After this really long “trip” throughout the pre-modern and modern worlds, cannabis finally came to the United States at the beginning of the 20th century. It arrived in the southwest United States from Mexico, with immigrants fleeing that country during the Mexican Revolution of 1910-1911.
Burned cannabis seeds have also been found in kurgan burial mounds in Siberia dating back to 3,000 B.C., and some of the tombs of noble people buried in Xinjiang region of China and Siberia around 2500 B.C. have included large quantities of mummified psychoactive marijuana.
It is important to distinguish between the two familiar subspecies of the cannabis plant, Warf said. Cannabis sativa, known as marijuana, has psychoactive properties. The other plant is Cannabis sativa L. (The L was included in the name in honor of the botanist Carl Linnaeus.) This subspecies is known as hemp; it is a nonpsychoactive form of cannabis, and is used in manufacturing products such as oil, cloth and fuel. [11 Odd Facts About Marijuana]
“Cannabis seeds have also been found in the remains of Viking ships dating to the mid-ninth century,” Warf wrote in the study.
A second psychoactive species of the plant, Cannabis indica, was identified by the French naturalist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, and a third, uncommon one, Cannabis ruderalis, was named in 1924 by Russian botanist D.E. Janischevisky.
From the sites where prehistoric hunters and gatherers lived, to ancient China and Viking ships, cannabis has been used across the world for ages, and a new report presents the drug’s colorful history.
Americans laws never recognized the difference between Cannabis sativa L. and Cannabis sativa. The plant was first outlawed in Utah in 1915, and by 1931 it was illegal in 29 states, according to the report.
According to the researchers, this suggests – when combined with the Turpan cannabis, which also contained THC – that the use of the plant for its psychoactive properties could have originated in Central Asia, where cannabis first evolved.
Then they proceeded to analyse the rest of the samples.
The team suspected that these had a ritual purpose, and extracted residue from the wood and stones to see if they could determine the chemical composition of what had lain within.
The implication of this is that the people of Jirzankal either sought out cannabis plants with higher THC content, or they cultivated them. It’s impossible to know which, but it does seem probable that it’s deliberate either way.
One of the braziers as it was found in a gravesite. (Xinhua Wu)
We know humans have been using cannabis for various purposes for thousands of years, but its history as a drug has been a little harder to pin down. Now have a new point of reference: Around 2,500 years ago, the people of Central Asia were smoking psychoactive cannabis at funerals.
“I think this is a wonderful example of how closely intertwined humans are and have been with the world around them,” said archaeobotanist Robert Spengler of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
There’s some evidence that ancient cultures knew about the psychoactive properties of the cannabis plant. They may have cultivated some varieties to produce higher levels of THC for use in religious ceremonies or healing practice.
These early hemp plants had very low levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the chemical responsible for marijuana’s mind-altering effects.
Hashish (a purified form of cannabis smoked with a pipe) was widely used throughout the Middle East and parts of Asia after about 800 AD. Its rise in popularity corresponded with the spread of Islam in the region. The Quran forbid the use of alcohol and some other intoxicating substances, but did not specifically prohibit cannabis.
Because it’s a fast-growing plant that’s easy to cultivate and has many uses, hemp was widely grown throughout colonial America and at Spanish missions in the Southwest. In the early 1600s, the Virginia, Massachusetts and Connecticut colonies required farmers to grow hemp.
Massive unemployment and social unrest during the Great Depression stoked resentment of Mexican immigrants and public fear of the “evil weed.” As a result—and consistent with the Prohibition era’s view of all intoxicants—29 states had outlawed cannabis by 1931.