Cannabis is indigenous to Central and South Asia. There is evidence of inhalation of cannabis smoke from the 3rd millennium BCE, namely charred cannabis seeds found in ritual brazier at an ancient burial site in present-day Romani. In 2003 a leather basket filled with cannabis leaf fragments and seeds was found next to a 2.500-to 2.800 year old mummified shaman in the northwestern Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region of China. Evidence of cannabis consumption was also found in Egyptian mummies date about 950 BC.
Cannabis was also used by the ancient Hindus of India and Nepal thousands of years ago. The herb called ganja or ganjika in Sanskrit and other modern Indo-Aryan languages. Some scholars suggest that the ancient drug soma, mentioned in the Vedas, was cannabis, although this theory is disputed.
Cannabis was also known to the ancient Assyrians, who discovered it’s psychoactive properties though the Aryans. Using it in some religious ceremonys, they called it qunubu, a probable origin of the modern word “cannabis”. The Aryans also intuduced cannabis to the Scythians, Thracians and Dacians,whose shamans burned cannabis flowers to induce trance.
Cannabis has an ancient history of ritual use and is found in pharmacological cults around the world. Hemp seeds discovered by archaeologists at Pazyryk suggest early ceremonial practices like eating by the Scythians occurred during the 5th to 2nd century BCE, confirming previous historical reports by Herodotus. It was used by Muslims in various Sufi orders as early as the Mamluk period, for example by the Qalandars.
A study published in South African Journal of Science showed that “pipes dug up from the garden of Shakespeare’s home in Stratford-upon-Avon contain traces of cannabis”. The chemical analysis was carried out after researchers hypothesized that the “noted weed” mentioned in Sonnet 76 and the “journey in my head” from Sonnet 27 could be references to cannabis and the use thereof. Examples of classics literature featuring cannabis include Les paradis artificiels by Charles Baudelaire and The Hasheesh Eater by Fitz Hugh Ludlow.
John Gregory Bourke described use of “marihuana”, which he identifies as Cannabis indica or Indian hemp, by Mexican residents of the Rio Grande region of Texas in 1894. He described it’s uses for treatment of asthma, to expedite delivery, to keep away witches, and as a love-philtre. He also wrote that many Mexicans added the herb to their cigarritos or mescal, often taking a bite of sugar afterward to intensify the effect. Bourke wrote that because it was often used in a mixture with toloachi, mariguan was one of several plants knows as “loco weed”. Bourke compared mariguan to hasheesh, which he called “one of the greatest curses of the East”, citing reports that users “become maniacs and are apt to commit all sorts of acts of violence and murder”, causing degeneration of the body and an idiotic appearance, and mentioned laws against sale of hasheesh “in most Eastern countries “.
Cannabis was criminalized in various countries beginning in the early 20th century. In the United States, the first restrictions for sale of cannabis came in 1906. It was outlawed in South Africa in 1911, in Jamaica in 1913, and in the United Kingdom and New Zealand in the 1923s. Canada criminalized cannabis in the Opium and Drug Act of 1923, before any reports of use of the drug in Canada. In 1925 a compromise was made at an international conference in The Hague about the International Opium Convention that banned exportation of “Indian hemp” to countries that had prohibited it’s use, and requiring importing countries to issue certificates approving the importation and stating that the shipment was required “exclusively for medical or scientific purposes”. It also required parties to “exercise an effective control of such a nature as to prevent the illicit international traffic in Indian hemp and especially in the resin”.
Pin the United States in 1937, the Marihuana Tax Act was passed, and prohibited the production of hemp in addition to cannabis. The reasons that hemp was also included in this law are disputed that the act was passed in order to destroy the U.S. hemp industry, with the primary involvement of businessmen Andrew Mellon, Randolph Hearst, and the Du Pont family. But the improvements of the decorticators, machines that separate the fibers from the hemp stem, could not make hemp fiber a very cheap substitute for fibers from other sources because it could not change that basic fact that strong fibers are only found in the bast, the outer part of the stem. Only about 1/3 of the stem are long and strong fibers. The company DuPont and many industrial historians dispute a link between nylon and hemp. They argue that the purpose of developing the nylon was to produce a fiber that could be used in thin stockings for females and compete with silk.
In New York City, there were more than 19.000kg of marijuana growing like weeds through out the boroughs until 1951, when the “White Wing Squad “, headed by the Sanitation Department General Inspector John E. Gleason, was charged with destroyin the many pot farms that had sprouted up across the city. The Brooklyn Public Library reports: this group was held to a high moral standard and was prohibited from “entering saloons, using foul language, and neglecting horses”. The Squad found the most weed in Queens but even in Brooklyn dug up “millions of dollars” worth of the plants, many as “tall as Christmas trees”. Gleason oversaw incineration of the plants in Woodside, Queens.
The United Nations’ 2012 Global Drug Report stated that cannabis “was the world’s most widely produced, trafficked, and consumed drug in the world in 2010”, identifying that between 119 million and 224 million users existed in the world’s adult (18 or older) population.