Cannabis and its usage can be traced back to 3rd millennium BCE in written records; the plant has been valued for its use as medicine, food, fiber ropes, recreational use, and religious use and its psychoactive properties.
In the 14th century, the Islamic world was reported to have been the first to restrict cannabis. In the 19th century, the colonial countries began the restriction of cannabis, often associated with racial and class stresses. International coordination led to the sweeping limitation on cannabis throughout most parts of the world in the middle of the 20th century.
At the beginning of the 21st century, measures to decriminalize cannabis were taken to by some nation who began to change their approach towards cannabis; Canada became the first nation to legalize medical cannabis in 2001, while Uruguay became the first to legalize recreational cannabis followed by Canada and South Africa for personal home use in 2018.
Cannabis is native to Central Asia and the India subcontinent, and it was one of the earliest cultivated plants. It has been cultivated possibly for its psychoactive materials, for its fiber or as a food source in Japan since the pre-Neolithic period.
Cannabis can archaeologically be backdated to Neolithic age in China, with its fiber imprint on Yangshao earthenware in the 5th millennium BC. After a certain period, cannabis was used to make ropes, shoes, clothes and an early form of paper. In ancient Korea, cannabis was an essential crop with samples of hemp fabric discovered in early 3000BC.
Cannabis was also a well-known plant in the ancient Assyrians, who discovered its psychoactive properties through Aryans. The plant was used in some religious ceremony, and they called it qunubu (which means “way to produce smoke”), a probable origin of the word “cannabis”.
Globalization of cannabis
The use of cannabis resin (hashish) began to spill over from the Persians to the Arabian world around the turn of the millennium. In 1230 CE, during the reign of Caliph Al-Mustansir Bi’llah, cannabis was introduced to Iraq by the entourage of Bahraini rulers visiting Iraq. In the 12th century, mystic Islamic travelers from Syria introduced hashish to Egypt during the Ayyubid dynasty.
In the 13th century, unique type cannabis referred to as India hemp, and hashish consumption by Egyptian Sufis was documented as an edible in the Muslim world while smoking did not become in the old world until after the introduction of tobacco.
Cannabis in Africa is thought to have been introduced by the Arab travelers which Bantu settlers subsequently introduced to South Africa when they migrated southward. Pipes and carbon smoking uncovered in Ethiopia dated around 1320 CE were found to have traces of cannabis.
The use of cannabis was already popular among the indigenous people of Khoisan and Bantu in South Africa before the settlement of Europeans in Cape 1652, and by the 1850s, traders from Swahili had passed cannabis from the east coast of Africa to Congo in the west.
In about 1545 in the western hemisphere, the Spaniards brought and cultivated industrial hemp in Chile. In 1607, Gabriel Archer observed that hemp was among the crops being cultivated by the natives at the main Powhatan village where Virginia and Richmond are now located.