Cannabis - a brief history

 

The cannabis plant has accompanied the development of human civilization for over 12,000 years and has been a key raw material utilised throughout every stage of the human journey… from food to clothing, from movement of people to medicine.

It’s fair to say that cannabis is among the world’s most misunderstood and controversial plants and that, only now after almost 100 years of prohibition, is it slowly returning to its rightful - and legal - place as one of the most important agricultural crops and medicines known to man.

The earliest evidence of its uses comes from ancient China in the 12th century BC when the cultivation and use of the cannabis plant, or ‘Ma’, as it was known, provided clothing, food and medicine.

Onward from ancient China, carried by the nomadic Scythian tribes over the Himalayan mountain range, the plant reached India where it continues to play a key role in medicinal and religious practices to this day.

The seeds of this amazing crop were further distributed across the world in the following centuries and the fibres, and their particular suitability for making water and bacteria resistant sails and rope, allowed humans to travel and trade across the vast expanses of our planet’s oceans.

Kings, presidents and emperors advocated for the growth, and use, of the cannabis plant. Henry VIII of England ordered it to be grown by every farmer in England and George Washington and Thomas Jefferson grew cannabis on their land as a cash crop.

At the start of the 20th century the cultivation of the plant that had provided warmth, energy, sustenance and healing to millions was prohibited by law… almost everywhere on planet earth.

Despite its prohibition, in the 1990s the human endocannabinoid system was discovered - a critical system of biological receptors in the human body responsible for pain response, physical recovery, stress management and homeostasis. This discovery proved that the plant had co-evolved with humans since the connectors exist within us all with which to utilise the phytocannabinoids from within the plant.

Beyond the physiological benefits of the cannabinoids contained in the plant the environmental benefits of a crop that grows faster, absorbs more carbon and maintains soil health like no other are only being fully understood as we approach the end of the prohibition era.

The doctors, advocates and lobbyists who have worked relentlessly to bring the benefits of the plant - as medicine and as industrial raw material - into public consciousness have paved the way for the opening up of legal markets for cannabis in multiple countries across the world from Canada, Uruguay, the Netherlands to many US states.

This is by no means the definitive story of cannabis but if you would like to learn more we’ll be exploring this subject in detail across our social channels and in our journal. Sign up to the newsletter for regular updates here.