Marijuana, otherwise known as cannabis, is one of the most pervasive, yet controversial plants on the planet. It has been used in different societies for centuries and has recently become the subject of many debates over its potential advantages and disadvantages.

Although opinions are divided on the merits or otherwise of marijuana use, its history dates back to as far as ancient times. In this article, we will be exploring the origins of marijuana and its journey to the present day.

What is Marijuana?

Marijuana is a flowering plant, native to Central and South Asia. It is sometimes referred to by the scientific term ‘cannabis sativa’. It is an evergreen, dioecious shrub that consists of sticky resin glands, trichomes, and leaves that are divided into serrated leaflets. The major active ingredient in marijuana is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), alongside a range of other compounds, which are collectively known as cannabinoids. Some common forms of marijuana include marijuana buds, sinsemilla, and hashish, which are different forms of the plant that can vary in potency and form.

Where Did Marijuana Originate?

Marijuana is believed to have originated in either the south or central regions of Asia. Its origin is generally accepted to have been primarily in the Himalayan Mountains of India, China and Nepal; some speculate that it could have even come from parts of what is now considered Afghanistan. Here it found its way into early archaic cultures.

Archaeological Evidence of Early Marijuana Use

Archaeological evidence of marijuana’s use by early humans dates back to 2700 BC. A mummified shaman was discovered in a grave in the Gobi Desert, who was found wearing a burial cloak that contained psychedelic mushrooms and cannabis seeds. Therefore, we can be certain that marijuana was used as part of religious ceremonies amongst the ancient cultures of this region. In addition, there is strong evidence to suggest that the first use of cannabis as a medicine can be traced back to ancient Chinese and Greek physicians who used it to treat a range of medical issues, such as indigestion, gout and menstrual problems.

Marijuana’s Spread Across the Globe

As marijuana was discovered in this part of the world, it spread across the world as traders and explorers from these regions travelled far and wide. Marijuana was encountered by ancient Egyptians as early as 2000 B.C, where an hieroglyphiccription from that period refers to the medicinal properties of the plant.

From there, it spread across Europe. Ancient Greeks were familiar with marijuana and are likely to have been the first to encounter it. From 500 B.C in the Greek world, it was referred to as kannabis and became used as a medicine and narcotic. Later it spread throughout the Roman Empire and ended up being distributed as far as Britain and Germany.

By 700 A.D., marijuana was well known in Asian countries such as India, where it was consumed in alcoholic drinks known as bhang, and Japan. It eventually made its way to the New World in the 1600s, brought by the Spanish and Portuguese settlers who used it as medicine and for religious purposes.

Differing Perceptions of Marijuana Over Time

When marijuana first became more widespread, its use was largely associated with spiritual and medicinal practices, with some cultures using it as a sacred relief during rituals and religious festivals. However, during the Middle Ages, its reputation began to change, and its use was seen as immoral and viewed as the source of many societal issues.

As mention, in the early 1800s, marijuana began to be prescribed as a medicine, with European and American physicians using it to treat a number of different medical conditions. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, marijuana became more widely accessible, as it was combined with intoxicants and drinks by Americans. However, its use was highly controversial and many began to view it as a criminal element and law enforcement agencies were keen to eradicate its use.

The Legalization of Marijuana

During this period, several states within the US made marijuana illegal. Some states had already criminalized marijuana possession, but the 1937 Marijuana Tax Act imposed severe criminal penalties for recreational use. With the passing of the Tax Act, marijuana quickly became restricted and, for a period of time, legalization became a distant dream.

However, in 2012, Colorado and Washington state both voted to legalize marijuana for recreational use, giving the people of those states access to legal marijuana for the first time. In recent years there has been a growing trend towards legalization throughout the US, with many other states now permitting the recreational sale, possession, distribution and consumption of marijuana.

In conclusion, marijuana has been a part of civilization for centuries and its origins can be traced back to ancient cultures in the Himalayan Regions. Its use has been varied, with some cultures using it for medicinal and spiritual purposes, and later community deeming it immoral and criminalizing its use. However, in recent times, attitudes towards marijuana have shifted and it is now legal in many parts of the world.

Regardless of which way you look at it, the effects of marijuana and the way it is perceived will continue to be the subject of debate and controversy. The journey of marijuana is far from over and only time will tell how it will continue to shape different societies and cultures.