Recreational cannabis is legal in Canada, and people seem to be pretty happy about that.
But in all the excitement, have you ever taken a moment to consider the history of this intriguing plant?
Like, where did it come from, why was it criminalized in the first place, and how did we get to where we are today?
Yeah, we’ve wondered that too. That’s exactly why we spent some time hitting the books and diving into cannabis’ controversial past.
Ready to learn some stuff? Good. Then let’s begin.
THE EARLY DAYS
Cannabis is first cultivated by the Chinese as far back as 4,000 BCE. If math isn’t your strong suit, that’s like a really long time ago.
Referred to as ‘ma’, the fibres of the plant’s stalk - known as hemp, the non-psychoactive form of cannabis - were used to create paper and cloth.
Tales of a mythological Chinese emperor named Shen Nung begin to surface, and highlight the use of cannabis for both medical and recreational purposes. Shen Nung is also said to be an early proponent of cultivating cannabis for both paper and cloth and is still considered the Father of Chinese Medicine to this day. Way to go, Shen - you done good.
As the story goes, Shen also authored a book “The Great Herbal”, an ancient book that has since been rewritten and updated (obviously) and that is actually still in use by practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine today.
In the book, it states that cannabis is, “good for the five organs” and brings the body into, “Yin Yang balance.” Other benefits of cannabis, as implied in the book, include it being good for your skin, stomach, hair and energy, and that it could help you, “let go”.
The book also says that cannabis can help a person learn “How to talk to the Gods”, but, ya know...
- From India to the Middle East and then on to Africa, cannabis continues its spread. Over the years it is passed from Indian Hindu travellers to mystic Sufis travellers, and is even mentioned in the Vedas, the oldest scriptures of Hinduism, during this time period.
As European commerce and conquest intersect with the Middle East and India, cannabis makes its way to new continents; specifically to the Western Hemisphere, courtesy of the Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, British and French.
The rise of hemp improves both the design AND quality of ships’ ropes and sails. This enables boats to sail further and ushers in the age of sail; where Europeans colonized present-day North America.
- In 1588, the British have an estimated ten thousand acres’ worth of hemp in their fleet’s rope and sails. Becoming the primary power on the waters, the British are so dependent on hemp, their farmers can’t meet demand…so they begin to import it from Russia.
Holy moly, we just made it through thousands and thousands of years of cannabis history. Now go look in the mirror and tell yourself just how darn good you are. You’ve earned it.