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Origins and history of cannabis

Chinese and Hindu pharmacology has indicated cannabis use for 12,000 years to:

  • Relieve pain
  • Reduce insomnia
  • Treat wasting syndrome
  • Reduce nausea
  • Stop seizures

Early recorded history

3000 bc: Cannabis sativa burned seeds excavated in burial mound in Siberia.

2500 bc: Mummified marijuana found in tombs of aristocrats in Xinjiang, China.

1500 bc: Chinese Pharmacopeia references medical cannabis, called Rh-Ya.

1450 bc: Book of Exodus mentions “holy anointing oil” made of kaneh bosem (local name for cannabis), olive oil, and herbs.

1213 bc: Egyptian healers used cannabis for inflammation, glaucoma, abdominal problems, and enemas.

1000 bc: Indians drank “bhang” (cannabis and milk).

600 bc: Cannabis used as cure for leprosy in Indian medical literature. 440 bc: Written history use of cannabis by Greek historian Herodotus (Greeks and Romans used marijuana and hemp as did Muslims of North Africa); Arabic word hashish or hash refers to smoked marijuana/dry weed.

200 bc: Greeks used marijuana to cure edema, earache, and inflammation. 1 ad: Chinese text indicated cannabis as remedy for over 100 ailments such as gout, rheumatism, malaria, and improving memory.

30 ad: Jesus anointed followers with cannabis oil.

70 ad: Marijuana used by Roman doctors to cure earache, “suppress sexual longing.”

200 ad: Chinese doctors use marijuana and wine (ma-yo) as anesthetic in surgery.

800 ad: Arabic doctors used cannabis as anesthetic and analgesic.

Current recorded history

1578:  Medical  treatise by  Li  Shizhen Bencao  Gangmu  Materia  Medica indicated marijuana as cure for vomiting, bleeding, and parasites. 1600s: Pipes, bowls, and stems recovered from William Shakespeare’s belongings.

1611–1762: Settlers in Jamestown brought hemp plants and cultivated it for fiber, oil, and recreational use. In 1762 in Virginia, colonists were charged penalties for not producing it.

1625: English herbalist Nichols Culpeper wrote thesis on use of hemp for gout pain, inflammation, and joint and muscle pain.

1745–1775: U.S. President George Washington grew hemp at Mount Vernon.

1774–1824: U.S. President Thomas Jefferson grew hemp.

1770s: French emperor Napoleon invaded Egypt and brought back cannabis to be studied for sedative and analgesic properties.

1842: William O’Shaughnessy re-introduced marijuana into British medicine upon his return from India.

1840s: Queen Victoria used marijuana as pain reliever for menstrual cramps (used as a tincture rather than smoked). English and French began using it for pain relief and medicine.

1850s: Cataloged in U.S. Pharmacopoeia as tincture effective for medical conditions for cholera, gout, convulsions, typhus, neuralgia, insanity, and opiate addiction.

1889: Medical journals report on effectiveness to replace opium use.

1900s: Squibb Company, Eli Lilly, and Parke-Davis manufactured drugs produced from cannabis as antispasmodics, sedatives, and analgesics. 1911: Massachusetts became first U.S. state to officially declare cannabisa dangerous drug and ban it.

1913–1917: Other states followed Massachusetts in banning use of cannabis.

1937: Marihuana Tax Act enacted by Federal Bureau of Narcotics, which criminalized use of the plant.

1964: Gaoni and Mechoulam isolated and defined THC.

1970: Schedule 1 controlled substance declaration along with heroin and cocaine, indicating it had no medical use and high potential for abuse and addiction plus medical research further restricted.

1980s: Synthetic THC (dronabinol) available.

1988: Discovery of CB1 receptor site by Allyn Howlett and William Devane.

1996: California became the first state to legalize use of medical cannabis. 2003: U.S. Department of Health & Human Services files patent on cannabinoids as useful antioxidants and neuroprotectants.

2011: U.S. National Cancer Institute acknowledges medical use of cannabis for cancer patients.

2014 U.S. President Obama signed Farm Bill of 2013 into law—Sec 7606 Legitimacy of Industrial Hemp Research of HR 2642—removing barriers to Cannabis sativa L. production in 31 states.