Over the last few centuries, Cannabis Sativa has been used for many things such as fiber for rope, and as a hallucinogen. Cannabis Sativa is mainly broken up into two varieties of plants; hemp, and cannabis or marijuana. While the United States is currently undergoing legalization for cannabis across different states, hemp has been federally legalized under the 2018 Farm Bill.

It important that we understand the role of Cannabis, and all the other drugs that derive from it. Different drugs that are derived from Cannabis are alkaloid drugs such as opium, cocaine, caffeine, nicotine, etc. [1]. It was also used as medicine and for spiritual purposes during pre-modern times. For example, Vikings and medieval Germans used cannabis for relieving pain during childbirth and toothaches [2].

Cannabis sativa is also known as Indian hemp, is an herbaceous annual plant that originates from Central Asia. It was used as a medicine in folk time and even used as a source of textile fiber. It is a fast-growing plant that in recent years has been starting to make a comeback due to its multi-purpose elements in both the pharmaceutical world and even in construction sectors since it can be used in bioplastics and concrete like material [3].

Where did Cannabis Come From?

The history of the use of cannabis dates as far back as 12,000 years which puts it amongst humanity’s oldest cultivated crops according to the book “Marihuana: The First Twelve Thousand Years” [4]. Burned Cannabis seeds were also found at kurgan burial mounds in Siberia dating as far back as 3,000 B.C. Some tombs of the noble people who were buried in Xinjiang (Region of China and Siberia) around 2500 B.C. include mummified psychoactive marijuana in large quantities. [5].

Both hemp and psychoactive marijuana have dated back to 4,000 B.C and widely used in ancient China as a medicinal use such as anesthetic during surgery.

From China, Cannabis started to move around by coastal farmers who brought it to Korea around 2000 B.C.  Between 2000 B.C. and 1000 B.C. the, region was invaded by the Aryans, a group that spoke a very archaic Indo-European language. From there the drug became widely used in India; they celebrated it as one of the “five kingdoms of herbs which release us from anxiety” [6].

From Asia, Cannabis moved its way to Europe starting in the Middle East between 2000 B.C. and 1400 B.C. It was mostly used by Scythians who were a nomadic Indo-European group. It is likely that the Scythians also brought the drug to southeast Russia and Ukraine since both territories were occupied at the time. From there German tribes are who brought the Cannabis into Germany and from there to Britain during the 5th century with the Anglo-Saxon invasions.

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This map shows how marijuana spread throughout the world, from its origins on the steppes of Central Asia. Credit: Barney Warf, University of Kansas

To this day, Cannabis seeds have been found in the remains of Viking ships that date back to the mid-ninth century. Over the next centuries, Cannabis has migrated to various regions around the world traveling through Africa and reaching South America in the 19th century eventually moving north to North America.

Cannabis Makes to America

Cannabis came to North America a the beginning of the 20th century arriving from Mexico when immigrants were fleeing the country due to the Mexican Revolution during 1910-1911. Ironically Cannabis faced many prejudices due to propaganda and racist fears the marijuana smokers were feared to be criminals [7].  

Americans law never recognized the key differences between Cannabis sativa L. and Cannabis sativa. The plant was first outlawed in Utah in 1915 and by 1931 it was illegal in 29 states. In 1930, Harry Aslinger became the first commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics and made it his priority to make marijuana illegal in all states. The Marijuana Tax Act went into place in 1937, putting the regulation of cannabis under the Drug Enforcement Agency, which ultimately criminalized the possession of the plant throughout the country [8].

As new legislation pass, different states are allowing the possession of cannabis with little to no criminal charges however it is still federally illegal. We will continue to educate you as law and regulations develop, so stay tuned!