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The History of Cannabis

    It might be surprising, but marijuana was not always the subject of controversy – there was a time when people thought that it was absolutely essential. Truth be told, cannabis came a long way – from being praised for its medical properties in the past, through illegalization on the whole world, and ending on becoming legal today. 

    So how did it happen, that 50 years ago you could go to jail for several years for growing marijuana, and now you have companies like Cannabis Growing Canada that help you in getting a license for growing your own? 

    Well, if you want to find out, you just have to keep reading. 

    The Beginning

    The first existing evidence of the use of marijuana comes from around 8,000 BC. However, the plant itself is much older and dates as far as 28 million years ago to the Tibetan Plateau. This means that marijuana exists on earth longer than humans, as evidence of the first humans comes from around 200,000 years ago. 

    A Chinese legend says the Emperor named Shen Nung (around 2700 BC) was the first one to discover the healing properties of marijuana. The text in which his discovery was included comes from year A. D. and is considered as the world’s oldest pharmacopoeia. It recommended the use of cannabis for more than 100 ailments, such as malaria and rheumatism. 

    Apart from being a medicine, marijuana had many other purposes, including the production of fiber for sails and clothes, edible oil, shoes, ropes, etc. As far as smoking goes, there is no evidence of who was the first person to do that. However, there is evidence of people enjoying the smoke around 2,500 years ago. 

    Marijuana – A True Cosmopolitan

    Even though cannabis originated in Asia, in the last 4,000 years it spread around the world. It started around the year 2,000 BC when it was brought to Korea by the farmers. Around the same time, Aryans spread it to India and South Asia. After a while, the plant spread to the Middle East, Russia and Ukraine in particular. 

    Around the year 700, cannabis reached Africa, and 150 years later, it was brought to Iceland by the Vikings. Around the year 1000, Romans were using cannabis for their ships, and in 1200 german marijuana reached Britain thanks to the Anglo-Saxons. A century later, it spread from Egypt to the rest of the continent. In 1549, cannabis was brought to Brazil by the African slaves. 

    After a few years, in 1616, people started to grow cannabis in Jamestown, and in 1788 it reached Australia. Finally, in the 19th century, it reached the Caribbean, and 100 years later, it was brought to the US from Mexico. 

    Illegalization in the US

    Since for so many centuries, marijuana was legal and considered as a medicine, what made it illegal? When it comes to America, there is only one reason why cannabis was banned, and this reason is racism. 

    After the Mexican Revolution, around the year 1910, the United States experienced a wave of emigration from Mexico, who brought not only their language and culture but also cannabis, which they called ‘marijuana’. The Americans were familiar with the word ‘cannabis’ since they used it as a medicine, but they knew nothing about marijuana. The media used it and began to play on people’s fear, spreading fake statements about the ‘disruptive Mexicans’ and their dangerous behaviour, which included the use of marijuana. The public believed it not knowing that the ‘marijuana’ they were so afraid of was nothing more than what they had in their medicine cabinets. The truth is that it was just an excuse to search, detain and deport the Mexican immigrants. 

    Sometime later, in the late 1930s, Harry J. Anslinger claimed that most of those who smoked cannabis were the minorities, mainly African Americans. According to him, the consumption of marijuana caused men of colour to become more violent and try to force white women into sex. He went as far as to say that “Reefer makes darkies think they’re as good as white men.” All these allegations lead to the implementation of the “Marijuana Tax Act of 1937”, which banned its use and sales. 

    The act was recognized as unconstitutional in 1969; however, it was soon replaced with a Controlled Substance Act from 1970. The act classified marijuana as a Schedule I drug, among heroin and LSD. The drug started to become legal again in the US in 1996 when California became the first state to legalize it for medical purposes. 

    Illegalization in Canada 

    When it comes to Canada, marijuana became prohibited 14 years earlier than in the USA, however, there is no exciting story behind it. The drug became illegal after a statement from the health minister Henri-Séverin Béland from 1923, which added cannabis to the list of prohibited substances stated by The Opium And Narcotic Drug Act. 

    The first thing Canada’s government did after the act was to survey to establish how many people were growing cannabis. As it turns out, most of them didn’t know about the plant having a psychoactive effect, and when they were asked, they destroyed them without protest. It wasn’t until the late 1930s that the police started to pursue real action. The offenders were charged with either $1,000 fine or six months in jail. 

    Le Dain Commission, whose work started in 1969 and ended in 1972 and whose job was to investigate the dangers that different substances bring, thought that the drug should be decriminalized, however, the government ignored their report. 

    In 2001, Canada granted access to medical marijuana for patients with HIV/AIDS and other diseases, but it wasn’t until 2018 that cannabis became utterly legal, for both medical and recreational purposes. 

    Situation today 

    Today, the use of marijuana for recreational purposes is still illegal in most of the countries. Some of them introduced the decriminalization policy, which treats possession of the drug as a non-criminal offence, while some have stringent penalties, including imprisonment. 

    Four countries, eleven states and the Australian Capital Territory have legalized the use of marijuana for recreational purposes – Canada, South Africa, Georgia and Uruguay, while in some countries it is legal to possess cannabis only if it’s for medical purposes. These countries include, for example, Argentina, Colombia, Poland, Norway and Germany. 

    Final Thoughts

    Cannabis has gone a long way, and its history could easily be used to write a script for a Hollywood movie – originated in ancient times, it travelled around the whole world and was both praised and banned for decades. Could there be anything more interesting?