The History of Cannabis
Cannabis has been grown around the world for thousands of years for a whole host of different reasons. It has a rich past, with civilisations using for a diverse range of purposes. Cannabis has formed a core component of textiles, fuel and even building materials. Many believe Hempcrete is the future of construction, as a carbon friendly alternative to gas guzzling concrete.
It is only within the last century that the age-old plant has become synonymised with “recreational use” and “controlled substances”. Both perceptions and uses of the plant have evolved over time.
In this week’s article, we’re taking a look at the history of Cannabis. This feels particularly prescient, given last week’s momentous global announcement. The UN’s rescheduling of Cannabis may be mainly symbolic. Yet, it represents a gradual shift towards a greater understanding of our green friend.
Table of Contents
- The Discovery of Cannabis
- Cannabis Arrives in the West
- 20th Century Crackdown
- The road to ending Prohibition
- The rise of CBD
The Discovery of Cannabis
If we look back millennia on the history of Cannabis, we arrive on the Oki Islands (found near Japan). As recorded by archaeologists, remnants of the Cannabis plant’s fruit were found deep in the soil (from around 8000BC). This potentially signifies its growth and cultivation. The fruits of the cannabis plant are small, smooth and have one single seed.
Such a trajectory continues with evidence from China, dated back to 6000BC, where Cannabis seeds were used as food. Today, the seeds are still used to make cooking oil in Nepal!
The Discovery of New Uses
Later, they became a means of medicine and pottery decoration. Further diversifying the use of the Cannabis plant, the Chinese later weaved it into rope, fibre and clothes. The importance of cannabis in China can be seen as textiles and paper made from the plant were found in Emperor Wu’s tomb. He ruled during the Han dynasty, between 104–87 BC.
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Over the next thousand years, the Cannabis seed slowly spread to northern Europe. Ancient uses were recorded by the fabled Greek historian, Herodotus. He told of recreational and ritual consumption by the Scythians.
Such traditions slowly made their way to the Middle East during the Middle Ages. During this period, Cannabis became used for its resin in the form of Hashish.
Cannabis Arrives in the West
Interestingly, the modern West didn’t start growing and using Cannabis until the 17th and 18th centuries. However, when it did, it was a large-scale operation.
In 1535 in the UK, Henry VIII created an act which ordered all landowners to sow a quarter of an acre of hemp (a strain of Cannabis), otherwise, they’d be fined! In 1794, George Washington declared that hemp should be grown as a key agricultural crop at any given opportunity in the US.
A hundred years later, Queen Victoria was prescribed Cannabis for period pain by her private doctor because of pioneering research conducted by Irish physician William O’Shaughnessy.
Once we had reached the 1920's, up to 80% of clothing was made from Hemp textiles. Sailing ships used to explore the world depended upon Canvas (which comes from the word cannabis) and hemp rope as they are stronger and salt water-resistant, unlike cotton.
From food and medicine, through rope and textiles, to recreational consumption, Cannabis has had a multitude of uses.
These moments only give a snapshot of Cannabis’ rich history. However, they do help us understand it’s versatility.
20th Century Crackdown
It was only in the 20th century — more specifically the 1920's — that the crackdown on Cannabis on began.
1925 saw Cannabis scheduled by the Geneva International Convention on Narcotics Control, a document signed by the British. While the Chinese moved to ban all Cannabis cultivation 10 years later. The beginnings of such stigma were compounded by a mass decline in Cannabis trade during World War II.
The US War on Drugs then further condemned Cannabis in the late 20th century.
“the strictest controls were placed on organic substances — the coca bush, the poppy and the cannabis plant — which are often part of the ancestral traditions of the countries where these plants originate, whereas the North’s cultural products, tobacco and alcohol, were ignored”
- 2002 Report by the Senate Special Committee on Illegal Drugs in Canada
The road to ending Prohibition
Now in the 21st century, perceptions of cannabis have greatly advanced. The majority of Americans now have access to medical cannabis. Plus, recreational cannabis is legal in 11 states. The UK also legalised medical cannabis in 2018 and has been joined by much of Europe. Now, most recently, the UN has rescheduled cannabis as “less dangerous” for use in research and medicine.
However, the relaxation of prohibition has not yet come with emancipation. The world still has a long way to go before true justice is served.
The History of CBD
CBD Oil consumption is a relatively new phenomenon, due to the advanced extraction methods needed to isolate it. Its use dates back to the 1940s, in which animal tests confirmed that it is non-psychoactive.
The first released CBD Oils were actually produced by British pharmacologist! Further scientific research, from the discovery of THC through the Endocannabinoid System to CBD, has done much to debunk understandings of Cannabis as simply recreational.
We now understand the ‘highs’ of Cannabis to be a phenomenon produced by THC. Whereas, other cannabinoids — such as CBD — can be used to support well-being as a dietary supplement.
However, this is not always common knowledge. So, it is our mission at Dragonfly CBD to drive towards a re-definition of Cannabis. We want to make clear that Cannabis is not simply one, universal plant. Some strains — such as the Cannabis Sativa L. we grow — can provide for an all-natural route to wellness.
Dragonfly CBD is available across the UK, in a number of fantastic retailers. Stocked in Boots, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Day Lewis Pharmacy among other independent pharmacies, Dragonfly CBD will soon be one of the first CBD brands launched on Amazon. You can find your local outlet selling Dragonfly CBD with this handy search tool! You can also buy us online.
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