it first originated somewhere in Central Asia and then spread from there.

Spanish brought marijuana to the New World in 1545. It was proposed as a major cash crop along with tobacco as well as a fiber source by the English in Jamestown in the year 1611.

The hemp had replaced cotton as a major crop by the 1890s in the southern states. By the 1890s, marijuana finally began to catch on and according to some historians that was due to Prohibition.

Jazz musicians and people associated with the profession of show business were even restricted from it consumption for recreational uses as reefer songs had become the rage of the jazz music scene. Tea pads, special clubs for marijuana, sprung up in all major cities.  As marijuana was not illegal, these establishments were tolerated by the authorities and no nuisance was made about its consumption and distribution. It was not known to be a social threat.

The United States Pharmacoeia listed marijuana from 1850 to 1942 and was suggested for different conditions like nausea, labor pain and rheumatism. It was used commonly as an intoxicant during the 1850s till 1930s.

The U.S. Federal Bureau of Narcotics now known as the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs conducted a campaign in the 1930s trying to depict marijuana as a potent addictive substance which could lead to narcotics addiction. It is still thought of as a gateway drug by some authorities. It was the accessory of the worn out generation in the 50s and of the college students or hippies in the 60s which became an icon of rebellion against authority.

The Controlled Substances Act of 1970 along with LSD and heroine, classified marijuana as a schedule drug i.e. which has a high abuse potential and no accepted medical use.

Mexico was the major supplier of marijuana back then but in the Mexican government agreed to eliminate the crop and sprayed it with herbicide paraquat which raised fears of toxic side effects.

After Mexico, Columbia took place as the main supplier. Reagon and Bush administration’s zero tolerance climate brought about compulsory sentences and strict laws for possession of marijuana and increased supervision against smuggling at the borders.

War on drugs brought about a shift from being dependent on imported supplies to domestic cultivation especially in California and Hawaii. In the initial months of 1982, extra attention was given to the marijuana farms in the United States by the Drug Enforcement Administration. This resulted in a shift to indoor plant growing specially developed for high yield and a small size. When the usage decreased after a decade or so, marijuana consumption took a rise in the early 90s especially by the teenagers.

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