Marijuana has been at the forefront of many political debates recently. With the amount of attention and controversy surrounding it lately, it seems like the substance and use of the substance is newfangled. In reality, marijuana has been an important factor in the health and psychedelic transports for millennia.
The first recorded use of reefer dates all the way back to 2737 BCE when Chinese emperor Sheng Nung wrote about its uses to treat malaria, gout, and even forgetfulness. The emperor did mention its intoxicating properties but it was more valued for its medical uses than its recreational ones. Weed was, at one point, so important to shamans that several graves have been found with burned cannabis seeds from 500 BC.
In Ancient Greece, a historian named Herodotus saw a group of Iranian nomads in the midst of a sesh. Cannabis was considered a large part of middle eastern and Asian culture as Islam spread as the Quran did not condemn marijuana outright.
Eventually, with the spice trade, marijuana was brought to the Spanish, who brought it to the Americas. In 1611, hemp became a cash crop along with cotton and tobacco. Mexican immigrants, who used the drug to soothe pain after a long day in the field introduced recreational use to the United States after the Mexican Revolution. After Prohibition, the use recreational use of marijuana lead to “reefer songs” in Jazz and became a huge part of the Jazz scene. Soon Marijuana clubs popped up in several cities and it was all fine- the authorities didn’t find stoners a public nuisance or a threat to peace.
From the 1850s until the early 1940s marijuana was used to ease labor pains, nausea, and even cholera. The Great Depression brought about a massive wave of anti-Mexican sentiment and blamed them for the use and distribution of “Evil-Weed” or “The Devil’s Lettuce.” In the 1950s weed, along with LSD became the token substances of the Beat generation. Then, after the rise of the age of the Flower Power, ganja became linked with Hippies, who symbolized rebellion against authority. Marijuana was officially outlawed in the 70s but has been on the rise again since the 90s.
Today, the medical uses of marijuana are now being recognized once again and are being used to treat epilepsy, chronic pain, and anxiety. Still, the reason behind the criminalization of cannabis is due, in large part, to racism. If it weren’t for this trivial factor, thousands of people would be relieved of pain and we are making baby steps towards a future in which we are all as euphoric as Emperor Sheng Nung, but we’re not there yet.