A Short, Informative History of Hemp

Based off of research done by: T.B. Green

Cannabis has a very prominent part in the history of mankind. While almost all of us have grown up in a time of near worldwide prohibition, this plant was once broadly recognized for not only its medicinal and recreational purposes, but for its industrial versatility as well. Hemp was used to make sturdy, ropes and canvases. Back before all of the manmade synthetics that now dominate the market, Hemp was seen as one of the strongest, and most durable of textiles available to the world.

There have been world conflicts over hemp products, and most people think that the only cannabis related conflicts are the drug wars raging in the US, Mexico, and other parts of the world. Sadly, governments push biased school syllabi, instead teaching citizens the history of our civilizations as it honestly happened. History really is told from the point of view of the “victorious” and those still in power.  Just because politicians make the laws, doesn’t mean they can create their own versions of what happened, but they do. Why? It’s Simple. It pushes the agenda of those in power. If the government admitted to the fact that hemp is nutritious, that it is a medicinal powerhouse, that it could easily solve the world’s fuel crisis, and reverse environmental calamities, then the people that the governments supposedly serve may start to question the absurd laws trying to prohibit it out of existence. Then they might learn that the prohibition isn’t based on the best interests of the people, but in the special interests of industries looking to conceal the industrial and medicinal application of a plant that could be grown by anyone. It could cut their profits, and that’s far more important than doing the right thing in their book. So without further ado, here is a short chronological history based on our favorite plant, cannabis.

A Chronology of Cannabis

BCE:Before Christ’s Existence

ACE:After Christ’s Existence

*Fine hemp production in Russia has lasting effects on world history

**The modern United States government is the biggest opponent of cannabis legalization and use in the world

  • 10,000 BCE—While we aren’t totally sure when cannabis came upon the Earth, we believe that the first human cultivations of cannabis occurred around this time period, because this is the time period that humanity first started purposefully planting seed in hopes of harvesting their fruits

  • 7,000-6,000 BCE—Hemp oil and seed is used as food in China, The Chinese also started to feed hemp-cake to their livestock.  The Chinese would fill an oil press with hemp seed to extract this oil. What was left was the hemp-cake still rich in protein, fiber and useful vitamins and minerals

  • 5,000 BCE—Woven Hemp product used in China and Turkestan mainly for clothing

  • 2,700 BCE—The Emperor of China Shen Nang uses Cannabis as Medicine

  • 2,000 BCE— In India, Bhang (a drink made of cured cannabis leaves, stems, seeds, and flowers) is spoken of in The Vedas, a multivolume Hindu religious book. It is said that Bhang is the favored food of the god Shiva; it is consumed ritualistically by his followers and even used as an offering. There are several holidays that incorporate its use

  • 1,500 BCE—The Scythians, (Iranian speaking nomads from the black sea region) begin to cultivate the plant to make fine clothing and food. They also enjoy the smoke produced by burning the leaves and flowers. First as incense, but it didn’t take long for it to be loaded into rudimentary pipes

  • 931 BCE—Wild Cannabis is said to have grown naturally on the tomb of King Solomon the Magician. It was said to be gift from Jah to his people

  • 605 BCE—Cannabis is most likely cultivated hydroponically for the first time in the hanging gardens of Babylon

  • 600 BCE—*Ancient Russian tribes start to produce hemp cordage

  • 500-400 BCE—Scythian nomads begin to venture into Europe. They introduce cannabis to many European settlements along the way. Ancient Greek historian Herodotus tells of Scythian cannabis use as both religious and recreational. The Scythians also bring cannabis into northern Europe, introducing it to Germanic tribes. Russian tribes introduce hemp fiber to Scandinavia

  • 100 BCE—Chinese invent paper using hemp pulp

  • 23-70 ACE— Roman naturalist and philosopher Pliny the Elder writes about the use of Hemp to make rope. He also writes about the ability cannabis has to sooth pain

  • 100 ACE—Hemp cordage makes its way to The British Isles via the Roman navy. The Romans most likely brought the seed with them as well. Exploration parties and navies used to bring hemp or flax seed (preferably hemp seed) with them on expeditions. They considered it to be emergency equipment

  • 150 ACE—Greek doctor Galen prescribes cannabis as medicine

  • 200 ACE— Chinese surgeon Hua T’o uses cannabis as an anesthetic with success during surgical procedures

  • 500 ACE—The Jewish Talmud mentions the euphoric effects of cannabis

  • 850 ACE—Vikings take hemp rope and seed with them on their first expedition to Iceland and eventually to Greenland as well

  • 900 ACE—The use of Arab hashish spreads into Northern Africa and Europe

  • 1100 ACE—Recruited Assassins of Hassan Ibn Al-Sabbah, from Persia, reportedly utilize the psychedelic effects of cannabis in their assassinations

  • 1200 ACE—1,001 Arabian Nights makes detailed description of the use cannabis as an aphrodisiac

  • 1300 ACE—Arab traders bring cannabis with them to the Mozambique coast of Africa. Archaeologists find gourd pipes in Ethiopia dating back to this time frame that has evidence of burnt cannabis resin

  • 1533 ACE—King Henry requires British farmers to grow hemp to supplement hemp cordage and sails needed for the British naval fleet

  • 1550 ACE—Angolan slaves brought to Brazil by the Portuguese bring cannabis seeds with them, and are permitted by their masters to grow it between rows of sugar cane on the plantations. They are allowed to smoke it in between grow seasons

  • 1578 ACE—Li Shih-Chen of China writes of cannabis’s application as antibiotic and its use in treating nausea

  • 1600 ACE—*Great Britain and starts to import hemp from Russia

  • 1606 ACE—Europeans (mainly the British, French, and Spanish) start cultivating much greater amounts of hemp in their colonies ranging from New England to the Caribbean and South America

  • 1621 ACE—British writer and scholar Robert Burton publishes his book called The Anatomy of Melancholy which for the first time describes cannabis as an effective treatment for depression

  • 1753 ACE—Swedish Botanist Carolus Linnaeus makes the first classification of cannabis; Cannabis Sativa L

  • 1776 ACE—The American colony of Kentucky begins to cultivate large quantities of hemp for the use in America’s war for independence, also an American seamstress named Betsy Ross makes the first Stars and Stripes U.S. flag, and she does so using hemp. The flag is presented to General George Washington in the late spring of 1776

  • 1781 ACE—The first drafts of the US constitution are written on hemp paper

  • 1785 ACE—French naturalist and botanist Jean-Baptiste Lemarck classifies a second variety of cannabis; Cannabis Indica L

  • 1799-1815 ACE*/** The Napoleonic wars were hugely centered on hemp trade, its exportation from Russia to England, to the US, and it necessity to naval powers at that time.  Post French Revolution, the British feared the spread of a similar revolution to their side of the channel. To Squash the notion and to stand firm the British began to blockade the French via the English Channel and the strait of Trafalgar.  In response Napoleon tried to get Russia to stop exporting its prized hemp sails and cordage to the British.  Which succeeded briefly, but ambitious US traders helped the British to get around the embargo. Soon the Russians stopped the embargo which caused Napoleon to invade Russia. The British tried to block US from trading with all of Europe, to avoid any hemp or other trade good from getting to the French. Since the Americans didn’t care about whom they traded with as long as there was profit to be made. At which point the US decided to declare a semi-victorious second war on Britain, and Britain was forced to fight two wars at once. Eventually Napoleon was defeated by Britain and her allies. He was dethroned, and all sides signed treaties. Such was the Hemp Wars

  • 1840 ACE—**In the US, pharmaceutical medicines widely start to include cannabis

  • 1890 ACE—Greece and The Ottoman Empire try to prohibit the importation and use of Hashish. Sir J.R. Reynolds, chief doctor to the British Queen Victoria, prescribes her medicinal cannabis.

  • 1914 ACE—**The Harrison Act tries defines cannabis and other drug use as a crime in the US

  • 1915 ACE—**The US prohibits use of cannabis, except for in medicine

  • 1924 ACE—Russian Botanist D.E. Janichevsky classifies the third type of cannabis; Cannabis Ruderalis J.

  • 1928 ACE—Britain bans recreational use of Cannabis

  • 1936 ACE—**US propaganda film Reefer Madness is produced

  • 1937 ACE— **On October 2nd the US enacts the Marijuana Stamp Act. The US prohibits all cannabis cultivation, distribution, and consumption in its own borders by requiring farmers to go to Washington DC to purchase a Marijuana tax stamp. However going to D.C. and requesting the Stamp is illegal and punishable by law. That same day the FBI arrests the first cannabis criminals in the US.  They conduct a raid on the Lexington Hotel in Denver Colorado, and arrest 58 year old Samuel Caldwell and Moses Baca

  • 1941 ACE—**the US removes cannabis from the US Pharmacopeia; It no longer recognizes the medicinal utilization of cannabis.

  • 1942 ACE—**US propaganda produces pro hemp video, Hemp for Victory at the beginning of WWII, essentially encouraging its citizens to break the anti-hemp laws to assist in the war effort. Also in the US, the OSS (war time predecessor to the CIA) develops a ‘truth serum’ to use against captured enemy spies. The main active ingredient in the ‘truth serum’ is concentrated THC from cannabis

  • 1951 ACE—**The US resumes its anti-cannabis stance with the Narcotics Control Act and gets most other countries to follow suit by getting the newly formed United Nations to take an anti-cannabis /anti-narcotic stance. These laws are almost ineffective and hard to enforce, there for they don’t take priority to most law enforcement units world-wide. However when governments and law enforcement were able to make an easy bust, they usually made a horse and pony show out of it and made examples of the culprits

  • 1960 ACE—Czech scientists are able to confirm the antibiotic and pain treating properties of cannabis. They publish their findings and are ignored by the world

  • 1967 ACE—**Cannabis strain Red Lebanese, is brought to California. It is the first strain to be cultivated for smoke alone in the US. Red Lebanese was the first selectively bread strain for smoke-ability in the US, and grown solely for smoking

  • 1970 ACE—**Richard Nixon is the first US president to talk about a war on drugs. He does so while encouraging congress to pass the CSA (Controlled Substance Act) of 1970. Many believe his reason for doing so is because of his anger with the counter culture movement and their liberal use of cannabis and a few other drugs. He hated their public protests and open defiance, and was sure that cannabis was the root of their unscrupulous actions. Also, NORML, National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, is created. Its most notable member is renounced US astrophysicist Carl Sagan

  • 1971 ACE—First credible reports of Marijuana being able to medically treat glaucoma.

  • 1972 ACE—**Richard Nixon appoints The Shafer Commission to evaluate the effects of cannabis and to hopefully reinforce his anti-cannabis policies. The Shafer Commission, however, finds that cannabis is ultimately harmless and could possibly have medicinal properties. They also conclude that a total prohibition and war on the drug would be a useless waste of money. Their findings are ignored, and Nixon has Shafer fired.

  • 1973 ACE—Nepal and Afghanistan make hashish consumption and production a capital offense

  • 1976 ACE—The Netherlands decriminalizes cannabis use and growth

  • 1980 ACE—The government in the Netherlands authorizes small amounts of cannabis to be sold in local coffee shops

  • 1986 ACE—**US President Ronald Reagan, starts the US’s official war on drugs, and signs the Anti-Drug Abuse Act. The Just say No campaign begins

  • 1992 ACE-- **US Presidential candidate and eventual President-Elect Bill Clinton admits in an interview to having smoked cannabis, but famously says that he “Never Inhaled it.” Somehow he felt that the public would see the distinction, and astonishingly, he was right

  • 1996 ACE—**California, the first US state to ban the use of cannabis (in 1915), becomes the first US state to legalize medical marijuana

  • 1998 ACE— **US states Oregon, Washington and Alaska also legalize the use of medicinal marijuana use. The movement no longer seems like a flash in the pan. Other states start to consider it

  • 1999 ACE—**US state Maine legalizes medical marijuana use, it is the first eastern seaboard state to do so

  • 2000 ACE—**US states Colorado, Nevada and Hawaii legalize medical marijuana use. Medical marijuana is catching fire in western US states

  • 2001 ACE—There is a growing change in the way many countries worldwide are viewing cannabis use. This is a big year for cannabis; British Home Secretary David Blunkett proposes lowering cannabis from class B to class C. Canada, as a nation legalizes medical marijuana use; And Portugal decriminalizes use of ALL drugs, including cannabis. Viewing drug use not as a punishable crime but as a medical health issue

  • 2004 ACE—**After four years of slow down, the medical marijuana movement picks up two more states; Vermont and Montana

  • 2006 ACE—**US state Rhode Island legalizes medical marijuana use

  • 2007 ACE—**US state New Mexico legalizes medical marijuana use

  • 2008 ACE—**US state Michigan legalizes medical marijuana use

  • 2010 ACE—**US capital Washington DC and two other US states; New Jersey and Arizona legalize medical marijuana use

  • 2011 ACE—**US state Delaware legalizes medical marijuana use

  • 2012 ACE—**US states Connecticut and Massachusetts legalize medical marijuana use. Two US states vote to outright legalize, regulate and tax cannabis.  Those states are: Colorado (our home) and Washington. This is big, because while other places such as the Netherlands and Portugal have decriminalized its use. No place in the world has voted for outright legalization of cannabis

  • 2013 ACE--** US states New Hampshire and Illinois legalize medical marijuana use, bringing the total number of medical marijuana states in the US to 20. That’s nearly half of the states in the US   


This Chronological History has been adapted from these sources:

  1. The Emperor Wears No Clothes- By Jack Herer

  2. Cannabis: A History- By Martin Booth

  3. Marijuana Growers Handbook: By Ed Rosenthal

  4. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medical_cannabis

  5. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/cannabis

  6. http://www.advancedholistichealth.org/history.html

  7. http://medicalmarijuana.procon.org/view.resource.php?resourceID=000143

Posted in: View all