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Cannabis and Humanity: The Relationship Beyond Time

Updated: May 19, 2023

For thousands of years, humans have had a complex and evolving relationship with the cannabis plant. Archaeological evidence suggests that cannabis was used in Asia as early as 5000 BCE for food, fiber, and medicine. Though evidence dates cannabis use to 5,000 BCE, many specialists believe that cannabis use really began around 10,000 BCE when agriculture was first discovered in the Old World.

The oldest evidence of cannabis use dates back to around 5000 BCE in what is now modern-day Taiwan. Archaeologists have uncovered pottery fragments that were used for storing food and contained traces of cannabis residue. It is believed that the cannabis was likely used for medicinal or ritual purposes, as it was not commonly used as a recreational drug at this time.

In ancient China, cannabis was considered one of the five "sacred grains" and was used to treat a variety of ailments, from headaches to menstrual cramps. In addition to this, there is also evidence of cannabis use in ancient China dating back to around 4000 BCE for medicinal purposes, including as an anesthetic during surgery, and to treat various unhealthy conditions such as malaria, constipation, and rheumatism.

In India, cannabis was used in religious ceremonies and as a painkiller. In Egypt, the hemp plant was used often for textiles, while there is also evidence that cannabis was used for both medicinal and religious purposes. The ancient Egyptians used cannabis to treat a variety of ailments, including inflammation, pain, and even glaucoma. Additionally, it was also used in religious ceremonies, and it was believed to have the ability to help communicate with the gods.

As humans continued to explore the potential of the cannabis plant, they discovered its psychoactive properties. The plant then spread to other parts of the world, including Europe, Africa, and eventually the Americas. Cannabis was used for recreational purposes in many cultures, including in ancient Greece and Rome. In some cultures, cannabis was used as an aid to meditation and spiritual practices.

During the colonial era, cannabis was introduced to the Americas, where it was initially used for industrial purposes. However, as the use of cannabis spread, it became increasingly associated with racial and cultural stereotypes. In the early 20th century, cannabis was criminalized by the US government through a deliberate campaign led by politicians and media outlets. The campaign was fueled by racist and xenophobic sentiments, as cannabis was associated with Mexican immigrants and African Americans.

In 1937, the Marihuana Tax Act was passed, effectively criminalizing cannabis use and possession across the country. The act imposed heavy taxes on cannabis, making it too expensive for most people to obtain legally. Those who continued to use or possess cannabis faced steep fines and prison sentences.

This criminalization was based on propaganda and misinformation that falsely linked cannabis use to violent and criminal behavior. In reality, there was little evidence to support these claims. Instead, the criminalization of cannabis was driven by political and economic interests, including the desire to demonize specific groups of people and protect the interests of the emerging pharmaceutical and petrochemical industries.

Today, many advocates argue that the criminalization of cannabis has had devastating social and economic consequences, particularly for communities of color. They argue that the ongoing prohibition of cannabis is unjust and that it is time to legalize and regulate the drug in a responsible and equitable manner.

Despite these prohibitions, cannabis continued to be used recreationally and medicinally. In 1996, California became the first state to legalize medical cannabis, and since then, many other states have followed suit. Sadly, the main reasoning is often financial. Rather than being honest and just about the plant medicine's health benefits, they waited until there was an opportunity for financial gain... and hence the regulation and taxes. As history has shown us, it's difficult to monopolize a medicine that is not capable of being patented.

Above, Cannabis Plant

Today, cannabis is legal for medical or recreational use in many parts of the world. Scientific research has shown that cannabis can be effective in treating a range of medical conditions, from chronic pain to epilepsy. However, there is still much debate, and many countries continue to ban its use.

As humans continue to explore the potential of the cannabis plant, it is clear that our relationship with this complex plant will continue to evolve. Whether it is used for medicinal purposes or recreational enjoyment, cannabis has played an important role in human culture for thousands of years, and it will likely continue to do so for many more to come.

If you are interested in joining us for a group or private healing ceremony, you can find our dates and locations by clicking here.

-Sean Despain

New Earth Integration and Plant Medicine

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