The History of Cannabis, Hemp and Marijuana

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Arian Abri

Weed has so many names. 

Ganja, wheezy, and gas are just a few of the more modern ones. 

But weed has been around for centuries already, not only for its intoxicating properties but also for its industrial and commercial uses.

This article will take you on a deep dive into all cannabis-related history, including an analysis of a new study which provides new insights and scraps old ambiguities. 

Is hemp or cannabis the same?

When reading about cannabis, it's been more and more casual to use the term hemp, which is understood as one and the same thing; however...

Are there differences between hemp and marijuana? 


What exactly might be the difference between cannabis and hemp?

They are always used in a similar context. Still, they are exclusively different in that hemp-derived products have no THC inside or not enough to cause a psychoactive effect, whilst cannabis or marijuana products do contain THC, which does cause a psychoactive effect.

Historically, hemp was very popular for creating strong fibres, textiles and ropes. Non-psychoactive hemp is often referred to as commercial hemp. 

More on that later.

Conversely, cannabis and marijuana are also traced back centuries as even our very old ancestors got themselves high and intoxicated with the female cannabis plant.

Where does cannabis originally come from?

Cannabis ought to have first originated in the foothills of the Himalayas. However, a recently published study found that archaeological evidence of so-called cord-beating poetry made from hemp fibres is more than 12000 years old and is the oldest indication of its use. The poetry was found in East Asia, now China's sovereign territory.

What cannabis classifications are there?

There are two main distinctions to be made here, for one, in the context of the history of hemp and cannabis. They evolve around utility purposes and the other for recreational purposes.

The other distinction to be made is within the pool of cannabis being an intoxicating recreational substance, there are two species which are psychotropic but differ in effect; Indica and Sativa, kush or haze. 

Commercial Hemp

Hemp has a long history of use as a versatile and sustainable crop. It has been grown for centuries for a variety of purposes, including the production of food, fuel, and materials. In the past, hemp was used to make various products, including sails, ropes, and clothing.

However, with the advent of industrialisation, hemp production declined as it could not compete with machine-made products such as cotton and synthetic fibres. Despite this, hemp has experienced a resurgence in recent years due to its environmental benefits and potential uses in various industries, including textiles, construction, and medicine.

Recreational cannabis 

THC is found naturally in hemp plants. As a result, it is not unexpected that the history of cannabis must also be seen through this lens. Because hemp is a stimulant and intoxicant as well as a commercial plant.

The plant's intoxicating effect was found early on.

Cannabis was utilised for numerous rituals and spiritual ceremonies by indigenous peoples in ancient China and India. The plant was utilised for meditation and stress relief, and it was regarded as one of the five holy plants in Hinduism. The burning of the branches was meant to keep foes at bay and bad powers at distance.

As cannabis history demonstrates, so-called incense was not commonplace. The Scythian nomadic people, for example, utilised cannabis smoke to remain near to their dead relatives in the 7th and 8th centuries BC. They were intoxicated after inhaling the vapour of blazing hemp seeds in little tents. Those who wished to connect with the supernatural used to use marijuana.

Cannabis has persevered and established itself as an intoxicant over the years. Hemp smoking was popular in the nineteenth century, for example. Tobacco was simply too costly for most people to use as a substitute. Cannabis had its heyday as a symbol of peace, tolerance, and freedom a century later, in the 1960s. Everyone deserves love and peace!

To read more about the history of cannabis you can check out this book:

“Cannabis and the Soma Solution” by Chris Bennett

Why was Cannabis illegal, demonised and criminalised?

In the Middle Ages, anyone who wanted to take cannabis had a very poor hand. The church labelled the THC-containing plant as "devil's stuff" and outlawed its use. In the 18th century, violators of King Andrianampoinimerina's cannabis ban were even sentenced to death on the island of Madagascar.

Napoleon disliked cannabis as well. According to cannabis history, the French ruler stopped his troops from smoking cannabis entirely in the nineteenth century. He was concerned that the plant's intoxicating impact might hinder his warriors' combat abilities.

Napoleon's opinion was probably not wholly off. Because of this, the hemp plant is still categorised as an intoxicant at the moment due to its THC content. Not just in Germany, but also around the world. Anyone in possession of cannabis faces prosecution. This is stated in the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs.

At the time, 186 states signed on to the deal. Cannabis is considered as a very hazardous narcotic with a high addiction potential. There is no mention of the plant's medicinal value.

Don't forget to read related article.

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