The History of Cannabis and how it got such a bad rep!
In light of Canada making Cannabis Legal we thought you might like to know some facts and some of the history relating to this controversial plant.
How did Cannabis get such a bad reputation?
It is true that the illegal Cannabis products that are available on the street today are often the result of planet that are only given time to produce the THC element of the growth cycle of the Cannabis plant, this is the Psychoactive part of the plant which makes you ‘high’
These plants are often grown in forced lighting, producing dangerously high levels of phosphorus and with harmful fertilisers that won’t have been flushed from the plant, which end up in the product sold illegally in the UK. However the recent history is really where the plant became so stigmatised.
The CBD element of the Cannabis plant, the legal element that is non-psychoactive, only occurs once the plant is allowed to flower naturally.
What is CBD?
CBD is produced when the plant goes into flower and this is often not allowed to happen in the ‘street’ Cannabis, as it takes longer to grow and drug dealers are greedy so they cut the plant down before it has reached full maturation.
CBD is non psycho-active and therefore will not make you high in any quantity. When controlled in the right way, through legal regulation such as they now have in Canada, the sale of commercially/medically produced Cannabis can provide substantial revenue to support state run service and to take the profits away from criminal activity. We need to see how Canada plays out but this is the hope for the new industry that was made legal and available on the 17thof October 2018.
What is the history of Cannabis?
From the four corners of the globe this humble plant has been used since prehistoric times through to the present day. Its many different uses have been recorded in cave drawings and cultural artefacts. Hemp was also an important part of our diet and clothing industry back in the 17thcentury
"For the most part, it was widely used for medicine and spiritual purposes," during pre-modern times, said Warf, a professor of geography at the University of Kansas in Lawrence. For example, the Vikings and medieval Germans used cannabis for relieving pain during childbirth and for toothaches.
Author Barney Warf describes how cannabis use originated thousands of years ago in Asia, and has since found its way to many regions of the world, eventually spreading to the Americas and the United States. It was in the US that prohibition of alcohol led to Cannabis being labelled as a drug to be fearful of instead of understanding the potential benefits
"The idea that this is an evil drug is a very recent construction," and the fact that it is illegal is a "historical anomaly," Warf said. Marijuana/Cannabis has been legal in many regions of the world for most of the last century
Where did Cannabis come from and what is it?
There are two type of Cannabis sativa, known as marijuana, has psychoactive properties. The other plant is Cannabis sativa and is known as hemp and it is a non-psychoactive form of cannabis, and is used in manufacturing products such as oil, cloth and fuel.
A second psychoactive species of the plant, Cannabis indica, was identified by the French naturalist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck
Cannabis plants are believed to have evolved on the terraces of Central Asia, specifically in the regions that are now Mongolia and southern Siberia, according to Warf. The history of cannabis use goes back as far as 12,000 years, which places the plant among humanity’s oldest cultivated crops, according to information in the book "Marihuana: The First Twelve Thousand Years" (Springer, 1980).
Burned cannabis seeds have also been found in kurgan burial mounds in Siberia dating back to 3,000 B.C., and some of the tombs of noble people buried in Xinjiang region of China and Siberia around 2500 B.C. have included large quantities of mummified psychoactive marijuana.
Hemp and psychoactive cannabis were used widely in ancient China, Warf wrote. The first record of the drug's medicinal use dates to 4000 B.C. The herb was documented as being used, for instance, as an aesthetic during surgery, and stories say it was even used by the Chinese Emperor Shen Nung in 2737 B.C. (However, whether Shen Nung was a real or a mythical figure has been debated, as the first emperor of a unified China was born much later than the supposed Shen Nung.)
From China, coastal farmers brought pot to Korea about 2000 B.C. or earlier, according to the book "The Archeology of Korea" (Cambridge University Press, 1993). Cannabis came to the South Asian subcontinent between 2000 B.C. and 1000 B.C., when the region was invaded by the Aryans — a group that spoke an archaic Indo-European language. The drug became widely used in India, where it was celebrated as one of "five kingdoms of herbs which release anxiety” in one of the ancient Sanskrit Vedic poems whose name translate into "Science of Charms."
When did Cannabis reach Europe?
Cannabis came to the Middle East between 2000 B.C. and 1400 B.C., and it was probably used there by the Scythians, a nomadic Indo-European group. The Scythians also likely carried the drug into southeast Russia and Ukraine, as they occupied both territories for years, according to Warf's report. Germanic tribes brought the drug into Germany, and marijuana went from there to Britain during the 5th century with the Anglo-Saxon invasions.
"Cannabis seeds have also been found in the remains of Viking ships dating to the mid-ninth century," Warf wrote in the study.
Queen Victoria used Cannabis for menstrual pain.
Over the next centuries, cannabis migrated to various regions of the world, traveling through Africa, reaching South America in the 19th century and being carried north afterwards, eventually reaching North America.
When did Cannabis reach the United States and why did it become illegal?
Cannabis then arrived in the US in the 20thCentury, this is where is became demonised and this then spread across the World. But why?
Well to be honest what started out as a concern related to Mexican immigration, it went on to become political with as the pharmaceutical companies saw it as a threat, due to its many ‘suggested’ medical, psychological and spiritual benefits. There have been many reports stating that Cannabis should be legalised or downgraded in terms of drugs misuse however this has proven a hot potato for most governments.
How did the Mexican immigration impact on making Cannabis illegal in the US?
It is important to understand what was happening at the time in the United States in the early 1900’s just after the Mexican Revolution. There was an influx of immigration from Mexico into states like Texas and Louisiana and with them they brought Cannabis which had long been part of their cultural heritage.
Mexican immigrants referred to this plant as “marihuana”. While Americans were very familiar with “cannabis” because it was present in almost all tinctures and medicines available at the time, the word “marihuana” was a foreign term. So, when the media began to play on the fears that the public had about these new citizens by falsely spreading claims about the “disruptive Mexicans” with their dangerous native behaviours including marihuana use, the rest of the nation did not know that this “marihuana” was a plant they already had in their medicine cabinets.
Mexican were deported because of it and the name Marihuana became something to be feared along with these immigrants.
During hearings on ‘marijuana’ law in the 1930’s, claims were made about marijuana’s ability to cause men of colour to become violent and solicit sex from white women. This imagery became the backdrop for the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 which effectively banned its use and sales.
While the Act was ruled unconstitutional years later, it was replaced with the Controlled Substances Act in the 1970’s which established Schedules for ranking substances according to their dangerousness and potential for addiction. Cannabis was placed in the most restrictive category, Schedule I, supposedly as a place holder while then President Nixon commissioned a report to give a final recommendation.
The Schafer Commission, as it was called, declared that marijuana should not be in Schedule I and even doubted its designation as an illicit substance. However, Nixon discounted the recommendations of the commission, and marijuana remains a Schedule I substance.
In 1996, California became the first state to approve the use of marijuana for medical purposes, ending its 59 year reign as an illicit substance with no medical value. Prior to 1937, cannabis had enjoyed a 5000 year history as a therapeutic agent across many cultures. In this context, its blip as an illicit and dangerous drug was dwarfed by its role as a medicine.
Thankfully many states in the US and countries like Canada are leading the way in terms of regulation of Cannabis for medicinal and recreational use and we hope that the UK will build on the decision to make Cannabis available to those who really need it on a license and eventually get to the point where we can all use it for whatever purpose, if we choose to, in the near future. After all ‘you can’t outlaw a plant’!
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