Welcome to the history of cannabis, a plant that has been intertwined with human civilization for millennia. As one of the first plants cultivated by humans, cannabis has a rich and complex history that spans cultures, continents, and centuries.

In this section, we’ll take you on a journey through time, exploring the key people, civilizations, and uses of cannabis throughout history. Our aim is to provide you with a detailed and engaging overview of this fascinating plant and its role in shaping human history. We’ll start by delving into the ancient history of cannabis, tracing its roots back to some of the earliest recorded civilizations. From there, we’ll move forward in time, exploring how cannabis has been used in different contexts and cultures throughout the ages.

Whether you’re a history buff, a cannabis enthusiast, or simply curious about this incredible plant and its place in human history, we hope you’ll find our guide informative and engaging. So sit back, relax, and join us on a journey through the rich and varied history of cannabis.


Cannabis is believed to have emerged on Earth during the Oligocene epoch, approximately 34 million years ago. However, due to a lack of conclusive scientific evidence, its exact origin remains uncertain. Nevertheless, current evidence suggests that the plant likely originated in central Asia.

As humans began to migrate across the globe around 195,000 years ago, they carried various seeds with them, including those of the cannabis plant. Over time, humans discovered the various uses of cannabis and developed different methods of cultivation and consumption.


The history of cannabis use in Taiwan dates back to ancient times, with the first evidence of its use dating back to 8,000 B.C. In an ancient village in Taiwan, archeologists have found evidence that the inhabitants cultivated cannabis for its fiber, which they used to create clothing and various textile products.

This revolutionary discovery allowed the inhabitants to eliminate their dependence on animal skins, which had been their sole source of clothing up until that point. In addition to its use in clothing, there is evidence that cannabis was also used to make footwear due to its compact structure.

Cannabis was not only used for practical purposes in ancient Taiwan, but it also played a significant role in religious traditions. It was believed that using cannabis could bring individuals closer to the gods, leading to its use in various ceremonies and rituals.


Cannabis has a long and rich history in China, dating back to 4,000 B.C. In the village of Pan-p’o, archeologists have discovered evidence that cannabis was one of the five main grains of China and an essential part of the local diet.

The use of cannabis for medicinal purposes in China can be traced back to the Pen Ts’ao Ching, a book on Chinese medicine written in 2,737 B.C. The book recognized cannabis as a plant with the potential to heal over 100 medical conditions, including malaria, rheumatism, and gout.

Uporabe konoplje v knjigi Pen Ts’ao Ching
Chinese Cannabis Illustration

Over time, the use of cannabis in China expanded beyond its use as a dietary staple and medicinal plant. It became an important part of Chinese culture, with its fibers being used to make textiles and its leaves and flowers being used for recreational purposes.

Despite its widespread use, cannabis was eventually banned in China in the 20th century due to concerns about its potential negative effects. However, in recent years, there has been a growing interest in the potential medicinal benefits of cannabis, and discussions around its legalization for medical use have begun to take place.

The rich history of cannabis in China is a testament to the plant’s versatility and importance in various aspects of human life. From its role in traditional medicine to its use in textiles and recreational activities, cannabis has been an integral part of Chinese culture for thousands of years.


The history of cannabis in India is a long and storied one, dating back thousands of years. In Hindu religious texts, such as the Vedas written between 2,000 B.C. and 1,400 B.C., cannabis is described as “the source of happiness,” “joy-giver,” and “liberator.” The gods were said to have provided cannabis to relieve people of anxiety and to help them achieve a pleasant life without fear.

Cannabis played a significant role in religious ceremonies and rituals in ancient India. It was smoked during these ceremonies and was believed to have spiritual and mystical properties that helped individuals connect with the divine.

In addition to its use in religious contexts, cannabis was also widely used for medicinal purposes in ancient India. Different parts of the plant were used to treat a variety of medical conditions, from epilepsy and rabies to anxiety and bacterial inflammation.

Despite its long history of use in India, cannabis was eventually banned in the country in the 1980s due to concerns about its potential negative effects. However, in recent years, there has been a growing interest in the potential medicinal benefits of cannabis, and discussions around its legalization for medical use have begun to take place.

The history of cannabis in India is a fascinating example of the plant’s versatility and importance in various aspects of human life. From its use in religious ceremonies to its role in traditional medicine, cannabis has played a significant role in Indian culture for thousands of years.


The history of cannabis in Egypt is a fascinating one that dates back thousands of years. In fact, in 1,550 B.C., the use of cannabis for inflammatory therapy was accurately described in the Ebers Papyrus, named after the discoverer George Ebers. This document is one of the oldest known medical texts and provides insight into the extensive use of cannabis in ancient Egyptian medicine.

Interestingly, cannabis was also found attached to the mummy of the Egyptian pharaoh Ramesses II, who ruled from 1,213 B.C. to 1,139 B.C. This suggests that cannabis may have been used for both medicinal and spiritual purposes in ancient Egypt.

In addition to its use in medicine, cannabis also played a role in ancient Egyptian religion. It was believed to have been used by the god Shiva for medicinal and spiritual purposes, and it was used in some religious ceremonies and rituals.

Despite its long history of use in Egypt, cannabis was eventually prohibited in the country in the mid-20th century. However, in recent years, there has been a growing interest in the potential medicinal benefits of cannabis, and discussions around its legalization for medical use have begun to take place.

Overall, the history of cannabis in Egypt is a testament to the plant’s versatility and importance in various aspects of human life. From its use in medicine and religion to its potential as a therapeutic agent, cannabis has played a significant role in Egyptian culture for thousands of years.

Uporaba konoplje v starem Egiptu
Papyrus Illustration
Uporaba konoplje v starem Egiptu
Cannabis in Ancient Egypt


The history of cannabis in Eurasia spans thousands of years, and the plant has played a significant role in various cultures and societies throughout the region. One group that is particularly noteworthy for their use of cannabis is the Scythians, a warrior nomadic people who ruled the steppes of Eurasia from Mongolia to the Black Sea for more than 1000 years starting around 1,000 B.C.

The Scythians used cannabis in a variety of ways, including in their steam baths and as part of their burial rituals. They also consumed cannabis by inhaling the smoke from burning cannabis seeds. The Scythians believed that cannabis had spiritual and medicinal properties, and its use was deeply ingrained in their culture.

Around the same time in history, evidence was found that the Assyrians, an ancient civilization located in what is now Iraq, also used cannabis for its psychotropic effects. The Assyrians believed that cannabis had the power to communicate with the gods and to bring about a heightened state of consciousness.

The Roman Empire

The Roman Empire was a significant era in the history of cannabis use. Cannabis was widely used during the Greek-Roman era, around 450-200 B.C., as a medicine to alleviate pain, toothaches, and ear inflammation. In addition, cannabis was used by the elite women of Rome to relieve pain during childbirth. Pedanios Dioskurides, a Greek doctor and pharmacology pioneer from Anazarbos, Tarsos, prescribed cannabis for toothaches and ear-related pain during 40-90 B.C.

Moreover, cannabis was also used as an analgesic during surgical procedures in ancient China. Hua Tuo, the first Chinese doctor who opened his practice during the East dynasty Han (A.D. 207), used a mixture of cannabis and wine with his patients before surgery. Cannabis had many medicinal uses during the Roman era, and its analgesic properties were highly valued.

Arabian Peninsula

The history of cannabis in the Arabian Peninsula is noteworthy for its early medicinal use. In A.D. 1000, prominent Arabian scientists al-Majusi and al-Badri concluded that cannabis could effectively cure epilepsy. Later, in A.D. 1025, the renowned scholar Ibn Sina (also known as Avicenna) wrote the Canon of Medicine, which stated that cannabis was useful in treating gout, edema, infected wounds, and strong headaches. His work had a profound influence on Western medicine and was widely studied from the 13th to the 19th century. The use of cannabis in traditional Arabian medicine continued for centuries, with reports of its use for various ailments such as pain relief, anxiety, and insomnia. Even today, the plant remains a significant part of traditional Arabian medicine, with some modern studies suggesting potential benefits in treating epilepsy and certain psychiatric disorders.

East Africa & France

The history of cannabis can be traced back to various regions of the world, including East Africa and France. In 1300, Arabian merchants introduced cannabis to Eastern Africa, where it was widely used to treat various medical conditions such as malaria, asthma, fever, and dysentery. Around 1500, the Spaniards brought cannabis to America, where it was initially used for industrial purposes like rope and clothing production, but later also for medicinal and psychoactive purposes.

In 1798, Napoleon Bonaparte brought cannabis from Egypt to France, where it was researched for its sedative and pain-relieving properties. It was also used to treat conditions like tumors, cough, and jaundice. As cannabis spread across Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Europe, and the Americas, its usage became widely accepted by the 19th century.

Today, cannabis continues to be a topic of interest for both medical and recreational purposes, with many countries legalizing its use for either or both. Its history highlights the longstanding relationship between humans and this plant, which has been used for various purposes for thousands of years.

Dr. William B. O’Shaugnessy
Dr. William B. O'Shaugnessy


In the early 1930s, a noteworthy discovery was made by an Irish doctor studying in India – Dr. William O’Shaughnessy. He found that cannabis extract could effectively alleviate some of the most severe cholera symptoms. This discovery made O’Shaughnessy the first western scientist to study the chemical composition of Cannabis Indica, ultimately resulting in the inclusion of cannabis in western pharmacology.

By the end of the 19th century, various cannabis extracts were widely sold in pharmacies as medicine for a range of medical conditions. However, this era of widespread cannabis use as a medicinal remedy did not last long.

Beginning of the 20th Century – The Dark Era

The history of cannabis prohibition in the beginning of the 20th century has a complex and controversial background. Although cannabis extract was widely used as medicine, there was also a growing trend of cannabis smoking. Unfortunately, the reasons for the eventual criminalization of cannabis were rooted in racism, nationalism, and political ambition.

In 1930, the newly established Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN) appointed Harry Anslinger as its first commissioner. Anslinger, a former alcohol prohibition agent, saw cannabis as an opportunity to keep his career going. He began a relentless campaign against cannabis, claiming it caused violence, insanity, and even death.

Anslinger’s demonization of cannabis was amplified by officials like William Randolph Hearst, who owned a media empire and used his power to spread anti-cannabis propaganda. Hearst was motivated by his nationalism and fear of the growing Mexican population in the US.

As a result of these campaigns, many US states passed laws making cannabis illegal in the mid-1930s. Eventually, the US Congress passed the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937, which effectively made cannabis illegal across the country. This marked the beginning of a global trend of cannabis prohibition that would last for decades.

Despite the efforts of proponents of cannabis, including the famous musician Louis Armstrong, the criminalization of cannabis continued throughout the 20th century. It wasn’t until the 21st century that attitudes towards cannabis began to shift, with several US states legalizing it for medicinal and recreational use. Today, cannabis is legal in many parts of the world and is being studied for its potential medicinal benefits.

Marihuana Tax Act

The Marihuana Tax Act, signed by Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1937, marked a significant turning point in the history of cannabis. The act effectively made cannabis illegal, except for medicinal use, but the regulations and tax policies made it nearly impossible for doctors to prescribe it to their patients. This legislation lasted until 1969, when Nixon’s war on drugs began. Prior to the act, recreational use of cannabis was popular among artisan cultures, jazz clubs, student campuses, and beyond.

In 1942, Cannabis Sativa L. was removed from the American pharmacopeia, despite the objections of leading doctors and scientists who refuted most of the claims against cannabis made by Anslinger and the FBN. Anslinger’s efforts to create public and political opinions on cannabis encountered a challenge in 1944 when the New York Medical Academy issued the LaGuardia report. Respected doctors and scientists evaluated and refuted almost every one of Anslinger’s claims about cannabis and found that the public was unnecessarily intimidated by the alleged danger of cannabis. However, even though multiple studies revealed misleading and false Anslinger claims, the negative campaigns continued for years to come.

The Marihuana Tax Act was a political move that had significant impacts on society, disproportionately affecting communities of color. The regulation and criminalization of cannabis was rooted in racial and nationalist biases, which were exploited by politicians for their own gain. Despite mounting evidence of the benefits of cannabis and the flaws in prohibitionist policies, it would take several decades before changes in legislation would occur.

War on Drugs

The history of cannabis in the United States took a dramatic turn in the 1970s with the advent of the War on Drugs. President Richard M. Nixon declared the war on drugs in 1971, and one of the primary targets was cannabis. Despite expert opinions and scientific evidence that suggested cannabis had positive medical effects, Nixon classified it as a Schedule 1 drug, which meant it had no medical value and high potential for misuse. This classification had a profound impact on the country, with many states decriminalizing cannabis possession, but it was short-lived.

The tide turned against cannabis once again when Nancy Reagan launched her campaign, “Just Say No,” which led to the re-criminalization of the drug. Cannabis was once again seen as a dangerous substance that was ruining the youth of America. The effects of this campaign were felt throughout the country, with many states increasing the penalties for cannabis possession.

However, in 1994, one of Nixon’s top advisors admitted that the criminalization of cannabis had a sole political purpose: to destroy his greatest political enemies, the hippies and African Americans. Despite this admission, the War on Drugs continued, and cannabis remained a Schedule 1 drug for many years.

It wasn’t until recent years that attitudes towards cannabis began to shift once again, with many states legalizing medical and recreational cannabis use. The history of cannabis in the United States is a complex one, with political motivations often overshadowing scientific evidence and expert opinions. However, the tide is turning, and cannabis is once again being recognized for its potential medical benefits and its relatively low potential for harm.

The Rise of Cannabis

The history of cannabis has been marked by periods of acceptance and prohibition. In the late 1980s, California led the way in softening cannabis legislation, with activists successfully passing an act to make cannabis use legal again in 1996. This made California the first state to pass such legislation, and by 2018, over 31 US states allowed the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes.

More recently, in 2012, Colorado and Washington became the first two states to allow cannabis for adult recreational use, triggering a wave of other referendums. These states set high tax rates, which had a positive effect for voters looking to increase state revenue and those seeking to use cannabis without fear of arrest. By June 2018, nine states allowed legal use of recreational cannabis.

Outside of the US, many countries have also begun to allow the use of products that contain CBD oil. The tide seems to be turning, and it is possible that future generations will view the prohibition of cannabis in the 20th century as a time of bad judgment, misguided perceptions, and political games.

However, it’s important to remember that the history of cannabis has also been one of unequal enforcement and disproportionate impact on marginalized communities. As cannabis becomes more widely accepted, it’s crucial to ensure that policies are put in place to address the harms of the past and ensure equitable access to the benefits of legalization.

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Dragon Cannabis