What is the origin of Cannabis?


What is the origin of Cannabis?

Of course, we all love our weed today, but did you know that the origin and history of cannabis goes back over 10,000 years across many cultures? 

Ancient use of cannabis

The history of cannabis and its use by humans dates back to at least the third millennium BCE (Before Common Era) in written history, and possibly further back by archaeological evidence. Going back thousands of years, the plant has been valued for its use for fiber and rope, as food and medicine, and for its psychoactive properties for religious and recreational use.

Indigenous to Central Asia and India, hemp is one of the earliest plants to be cultivated. Cannabis was cultivated in Japan since the pre-Neolithic period (10,000 years ago) for its fibers, as a food source and as a psychoactive material. The Chinese also used hemp to make clothes, shoes, ropes and an early form of paper. In ancient Korea, cannabis was an important crop used for fabric.

Several early Indian texts mention Bhanga, the dried cannabis leaves, seeds and stems. Many historians believe that Bhanga was used similarly back then like how we use cannabis today.

Cannabis was also known to the ancient Assyrians, who discovered its psychoactive properties and used it in religious ceremonies. The Aryans (Indo-Iranians) introduced cannabis to the Scythians (from Central Eurasia), who burned cannabis flowers to induce a trance.  The Greek historian Herodotus documented that the Scythians would often inhale the vapors of hemp seed smoke, both as a ritual and for their own pleasurable recreation.

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The global spread of cannabis

Around the turn of the millennium, the use of hashish began to expand from the Persian world into the Arab world. Cannabis was reported to be introduced to Iraq in 1230 CE (Common Era). Around the same time, hashish was introduced to Egypt, but smoking did not become common until after the introduction of tobacco. Therefore, hashish in the Muslim world was consumed as an edible until the 1500’s.

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Cannabis was introduced to Africa by early Arab and Indian Hindu travelers when they migrated south. Smoking pipes uncovered in Ethiopia dated around 1320 CE were found to have traces of cannabis, which was already popular at that time in South Africa.

Around 1545, the Spaniards brought industrial hemp to the Western Hemisphere and first cultivated it in Chile.  During Napoleon Bonaparte’s invasion of Egypt in 1798, alcohol was not available (due to Egypt being an Islamic country), so Bonaparte’s troops instead resorted to hashish. By 1840, cannabis was becoming a popular drug across the globe for both its medicinal and recreational use.  And the rest is history!

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