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Getting to the Roots of Cannabis

Cameran Testerman

Jan 11, 2022

Today cannabis is used worldwide in many different cultures for many different purposes. That alone goes to show the extent of benefits that cannabis provides. However the purpose of cannabis in cultures has changed over time, as cannabis has been around for thousands of years! Along the way, the powerful plant has picked up various different nicknames and become increasingly popular. In this piece let’s take a look at the roots of cannabis, and allow me to be your Bill Nye of Bud. So reach for your favorite caryophyllene strains, and focus up!

While the exact year of when cannabis was first discovered is unknown, researchers best guess is that it was first found somewhere around 3000 BC. However we can trace its roots back to Central and Southeast Asia, where cannabis originated and was harvested for the first time. Back then cannabis wasn’t consumed for its effects it had on humans. Fibers from the plant were woven and used to make a number of different textiles such as clothing, paper and rope. The only known consumption of cannabis this early in history, was of its seeds. Some researchers claim that it is the oldest known cultivated fibre plant.

Shortly after its discovery for its fibrous properties, cannabis was used for its medicinal properties in several different cultures. Most notably the Emperor of China at the time, Shen Nung, prescribed medicinal cannabis sativa and included it in the first Chinese pharmaceutical encyclopedia. Cannabis was first prescribed to combat fatigue, inflammation, and high fever. When the use of cannabis spread to India, for the first time it was prescribed for its psychoactive effects. As ancient doctors said it could help release patients from their anxiety.

Because the crop was so fast-growing and easy to cultivate, widespread use of cannabis began to grow rapidly and made its way to colonial America in the mid 1500’s. It was first introduced by Spanish colonizers with the intention to grow and cultivate the crop for its fibers. Which made sense, as the earliest cannabis crops in America contained very low levels of THC. It wasn’t until 1910 when many people were fleeing Mexico during the country’s revolution, and they brought different cultivars of the crop with them that contained higher THC levels.

Recreational use of cannabis didn’t become popular until American Legislators began to ban the use of drugs. The Harrison Act of 1914, for the first time ever, defined the use of cannabis as a crime. Thus in the early 1920’s recreational cannabis use began to gain traction, and many historians say this could be in part due to the prohibition. As the ban on alcoholic beverages took place, many turned to cannabis use as an alternative. The laws surrounding the Harrison Act however, didn’t go into effect until 1938. During that decade long period, recreational use caught on within those of show business. Cannabis clubs, also called “tea pads”, began popping up in every major US city. The site of a tea pad varied anywhere from a rented room to a hotel suite. These clubs were accepted by the authorities as cannabis was not illegal at the time, and guests showed no evidence of being a nuisance.

When the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 took effect, it was the first law to criminalize cannabis nationwide in the US. In fact just one day after the Act’s passage, 58 year old Samuel Caldwell was the first person arrested for selling cannabis and sentenced to four years of hard labor. The next major law further criminalizing the use of cannabis took place during the Nixon administration, when he passed the Controlled Substance Act of 1970. This act categorized various known drugs into different schedules based on their “potential for abuse, and if they are considered dangerous” schedule 1 being the highest potential for abuse and most dangerous, while schedule 5 is the least dangerous. Cannabis was classified as a schedule 1 drug, along with heroin, LSD, and ecstasy. Yes, you read that right...cannabis was deemed more harmful and dangerous than cocaine and methamphetamine! To this very day, if you go to the DEA link on the different drug schedules ( cannabis is still considered worse than cocaine and meth.

Fast forward to 1996, California passed Proposition 215 otherwise known as the Compassionate Use Act. This act legalized the use of cannabis for medical purposes. Shortly after this act passed, medical legalization and decriminalization efforts began to make headway across the country. And in 2012 Washington and Colorado became the first states to legalize adult recreational cannabis use. Cannabis has had a long and misunderstood purpose, however it finally feels that it is now pointed in the right direction. As more and more states legalize and decriminalize cannabis use, the more we can begin to learn about this potent and powerful plant!

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