Cannabis, A History
Marijuana through the ages
From the Vikings to the Ancient Greeks, Chinese and Egyptians, the history of cannabis is irrefutably woven into the fabric of mankind’s own tapestry. Far from a modern monster, marijuana has been used by humans worldwide in its varying forms for over 10,000 years.
For many of us, this simple fact alone is enough to decry any and all who believe it’s their place to make this natural miracle of a plant illegal.
Cannabis has fought many battles over the millennia, and through thick and thin is still surviving, thriving, alongside us today. With applications ranging from food to medicine, clothing, shoes, paper, rope, and (of course) recreational (or even religious) use, it’s clear that this tenacious plant - one of the earliest crops ever cultivated by mankind - is here to stay.
In fact, one might even argue, as agriculture is the basis of modern civilization, and cannabis (in all likelihood) was the world’s first agricultural crop, that marijuana led to the development of civilization itself - (put that in your pipe and smoke it!).
With this page, we here at SeedSupreme hope to open a doorway for you to the rich history of cannabis - a glimpse into the past of pot and people alike, so that we might all get a chance to know dear Mary Jane more intimately.
So sit back, skin up a fatty and get comfy - we’ll keep things as brief as possible, but marijuana’s storied history takes a while to cover!
Ganja: An Origin Story
While there is some debate among conspiracy theorists that mankind might not, in fact, have sprung from origins in Africa, it’s commonly accepted that cannabis comes originally from the regions of Central Asia and India.
This remarkable plant evolved some 28 million years ago, and was first enjoyed by local wildlife (who unfortunately were unable to pass the dutchie - thankfully, however, mankind cottoned on to the possibilities soon enough!).
At the birth of agriculture itself (around 8,000+ BCE), marijuana was primed, ready and more than able - and without any stigma holding them back, those wise ancient Asians were quick on the uptake.
Archaeologists have unearthed evidence of hemp cord used in pottery in the area of modern-day Taiwan, dating back to the dawn of agriculture over 10,000 years ago, and further evidence of use in the Oki Islands near Japan from the same era.
While today’s marijuana is most commonly used for its medical or recreational benefits, analysis of the remains of cannabis plants we’ve found to date suggests that the earliest strains had such low levels of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol - the cannabinoid which gets you high) that there would have been next to no psychoactive properties.
So what happened along the way?
How did this sublime specimen of nature with roots far older than even our most ancient ancestors come to be the point of modern contention, affection, therapy and more? Could it be that cannabis has actually been legal and widely used for considerably longer in its extensive history than not? (We’ll give you a hint - the answer’s yes).
Weed through History - A Timeline
Ancient Asians and Cannabis
8,000+ BCE - The dawn of agriculture and the birth of civilization. With humans settling in ancient villages and abandoning their nomadic ways, agriculture played a crucial role in our survival, and marijuana is highly likely to have been the first crop (if not, one of the earliest crops) cultivated by settlers.
Of course, without written records, it’s impossible to explore the full breadth of what our ancient ancestors used marijuana for, but an abundance of evidence from Chinese burial sites and villages in the region of Taiwan show us the use of hemp in pottery, as well as tools used to pound hemp.
6,000 BCE - By now, clear signs begin cropping up that marijuana seeds and oil were used for food in China.
4,0000 BCE - Hemp starts making its way into textiles throughout China and Turkestan.
2,900 BCE - The revered Emperor Fu Hsi, credited with bringing civilization to China, referenced cannabis (or ‘Ma’, in Chinese) as an incredibly popular medicine - one he claimed possessed both yin and yang (a statement I think we can all appreciate!).
2,737 BCE - The Traditional Medicine Book of Emperor Shen Neng becomes the world’s first officially recorded evidence of commonplace cannabis use for medicinal purposes.
By now, the Chinese were using marijuana to treat everything from malaria to gout and even a loss of memory!
2,000 - 800 BCE - Across this broad 1,200 years, we see numerous signs all throughout Asia of cannabis use, from industrial to recreational and medicinal.
Bhang (a mix of dried marijuana leaves, seeds and stems) appears in the sacred Hindu text (the Atharvaveda, aka The Science of Charms), and is referenced as ‘Sacred Grass’ - one of five sacred plants in India - and regularly used for medicine and ritualistic offerings to the god Shiva.
1,500 BCE - By now, signs appear that China has begun cultivating cannabis for food and fiber. Hemp and silk are in equal demand and the Scythians (a nomadic tribe of warriors from what is now modern Siberia) begin using and growing ganja to weave fine hemp cloth.
Given the Scythians’ nomadic nature, it’s likely that this tribe were responsible for introducing weed to the wider world of both the early Slavic and European cultures.
The Chinese Pharmacopeia known as the Rh-Ya also mentions the use of marijuana for medical purposes.
1450 BCE - Referenced in the original Hebrew version of a recipe for holy anointing oil (as described in the Book of Exodus), the recipe calls for over six pounds of kaneh-bosem (a substance experts agree is none other than marijuana).
1213 BCE - Evidence that the ancient Egyptians used cannabis was found on the mummy of Ramesses II (who died in this year), though pot prescriptions in Ancient Egypt were prescribed for everything from glaucoma to inflammation and the administration of enemas.
The Classical Era and Cannabis
750 BCE - The first signs that the Middle East is using cannabis by now come from an Iron Age shrine known as the ‘Holy of Holies’. A black substance found on the altar here tested positive for both THC and CBD… and was mixed with unidentified animal poop.
Oddly enough, this leads us more towards an idea that worshippers here were trying to get high (after all, this couldn’t have made a pleasant incense - but it would help the cannabis burn better…).
700 - 600 BCE - An ancient Persian religious text containing hundreds of volumes known as the Zoroastrian Zendavsta references Bhang (you remember Bhang, right? The Indian word for marijuana) as a ‘good narcotic’.
What’s more, the Venidad (another volume of the Zendavesta) lists cannabis as the most important of around ten thousand other medicinal plants.
700 - 300 BCE -Those ever-wandering Scythians leave an abundance of cannabis seeds as offerings in royal tombs, showing the religious importance of marijuana at the core of their beliefs.
600 BCE - Locals in southern Russia start using hemp rope.
500 BCE - A deceased Scythian couple are buried in Pazryk, northwest of the Tien Shan Mountains (modern Kazakhstan), with two mini tents which covered containers used for burning incense. A decorated leather pouch containing cannabis seeds was found fixed to one of the tent sticks.
It seems the Scythians had also introduced hemp to Northern Europe by this point as archaeologists have discovered an urn housing cannabis leaves and seeds near Berlin which dates to this era too.
430 BCE - The famed Greek historian Herodotus reports detailed accounts of both the recreational and ritual use of marijuana by the Scythians (who were often employed as mercenaries to the Athenians, thereby bringing cannabis into the flourishing heart of ancient Grecian culture).
371 - 287 BCE - Theophrastus, the first Greek botanist (successor to Aristotle and student of Plato), gave a detailed account of a plant called Dendromalache and its effects, which clearly mirror marijuana.
It’s worth noting that other Greek names for ganja have been suggested as being present too (much like today, perhaps), however, owing to the unequal distribution of knowledge and desires for cult secrecy (among other reasons), reports are patchy.
It’s likely that the ancient Grecians’ use of cannabis was not widespread, and saved more for ritualistic use by prophets and the like instead; after all, at the time, mind-altering substances were considered a path to the spiritual realms, inaccessible to average mortals - a belief likely influenced by shamans from Thrace (closely linked with those Scythian tribes), who inhaled hemp smoke to conjure visions and trances.
200 BCE - The Grecians start using ropes made of hemp, and the Chinese Book of Rites mentions hemp fabric in use.
Medical marijuana is also making a more regular appearance in Greek culture as therapy for inflammation, edema and earaches.
100 BCE - Hemp paper makes an appearance in China.
100 - 0 BCE - The first written account of the psychotropic effects of pot appear in the Pen Ts’ao Ching, recommending marijuana for over 100 different ailments.
0 - 100 AD - A gold and glass Samaritan stash box buried in a Siberian tomb hides a collection of hashish, coriander and salt - treats for the afterlife, perhaps?
23 - 79 AD - Pliny the Elder, a famous Roman writer, discusses hemp rope and the medical properties of pot in his book, Naturalis Historia (aka, The Natural History) - a book which became the model for the encyclopedia.
47 - 127 AD - Greek philosopher and essayist Plutarch discusses the use of ganja as an intoxicant by the Thracians.
70 AD - Dioscorides, a Greek physician, botanist and author in the employ of Niro, listed marijuana and the herb’s medical efficacy in his pharmacopoeia De materia medica (a huge volume about herbal medicine used extensively for more than 1,500 years).
100 AD - Hemp ropes make their way to England via import from Asia.
170 AD - A Greek physician in the Roman empire, known as Galen of Pergamon, hints at the potential for edibles, describing the psychoactivity of cannabis seeds and confectionery. He also prescribes pot for therapeutic purposes for a large range of conditions.
200 AD - A Chinese surgeon named Hua Tuo used marijuana to anaesthetize patients for surgery, meanwhile, the first pharmacopoeia written in the East lists medical marijuana.
300 AD - Women in Jerusalem are given ganja to relieve the pain of childbirth.
500 - 600 AD - The Talmud, known as the Sacred Jewish Book, mentions marijuana’s euphoric properties.
570 AD - Queen Arnegunde of Frankia was buried in hemp clothes and covered in a hemp shroud.
Ganja in the Dark Ages
850 AD - Signs appear that not only have the Northmen of Viking and Danish cultures begun using hemp ropes and other materials, but the Vikings are cultivating cannabis now, too. Ever nomadic in nature, the Northmen help spread hemp rope and seeds to places like Iceland.
This is an important milestone for marijuana’s evolution with mankind, showing how thousands of years working with weed has helped us spread the seeds of a global ganja community, rearing cannabis crops in any environment we see fit.
Incidentally, it’s through the cultivation of weed in these northern lands which helped the Sativa strains to develop.
900 AD - Arabic cultures have adopted the idea of making paper from hemp.
900 - 1000 AD - Cannabis use spreads like wildfire throughout the Arabian world, used as medicine while also feared by others, meanwhile, their scholars debate, weighing the ups and downs of eating hashish.
Marijuana in the Middle Ages
1000 AD - Hemp ropes are used in abundance on Italian ships, and we find our first hint of any real opposition to cannabis in a book by Arabian physician Ibn Wahshiyah, titled On Poisons, wherein the author writes of the potential dangers of marijuana.
1090 - 1124 AD - A figure known as the ‘Old Man of the Mountain’, aka Hasan ibn al-Sabbah, and his paramilitary organization are reported as using hashish as a hypnotic in Khorasan, Persia.
By the early 12th century, smoking hashish is one of the most popular pastimes in the Middle East.
1155 - 1221 AD - Sheikh Haydar’s personal discovery of cannabis and his alleged invention of hashish spreads the word of weed through the Persian culture, reaching everywhere from Syria to Egypt, Iraq and many more Arabic Mediterranean countries.
1171 - 1341 AD - During the Ayyubid Dynasty, cannabis spreads throughout Egypt thanks to Syrian devotees.
1200 AD - A collection of Arabian tales known as 1,001 Nights describes hashish as an intoxicating aphrodisiac.
1231 AD - Under the reign of Caliph Mustansir, hashish is introduced to Iraq.
1271 - 1295 AD - Venetian merchant and explorer Marco Polo gives a second-hand account of the story of the Old Man of the Mountain (remember him? Mr Hypnotic Hashish Paramilitary from Persia).
This marks the first time that cannabis reports are brought to the attention of Europe in general.
1300 - 1400 AD - The first monograph (a specialist work of writing) was written about hashish, though remains lost to this day.
Ibn al-Baytar, a Spaniard, describes the psychoactive effects of pot, while Arab traders arrive with marijuana on the African coasts of Mozambique. Ethiopian pipes with cannabis residue dating back to this era have been found all across Africa, suggesting the swift spreading of users.
1378 AD - Finally we come to the first case of cannabis prohibition in recorded history, when Emir Soudoun Scheikhouni of the Ottoman Empire issued an edict against eating hashish.
Imagine that, over 9,000 years of use and suddenly someone has the nerve to go and open those !#@^”£&”` doors!
1492 AD - Christopher Columbus is said to have brought hemp to the New World.
Mary Jane in the Early Modern Period
1503 -1517 AD - The Mona Lisa is painted on a hemp canvas.
1526 AD - The first emperor and founder of the Mughal Empire, Babur Nama, learned of hashish from his time in Afghanistan.
1532 AD - A French physician named Rabelais’ book Gargantua and Pantagruel mentions marijuana’s benefits as a medicine, illustrating the commonly accepted use of ganja in French culture of the time.
1533 AD - Ever-infamous King Henry VIII fined farmers for not growing hemp for industrial use.
1549 AD - Angolan slaves brought to work the sugar plantations of Brazil bring their cannabis with them and are allowed to grow their ganja between rows or cane and smoke it between working the harvests.
1550 AD - In his epic poem, Benk u Bode, Mohammed Ebn Soleiman Foruli, a poet from Baghdad, approaches the (now more common) debate of wine vs hashish, in what’s known as an allegorical and dialectical piece of poetic prose.
1563 AD - In a report, Portuguese physician Garcia da Orta speaks of marijuana’s medical effects.
1578 AD - Li Shih-Chen of China writes about the antibiotic and antiemetic properties of pot, treating vomiting, parasitic infections, hemorrhaging, dysentery, and diarrhea, as well as the herb’s hunger-stimulating abilities.
1600 AD - England begins importing hemp from Russia, placing considerable strategic importance on hemp’s role in any country’s economic development.
Though exact dates are unknown, tobacco pipes excavated from William Shakespeare’s garden reveal that 8 of the 24 fragments found contained cannabis residue, suggesting The Bard himself had caught onto Mary Jane’s creative possibilities.
1606 - 1632 AD - Both the British and the French cultivate hemp in their colonies, chiefly Port Royal (beginning in 1606), Virginia (in 1611) and Plymouth (in 1632).
1616 AD - English settlers in Jamestown grow hemp, recognizing the plant’s value as exceptionally strong fibrous material ideal for ropes, sails and clothing.
In this first permanent English settlement, a law is quickly passed which makes the cultivation of Indian hemp a legal requirement.
1621 AD - The potential for pot to treat depression is first outlined in Oxford scholar Robert Burton’s The Anatomy of Melancholy, a popular English mental health book.
1631 - 1632 AD - Following the example set by the settlers in Jamestown, Virginia, Massachusetts and Connecticut pass similar laws making hemp cultivation mandatory.
1652 AD - British herbalist Nicholas Culpeper writes in The English Physitian of the medical benefits of hemp extract concerning gout.
1700 AD - Hashish consumption has exploded in Central and South Asia, and the plant is one of the most dominant trade items. Meanwhile, in occupied Constantinople, the use of hashish, opium and alcohol has spread throughout the population.
Pot in the Late Modern Period
1745 - 1775 AD - George Washington’s diary indicates that he grew hemp as one of his three main crops at Mount Vernon, for it’s fiber production, for around 30 years. He was also keenly interested in marijuana’s medical properties, and even focused on growing ganja with high THC levels and higher yields (sounds familiar, right?).
1753 AD - Cannabis sativa is classified by Linnaeus.
1760 - 1790 AD - Dispensaries begin stocking medical marijuana.
1764 AD - Medical marijuana features in The New England Dispensatory.
1774 - 1824 AD - Thomas Jefferson grows hemp, as noted in his farming diaries, but there is no evidence that he consumed cannabis.
1776 AD - Kentucky starts growing hemp, becoming North America’s main producer.
1794 AD - Therapeutic cannabis features in The Edinburgh New Dispensary.
1798 AD - In a bittersweet kind of irony, 420 years after cannabis was first prohibited in any way, the second case of pot prohibition in history came at the hands of Napoleon Bonaparte.
At the time, the military leader, on his expedition to Egypt to boost his political power, discovered that his soldiers had adopted the Egyptian habit of smoking hashish. Napoleon was having none of it, and declared a complete prohibition on cannabis - thankfully, Mary Jane’s roots had dug in deep enough for the herb to remain a strong part of French culture.
1800 AD - Across the 1800s, marijuana farms thrived in California, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Nebraska, New York and South Carolina, though smoking hashish was not as popular in America as it was in France.
1830 AD - Irish doctor and army surgeon Sir William Brooke O’Shaughnessy found while studying in India that marijuana extracts could lessen stomach pain and nausea in cholera patients.
1840 AD - Medical preparations utilizing cannabis are available in America, and hashish is available in Persian pharmacies.
1842 AD - O’Shaughnessy’s discoveries are printed in the English Medical Journals, and cannabis is reintroduced into British medicine with a variety of uses including muscle spasms, cramps, arthritis, tetanus, rabies and epilepsy, as well as for pain-relief during childbirth and as a sedative.
At the time, doctors tended towards cannabis extracts in tinctures, rather than smoking or eating the herb.
1843 AD - Le Club des Hachichins, translated as the Hashish Eater’s Club, is established in Paris.
1846 AD - French physician Moreau publishes the book Hashish and Mental Illness, and cannabis is on the tip of the tongue for anyone considering themselves an intellectual.
1850 AD - Marijuana makes it into the U.S. Pharmacopoeia - a collection of recognized pharmaceutical substances and their uses and benefits. Numerous conditions are listed which cannabis can treat.
Meanwhile, hashish appears in Greece.
1850 - 1915 AD - Marijuana use spreads far and wide across America as a medicinal drug and is easy to get hold of in both pharmacies and general stores.
1854 AD - Whittier writes the first work by an American author which mentions marijuana used as an intoxicant.
1856 AD - The British begin taxing cannabis trade in India.
1857 - 1858 AD - Multiple American and French writings on marijuana surface, including Ludlow’s The Hasheesh Eater and Baudelaire’s On the Artificial Ideal.
1870 - 1880 AD - Hashish smoking becomes popular on the Greek mainland.
1875 AD - Grecians begin cultivating cannabis.
1890 AD - Queen Victoria is using medical marijuana as a treatment prescribed by her chief physician Sir J.R Reynolds.
Meanwhile, the use of hashish is outlawed in Turkey and the Department of the Interior in Greece follows suit, prohibiting the cultivation and use of hashish.
1893 - 1894 AD - A report by the Hemp Drugs Commission in India details that between 70,000 and 80,000 kilos of hashish is legally imported into the country from central Asian countries each year.
1906 AD - The United States passes the Pure Food and Drug Act, which regulates the labeling of any product that contains alcohol, cannabis, cocaine or opiates (among others). This is in response to the discovery that up to 5% of the U.S. population was unwittingly addicted to morphine (a commonly undisclosed ingredient in medicine).
1910 AD - Up until now, America’s marijuana use had been largely for medical use, but with the end of the Mexican Revolution and a sudden surge of Mexican immigrants, recreational use is on a swift and steady rise.
The War on Weed
1914 - Marijuana use, along with other drug consumption, is defined in the United States as a criminal activity by the Harrison Act. While this was in direct response and relation to the Mexican immigrants and their recreational use, the law did not make any exceptions for the use of hemp and cannabis for textile or medical use.
The war, in more ways than one, had begun.
1915 - 1927 - Cannabis is prohibited for non-medical use, specifically the southwest states. California is hit in 1915, then Texas in 1919, Louisiana in 1924, and New York in ‘27.
1920 - The 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution instigated Prohibition, which (aside from setting up Al Capone for one hell of a career) actually positioned pot as an appealing alternative to alcohol. This led to an uptake in marijuana use at the time.
Meanwhile, hashish is smuggled into Egypt from the likes of Syria, Turkey, Lebanon, Asia, and even Greece - where dictator Ioannis Metaxas wages his own war on hashish smokers.
1924 - Cannabis ruderalis, the famed strain which brings us the autoflowering trait enjoyed by the modern marijuana scene, is classified.
1926 - Lebanon bans the production of hashish, despite a flourishing industry since the end of The Great War.
1928 - Britain bans recreational use of ganja.
1930 - The Yarkand region of Turkestan, China, exports over 91,000 kg of legal ganja and charas into the Northwest Frontier and Punjab regions of India - which the Crown of England received taxes from.
1933 - The 21st Amendment passes, overturning the 18th Amendment and ending the prohibition of alcohol in America. This would set in motion a chain of events leading to country-wide cannabis illegalization in a matter of years.
1934 - 1935 - China ends all their cannabis cultivation and traffic in Yarkand, while hashish production is made illegal in Turkestan.
1936 - In theaters across America, the propaganda film Reefer Madness is shown, depicting outrageous scenes involving teenagers getting high off marijuana and having sex, killing their families or committing suicide.
It is not the only film of its kind - all designed to falsely influence and manipulate America’s youth to stay away from cannabis at all costs, drumming into their heads that this ‘dangerous drug’ must be avoided at all costs (but taxable cigarettes, of course, were absolutely fine).
1937 - As a result of a highly successful disinformation campaign, cannabis is officially criminalized in the Marijuana Tax Act, despite testimonials from experts like Dr William C. Woodward that the decision was based on a lack of evidence and would cause us to lose sight of the medical benefits of cannabis.
Another crucial element of marijuana’s illegalization in America lies in the testimony for Congress to pass the Marijuana Tax Act, which derived from content in newspapers owned by William Randolph Hearst - a player with considerable interests in the timber industry (which, naturally, suitably served his newspaper business - conspiracy, anyone?).
1938 - Supply of charas from China to India grinds to a halt.
1940 - The Grecian tradition of hashish smoking begins fading away. Meanwhile, CBD (Cannabidiol) is discovered, beginning a journey that would lead cultivators on a quest for high CBD strains in decades to come.
1941 - No longer recognizing marijuana as a medicinal herb, cannabis is removed from the U.S. Pharmacopoeia. Meanwhile, India’s government considers their own cultivation operation to make up for the lack of imports from Chinese Turkestan, and hand-rubbed charas from Nepal becomes their main choice during World War II.
1941 - 1945 - The American government plant huge hemp crops to provide naval rope made of hemp, as an exception to their laws intended to aid the war effort.
1942 - The predecessor of the C.I.A, known as the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) develops codename TD (Truth Drug). This first-ever truth serum used a potent marijuana extract which, when added to food or cigarettes, helped the OSS loosen the tongues of their interrogation subjects.
Post-War Pot - Cannabis’ Struggle Continues
1945 - 1955 - India’s hashish use remains steady, and consumption in Greece resumes in abundance.
1951 - The Boggs Act and the Narcotics Control Act come into force, increasing drug penalties and defining mandatory sentences for drug use (yes, including marijuana).
1960 - Czechoslovakian researchers confirm that cannabis has analgesic and antibiotic properties.
1962 - Morocco makes its first hashish.
1963 - Turkish police crack down on hashish restrictions and seize 2.5 tons.
1965 - Reports surface of the legendary Afghani strain being produced and used for hashish in northern Afghanistan.
1967 - The first hashish oil, named ‘Smash’ appears. Meanwhile, Red Lebanese reaches California, and John Sinclair is arrested in America for giving two joints to an undercover narcotics officer - receiving an overly harsh 10-year sentence for his 'crime'.
1969 - 1970 - The Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 is considered by the Supreme Court to be unconstitutional for violating the Fifth Amendment, and is replaced with the Controlled Substances Act.
Rumors also surface around this time that the very first hybrid strains begin cropping up now.
1970 - 1972 - Afghanistan cultivates enormous fields of cannabis, varieties of which are introduced into North America for seed production and the creation of sinsemilla strains. Afghanistan authorities, nonetheless, begin efforts against hashish.
1970 - The National Organization for the reform of Marijuana Laws (aka, NORML) forms in America, taking the first of many stands for our dear Mary Jane.
Meanwhile, the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act passes, detailing a scheduling system for drugs (which categorizes cannabis along with hallucinogens such as LSD, mescaline and peyote). This also marks the decade of the arrival of the iconic Skunk strain - one of the most infamous (and misunderstood) strains on the green scene even to this day, as well as the famed Haze and Kush strains.
1971 - Researchers suggest ganja could help glaucoma patients.
1972 - The Shafer Commission (as appointed by President Nixon) push for the re-legalization of marijuana. Their pleas are ignored, with a proposition in California to legalize rejected by a 66-33% margin, however, medical research into the herb in America gathers momentum.
1973 - The Afghanistan government outlaws hashish production and sale. Meanwhile, Nepal places a ban on cannabis shops and charas, also.
1975 - 1976 - A medication containing cannabinoids and known as Nabilone makes its first appearance. Additionally, the FDA creates the Compassionate Use program for medical marijuana, allowing patients up to nine pounds of pot yearly from the government.
Despite this, cannabis remains as a Schedule 1 substance - the category reserved for substances with a high abuse potential and no accepted medical value - oh the hypocrisy!
1977 - World-renowned scientist Carl Sagan hits the nail on the head, drawing attention to the likelihood that cannabis was mankind’s first agricultural crop and thus responsible for civilization itself.
He’s quoted as saying: “The illegality of cannabis is outrageous, an impediment to full utilization of a drug which helps produce the serenity and insight, sensitivity and fellowship so desperately needed in this increasingly mad and dangerous world.”
1977 - 1981 - President Carter and his administration push for ganja’s decriminalization. The President even directly called on Congress to eradicate any criminal penalties for anyone caught with under one ounce.
1978 - Robert Randall sues the federal government for arresting him for using ganja to treat his glaucoma. The FDA is forced to establish a program to cultivate cannabis (on a farm at the University of Mississippi) and supply him with 300 cannabis cigarettes per month.
1980 - Morocco takes first place, becoming one of the largest countries producing and exporting hashish. Meanwhile, what’s known as ‘border hashish’ is cultivated in north-west Pakistan along the Afghan border - a tactic employed to avoid the Soviet-Afghan war.
During this decade, the agricultural art of cultivating feminized versions of plants is successfully adapted for ganja, and the first feminized cannabis seeds begin to appear.
1985 - A synthetic version of THC named Dronabinol is approved by the FDA for the treatment of cancer patients. At the same time, Muslims of Kashgar and Yarkland in China are still producing hashish regularly. Meanwhile, the revered Northern Lights strain arrives on the green scene.
The (Final?) War on Drugs
1986 - Private stashes of pre-war Afghani hashish in America, Amsterdam and Goa are almost gone entirely.
Worse still, the USA’s international War on Drugs begins with President Reagan signing the Anti Drug Abuse Act - mandatory minimum sentences for drug penalties return and punishments increase for possession and distribution offences.
1987 - In Morocco, the government cracks down on cannabis cultivation, particularly in the prolific Rif Mountains (the country’s hashish hub).
Despite this, marijuana’s popularity among both consumers and cultivators does not waver.
1988 - After extensive and thorough hearings, DEA Judge Francis Young declares that cannabis clearly has medicinal benefits and must be reclassified as a prescription drug… the government does not listen, nothing changes. On a lighter note, this year marks the forming of the internationally famed Cannabis Cup.
1992 - A surge in AIDS patients in need of therapeutic pot prompts the American government to end the Compassionate Use program, cutting off the route of medical marijuana from those in need.
In addition to this, Dronabinol (their synthetic THC substitute) is approved for the treatment of AIDS symptoms.
1993 - Morocco’s efforts to crack down on cannabis continue, despite the popularity of pot.
The Modern Marijuana Ages
1995 - Amsterdam coffeeshops begin selling locally produced hashish (cultivated using new trade-specific equipment), and petitions for cannabis reclassifications are made in America.
1996 - California sets a precedent, originally the first state to ban ganja use, they become the first state to legalize medical marijuana.
Arizona follows suit soon after, and similar stances are taken/put in place in Alaska, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and Washington D.C.
1997 - 2001 - The Institute of Medicine (IOM) is commissioned by the American government to comprehensively study medical marijuana and its potential benefits.
Their conclusion: cannabis is a safe and effective medicine that patients should have access to and which deserves additional research and development. Despite some progress over the past years, these findings are still ignored, and again, nothing changes.
Following the footsteps of presidents Regan and Bush, President Clinton actually begins a campaign to arrest and prosecute medical users, patients and their providers, regardless of which state they’re in.
1999 - The DEA reclassifies their THC substitute Dronabinol as a Schedule 3 substance, making it easier to prescribe (while still firmly labeling marijuana itself as having ‘no accepted medical uses’).
Meanwhile, Hawaii and North Dakota fail to legalize hemp farming.
2000 - Alaska fails to legalize marijuana.
2001 - In England, Home Secretary David Blunkett suggests cannabis should be a class C substance, rather than class B (a classification cannabis shares with the likes of speed, ketamine, mephedrone and some amphetamines).
2001 - 2009 - George W Bush’s administration pushes on their (failing) War on Drugs, targeting patients and doctors alike across California.
2003 - Canada becomes the world’s first country to approve nation-wide medical marijuana.
2004 - Montana legalizes medical marijuana by a 62% referendum vote.
2005 - Canadian Marc Emery (one of the most prolific distributors of cannabis seed into the United States since 1995) makes the FBI’s #1 most wanted drug list, and is eventually indicted by the DEA.
2009 - President Obama declares that individual drug use is a public health issue, not a crime, and needs to be treated as such. Thanks to him, federal prosecutors can no longer pursue medical marijuana users and distributors who are complying with their state’s laws.
Finally, some headway, and the first steps towards true marijuana legalization.
2010 - Marc Emery is extradited from Canada in May, and by September is sentenced to five years imprisonment and four years of supervised release for selling cannabis seeds.
Additionally, 1972’s Proposition 19 returns to the ballet as The Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010. Once again, though this time by a noticeably narrow margin of 53.6%, the proposition fails.
2012 - Colorado and Washington legalize recreational use, and Mary Jane fans throughout the world rejoice! In addition, medical marijuana use remains solid and unaffected by this change, and Uruguay also legalizes recreational use, while the US District of Columbia decriminalizes personal use.
2013 - British entrepotneurs form SeedSupreme with a mind to supply high-quality cannabis seeds to the world and support legalization.
2014 - Seattle’s first ganja shop, Cannabis City, for over-the-counter purchase and use is formed. This gathered serious global attention and highlighted the very real future of an end to the failed War on Drugs.
In the states of Alaska and Oregon, recreational use becomes legalized, and Arizona, California, Hawaii, Massachusetts and Nevada all begin drafting their own legalization legislation.
Soon, Maryland, Minnesota and New York have all legalized medical marijuana, and the US Justice Department announces it will not enforce federal cannabis laws on Native American reservations.
2016 - Pennsylvania and Ohio legalize medical marijuana. The DEA rejects appeals to reschedule cannabis under the Controlled Substances Act, but are open to research opportunities.
Californian voters approve the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, legalizing recreational use.
Ganja Going Forward
At this stage, a continuing timeline feels redundant. We’re living this part of marijuana’s history as we speak, and since California’s legalization became the catalyst for greater global change, it feels an appropriate time to end our historical tour.
As of 2020 and the writing of this, the last few years have been awash with laws shifting and the stigma of anti-cannabis propaganda fading like a foul scent on the dying breeze. We’re entering a new and exciting era of Mary Jane, with breeders creating exceptional strains, medical efficacy widely accepted and international seed sellers galore.
To look back on the vast history of this incredible plant and what its had to overcome, one thing is abundantly clear - cannabis will never die; it will always be a part of our culture.
The herb heals. The herb helps. The herb is here to stay.