top of page

A Brief History of the Cannabis Plant

With all of the hype around cannabis these days, you may not know that this amazing plant has been around and used as a natural wellness remedy for a VERY long time. In fact, the earliest written record of the use of cannabis appears in ancient China around 6000 B.C., shortly after human civilization arose. The most direct evidence of the use of cannabis as a medicine began to appear around 2700 B.C.

In India, cannabis was considered a sacred plant gifted by the gods. The Atharvaveda was considered a storehouse of knowledge that was useful for everyday life. This manuscript details the use of flowers and seeds in a variety of balms and tinctures. Cannabis has even been found buried in the tombs of Ancient Greeks and Egyptians who also notated formulations for cannabis remedies.

The earliest mention of cannabis has been found in The Vedas, or sacred Hindu texts. The Vedas call cannabis a source of happiness, joy-giver, liberator that was compassionately given to humans to help us attain delight and lose fear (Abel, 1980). It releases us from anxiety. The god, Shiva is frequently associated with cannabis, called bhang in India.


In the 1600s, hemp cultivation came to North American colonies. The colony of Virginia even created laws that mandated the cultivation of hemp by farmers. Similar laws were passed in Massachusetts and Connecticut. Hemp seeds were even considered legal tender and used to pay for goods and services in Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Maryland.

By the eighteenth century, hemp’s medicinal uses were documented in “The New England Dispensatory” and “Edinburgh New Dispensatory” -- two highly respected pharmacopeias of the day. Hemp extract is also listed in the third edition of the U.S. Pharmacopeia as a pain reliever, sleep aid, and antidepressant. And near the end of the 18th century, a doctor named J.R. Reynolds was conducting research into the ability of hemp extract to reduce tics and help asthma.

In the early 20th century, medicines such as opioids began to be developed. The use of cannabis-based preparations to relieve pain began to decline. However, many medications were developed which combined cannabis with other pharmaceuticals in everything from cough syrup to sleep aids.


After the Mexican Revolution of 1910, Mexican immigrants flooded into the U.S., introducing to American culture the recreational use of marijuana. The drug became associated with immigrants, and fear and prejudice about Spanish-speaking newcomers became associated with marijuana. Anti-drug campaigners warned against the encroaching "Marijuana Menace," and terrible crimes were attributed to marijuana and the Mexicans who used it. Of course, this was all propaganda that was designed to spread racially disparaging ideas. By the late 1930s, the war on cannabis erupted, and the cultivation of cannabis became illegal. By 1931, 29 states had outlawed marijuana.

After a lurid national propaganda campaign against the "evil weed," Congress passed the Marijuana Tax Act. The statute effectively criminalized marijuana, restricting the possession of the drug to individuals who paid an excise tax for certain authorized medical and industrial uses.

In the late 1960s, the mysteries of cannabinoids, including CBD and THC, began to unfold as researchers discovered the role of the human endocannabinoid system in maintaining good health.

But again in 1970, cannabis cultivation was banned by the Controlled Substances Act, which listed cannabis -- including both hemp and marijuana -- as Schedule I substances with no medicinal benefits and a high risk of dependence.

A quarter of a century later, in 1996, the state of California legalized the medicinal use of cannabis for a list of serious medical conditions. Since then, over 20+ states have enacted some sort of medicinal or recreational cannabis program. There has been an explosion of research into the health benefits of CBD, THC and many other cannabinoids, which is happening more and more.


bottom of page