10,000 Year History of Hemp Use in the World
Use of hemp cord in pottery identified at ancient village site dating back over 10,000 years, located in the area of modern day Taiwan. Finding hemp use and cultivation in this date range puts it as one of the first and oldest known human agriculture crops. As explained by Richard Hamilton in the 2009 Scientific American article on sustainable agriculture“Modern humans emerged some 250,000 years ago, yet agriculture is a fairly recent invention, only about 10,000 years old … Agriculture is not natural; it is a human invention. It is also the basis of modern civilization.” This point was also touched on by Carl Sagan in 1977 when he proposed the possibility that marijuana may have actually been world’s first agricultural crop, leading to the development of civilization itself (see 1977, below).
Hemp seeds and oil used for food in China.
Textiles made of hemp are used in China and Turkestan.
First recorded use of hemp as medicine by Emperor Shen Neng of China.
Bhang (dried cannabis leaves, seeds and stems) is mentioned in the Hindu sacred text Atharvaveda (Science of Charms) as “Sacred Grass”, one of the five sacred plants of India. It is used by medicinally and ritually as an offering to Shiva.
Hemp cultivated in China for food and fiber. Scythians cultivate hemp and use it to weave fine hemp cloth.
The Zoroastrian Zendavesta, an ancient Persian religious text of several hundred volumes refers to bhang as the “good narcotic.”
Hemp rope appears in southern Russia.
Scythian tribes leave Cannabis seeds as offerings in royal tombs.
Scythian couple die and are buried with two small tents covering containers for burning incense. Attached to one tent stick was a decorated leather pouch containing wild hemp seeds. This closely matches the stories told by Herodotus. The gravesite, discovered in the late 1940s, was in Pazryk, northwest of the Tien Shan Mountains in modern-day Khazakstan. Hemp is introduced into Northern Europe by the Scythians. An urn containing leaves and seeds of the hemp plant, unearthed near Berlin, is found and dated to about this time. Use of hemp products spread throughout northern Europe.
Herodotus reports on both ritual and recreation use of Cannabis by the Scythians (Herodotus The Histories 430 B.C. trans. G. Rawlinson).
Hemp rope appears in Greece. Chinese Book of Rites mentions hemp fabric.
First evidence of hemp paper, invented in China.
Pliny the Elder’s The Natural History mentions hemp rope and the analgesic effects.
Dioscorides, a physician in Nero’s army, lists medical hemp in his Pharmacopoeia.
Imported hemp rope appears in England.
Legend suggests that Ts’ai Lun invents hemp paper in China, 200 years after its actual appearance (see 100 BCE above).
Greek physician Galen prescribes medical marijuana.
First pharmacopoeia of the East lists medical marijuana. Chinese surgeon Hua T’o uses marijuana as an anesthetic.
A young woman in Jerusalem receives medical hemp/cannabis during childbirth.
The French queen Arnegunde is buried with hemp cloth.
Vikings take hemp rope and seeds to Iceland.
Arabs learn techniques for making hemp paper.
Hemp ropes appear on Italian ships.
French physician Rabelais’s gargantua and Pantagruel mentions marijuana’s medicinal effects.
King Henry VIII fines farmers if they do not raise hemp for industrial use.
Portuguese physician Garcia da Orta reports on hemp/cannabis’ medicinal effects.
China’s Li Shih-Chen writes of the antibiotic and antiemetic effects of hemp/cannabis.
England begins to import hemp from Russia.
French and British cultivate Cannabis for hemp at their colonies in Port Royal (1606), Virginia (1611), and Plymouth (1632).
Jamestown settlers began growing the hemp plant for its unusually strong fiber and used it to make rope, sails, and clothing.
Medical cannabis appears in The New England Dispensatory.
Kentucky begins growing hemp.
Medical cannabis appears in The Edinburgh New Dispensary.
Hemp plantations flourished in Mississippi, Georgia, California, South Carolina, Nebraska, New York, and Kentucky.
In America, medicinal preparations with a Cannabis base are available.
Irish physician O’Shaughnessy publishes cannabis research in English medical journals.
Cannabis is added to The U.S. Pharmacopoeia.
Cannabis was widely used throughout United States as a medicinal drug and could easily be purchased in pharmacies and general stores.
Sir J.R. Reynolds, chief physician to Queen Victoria, prescribes medical cannabis to her.
In the U.S. the Pure Food and Drug Act is passed, regulating the labeling of products containing Alcohol, Opiates, Cocaine, and Cannabis, among others.
The Mexican Revolution caused an influx of Mexican immigrants who introduced the habit of recreational use (instead of it’s generally medicinal use) into American society.
United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) chief scientists Jason L. Merrill and Lyster H. Dewey created paper made from hemp pulp, which they concluded was “favorable in comparison with those used with pulp wood” in USDA Bulletin No. 404. From the book “The Emperor Wears No Clothes” by Jack Herer the USDA Bulletin N. 404 reported that one acre of hemp, in annual rotation over a 20-year period, would produce as much pulp for paper as 4.1 acres (17,000 m2) of trees being cut down over the same 20-year period. This process would use only 1/7 to 1/4 as much polluting sulfur-based acid chemicals to break down the glue-like lignin that binds the fibers of the pulp, or even none at all using soda ash. The problem of dioxin contamination of rivers is avoided in the hemp paper making process, which does not need to use chlorine bleach (as the wood pulp paper making process requires) but instead safely substitutes hydrogen peroxide in the bleaching process. … If the new (1916) hemp pulp paper process were legal today, it would soon replace about 70% of all wood pulp paper, including computer printout paper, corrugated boxes and paper bags. However, mass production of cheap news print from hemp had not developed in any country, and hemp was a relatively easy target because factories already had made large investments in equipment to handle cotton, wool, and linen, but there were relatively small investments in hemp production.
In the U.S. cannabis begins to be prohibited for nonmedical use. Prohibition first begins in California (1915), followed by Texas (1919), Louisiana (1924), and New York (1927).
The 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution banned the manufacture, sale, and transportation of alcohol and positioned marijuana as an attractive alternative leading to an increase in use of the substance.
Russian botanists classify another major strain of the plant, Cannabis ruderalis.
The U.S. congress repealed the 21st Amendment, ending alcohol prohibition; 4 years later the prohibition of marijuana will be in full effect.
Chinese government moves to end all Cannabis cultivation in Yarkand and charas traffic from Yarkand.
The American propaganda film Reefer Madness was made to scare American youth away from using Cannabis.
U.S. Congress passed the Marijuana Tax Act which criminalized the drug. In response Dr. William C. Woodward, testifying on behalf of the AMA, told Congress that, “The American Medical Association knows of no evidence that marijuana is a dangerous drug” and warned that a prohibition “loses sight of the fact that future investigation may show that there are substantial medical uses for Cannabis.” His comments were ignored by Congress. A part of the testimony for Congress to pass the 1937 act derived from articles in newspapers owned by William Randolph Hearst, who had significant financial interests in the timber industry, which manufactured his newsprint paper.
Cannabis is removed from the U.S. Pharmacopoeia and it’s medicinal use is no longer recognized in America.
Czech researchers confirm the antibiotic and analgesic effects of cannabis.
First evidence suggesting cannabis may help glaucoma patients.
The Nixon-appointed Shafer Commission urged use of cannabis be re-legalized, but their recommendation was ignored. U.S. Medical research picks up pace.
Nabilone, a cannabinoid-based medication appears.
The U.S. federal government created the Investigational New Drug (IND) Compassionate Use research program to allow patients to receive up to nine pounds of cannabis from the government each year. Today, five surviving patients still receive medical cannabis from the federal government, paid for by federal tax dollars. At the same time the U.S. FDA continues to list marijuana as Schedule I meaning: “A high potential for abuse with no accepted medical value.”
Carl Sagan proposes that marijuana may have been the world’s first agricultural crop, leading to the development of civilization itself: “It would be wryly interesting if in human history the cultivation of marijuana led generally to the invention of agriculture, and thereby to civilization.” Carl Sagan, The Dragons of Eden, Speculations on the Origin of Human Intelligence p 191 footnote.
U.S. President Carter, including his assistant for drug policy, Dr. Peter Bourne, pushed for decriminalization of marijuana, with the president himself asking Congress to abolish federal criminal penalties for those caught with less than one ounce of marijuana.
In the U.S. the FDA approves dronabinol, a synthetic THC, for cancer patients.
President Reagan signed the Anti-Drug Abuse Act, reinstating mandatory minimums and raising federal penalties for possession and distribution and officially begins the U.S. international “war on drugs.”
U.S. DEA administrative law Judge Francis Young finds, after thorough hearings, that cannabis has a clearly established medical use and should be reclassified as a prescriptive drug. His recommendation is ignored.
In reaction to a surge of requests from AIDS patients for medical cannabis, the U.S. government closes the Compassionate Use program. That same year the pharmaceutical medication dronabinol is approved for AIDS-wasting syndrome.
Cannabis eradication efforts resume in Morocco.
California (the first U.S. state to ban marijuana use, see 1915) became the first U.S. State to then re-legalize medical cannabis use for people suffering from AIDS, cancer, and other serious illnesses. A similar bill was passed in Arizona the same year. This was followed by the passage of similar initiatives in Alaska, Colorado, Maine, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Washington D.C., Hawaii, Maryland, New Mexico, Rhode Island, and Vermont.
The American Office of National Drug Control Policy commissioned the Institute of Medicine (IOM) to conduct a comprehensive study of the medical efficacy of cannabis therapeutics. The IOM concluded that cannabis is a safe and effective medicine, patients should have access, and the government should expand avenues for research and drug development. The federal government completely ignored its findings and refused to act on its recommendations.
In direct contradiction to the IOM recomendations, President Clinton, continuing the Reagan and Bush “war on drugs” era, began a campaign to arrest and prosecute medical cannabis patients and their providers in California and elsewhere.
Hawaii and North Dakota unsuccessfully attempt to legalize hemp farming.
Legalization initiative in Alaska fails.
Britain’s Home Secretary, David Blunkett, proposes relaxing the classification of cannabis from a class B to class C. Canada adopts federal laws in support of medical cannabis, and by 2003 Canada becomes the first country in the world to approve medical cannabis nationwide.
Under President G.W. Bush the U.S. federal government intensified its “war on drugs” targeting both patients and doctors across the state of California.
Marc Emery, a Canadian citizen and the largest distributor of marijuana seeds into the United States from approximately 1995 through July 2005 was on the FBI #1 wanted drug list for years and was eventually indicted by the U.S. DEA. He was extradited from Canada for trial in the U.S. in May 2010.
President Obama made steps toward ending the very unsuccessful 20-year “war on drugs” initiated during the Reagan administration by stating that individual drug use is really a public health issue, and should be treated as such. Under his guidance, the U.S. Justice Department announced that federal prosecutors will no longer pursue medical marijuana users and distributors who comply with state laws.
Marc Emery of Vancouver, BC, Canada, was sentenced on September 10 in a U.S. District Court in Seattle to five years in prison and four years of supervised release for “conspiracy to manufacture marijuana” (eg. selling marijuana seeds).
Proposition 19 to legalize marijuana in California is placed back on the ballet (named The Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010). Current voter poles suggest that the proposition has about 50% population support and will likely win or loose by a margin of only 2%.
Just weeks before the November 02 California election on Prop. 19 Attorney General Eric Holder said federal authorities would continue to enforce U.S. laws that declare the drug is illegal, even if voters approve the initiative, stating “we will vigorously enforce the (Controlled Substances Act) against those individuals and organizations that possess, manufacture or distribute marijuana for recreational use.”
California Proposition 19, also known as the Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010, was narrowly defeated by 53.6% of the vote. This would have legalized various marijuana-related activities in California, allowing local governments to regulate these activities, permitting local governments to impose and collect marijuana-related fees and taxes, and authorizing various criminal and civil penalties.