The History of Marijuana

Statue of Liberty Marijuana Crown
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History of Marijuana US Treasury Display
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Most cannabis connoisseurs know that marijuana has been around for a while, but the history of marijuana is older than you might think. This multi-purpose plant has been improving our lives since before recorded history! Now, that’s a lot of time to cover, so we’ll just set you up with some of the intriguing highlights from the history of marijuana. Let’s dive in!

Marijuana in Pre-History

Cannabis plants evolved in Asia, on the Mongolian Steppes, and even in the harsh conditions of southern Siberia. Historians place marijuana among the first cultivated species of plants and estimate that humans began tending marijuana crops about 12,000 years ago. That’s right; cannabis was a part of human farming long before corn came on the scene!

These hardy plants flourished around areas where pre-historic hunter-gatherers dumped their unusable organic waste. These nutrient-rich dump sites evolved into the first cultivated plots in human history.

Marijuana in Ancient Times

Long before marijuana was viewed as a controversial substance, it was used for medicinal, industrial, and recreational purposes. Check out these incredible finds that prove the long history of marijuana:

  1. Marijuana seeds were found in kurgan burial mounds dating to 3000 B.C.
  2. Tombs of nobility in Xinjiang, China were found to contain preserved, psychoactive cannabis dating back to 2500 B.C.
  3. In China, medicinal use of marijuana is recorded as early as 4000 B.C., as a surgical anesthetic.

Not only did the ancient Chinese use marijuana for its physical and psychological effects, but they also used hemp to make a whole host of staple items. They used the strong fibers for rope, bow strings, and even paper! It wasn’t long until this incredible plant would begin spreading throughout the world.

To Europe and Beyond

The book The Archaeology of Korea tells us that, starting around 2000 B.C., coastal Chinese farmers began sharing the secret of marijuana with Korean traders. From there, the Scythians picked up cannabis and spread it throughout Asia and into the Middle East and Europe.

The Scythians were nomadic people whose prowess with horses allowed them to spread cannabis quickly. It also helped that the culture absorbed marijuana into some of their deepest rituals.

Marijuana in America

Statue of Liberty Marijuana Crown
Photo by: Aleynikov Pavel/Shutterstock
Once marijuana began putting down roots across Asia, Europe, and the Middle East, it simply couldn’t be stopped. The plant’s usefulness and hardiness made it a key ingredient in everything from clothing to ship sails. In fact, it was so useful that when it was brought to the New World in the 1600s, settlers were required to cultivate marijuana plants! You could even use hemp as legal tender in Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Maryland.

All the way up until the Civil War, hemp was used industrially. After the war, it started to be replaced with other, imported materials. However, in the late 19th century, marijuana regained a bit of popularity as an ingredient in all kinds of medicinal concoctions.

Cannabis Controversy

At the dawn of the 20th century, the history of marijuana took a turn for the worse. After the Mexican Revolution, racial tension between Americans and the growing influx of Mexican immigrants was used as a driving force in the criminalization of marijuana.

Cannabis became associated with the immigrants, and various influencers dogpiled on the substance, attributing horrific crimes to marijuana use. By 1931, 29 U.S. states had banned cannabis outright.

Of course, we can’t forget about the classic propaganda film Reefer Madness. This 1936 film cemented marijuana as a wildly dangerous substance in the public eye and shaped the governmental approach to cannabis for the next several decades.

The Modern History of Marijuana

From the 1930s all the way up to the 90s, marijuana went on lockdown. In the 50s, the government instituted mandatory minimum sentencing for all drug-related offenses, destroying lives and communities while doing nothing to stem the tide of marijuana usage. While mandatory minimum sentencings were mostly repealed in 1970, much damage had been done.

The first sign of a break in the clouds for marijuana came in 1996 when California legalized medical cannabis use and possession. After this first step, marijuana legalization has ended up on the ballots of many states in the years to come. Although it has taken decades, the public’s opinion of marijuana has changed significantly enough that legislation is finally catching up.

Today, eight states and the District of Columbia have legalized the recreational use and possession of cannabis, and even more allow medical marijuana. Many signs point to the continued evolution of the public’s view of cannabis, but there are some concerns about the current administration’s attitude toward pot. For example, Attorney General Jeff Sessions is in favor of “cracking down” on drugs, including marijuana, by reinstating mandatory minimum sentences.

Marijuana’s Future

After nearly a century of demonizing marijuana, it seems we’re finally on track to treating it like the ancients did. Recreational marijuana has led to some ingenious inventions and developments in how we consume cannabis. More and more studies are finding strong evidence of marijuana’s medical benefits.

Hopefully, with enough time, we’ll be able to harness the full potential of cannabis.

Article by: Spencer Grey