Back to the basics
There is hardly a person today who does not have an opinion on the question of the legality of cannabis, be it recreational or medicinal. From your buddies who smoked up on 420 to your grandma preaching against the devil’s lettuce on the dinner table, everyone has their own opinions.
The plant itself has gone through many periods in its history. From a multi-dimensional usage to putting a hemp-quota that each farmer must fulfill to governmental propaganda and crackdowns against the plant and a renewed wave of decriminalization, the history of cannabis has depth and variety worthy of a novel.
In the beginning, there was cannabis
Truly the history of the plant that we love to smoke is as old as the history of humanity itself. If we know one thing about the early homo sapiens is that they knew how to be environmentally friendly, honoring the spirits of animals and plants. One plant in particular that they found useful to help them get in touch with the spirit realm was cannabis. The earliest usages of the plant according to archeological findings date as early as the Neolithic period which began 12, 000 years ago. Most likely humans used the plant for its many beneficial qualities, such as making shoes, clothes, rope and even paper from hemp fibers, as well as for its healing and psychoactive effects. The famous Chinese surgeon Hua Tuo would use cannabis as an anesthetic before surgery, grinding it to powder and mixing it with wine.
A catalyst of globalization
The cannabis plant originates from Central Asia and the Indian subcontinent. It was known to the early Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Indian, and Egyptian peoples – basically all of the earliest civilizations. The usage of cannabis became ingrained in many of the local cultures. Later around the first millennium, the Persians would start spreading cannabis resin otherwise known as hashish to the Arab world. “Mystic Islamic travelers” would spread hashish to Egypt. From there it would find its way to the Europeans and into the New World. The Spaniards would bring industrial hemp to Chile in the 16th century and cultivate it there.
An honorable mention is the mystic order of the Hashashim who is known as an assassin order, who would indulge in the usage of…you guessed it – hashish, before being dispatched to do away with their targets.
Another interesting mention is that while Napoleon was leading French troops in his Egyptian campaign, his troops found themselves in a country, where all alcohol was banned due to religious reasons. The outcome was that it became common practice for the French soldiers to experiment with the local hashish. Undoubtedly they shared their experience back in their mother country afterward.
Cannabis was recognized worldwide for its beneficial qualities and quickly became a globally traded good. There are speculations that cannabis was grown in the plantations of Thomas Jefferson and George Washington. Early settlers in the new world were even given hemp quotas to fulfill, to be used for the making of clothes, rope, and sails all required hemp to be manufactured.
Undoubtedly there is much more to be said about humanity’s experience with cannabis, and many lives have been saved and lost. However, our focus will now move to the more modern history of cannabis in the 20th century in particular.
The war on cannabis
Before getting directly into the war on drugs, waged by the US government, some background story of how we got there is in order. To truly understand the events that led to the criminalization of cannabis and cannabis being made a schedule one drug above heroine in terms of danger and being branded as the most dangerous enemy to American society, after communists, some context is necessary.
In the early 20th century the United States was shaken by a number of geopolitical events. The first World War was a devastating conflict that left Western civilization in tatters and ultimately led to the biggest economic crisis in history, known as the Great Depression. Now add intense migration from Mexico, due to the 1910 revolution to the mix and you can easily imagine how the average American worker, every fourth of whom would already be unemployed, found themselves competing with cheap labor imported from Mexico. But how does all of that lead to the 1937 Marijuana Tax Act, which placed a significant tax on the sale of cannabis and was the first stepping stone to outright decriminalization?
In the context of economic instability and uncertainty, the fear of the common man was turned against the most vulnerable groups in society – Mexicans and Blacks who were portrayed as stealing jobs from honest Americans. Along with them, Marijuana became associated with xenophobic sentiments. The reefer or marijuana madness became associated with “inferior races” and “social deviants”.
Other reasons for criminalization include that the hemp plant was competing with powerful industries. Henry Ford found a way to use hemp as fuel. Hemp was competing with paper and pharmaceutical industries as well. Hemp clothes were direct competitors to cotton clothes. Essentially it was an act of powerful interest groups who used their influence in Congress to put a ban on cannabis. They used the fears of the common man along with the fears of the rich to effectively brand cannabis as having no medicinal qualities, no benefits and essentially depriving thousands of people from the opportunity to benefit from Cannabis.
This decision had global impacts as US foreign policy would start to target cannabis in countries such as Nepal, Afghanistan, Belize and more. A war would be waged on Cannabis, wherever it was and it’s destruction was a priority.
Today we finally begin to witness a Cannabis Renaissance that brings back cannabis to the legal sphere of business. Tons of research is being done daily. Millions of people have the opportunity to buy Cannabis for medical purposes. CBD is becoming a leader in world pharmacies.
Finally, there is justice for Cannabis, as its healing qualities have been recognized officially. There is no doubt that the history of Cannabis is still being written and it will not end anytime soon.
At Queen of Bud we are proud to provide individuals with this incredibly useful plant.