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A brief history of cannabis
Have you ever wondered how it was first discovered that cannabis had ‘mind altering’ properties.
Was there really someone who went around smoking every plant they came across to see what might happen?
It’s hardly likely as if you have never come across a mind-altering substance before, how would you know it existed and why would you be looking for it?
Instead, let’s look at the discovery of the properties of cannabis from the accidental perspective, which is how so many things, like penicillin, were discovered.
Archaeologists have traced the hemp plant – the alternative name for the cannabis plant – back to 8,000 years before Christ, but clear evidence of its use dates back only as far as 3,000BC.
It is believed to be the first cultivated crop and was originally grown for the fibrous properties of the plant’s stem, and the plant is indigenous to Central Asia and the Indian subcontinent.
These fibres have been used for millennia to make rope, but were originally also used to make clothing, shoes, and even an early form of paper.
What we suspect was ‘the incident’ when cannabis was found to have mind altering, or psychotropic properties, was when a crop of the plants had been harvested, the stems stripped of all leaves and buds, and then someone decided to just burn the pile of waste material.
Cue a settlement of people spending the next few hours wandering around in a pleasant, foggy haze, and when the same thing happened after burning the next batch of waste material, the equivalent of a Neolithic lightbulb moment happened.
Slowly but surely it was discovered that cannabis also had medicinal properties, and so the plant’s popularity grew and spread across the globe. Its psychoactive properties were also embraced by religious communities at the same time. However, rather than smoking it, cannabis was consumed more as an edible.
When the Assyrians came across the plant, they called it qunubu, which meant ‘way to produce smoke’, and it is from this the word cannabis is derived.
The Greeks and the Romans wrote about it, with Heroditus reporting on how the inhabitants of Scythia (parts of today’s central Asia and Eastern Europe) would inhale the fumes from hemp-seed smoke for pleasurable purposes.
By the 15th century cannabis had become popular as a drug in North African countries, and by the 17th century was being grown in the Americas.
It was not until the smoking of tobacco became popular that smoking cannabis also became popular. An early example of its enjoyment by Westerners was when Napoleon Bonaparte’s army tried hashish when fighting in Egypt as a substitute for alcohol which was banned in the Muslim country.
By the mid-1800s the British began to show a keen interest in cannabis (yes, it was not that long ago) and, what may surprise you even further, is that it was not officially banned in the UK until the 1920s.
Thereafter the use of cannabis continued, but only by a small minority of people until, you guessed it, the 1960s, the age of Flower Power, peace and free love, when its use, metaphorically speaking, exploded!
Though illegal throughout Europe, cannabis was legalized in Holland ion 1972, thereafter becoming an integral part of café culture and the reason why so many of the younger generation decided that Amsterdam would be a great place to go for a holiday!
Move forward fifty or so years and the next cannabis explosion began with the discovery of the effects of two specific cannabinoids found in cannabis, THC and CBD and the rest, as they say, is history.