The use of Cannabis as a medicinal supplement has been part of the history of humanity dating back to at least 2900 BCE, with the Chinese Emperor Fu Hsi calling it “Ma,” the Chinese word for Cannabis; as it was used as a popular medicine. More research has showed that as far back as 8000 BCE hemp was used in pottery located in what is the modern day Taiwan. As explained by Richard Hamilton in the 2009 Scientific American article on sustainable agriculture “Modern humans emerged some 250,000 years ago, yet agriculture is a fairly recent invention, only about 10,000 years old … Agriculture is not natural; it is a human invention. It is also the basis of modern civilization.” This point was also touched on by Carl Sagan in 1977 when he proposed the possibility that marijuana may have actually been world’s first agricultural crop, leading to the development of civilization itself. Cannabis was found on the mummy of Ramesses II, who died in 1213 BC; cannabis was used in Ancient Egypt for glaucoma, inflammation, and pain during menstruation. In India, around 600 BCE, cannabis was used to quicken the mind, prolong life, lower fevers, cure dysentery and inducing sleep. In his book, Cannabis, 2002, Jonathon Green states, “The first major work to lay out the uses of cannabis in [Indian] medicine was the Ayurvedic [a system of Indian medicine] treatise of Sushruta Samhita written in 600 BC… Within the Sushrita, cannabis is cited as an anti-phlegmatic and a cure for leprosy.”
In their research entitled, “Marijuana As Medicine?”, Allison Mack and Janet Joy stated, “In a compendium of drug recipes compiled in 1 AD [Pen Ts’ao Ching], based on traditions from the time of Shen Nung, marijuana is depicted as an ideogram [pictorial symbol] of plants drying in a shed. This ancient text… recommends marijuana for more than 100 ailments, including gout, rheumatism, malaria, and absentmindedness.”
In the results of chemical analyses of plant residues in pipes found belonging to William Shakespeare indicate residue of cannabis in the 1600’s! On the other side of the ocean, in Jamestown, settlers brought hemp with them to North America in 1611; later making it one of the most important
exports of early America. In Robert Deitch’s book, “Hemp American History Revisited: The Plant with a Divided History” (2003), he uncovers George Washinton’s diaries in which he states, “[George] Washington’s diary entries indicate that he grew hemp at Mount Vernon, his plantation, for about 30 years [approximately 1745-1775]. According to his agricultural ledgers, he had a particular interest in the medicinal use of Cannabis, and several of his diary entries indicate that he indeed was growing Cannabis with a high Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content – marijuana.” The first draft of the Declaration of Independence was written on hemp paper!
In 1799, Napoleon brought cannabis from Egypt to France, in which we became widely accepted for its sedative and pain reliefing effects in Western Medicine. Queen Victory was well known for using it for her menstrual cramps in the form of a tincture rather than via smoke!
By 1850, cannabis was added to the United States Pharmocopeia; a official public standard’s setting authority for all prescription and over the counter medicines, in which marijuana was listed as treatments for numerous maladies and symptoms.
Unfortunately, the modern history of cannabis has plenty of propaganda, lobbying, racism and misguided information that has influenced why cannabis became illegal. In 1930, a new division in the Treasury Department was established. The Federal Bureau of Narcotics was born, and a man named Harry J. Anslinger was named director of the division. This marked the beginning of cannabis prohibition as we know it.
With the help of racist statements, yellow journalism, and propaganda such as Reefer Madness, the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 was created. Just 4 years after the first failed prohibition, the prohibition alcohol from 1920 to 1933, America was to enter another one, which we are still witnessing today. Once Richard Nixon declared the War on Drugs in 1971, cannabis prohibition worsened and has created many negative consequences within the nation and around the world ever since.
Slowly, as a culture we are beginning to see positive change towards the legalization of medical marijuana, and a push to reschedule cannabis from a schedule 1 substance, alongside heroin and bath salts, to a schedule 2 substance; such as morphine and oxycodone, so that proper research can be conducted. World history points towards the amazing benefits that Cannabis, in the forms of Hemp and Marijuana, can have on our health, our society, and our planet as a whole.
Article By: Courtney Grove