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History of Cannabis

Updated: May 10, 2023

Cannabis has a long history of use by humans, dating back to at least the third millennium BC. It is believed to have originated in central Asia or western China. For millennia, cannabis has been used for its alleged healing properties, as well as for fiber and rope, food, and medicine, and for its psychoactive properties for religious and recreational use. The earliest restrictions on cannabis were reported in the Islamic world by the 14th century, and in the 19th century, it began to be restricted in colonial countries, often associated with racial and class stresses. Cannabis has also been part of Hindu practice and culture. Today, cannabis is still a controversial topic, with ongoing debates about its legalization and use for medicinal and recreational purposes.


History of Hemp


8000 BC

The first-ever pieces of evidence of hemp are found in Asia after which it was discovered in Europe, Africa, and South America, along with hemp seeds and oil used for pottery and food.

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2000 BC-800 BC

Bhang is one of the five sacred plants of India mentioned in the Hindu sacred text Atharva Veda as “Sacred Grass”.

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600-200 BC

The use of hemp continues across northern Europe, as ropes made with hemp were found in southern Russia and Greece along with hemp seeds and leaves found in Germany.

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100 BC

China starts using hemp to make paper.

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1533

The King of England, King Henry VII prioritized hemp by making it mandatory for farmers to grow it by imposing fine on them.

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1534

A botanist & doctor, Garcia de Orta wrote about the uses of cannabis in his early work Colloquies on the Simples and Drugs and Medicinal Matters of India and of a Few Fruits. Garcia noted that bhang was used to improve work and appetite and was generally used by a lot of people.

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1606

By this time, North America had already discovered that hemp was a key ingredient to make clothes, shoes, ropes, paper, and food.

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1700

Many of America’s founding fathers started advocating the benefits of the plant and made it mandatory for American farmers to grow hemp as a staple crop by law

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1776

Several believe Thomas Jefferson wrote the draft of the Declaration of Independence on hemp paper.

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1798

The British Parliament began imposing a tax on bhang, ganja, and charas stating that the tax was proposed to reduce cannabis consumption "for the sake of the locals' good health and sanity"

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1840

By this time, hemp seed oil was being used as a fuel for household lamps and it is said to believe Abraham Lincoln used hemp seed oil to fuel his household lamps.

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1894

The British Indian government completed "The Indian Hemp Drugs Commission Report" a wide-ranging Indo-British study of cannabis usage in India. The Commission report produced was at least 3,281 pages long, with testimony from almost 1,200 "doctors, coolies, yogis, fakirs, heads of lunatic asylums, bhang peasants, tax-gatherers, smugglers, army officers, hemp dealers, ganja palace operators, and the clergy."

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1916

United States Department of Agriculture publishes findings that reveal, Hemp produces 4 times more paper per acre than trees.

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Early 1900’s

Hemp becomes an excuse to search and deport Mexican immigrants. As a result, the word “marijuana” replaced “cannabis” as a way to directly associate the plant with the Mexican population.

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1929

The first commissioner of the United State’s Federal Bureau of Narcotics, Harry Anslinger, who was previously on record stating that cannabis use was “not a big deal,” changes his position when the ban on alcohol is lifted and tells the public that cannabis is a “devil drug” that “turned men into wild beasts that would attack women.” Anslinger contacts thirty scientists requesting evidence that cannabis is dangerous, and twenty-nine say they can’t find any valid proof. Only one expert agrees with him.

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1937

Many prominent American businessmen, including Anslinger, decide that cannabis, with no distinction between marijuana and hemp, poses a threat to their businesses. Anslinger joins forces with William Randolph Hearst, Andrew Mellon, and the DuPont family to draft the Marihuana Tax Act to make cannabis illegal.

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1942

The U.S government realized they need hemp for the war effort and the United States reverses its stance on hemp, encouraging its production.

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1942

Henry Ford builds an experimental car body made from hemp fiber, which is ten times stronger than steel.

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1942-1945

The U.S. government releases a pro-hemp documentary called Hemp for Victory, encouraging farmers to grow hemp to support the war.

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1970

The United States returns to its original anti-hemp position and bans hemp with the passage of the Controlled Substances Act, classifying marijuana, with no distinction from hemp, as a Schedule 1 drug and grouping the plant with heroin and LSD. As mandatory compliance many countries including India ended up doing the same, preventing any research and production.

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1985

The U.S. Government approves a synthetic form of cannabis for the pharmaceutical industry. Marinol, made with a synthetic form of THC, is approved by the government as a legal drug to treat nausea and vomiting in cancer, HIV/AIDS, and anorexia patients.

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2007

The first hemp licenses in over 50 years are granted to two farmers in North Dakota.

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2014

President Barak Obama signs the Farm Bill into law, allowing research institutions to start piloting hemp farming programs. The Farm Bill legally separates hemp from marijuana and legalizes the cultivation of industrial hemp for research purposes, defining industrial hemp as cannabis Sativa L. plants 0.3 percent concentration of THC or less(the psychoactive cannabinoid).

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2015

The Great Legalisation Movement India founded by Viki Vaurora, took first organized efforts to re-legalize cannabis in India by holding medical marijuana conferences in Bangalore, Pune, Mumbai, and Delhi.

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2015

Lok Sabha MP Dhenkanal Tathagata Satpathy said on a Reddit AMA(Ask Me Anything) that he supported the legalization of cannabis, and also admitted to having consumed the drug on several occasions when he was in college.

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2 November 2016

Lok Sabha MP Dharamvir Gandhi proclaimed about receiving clearance from Parliament to table a Private Member's Bill seeking to amend the NDPS Act to allow a medically supervised supply of "non-synthetic" intoxicants including cannabis and opium.

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July 2017

Union Minister of Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi suggested the legalization of medical marijuana because it would reduce drug abuse and aid cancer patients.

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July 2017

The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) received the first-ever license to grow cannabis, in collaboration with the Bombay Hemp Company (BOHECO) for research purposes in India.

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12 December 2017

Viki Vaurora, the founder of the Great Legalization Movement India, sent an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and all members of Parliament signifying the importance of cannabis and the need to legalize the cultivation of cannabis and hemp for medical and industrial use.

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February 2018

The Prime Minister's Office sent a letter to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare guiding the ministry to examine the potential benefits associated with cannabis and issue a response to the letter.

5 June 2018

Lok Sabha MP from Thiruvananthapuram Shashi Tharoor wrote an opinion article expressing his support for the legalization of cannabis and concluding that it was "high time for India to embrace the health, business, and broader societal benefits that legally regulating cannabis can bring".

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July 2019

The Delhi High Court agreed to hear a petition, filed by the Great Legalization Movement Trust, challenging the ban on cannabis. The public interest litigation argues that grouping cannabis with other chemical drugs under the NDPS Act is "arbitrary, unscientific and unreasonable".


“I don’t think [pot] is more dangerous than alcohol.” – Barack Obama / 44th U.S. President

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