Forenote: thank you for coming this far- I really appreciate everyone that reads my article, and I want your constructive criticism! If I’ve gotten any details wrong, please leave a comment and let me know! This article includes lots of dates, times and names, and I’m not the best at maths so there’s probably an error somewhere along the course of this article.
Anyway, this is about a subject that I find very interesting, and you can learn a lot about ancient and even modern history by reading this. All info was sourced on Google and Wikipedia, so it might not all be true. But you can count on me to filter out the interesting, juicy info and put it into a relatively short article for you all to read!
I hope you enjoy reading this, and if you did, leave a comment and let me know why!
Usage in Ancient India
Marijuana has been used for as long as we can remember, but that poses the question; how long has it been around?
Its usage dates back to the third millennium BC, at least 3000 years ago in Taiwan. The plant was not only utilised for its psychologically altering properties, but the marijuana plant was also utilised practically for its dense fibres and the ability for it to be made into ropes, as well as consuming as a food or medicine.
Many religions have used marijuana as a mind-altering, organic substance in religious practises (also called entheogenic usage).
An interesting milestone throughout the history of marijuana usage lies in the Vedic subcontinent in India, during 1500 and 500 BCE. The ‘Vedas’ are historical texts found in ancient India, and they depict ancient Indian life; this is where we see mentions of Marijuana used for entheogenic consumption. These amazing texts allow for the evolution of the ‘Vedic culture’ (ancient India) to be traced.
As aforementioned, we can observe how some of the first traces of Marijuana usage go way back to 1500 BCE (4,500~ years ago!) and I am just dumbfounded by finding this out. There’s so much to discover!
In ancient India, 4,500~ years ago, people would use marijuana spiritually. People in other cultures would also do this, to unlock the next realm of consciousness, for example, if they wanted to understand G-d, trace G-d back to the very beginning- or simply use the Marijuana as an aphrodisiac in orgies.
Yes, you read that correctly! In some cultures, Marijuana is/was used as a sex-drive enhancer. Over the decades, hundreds of anthropological items of evidence have come out of Mexican, Mayan and Aztec cultures that suggest cannabis was used in cultural shamanic (a person regarded as having access to, and influence in, the world of good and evil spirits, especially among some peoples of northern Asia and North America. Typically such people enter a trance state during a ritual, and practice divination and healing) and religious rituals!
Mexican-Indian communities occasionally use cannabis in religious ceremonies by leaving bundles of it on church altars to be consumed by the attendees.
The spread into the Arab world…
In 1230 CE, so 789 years ago, during the reign of Caliph Al-Mustansir Bi’llah, the use of Hashish (hash for short, cannabis resin, the ‘healthiest’ way to consume it according to some people) began to spread from the Persian world into the Arab world. This was due to Bahraini rulers visiting Iraq! Talk about influence…
In the thirteenth century, so 800 years ago, mystic Islamic travellers from Syria introduced Marijuana. This was some time during something called the Ayyubid dynasty.
Historians do not know which time frame exactly this transition happened in, but Arab/Hindu travellers (nobody knows exactly) introduced Cannabis to the continent of Africa when they migrated southward.
After Africa was influenced by the southward-bound travellers, Bantu settlers subsequently introduced Cannabis to South Africa, when they also migrated southward.
The Western Hemisphere (or should I say hemp-isphere)
In 1545, so quite a while later, the Spaniards brought industrial Hemp to the Western Hemisphere. They cultivated this in Chile, starting in 1545. In 1607, “hempe” was among the crops Gabriel Archer observed being cultivated by the natives at the main Powhatan village, where Richmond, Virginia is now situated.
Napoleon’s invasion on Egypt…
How is this relevant? Well, you’ve probably heard of Napoleon. He invaded Egypt, because he wanted to establish French power in the Middle East; he wanted more power to overthrow England… So, how is this relevant still?
This ass, Napoleon, was in Egypt looking for a way to have a good time, and since Egypt was an Islamic country there was no alcohol. Napoleon got his tiny little hands on Hash, and he liked it. Following an 1836-1850 expedition in North Africa and the Middle east, and French physician Jacques-Joseph Moreau studied the effects of Cannabis.
So when did people in Europe start using Marijuana?
Here’s where it all starts making sense. In 1842, so not even 200 years ago, Irish physician William Brooke O’Shaughnessy, brought a large quantity of cannabis back home to Britain (imagine doing that in 2019…), spiking interest yet again in the middle east.
Some literature that is worth checking out, about Cannabis, written in the mid-19th century, is Les paradis artificiels (1860) by Charles Baudelaire and The Hasheesh Eater (1857) by Fitz Hugh Ludlow. Maybe they were baked when they wrote it? That would be hilarious.
So, why’s it illegal?
The earliest ban of the use of Cannabis looks to have been in the 1300s by the emir of the Joneima in Arabia.
In 1787, Madagascar’s king, whose name is so long I don’t even think it’s worth me writing out because you won’t remember it, took the throne- and he banned it with the punishment being death. Bit extreme!
The Municipal council of Rio de Janeiro prohibited any importing of the substance, and banned all slaves using it. This was because slaves were using it (it was introduced to Brazil by either Portuguese colonists or African slaves) to cultivate hemp fibre, and therefore were profiting off it.
Similarly, the British practice of transporting Indian indentured workers throughout the empire had the result of spreading the longstanding cannabis practices. Concerns about use of gandia by laborers led to a ban in British Mauritius in 1840, and use of ganja by Indian laborers in British Singapore led to its banning there in 1870.
Attempts at criminalising cannabis in British India were made, and mooted, in 1838, 1871, and 1877. This was India’s reason to moot this silly law,
Viewing the subject generally, it may be added that the moderate use of these drugs is the rule, and that the excessive use is comparatively exceptional. The moderate use practically produces no ill effects. In all but the most exceptional cases, the injury from habitual moderate use is not appreciable. The excessive use may certainly be accepted as very injurious, though it must be admitted that in many excessive consumers the injury is not clearly marked. The injury done by the excessive use is, however, confined almost exclusively to the consumer himself; the effect on society is rarely appreciable. It has been the most striking feature in this inquiry to find how little the effects of hemp drugs have obtruded themselves on observation.Report of the Indian Hemp Drugs Commission, 1894-1895
Cannabis was banned in the UK and New Zealand in the 1920s, only 100 years ago. Funnily enough this was 15 years after driving licenses were made mandatory- the government probably noticed too many stoners were dying in car crashes and decided to do something about it. Oops.
Still, in 2019, Cannabis remains a fringe issue. It isn’t hurting anybody, and I think it’s about time to reassess the laws surrounding it. This isn’t imperial Britain any more, and lots of laws have changed since Britain colonised most of the world.
Luckily, under 5 grams won’t get you ‘arrested’, you just might, annoyingly, get it confiscated.