If there was a clinical medical study that ever stood the test of time, it would have to be for cannabis, which has been used in medicine for the best part of 5000 years.

In the period before year one in the Gregorian calendar (known as ‘BC’) dating back nearly 5,000 years, we find the first references to cannabis in a medicinal sense.

  • 2900 BC – Chinese Emperor Fu Hsi, who is credited with bringing civilization to China, made numerous references to ‘Ma’, the Chinese word for Cannabis, claiming it possessed both yin and yang.

  • 2700 BC – First even written record of cannabis use, written in the pharmacopoeia of Shen Nung, one of the fathers of Chinese medicine.

  • 550 BC – Persian prophet Zoroaster gives hemp first place in the sacred text, the Zend-Avesta, which lists over 10,000 medicinal plants.

  • 450 BC – Greek historian Herodotus describes the Scythians of central Asia throwing hemp onto heated stones under canvas: ‘as it burns, it smokes like incense and the smell of it makes them drunk,’ he noted in text.

Clearly cannabis is an ancient plant, which was known about and used across different continents up to 5,000 years ago. But there’s more, another 2,000 years to go, to bring us up to speed. With the advent of Christianity and the introduction of the Gregorian calendar, it is clear from numerous historical sources that cannabis was used, not only ritually in religious settings, but also as a primitive form of medicine for people in pain.

  • 70 – The notorious Roman Emperor Nero’s doctor, Dioscorides, speaks highly of cannabis, lauding it for making “the stoutest cords,” as well as for its numerous medicinal qualities.

  • 400 – Cannabis and hemp cultivated in England at Old Buckeham Mare for the first time.

  • 600 – Paper made from cannabis (hemp) by Germans, French and Vikings.

  • 632 – Islamic Prophet Mohammed writes in biblical texts forbidding alcohol but allowing use of cannabis for medical and social purposes.

Fast forward circa 900 years and hemp started to be harvested industrially, initially by the British, and then by the Spanish. The hemp was cultivated for rope and paper , while the flowers from cannabis plants were used in religious ceremonies and as part of tinctures to cure little-understood illnesses.

  • 1494 – Hemp paper making starts in England.

  • 1563 – Queen Elizabeth I decrees that land owners with 60 acres or more must grow Cannabis else face a fine.

  • 1564 – King Philip of Spain follows lead of Queen Elizabeth and orders Cannabis to be grown throughout his Empire.

  • 1619 – Virginia colony makes Cannabis Cultivation Mandatory, followed by most other colonies. Europe pays Hemp bounties.

  • 1753 – Cannabis Sativa classified by Linneaus.

  • 1776 – American Declaration of Independence drafted on hemp paper.

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As we enter the 1800s, cannabis cultivation is still growing strong, but the era of war is fast approaching. In the first two decades of the century, America declared war on Britain, and a few days later Napolean invaded Russia, aiming to put an end to Britain’s supply of the plant. Then…

  • 1839 – Homeopathy journal American Provers’ Union publishes first of many reports on the effects of Cannabis.

  • 1841 –  Dr. W.B. O’Shaunghnessy of Scotland works in India then introduces Cannabis to Western medicine. In the following 50 years hundreds of medical papers are written on the medical benefits of Cannabis.

  • 1845 – Psychologist and ‘inventor’ of modern psychopharmacology and psychotimimetic drug treatment, Jacques-Joseph Moreau de Tours documents physical and mental benefits of Cannabis.

  • 1870 – Cannabis is listed in the US Pharmacopoeia as a medicine for various ailments.

  • 1890 Queen Victoria’s personal physician, Sir Russell Reynolds, prescribes Cannabis for menstrual cramps. He claims in the first issue of The Lancet, that Cannabis “When pure and administered carefully, is one of the of the most valuable medicines we possess.”

Approaching the modern era, at the turn of the 20th Century, and we see that historically forces are in place to outlaw cannabis, as well as hemp cultivation. By the mid-1900s, cannabis was totally outlawed in the west, South Africa, and numerous other places, which had began to drug their populations with patented chemicals, ushering in a brand new era; that of ‘big pharma.’

  • 1910 – African-American ‘reefer’ use reported in jazz clubs of New Orleans, said to be influencing white people. Mexican’s reported to be smoking Cannabis in Texas.

  • 1911 – Hindus reported to be using ‘Gunjah’ in San Francisco. South Africa starts to outlaw Cannabis.

  • 1915 – California outlaws Cannabis.

  • 1919 – Texas outlaws Cannabis.

  • 1925 – The ‘Panama Canal Zone Report’ conducted due to the level of Cannabis use by soldiers in the area concludes that there is no evidence that Cannabis use is habit-forming or deleterious.

  • 1928 – September 28th. The Dangerous Drugs Act 1925 becomes law and Cannabis is made illegal in Britain.

  • 1937 – Following action by the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, a prohibitive tax is put on hemp in the USA, effectively destroying the industry.

By the middle of World War II, Cannabis had been dropped from the American Pharmacopoeia. Henry Ford’s plastic car made using Cannabis and fuelled from Cannabis was banned, but Henry Ford continued to illegally grow Cannabis for some years after the Federal ban. By the 1960s, cannabis was outlawed in most places in the world, but that didn’t stop millions of people from using it medicinally. And this is precisely when the tide towards medical cannabis use for patients began to gather momentum.

  • 1961 – Anslinger heads US delegation at UN Drugs Convention. New international restrictions are placed on Cannabis aiming to eliminate its use within 25 years.

  • 1964 – The first head shop is opened by the Thelin brothers in the United States.

  • 1967 – In July over 3,000 people hold a mass ‘smoke-in’ in Hyde Park in London.

  • 1968 – A Home Office select committee looks at the ‘cannabis question’. Its report concluded that cannabis was no more harmful than tobacco or alcohol.

  • 1975 – Hundreds of Doctors call on US Government to instigate further research on Cannabis.

  • 1976 – Supreme Court of Alaska declares that ‘right of privacy’ protects Cannabis possession in the home.

As we enter the 1990s, and cannabis legislation seems to have come full circle. Researchers in Italy, America, Israel and Canada are carrying out studies and surveys, showing how cannabis helps in the treatment of conditions like chronic pain, PTSD, Alzheimer’s and epilepsy. After years of prohibition, the Earth’s most ancient and precious medicine is finally being rediscovered.

  • 1990 – The discovery of THC receptors in the human brain is reported in Nature journal.

  • 1993 – Hempcore become the first British company to obtain a license to grow Cannabis as the Home Office lift restrictions on industrial hemp cultivation.

  • 1994 – Germany becomes the first European country apart from Holland to decriminalise possession of ‘small quantities of cannabis for occasional use’.

  • 1994- present day – Thousands of studies are carried out on cannabis for medical purposes. It is discovered that thousands of people around the world gain relief from chronic pain and other medical issues by taking cannabis, either by smoking, vaporizing, or eating.

[Featured Image credit- Pixabay]

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