The History of Cannabis | Cannabis through Time

Illustration of History of Cannabis: People harvesting cannabis in America

Cannabis is an age-old plant; grown around the world for thousands of years and for a whole host of reasons. Yet in the modern imagination, Cannabis has become synonymous with ‘controlled substance’ and ‘recreational use’. In this week’s post, we’re taking a look at the history of Cannabis. Firstly, how its meaning has changed over time. Before finally, moving onto how scientific advances can be used to work towards a new understanding of the plant.

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. Such a trajectory continues with evidence from China, dated back to 6000BC, where Cannabis seeds were used as food. 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.

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 1794, George Washington declared that hemp (a strain of Cannabis) 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. 

From food and medicine, through rope and textiles, to recreational consumption, Cannabis has had a multitude of uses. The moments listed here only give a snapshot of Cannabis’ rich history. Yet, when taken together, they give insight into the versatility of the plant. 

20th Century Crackdown

It was only in the 20th century – more specifically the 1920s – 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 History of CBD

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 phenomena produced by THC. Whereas, other cannabinoids – such as CBD – can be used to support well-being as a dietary supplement. 

This is not always common knowledge, however, and 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.

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