A Historical Look At Cannabis

As marijuana rapidly gains legal and social acceptance, people are showing more interest than ever in the versatile flower. But what many people don’t know is that cannabis has deep roots in human history.

Ranging from medicinal to religious use, cannabis has been an important part of many different cultures across the globe. By looking to the past, we can gain insight into the deep value that cannabis has on humankind.

Origins of Cannabis

The origins of cannabis go all the way back to 8,000 BCE where it was farmed in Taiwan and was used for cords in pottery. Back then, the many health benefits of cannabis were largely unknown.

It was in 6,000 BCE when the Chinese began using hemp for food. Over the next three millennia cannabis was primarily grown for food and textiles. It was only in 2727 BCE that some medicinal benefits of cannabis were discovered and recorded for the first time.

Cannabis quickly gained traction across the world and cemented its place in human culture. While it was primarily used as a fiber for cloth, many religions started taking notice of the powerful herb as well.

Cannabis in Religion

Cannabis has always had a unique place in religion. Having been widely been used in ceremonies and prayer. It was also described in Hindu texts as being the “Sacred Grass.” From Zoroastrianism to Rastafarianism, the cannabis plant has seen use throughout religious history.

The religious aspects of cannabis date all the way back to 1200 BCE where it was used in the Hindu faith as an offering to Shiva. The Persians also used cannabis in their religious ceremonies, and it was referred to many times in their religious texts.

In Christianity, the anointing oil that was used in the Old Testament was made from cannabis. The Scythian tribes also used cannabis. The seeds were seen as offerings in royal tombs. Even one couple was found with a pouch that had seeds in it, which are dated circa 500 BCE.

Around this time hemp was brought to northern Europe. Recorded in 430 BCE by the Greek historian Herodotus, where he reported that cannabis was used for recreational purposes.

Recreational Cannabis

Around 170 AD the psychoactive effects of cannabis were recorded, and by 500 AD there were mentions of the euphoric effects as well. There are even some legends that centralize around the euphoric effects of cannabis.

In the early 1000’s, there were questions and concerns about the effects of cannabis for recreational use. During the 1200’s, the use of hashish was incredibly popular in the Middle East, spreading to Africa by the 1300’s. This led to a law prohibiting hashish.

Also, during the 1300’s there was a record of the psychoactive effects of cannabis from Spain. It was in the 1700’s that a great use of hashish spread throughout Constantinople. Hashish was also traded throughout Asia during this time.

Cannabis in America

It was around the 1600’s that hemp, as a crop, was planted in Jamestown. Hemp was primarily used for fibers that would go towards clothing and sails in ships. Cannabis was not typically used for any of the psychoactive or medicinal uses.

Hemp became a vital part of colonial life and there were even laws urging farmers to grow hemp as a main crop.  The Declaration of Independence was even printed on a very high-quality paper made from hemp.

During the 1840’s hemp was used for medicinal purposes. It was even recorded in the United States Pharmacopoeia in 1850. The first restriction of cannabis at the federal level was passed in 1937. Cannabis was subsequently removed from the United States Pharmacopoeia.

Cannabis’ Place in History

Many people do not realize the long-standing history of cannabis, but it was very much a part of culture and daily life. From the ancient Egyptians to colonial Jamestown, cannabis has been used for a wide variety of purposes.

When we research its history, we gain insight about our religious, social, and medical culture. Being informed on its place in history is an important part of understanding our roots.


Written by: Alex Schaffer

Leave a Reply