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Cannabis sativa Koehler drawing.jpg
Common hemp
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Rosids
Order: Rosales
Family: Cannabaceae
Genus: Cannabis

Cannabis (/ˈkænəbɪs/) is a genus of flowering plants in the family Cannabaceae. The number of species within the genus is disputed. Three species may be recognized: Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, and Cannabis ruderalis; C. ruderalis may be included within C. sativa; or all three may be treated as subspecies of a single species, C. sativa.[1][2][3][4] The genus is widely accepted as being indigenous to and originating from Central Asia, with some researchers also including upper South Asia in its origin.[5][6]

The plant is also known as hemp, although this term is often used to refer only to varieties of Cannabis cultivated for non-drug use. Cannabis has long been used for hemp fibre, for hemp oils, for medicinal purposes, and as a recreational drug. Industrial hemp products are made from cannabis plants selected to produce an abundance of fiber. To satisfy the UN Narcotics Convention, some cannabis strains have been bred to produce minimal levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the principal psychoactive constituent. Some strains have been selectively bred to produce a maximum of THC (a cannabinoid), the strength of which is enhanced by curing the flowers. Various compounds, including hashish and hash oil, are extracted from the plant.[7]

Globally, in 2013, 60,400 kilograms of cannabis were produced legally.[8] In 2014 there were an estimated 182.5 million cannabis users (3.8% of the population aged 15–64).[9] This percentage has not changed significantly between 1998 and 2014.[9]

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  • Cannabis: A Lost History (FULL DOCUMENTARY)
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In 2012, after 75 years of prohibition, Colorado and Washington state legalized recreational marijuana, with other states slowly but surely following suit. But long before prohibition, Long before the united states, even, Cannabis had been established as an integral part of human civilization. From it’s depiction in the cave paintings of Japan To it’s usage in burial ceremonies in ancient China, It seems as though our relationship with weed Likely goes back to the advent of our species And if our endocannibinoid system is any indication, Perhaps even before it. But while there is limited information about marijuana’s role in early mammalian development, There is a wealth of evidence across virtually all cultures throughout history Of it’s importance in textiles Medicine And spirituality. This is the forgotten past Of one of the most versatile plants Ever discovered This is cannabis A lost history The first written reference material we have when it comes to cannabis is in the form of the Chinese materia medica, alleged to be written by Shen Nung in 2800 B.C.E, The earliest surviving copy of this book dates back to around 50 B.C.E. Shen Nung is a legendary figure in Chinese culture, part of a group of three kings called ‘celestial emperors’. Half emperor half deity, He is said to have ruled over China long before written history, inventing irrigation, agriculture, the axe, the hoe, the plow, acupuncture, and traditional Chinese medicine in the process. He is often depicted draped in a garment of leaves, and often chewing on their stems to experiment with their effect on the human body. Shen Nung was, essentially, the first pharmacologist. In compiling The Classic of Herbal Medicine, shen nung discovered the medicinal properties of cannabis, saying it was good for gout, rheumatism, malaria, and absentmindedness, as well as about 100 other things. Prior to this, the plant which the Chinese called “ma” had been used for many centuries for its fiber in producing cloth, paper, rope, and even in the production of pottery. As the Chinese continued to explore cannabis’ benefit, they found it effective in the treatment of other ailments, like vomiting and infections. It is generally believed to have been used in moxibustion practice in acupuncture, being replaced in modern times with mugwort. Around 200 A.D. A physician named Hua Tuo became the first person to use anesthesia in surgery, nearly 1600 years before its discovery in the west. And while Hua Tuo’s formula for anesthesia has not survived into modern times, it’s name Ma Fei San, translates approximately to Cannabis boiling powder” and is widely accepted to have had cannabis as a component, with other candidates such as jimson weed and opium proposed to be either in addition to or instead of marijuana. Cannabis was one of the 50 fundamental herbs in the Traditional Chinese medicine toolkit. In modern times, with the questionable legality of its use, reference to ‘ma’ in recent translations of the Chinese medical textbooks only make reference to non-psychoactive hemp seeds. But in antiquity, the Chinese were not shy about singing cannabis’ praise. Confucius compiled the Book of Odes, and the Cannon of Rites, detailing poetry, song, and the religious ritualistic practices of the Chinese shamanism of his contemporaries and ancestors. Ma is mentioned numerous times throughout each of these collections. But perhaps more interesting is it’s frequent association with the burial ceremony during this time period. Cannabis has been found, both burned and unburned, seed, bud, and everything in between, with Burned seeds having been found in kurgan burial mounds in Siberia and china, dating back to 3,000 B.C, and nearly two pounds of bud being discovered in the grave of what is believed to be a royal shaman in China’s Xin Jiang region. But through a network of trade routes, weed quickly found its way across the ancient world, intersecting with numerous cultures in the process. Coming up, we’ll explore weed’s spread throughout the east, and its importance in the foundation of indian culture. As marijuana’s popularity as a dietary staple, a medicine and the very plant from which clothes are made grew, China came to be known as the land of hemp and mulberry. Mulberries are high in protein, iron, vitamins and minerals, just like cannabis so it is no wonder that the two were both revered in this similar way. But while the earliest recorded history of cannabis comes from China, it is known to have been widely distributed in the fertile soil along the rivers of the ancient world. Along the banks of these great rivers, like the yellow river in china, the tigris and Euphrates in Mesopotamia,the Indus in India, and perhaps even the nile in Egypt, civilization began to sprout up as well. And while it is unclear how, exactly, this knowledge of cannabis’ medicinal and psychoactive properties spread, some evidence points to nomadic tribes emerging from the steppes of central Asia, such as the Yamnaya, who also may have been responsible for the kurgan burial mounds found throughout the region. Historians believe that these tribal groups of the caucasus region helped to advance trade across Asia and Europe well before the silk road, spreading the wheel, horse domestication, and many other technologies of the times Some subset of these tribes, who called themselves the Aryans, migrated from the north into what is now India, eventually merging with people who had already inhabited the region, developing the prototypical indo-aryan language and culture in the process. From this culture, Indian and Iranian cultures, among others, would ultimately be born. This protoculture was also responsible for the invention of one of the earliest written languages, Sanskrit. Some of the earliest Sanskrit texts, The Vedas, meaning knowledge, are still in existence today. These texts are the basis of our knowledge of ancient indian history, as well as spirituality, being important religious texts for both Zoroastrian and Hindu faiths. Cannabis, or bhang, as it is called in India, is mentioned as one of five sacred plants in the fourth veda The Hindu god Shiva is sometimes referred to as lord of the bhang. There are several legends associating Shiva with Cannabis, from him making it of his own flesh to help purify the amrita, or elixir of life, to it being churned up from a sea of milk, along with the sacred cow and the moon by Shiva himself. One such legend states that Shiva, in the midst of an argument with his family, escaped to the mountains. As he continued to climb, he became tired from his journey, and the suns hot rays. He fell asleep beneath a plant. When he awoke he became aware of the fragrant smell of the plant and decided to taste its leaves. Rejuvenated, Shiva made this Ganja his favorite food, bringing it back to humanity, along with the art of yoga, a sort of instruction manual for the practice of using this sacred herb correctly. As a result, devotees of Shiva still consume bhang, ganja, and charas, 3 traditional preparations of cannabis, to this day. It is most commonly consumed in a drink known as Bhang Lassi, which is similar to the mango lassi popularized in the west, with bhang taking place of mango. This drink is especially used on holidays such as Holi, and Shivrati, the festival of Shiva. Even in regions where it is illegal, an exception is made during these celebrations. The Sadhus, yogic holymen and devotees of Shiva, smoke it in the forms of ganja and charas on a daily basis, saying it brings them closer to shiva. But as we will see, Hinduism isn’t the only indoaryan religious tradition to incorporate cannabis into its culture. Coming up, we’ll explore marijuana’s place in Buddhism, Sikhism, and the Zoroastrian faith The Vedic religious tradition, the proto-religion of the indo-aryan people, served as the origin for both Hinduism and Zoroastrianism, with Hinduism developing in the Indian Subcontinent, and the Zoroastrian faith flourishing in Iran. The Persian prophet, Zoroaster, is believed to be the first to make mention of cannabis as a sacrament. In The Zend-Avesta, a collection of important religious texts in Zoroastrianism, hemp appears first in a list of over 10,000 medicinal plants. It was considered the chief religious sacrament of the priest class, and was generally unavailable to common people. This priestly class would consume Bhang, sometimes referred to as bhanga or mang, mixed with wine after which it is said that their bodies rested while their minds went on a spiritual journey. In fact, many of our modern conceptual imagery of heaven and hell come from Zoroastrian priest Ardak Wiraf, who was known to go on journeys to these realms through the use of bhang. Zoroaster’s wife, dissatisfied by this secondary shamanic experience, prayed to the supreme being that he “give her his good narcotic, Bhanga.” Back in India, a new religion was developing based on the teachings of a sage named Siddhartha Gautama. According to legend, Gautama, the Buddha, subsided on a diet of cannibas (primarily in the form of hemp seeds) for six years before his revelations and his ascent to Buddhahood. As he sat beneath the Bodhi tree for 40 days and 40 nights, he consumed only a single hemp seed per day. And while most sects of Buddhism have largely forgotten or ignored bhang’s important place in the life of th Budha, a spiritual movement called tantra sprung up in the 6th century weaving Hindu and Buddhist beliefs into a new esoteric philosophy in which bhang played a preeminent role. In the mahanirvana tantra, bhang is said to assist in the great liberation. A prayer is contained in this sacred religious text that is supposed to accompany consumption of bhang. When translated, it reads, “may this cannabis be a blessing to my heart.” The mahanirvana also states that, “Bhang is consumed in order to liberate oneself, and that those who do, in dominating their mental faculties and following the yoga, or law of shiva, are to be likened to immortals on earth. By the middle ages, bhang became so popular, in fact, that it was often consumed before battle, much in the way that alcohol was in the west. They believed that consumption of bhang would make ones enemies feel possessed by spirits. A later religious tradition, Sikhism, which finds its roots in tantra, forbids all drugs and alcohol… with bhang being the exception. They call it suknee dhan, meaning giver of peace. And when the sikh’s founder was presented with bhang by the mughul king babur, he was so delighted as to offer his blessing for babur have his kingdom for seven generations. This Sudknee Dhan was especially popular with a group of sikh warriors known as the nihang who consume it to this day. And while colonialism has largely wiped out psychotropic plants the world over, the Sikhs received special permissions from the british imperialists to continue using sudknee dhan. In the late 1800s, when opium and other drugs of concern were made illegal in british colonies, a commission was set up who created a report on the importance of cannabis in Indian culture, it concluded that suppressing the use of bhang would be unjustifiable, due to its ancient religious usage among hindus and the view that it was harmless when used in moderation. When we return, we’ll explore the spread of cannabis into the ancient western world. The Aryan tribes that settled in Iran went on to form the Persian empire, whose rule reached from the borders of India all the way to the land of Egypt by 500 BCE. But some suggest the Egyptians had knowledge of cannabis nearly 1500 years before that. The oldest complete medical text, the eber’s papyrus, as well as other writings of the time contain reference to a plant, shum shum tu, which was created by the sun god rah and used in ceremonies honoring the dead. It is believed by many to be none other than marijuana. Shum Shum Tu, used medicinally, was often combined with honey and used in topical medical preparations for inflammation. Whether this interpretation of Shum Shum Tu identity is correct or not, There is other evidence indicative of ancient Egyptian knowledge of cannabis. For example, the goddess seshat is almost universally depicted with a 7 pointed symbol often resembling the 7 pointed marijuana leaf above her head. Similarly, hemp fibers have been discovered in the tomb of ahkenhaten, with Hemp pollen found inside of the mummy of Rameses II, who died nearly 700 years before the Persian conquest of Egypt. Both of these samples have undergone chemical analyses and confirmed to be weed. There are also numerous hierogylphs showing what appear to be smoking pipes or ceremonial incense burners. And while these have been attributed by some to represent ceremonial use of the blue lotus flower, which itself is psychoactive, most researchers agree that blue lotus was steeped in wine as opposed to being smoked. But while evidence of ancient Egyptian knowledge of marijuana’s psychoactive properties is mostly circumstantial, there is an unmistakable written record by their Greek counterparts. In fact, the word “cannabis” comes from an ancient Greek translation of a Scythian word. It is generally believed that hemp, hanep in Old English, comes from the same Scythian source. But the Grecian relationship with cannabis is not purely etymological. The Greek historian Herodotus was the first person to make any mention of cannabis in western literature. He wrote extensively on the Scythian people, a nomadic tribe he had encountered in his many travels. According to Herodotus, the Scythians used cannabis in the manufacture of their clothes. They also used it in religious ceremony accompanying a funeral. They anoint and wash their heads, and for their bodies, set up three poles leaning together to a point and cover these over with wool mats, then in the space so enclosed to the best of their ability, they make a pit in the center beneath the poles and the mats and throw red-hot stones into it. . . . the Scythians then take this (kannabis) and crawling into the tents, throw it on the red-hot stones, where it smoulders and sends forth such fumes that no Greek vapor-bath could surpass it. The Scythians howl in their joy caused by the vapors And while mainstream historians tend to reject the idea that these practices found their way into greek culture, there appears to be evidence to the contrary. For instance, the Scythians, notorious for their warlike nature, made up a large part of the Greek police force. It is highly unlikely, then, that their unique cultural traditions would not be continued during their tenure in Greece. What’s more, Herodotus makes reference of another Nomadic tribe whose use of cannabis was not so sacramental. He said, "They have parties and sit around a fire, they throw some of it into the flames. As it burns, it smokes like incense, and the smell of it makes them drunk, just as wine does. As more fruit is thrown on, they get more and more intoxicated until finally they jump up and start dancing and singing." Outside of these direct written references, it should also be taken into account that the ancient Greeks had continuing conflict with the Aryan tribes that went on to form the Persian empire. It is very likely that through the Persian invasion, cannabis came to be known in Greece. But regardless of how they first encountered it, ancient Greek physicians used cannabis medicinally to treat a variety of conditions, such as edema and even tumors. It seems impossible, then, that it’s psychoactive properties would go unnoticed by the philosophically minded among the ancient Greeks. While there is little about this in academia, it is more likely because of the taboo nature of entheogenic research and less so because Grecian use of cannabis did not exist. Another possible reason for the limited information on the topic is that the psychospiritual rituals of ancient Greek philosophers were heavily guarded secrets. While generally shrouded in mystery, there are some indications of cannabis’ psychoactive use in ancient Greece. For one, we have ancient greek writings of an incense known as ‘scythian fire’ being used in the cult of Asclepius, the God of medicine. Additionally, the thracians, another nomadic tribe living amongst the greeks, had within them a group known to the Greeks as Kapnobatai, or “Smoke Walkers” These “Smoke Walkers” were dancers and shaman, who used the smoke of hemp to bring about a trancelike state. These Persian, Thracian, and Scythian practices hardly went unnoticed by the greeks. In fact, the ancient Greek word, Cannabeizen, meaning ‘to burn cannabis’ is believed to have taken place in the form of incense burners burning cannabis along with frankincense resin, which is also known to be psychoactive, as well as other fragrant resins such as myrrh and balsam. It is not inconceivable,then, that such an incense may have played a role in some of the numerous divination rituals practiced in ancient Greece by the likes of Socrates and Pythagoras. What is known for sure, though, is that cannabis found its way to Rome via their conquest of Greece and appropriation of Greek Philosophy, science and art including Dioscorides’ Materia Medica, a classic that influenced western medicine well into the middle ages But perhaps some of the most controversial references to cannabis in antiquity come from the Judeochristian bible. In the first half of the 20th century, the Polish anthropologist, Dr. Sula Benet, discovered a glaring error in modern translations of the bible. She noted that the bible’s many mentions of ‘sweet calamus’ only went as far back as the Septuagint, an early Greek translation of the Hebrew bible. The problem with this is that calamus has virtually none of the properties it is purported to in the bible. Benet demonstrated that the original Hebrew script used the term “Kaneh Bosm” which she believed was, without any doubt, cannabis. In fact, Dr. Benet believed that “Kaneh Bosm” may even predate the Scythian term Kannabis. This “kaneh bosm” was referenced multiple times in the old testament. Take, for instance, Exodus chapter 30, in which God instructs Moses to make a holy anointing oil. “And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: Take for yourself choice spices: Five Hundred shekels (6kg) of pure myrrh, half as much of fragrant cinnamon (3kg) two hundred and fifty shekels of kaneh bosm (3kg) and five hundred shekels of cassia (6kg) and mix these with olive oil (5 quarts)” This holy anointing oil was used to make the temple, the altar, and quote “Burned offerings” most holy, and the bible says that anything that touches these, too, would become holy. This anointing oil, in the old testament and Judaism, was used to baptize the likes of kings and priests, ultimately leading to the Hebrew term “Messiah” meaning “The anointed one, which begs the question, “Did jesus himself use cannabis?” It is well documented in the old testament that a sacred incense, burned offerings, and a holy anointing oil containing kaneh bosm, were an established part of the rituals of ancient Israelites. These ceremonies were conducted in a tabernacle, a temple similar to that of their Scythian counterparts, who have been shown through ancient historical sources to have traded with and occasionally fought against the ancient Jewish people. It is not surprising, then, that the old testament describes kaneh bosm as being an exotic herb from a far away land. But the new testament makes basically no direct references to kaneh bosm itself. So did Jesus know of, or use cannabis? It seems that the answer may very well be yes. Christ is a Greek term meaning, “The anointed one” as opposed to being Jesus’ last name, as some believe. In fact, last names generally did not originate until the middle ages. These terms, “Christ” and “messiah” are indicative of the fact that Jesus was anointed in the holy anointing oil. The very same oil used by Moses and Aaron to initiate the priestly class into their faith centuries earlier. As is well documented in the bible, Jesus was scholarly when it came to his Jewish faith from an early age, teaching the Rabbis in the temple at the age of 13. It is highly likely, then, that he was aware of the formula of the anointing oil In fact, while the new testament doesn’t mention kaneh bosm directly, anointing seems to be a key part of Jesus’ ministry. Jesus anointed the 12 disciples, and then sent them out to anoint others in the holy oil. As put in Mark 6:13 “they were casting out many demons and were anointing with oil many who were sick, and healing them” There are many references throughout the bible to Jesus anointing and healing those throughout the region. References to casting out demons may, in fact, be referring to epilepsy, which cannabis oil is known to treat. Similarly, Jesus heals leprosy, which has been commonly treated with cannabis in many ancient cultures. He is also said to have healed a blind man. In modern times, we know cannabis to successfully treat glaucoma. But outside of his many healing miracles, Jesus anointed people, namely, to introduce the holy spirit into them. As Stated in The First Epistle of Saint John, “I am writing to you in this way about those who would deceive you, but the Oil you received from him remains within you, and you really need no teaching from anyone; simply remain in him, for his Oil Teaches you about everything and is true and is no lie-- remain in him as his Oil has taught you to do.” This anointing of common people, and, further, gentiles, or ‘non-jews’ is in direct violation of Hebrew law, as God dictated to Moses in Exodus: “Anyone who makes a blend like it or anoints someone other than a priest will be cut off from the community.” Is it possible, then, that this could have played a role in the Hebrew elders’ contention towards Jesus, or their decision to condemn him to death? Whether you believe in the historicity of Jesus or not, it is clear that this holy anointing oil was extremely special to the early Christians. While the Gospels found in the bible appear to confirm Jesus’ anointing oil, they are just a small fraction of the Christian Gospels of antiquity. Before the canon of Jesus’ life was solidified by The Roman Emperor Constantine in the 3rd century, a number of early Christian sects, collectively known as The Gnostics, meaning knowledge, all had their own interpretations of Christianity. In one such work, The Gospel of Phillip, the author says The anointing is superior to baptism. For from the anointing we were called ‘anointed ones’ (Christians), not because of the baptism. And Christ, too, was [so] named because of the anointing, for the Father anointed the son, and the son anointed the apostles, and the apostles anointed us. [Therefore] he who has been anointed has the All. He has the resurrection, the light. . . the Holy Spirit. . . [If] one receives this unction, this person is no longer a Christian but a Christ.” Similarly, the Gospel of Truth says that Jesus came specifically… “so that he might anoint them with the ointment. The ointment is the mercy of the Father… those whom he has anointed are the ones who have become perfect.” And in The Gospel of Thomas, thought by many to be the earliest Christian text, the anointing oil is praised more specifically as a plant derivative. Holy oil, given us for sanctification… you are the unfolder of the hidden parts... You are the one who shows the hidden treasures. You are the plant of kindness. Let your power come by this [unction]. But when the Romans, the former persecutors of the Christians, who had fed them to lions, decided to make Christianity the official state religion, and decided exactly which version of Christianity would be practiced, all of these early gnostic practices became punishable by death; being conveyed in a symbolic manner before, ultimately, falling by the wayside. Interestingly enough, it is almost as if Jesus saw this coming. As he is quoted as saying in Mark 4:11-12, “To you has been given the secret of the Kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables: so that they may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand. ” It’s worth noting that Judaism and Christianity aren’t the only monotheistic religions where cannabis played a role. In the 7th century, the Persian Empire, once home to Zoroastrians and Scythians alike, was in decline. A new religion arose, rejecting the pagan tribal religions of the Arabs. This new faith, Islam, had its roots in the Abrahamic, or judeochristian, religious traditions. Islam's founder, the prophet Muhammad, was very direct in forbidding intoxicants; but seems to refer specifically to alcohol. Could it be that he, too, used cannabis? Both the hadith and the Qur’an describe a night journey in which Muhammad flew on the back of a winged horse, ultimately visiting heaven to speak with Allah. Some sects of Islam believe this story to refer to an out of body experience, potentially one influenced by an entheogen. And with this region of the world having a long standing tradition, even then, of using cannabis, and particularly hash, it is very possible that, should this journey have required an entheogen to take place, it was most likely cannabis. But while there isn’t much in the way of evidence for Muhammad’s cannabis use, we know for sure the longstanding tradition of cannabis consumption in the middle east did not die with the foundation of Islam. Although some take the prophet’s proclamation that intoxicants are haram, or forbidden, to extend to cannabis as well as alcohol, it is known to have been used as medicinally by some Arab physicians, the world leaders in medicine in the middle ages. That said, its use was not solely medicinal for the Muslims of this time. The Sufis, a mystical sect of Islam, used cannabis to bring themselves to higher states of consciousness and better appreciate the nature of Allah, and the natural beauty of his creation. As the Sufi poet Fuzuli once said, “hashish is the perfect being, sought after by mankind with great eagerness. It may not be the perfect being for everybody, but it most certainly is for the seeker of mystical experience.” But Fuzuli certainly wasn’t the only one singing cannabis’ praise. In fact, many Sufis ate a hash preparation known as ma’joun As an act of worship, believing it to allow the spirit to… “ascend to the highest points in a heavenly ascension of disembodied understanding.” But even though the Qur’an doesn’t refer to the prophet as using cannabis, it does mention a figure known as The Green Prophet, or Al Khadir. Al Khadir is borrowed from earlier Arabic religious traditions. Originally, The Green prophet seemed to symbolize fertility and vegetation, with flowers and plants magically blooming from the ground on which he walked. By medieval times, he came to represent the type of esoteric knowledge that breaks you free from the trance of everyday existence through shock, much like the change in perception one may feel under the influence of entheogens. As a result of his association with schocking realization, he has come to be somewhat of a patron saint of artists working with unbound enthusiasm. But much of cannabis’ use throughout the early centuries of Islam is unrelated to The Qur’an or Hadith. As discussed earlier, hashish was commonly used by the Sufis, and likely came into existence via the earlier charas, popular in India and the Persian empire. But cannabis wasn’t the only substance used by The Sufis to better understand the nature of Allah. They are thought of as having been instrumental in the development of coffeehouses as we now know them. Legend has it that a wandering Sufi once revealed how he had prepared this new and unique drink to a Sunni woman. He prepared the beverage using a hash filled hookah. This preparation could be responsible for the long standing tradition of hookah lounges serving coffee, and even coffeehouses serving cannabis, which they did in the middle east for several centuries, and continue to do in parts of Europe, most notably Amsterdam. But the Sufis weren’t the only branch of Islam to partake in cannabis use. Marco Polo once wrote of a mysterious Old Man of the Mountain who lead a secretive band of Shia warriors in battle against the Sunnis. These warriors, the Nizari of Syria, would use hash to make them more focused on their targets and more in tune with the consequences of every movement, and they were often tasked with taking out high level targets, shrouded in the cover of night. These Nizari came to be referred to as hashishins, for their use of hashish. This word, through time, evolved into the word assassin, which generally refers to hired killers who use similar tactics today. Perhaps because of its association with assassins, there were many attempts to suppress the use of cannabis in the middle east, beginning in about the 14th century in Egypt, where it had grown extremely popular, especially for its ability to enhance music. Cannabis use became a crime whose punishment was to have one’s teeth pulled out. But cannabis users, so attached to their hashish did not stop its use, ultimately, these attempts at suppression failed, only being realized many centuries later by western interference. When we return, How did cannabis use fair in pre-enlightenment Europe, where any aberrations to mainstream Christianity were viciously punished? Knowledge of Cannabis’ medicinal properties spread throughout Europe by way of the Roman Empire. It found its way into the hands of the Germanic tribes that had come to inhabit western Europe, where its seeds had served as a food source for ancient Germans. In the middle ages, These peoples, who had earlier been converted to Christianity at the hands of the Romans, have become infamous in history for their use of torture. But the idea of cannabis as ‘bad’ is a relatively recent construct, and so its use did not seem to be punished in medieval European society. In fact, its psychoactive properties are largely underreported by the Europeans of this time, who seemed to more prominently use psychoactive mushrooms, alcohol, and datura species for inebriation. While it continued to be used as a medicine, much of European society during this time cultivated it for use of its fibers. Up until the late renaissance period, cannabis continued to be thought of as little more than a source for fiber in western europe, but the discovery of America heralded the dawn of a new era in intercontinental trade, and along with it a changing cultural paradigm. Soon, smoking, which had been virtually Unheard of in Western Europe until that point, became vogue across the continent due to a steady influx of American tobacco. Meanwhile, the queen of England instructed every landowner with more than 60 acres to begin growing hemp for industrial use, with Henry the VIII fostering its use by the navy. In time, Spanish and English explorers independently introduced cannabis to the Americas, with the pilgrims bringing the utilitarian crop with them on the mayflower. In fact, the first law regarding cannabis in the new world, actually required farmers to grow it. A far cry from the draconian laws instituted just a few short centuries later. Back in Europe, Dutch explorer Jan Hogan Van Linschoten wrote of his tales to the near east, where he had encountered hashish, a preparation of cannabis leaves, that, like Ancient Greek philosopher Galen had once described, 'filled the head' And while cannabis use did not take off in Europe immediately thereafter, an awareness of this powerful plant began to grow, especially among the creative communities. Among it's users during this time period was famed playwright, William Shakespeare. While unknown until recently, Shakespeare is now believed to have smoked weed, as indicated by the numerous smoking pipes containing cannabis resin discovered on the grounds of his former property. Pipes that date back to the time in which Shakespeare lived. As we have discussed, Shakespeare wasn't the first writer to utilize this sacred herb. And he certainly wasn't the last. It is well documented in History textbooks that the founding fathers of America were wealthy farmers. What they farmed, however, is almost never discussed. These men, and many of their countrymen alike, were actually hemp farmers, as hemp was used in the manufacture of rope, clothes, and other goods. Growing Cannabis was so much a part of American culture that weed was even depicted on the back of the $10 bill in the early 1900s, which was also printed on hemp paper. In fact, Thomas Jefferson once said “Hemp is of first necessity to the wealth and protection of the country” But rest assured, in those early days of the U.S. cannabis was used for a lot more than simply making textiles. George Washington is known to have used it medicinally for tooth aches, and said “Make the most of the Indian Hemp seed, and sow it everywhere.” James Madison, the father of the constitution, once claimed that hemp gave him the insight to form a new and democratic nation and James Monroe, who took up the habit of smoking cannabis during his tenure as ambassador to the French, smoked it until his death. But the American founders weren’t the only world leaders of this time period who used cannabis. In the 1830s, an Irish physician named William Brooke O’Shaughnessy saw marijuana being used medicinally while on a trip to India. Astonished at its efficacy, O’shaughnessy brought the plant back with him to England, introducing this ‘indian hemp’ to physicians there for use in the treatment of everything from arthritis to epilepsy. Soon, Queen Victoria of England began using medical marijuana for her menstrual cramps, under instruction from her physician. Independent of O’shaughnessy’s reintroduction of medical cannabis, Napoleon’s army brought hash back with them from their excursions in Egypt, and appear to be the true beginnings of widespread hashish consumption in the early modern period in Europe. By the mid 1800s, a group of French Luminaries started the Club De Hashischins, a Parisian club dedicated to the consumption of hash and other drugs. One of the most esteemed writers of this circle Charles Baudelaire wrote “The Poem of Hashish” and “Artificial Paradises” lauding the use of Hashish and opium, insisting that they, theoretically, could aid mankind in reaching an “ideal” world. In America, Fitz Hugh Ludlow wrote, “ The Hashish Eater’ about his numerous experiences in eating cannabis. This book became wildly popular, with President Lincoln’s secretary of state John Hay fondly remembering “eating hasheesh and dreaming dreams” during his youth at brown university. When we return, marijuana’s shift in public perception from medicine to menace. As reports of marijuana’s efficacy began to be published, it quickly became mainstream medicine across Europe and the United States, primarily in the form of extracts, which were used for an ever increasing array of conditions. But by the early 1900s, the American Medical Association was established, creating an orthodoxy in medical treatment that some argue demonized herbal healers. This uniformity allowed for heavy licensing fees for physicians, which many traditional practitioners were incapable of paying. The AMA, a private company, soon had a monopoly on the medical industry. Cannabis was banned in California, Massachusetts and a handful of other states shortly thereafter, while many physicians and pharmacists under the new regulations embraced the potential of this wonder drug. During the prohibition era, in which alcohol and other drugs were banned nationwide, a number of other states followed suite in penalizing cannabis use. Interestingly, in states that didn’t ban the herb, cannabis serves as somewhat of a replacement for booze, with shops called ‘tea pads’ opening up that offered cannabis based tea, a legal intoxicant that served as a loophole in a country unaccustomed to its new, inebriant free lifestyle. From there, its popularity only increased, becoming widely used among American jazz musicians, and Ex-Pat writers of what is reffered to as “The Lost Generation” in Paris, one of whom was Gertrude stein. Her lover, Alice B Toklas, is often credited with having invented the pot brownie during this time period. Meanwhile, In America, advancements to a machine called the decorticator allowed hemp fibers to be stripped from the plant at a far more efficient rate, leading to popular mechanics calling cannabis the new billion dollar crop. Hemp had already been superior in that it takes significantly less time to grow than trees. But now, with production simplified by the decorticator, it was really no contest whatsover. This did not sit well with publisher and industrialist, William Randolph Hearst who, aside from owning much of the media of that time, also owned the paper factories on which his newspapers were printed. Soon, he began publishing propaganda pieces insisting that Mexican immigrants who smoked cannabis violently raped women. As society had grown familiar with cannabis and its many benefits, Hearst chose to use the term “marijuana” which had, up until this point, only been used to describe a wild Mexican variety of tobacco completely unrelated to cannabis. Soon, the dangers of this new supposed threat had alarmed American society. A small church group produced a morality tale entitled “Tell Your Children” about this new drug that supposedly made its users turn violent. At this time, a new motion picture code had recently been instituted by the US government which prevented movies from featuring gratuitous violence or sex. An opportunistic film producer, Dwain Esper, purchased “Tell your children”, recutting the film to include such taboo behavior so he could distribute it on the exploitation film circuit that sprung up in response to these new film regulations. He renamed it, “Reefer Madness.” For Esper, like Hearst, it was all about the money. But the American people truly did begin to fear this dangerous drug marijuana, largely due to the steadily growing stream of propaganda. Hearst quickly used his resources to begin lobbying politicians, including Harry Anslinger, head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, a precursor to today’s DEA. Up until that point, the FBN was in charge of preventing opiates like heroin from being smuggled into the country. But Anslinger soon made marijuana a priority, drafting the Marihuana tax act of 1937 to greatly diminish the strength of the hemp industry that was beginning to effect both Anslinger’s paper and Du Ponte’s nylon sales. Even the American Medical Association believed that the act went too far. They claimed that the bill, which had quickly been drafted in secret, did not allow adequate time to prepare a legal opposition. Also, with the term “marijuana” used instead of cannabis, the AMA’s legal defense, Dr. William Creighton Woodward argued that “Marijuana is not the correct term… Yet the burden of this bill is placed heavily on the doctors and pharmacists of this country” In spite of this, the new law was passed hastily, facing little opposition. The first string of arrests were made the following day. Part of the new law indicated that tax stamps were supposed to be given to those interested in growing cannabis, but virtually none were issued, and farmers feared that by seeking the government’s approval on the matter, they would be incriminating themselves. One of the main opponents of the law was the mayor of new York city, Fiorello La Guardia, for whom la guardia airport is named. In 1938 he appointed a commission to investigate the new bill, later creating ‘the la guardia committee’ to oppose Anslinger’s draconian campaign against cannabis. The committee was unsuccessful, and in 1942, cannabis was officially removed from medical textbooks. That same year, the US dept. of agriculture and even the army themselves urged farmers to grow hemp, releasing a propaganda film of their own, Hemp for Victory, talking about the importance of the crop. Soon, with World War II in full swing, tax stamps were issued to allow the plant to be grown. But this change of heart was short lived, and cannabis arrests continued, increasing during this period, as did the drug’s popularity. Finally, in 1969, after being arrested for possession, Harvard professor and psychedelic pioneer Timothy Leary challenged the Marihuana tax act in court. In “Leary vs. the United States” it was determined by a federal judge that the marihuana tax act was unconstitutional and the law was overruled. In response, congress passed the controlled substances act of 1970 to ensure that cannabis remained illegal, as it was used heavily by the anti-war hippie counter culture, and black Americans fighting for civil rights. The DEA was born. President Nixon hired a team of scientists to prove the dangers of the substance to help justify his decision. When just the opposite was found, and the commission he had appointed called for the decriminalization of marijuana, he threw the study in the trash. Cannabis has been illegal at the federal level ever since. Over the years, numerous states have seen the error of their ways and decriminalized it, with some legalizing it for medical and even recreational purposes. Now, nearly ¾ of the US population supports legalization, but there has been a heavy pushback by the federal government, with lobbyists from the private prison industry and the prison guards union, among others, objecting to any legalization efforts. Thousands remain in prison, largely due to the propaganda and anti-drug sentiment of years past. It is worth noting the racial disparity in these drug arrests, with the majority of non-violent drug offenders being minorities. That’s why it’s now more important than ever for us, as a society, to look at humanity’s long standing history of cannabis consumption, as a dietary staple, a sacrament, a medicine, and even its use as a textile, and to realize the error of our ways. Cannabis users are not the violent rapists they were made out to be in the 1930s, any more than they are the lazy slacker stereotype perpetuated by the media today. While there are certainly people smoking weed in their mom’s basement, other users are doctors, lawyers, religious leaders and, yes, even politicians, along with virtually all other segments of the American public, with cannabis being one of the most widely consumed drugs. Modern studies have concluded that it is hundreds of times safer than alcohol. It’s even safer than Tylenol. The failed laws of yesteryear, the narrow, 2 dimensional stereotypes, the anti-science and anti-intellectual arguments for prohibition need to be revisited, questioned, and challenged. For those fighting against cancer, which more than 100 studies prove cannabis can kill Or people suffering from epilepsy, on which CBD has a profound effect. Or people with autism or Alzheimers or gout. For those serving time for a couple of grams. For the innovators The artists seekers of a deeper insight The writers Prophets For the betterment of humanity.



Cannabis growing as weeds at the foot of Dhaulagiri, Nepal.
Cannabis growing as weeds at the foot of Dhaulagiri, Nepal.
A thicket of wild cannabis in Islamabad, Pakistan.
A thicket of wild cannabis in Islamabad, Pakistan.

Cannabis is an annual, dioecious, flowering herb. The leaves are palmately compound or digitate, with serrate leaflets.[10] The first pair of leaves usually have a single leaflet, the number gradually increasing up to a maximum of about thirteen leaflets per leaf (usually seven or nine), depending on variety and growing conditions. At the top of a flowering plant, this number again diminishes to a single leaflet per leaf. The lower leaf pairs usually occur in an opposite leaf arrangement and the upper leaf pairs in an alternate arrangement on the main stem of a mature plant.

The leaves have a peculiar and diagnostic venation pattern that enables persons poorly familiar with the plant to distinguish a cannabis leaf from unrelated species that have confusingly similar leaves (see illustration). As is common in serrated leaves, each serration has a central vein extending to its tip. However, the serration vein originates from lower down the central vein of the leaflet, typically opposite to the position of, not the first notch down, but the next notch. This means that on its way from the midrib of the leaflet to the point of the serration, the vein serving the tip of the serration passes close by the intervening notch. Sometimes the vein will actually pass tangent to the notch, but often it will pass by at a small distance, and when that happens a spur vein (occasionally a pair of such spur veins) branches off and joins the leaf margin at the deepest point of the notch. This venation pattern varies slightly among varieties, but in general it enables one to tell Cannabis leaves from superficially similar leaves without difficulty and without special equipment. Tiny samples of Cannabis plants also can be identified with precision by microscopic examination of leaf cells and similar features, but that requires special expertise and equipment.[11]


Cannabis sativa fruits (achenes) that contain the seeds
Cannabis sativa fruits (achenes) that contain the seeds

All known strains of Cannabis are wind-pollinated[12] and the fruit is an achene.[13] Most strains of Cannabis are short day plants,[12] with the possible exception of C. sativa subsp. sativa var. spontanea (= C. ruderalis), which is commonly described as "auto-flowering" and may be day-neutral.

Cannabis is predominantly dioecious,[12][14] having imperfect flowers, with staminate "male" and pistillate "female" flowers occurring on separate plants.[15] "At a very early period the Chinese recognized the Cannabis plant as dioecious",[16] and the (c. 3rd century BCE) Erya dictionary defined xi "male Cannabis" and fu (or ju ) "female Cannabis".[17] Male flowers are normally borne on loose panicles, and female flowers are borne on racemes.[18]

Many monoecious varieties have also been described,[19] in which individual plants bear both male and female flowers.[20] (Although monoecious plants are often referred to as "hermaphrodites", true hermaphrodites – which are less common in Cannabis – bear staminate and pistillate structures together on individual flowers, whereas monoecious plants bear male and female flowers at different locations on the same plant.) Subdioecy (the occurrence of monoecious individuals and dioecious individuals within the same population) is widespread.[21][22][23] Many populations have been described as sexually labile.[24][25][26]

As a result of intensive selection in cultivation, Cannabis exhibits many sexual phenotypes that can be described in terms of the ratio of female to male flowers occurring in the individual, or typical in the cultivar.[27] Dioecious varieties are preferred for drug production, where the female flowers are used. Dioecious varieties are also preferred for textile fiber production, whereas monoecious varieties are preferred for pulp and paper production. It has been suggested that the presence of monoecy can be used to differentiate licit crops of monoecious hemp from illicit drug crops.[21] However, sativa strains often produce monoecious individuals, probably as a result of inbreeding.

Cannabis flower with visible trichomes
Cannabis flower with visible trichomes
Male Cannabis flower buds
Male Cannabis flower buds

Sex determination

Cannabis has been described as having one of the most complicated mechanisms of sex determination among the dioecious plants.[27] Many models have been proposed to explain sex determination in Cannabis.

Based on studies of sex reversal in hemp, it was first reported by K. Hirata in 1924 that an XY sex-determination system is present.[25] At the time, the XY system was the only known system of sex determination. The X:A system was first described in Drosophila spp in 1925.[28] Soon thereafter, Schaffner disputed Hirata's interpretation,[29] and published results from his own studies of sex reversal in hemp, concluding that an X:A system was in use and that furthermore sex was strongly influenced by environmental conditions.[26]

Since then, many different types of sex determination systems have been discovered, particularly in plants.[14] Dioecy is relatively uncommon in the plant kingdom, and a very low percentage of dioecious plant species have been determined to use the XY system. In most cases where the XY system is found it is believed to have evolved recently and independently.[30]

Since the 1920s, a number of sex determination models have been proposed for Cannabis. Ainsworth describes sex determination in the genus as using "an X/autosome dosage type".[14]

The question of whether heteromorphic sex chromosomes are indeed present is most conveniently answered if such chromosomes were clearly visible in a karyotype. Cannabis was one of the first plant species to be karyotyped; however, this was in a period when karyotype preparation was primitive by modern standards (see History of Cytogenetics). Heteromorphic sex chromosomes were reported to occur in staminate individuals of dioecious "Kentucky" hemp, but were not found in pistillate individuals of the same variety. Dioecious "Kentucky" hemp was assumed to use an XY mechanism. Heterosomes were not observed in analyzed individuals of monoecious "Kentucky" hemp, nor in an unidentified German cultivar. These varieties were assumed to have sex chromosome composition XX.[31] According to other researchers, no modern karyotype of Cannabis had been published as of 1996.[32] Proponents of the XY system state that Y chromosome is slightly larger than the X, but difficult to differentiate cytologically.[33]

More recently, Sakamoto and various co-authors[34][35] have used RAPD to isolate several genetic marker sequences that they name Male-Associated DNA in Cannabis (MADC), and which they interpret as indirect evidence of a male chromosome. Several other research groups have reported identification of male-associated markers using RAPD and AFLP.[36][24][37] Ainsworth commented on these findings, stating,

It is not surprising that male-associated markers are relatively abundant. In dioecious plants where sex chromosomes have not been identified, markers for maleness indicate either the presence of sex chromosomes which have not been distinguished by cytological methods or that the marker is tightly linked to a gene involved in sex determination.[14]

Environmental sex determination is known to occur in a variety of species.[38] Many researchers have suggested that sex in Cannabis is determined or strongly influenced by environmental factors.[26] Ainsworth reviews that treatment with auxin and ethylene have feminizing effects, and that treatment with cytokinins and gibberellins have masculinizing effects.[14] It has been reported that sex can be reversed in Cannabis using chemical treatment.[39] A PCR-based method for the detection of female-associated DNA polymorphisms by genotyping has been developed.[40]

Biochemistry and drugs

Cannabis plants produce a group of chemicals called cannabinoids, which produce mental and physical effects when consumed.

Cannabinoids, terpenoids, and other compounds are secreted by glandular trichomes that occur most abundantly on the floral calyxes and bracts of female plants.[41] As a drug it usually comes in the form of dried flower buds (marijuana), resin (hashish), or various extracts collectively known as hashish oil.[7] In the early 20th century, it became illegal in most of the world to cultivate or possess Cannabis for sale or personal use.

Chromosomes and genome

Cannabis, like many organisms, is diploid, having a chromosome complement of 2n=20, although polyploid individuals have been artificially produced.[42] The first genome sequence of Cannabis, which is estimated to be 820 Mb in size, was published in 2011 by a team of Canadian scientists.[43]


Underside of Cannabis sativa leaf, showing diagnostic venation
Underside of Cannabis sativa leaf, showing diagnostic venation

The genus Cannabis was formerly placed in the nettle (Urticaceae) or mulberry (Moraceae) family, and later, along with the genus Humulus (hops), in a separate family, the hemp family (Cannabaceae sensu stricto).[44] Recent phylogenetic studies based on cpDNA restriction site analysis and gene sequencing strongly suggest that the Cannabaceae sensu stricto arose from within the former family Celtidaceae, and that the two families should be merged to form a single monophyletic family, the Cannabaceae sensu lato.[45][46]

Various types of Cannabis have been described, and variously classified as species, subspecies, or varieties:[47]

  • plants cultivated for fiber and seed production, described as low-intoxicant, non-drug, or fiber types.
  • plants cultivated for drug production, described as high-intoxicant or drug types.
  • escaped, hybridised, or wild forms of either of the above types.

Cannabis plants produce a unique family of terpeno-phenolic compounds called cannabinoids, some of which produce the "high" which may be experienced from consuming marijuana. There are 483 identifiable chemical constituents known to exist in the cannabis plant,[48] and at least 85 different cannabinoids have been isolated from the plant.[49] The two cannabinoids usually produced in greatest abundance are cannabidiol (CBD) and/or Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), but only THC is psychoactive.[50] Since the early 1970s, Cannabis plants have been categorized by their chemical phenotype or "chemotype", based on the overall amount of THC produced, and on the ratio of THC to CBD.[51] Although overall cannabinoid production is influenced by environmental factors, the THC/CBD ratio is genetically determined and remains fixed throughout the life of a plant.[36] Non-drug plants produce relatively low levels of THC and high levels of CBD, while drug plants produce high levels of THC and low levels of CBD. When plants of these two chemotypes cross-pollinate, the plants in the first filial (F1) generation have an intermediate chemotype and produce intermedite amounts of CBD and THC. Female plants of this chemotype may produce enough THC to be utilized for drug production.[51][52]

Top of Cannabis plant in vegetative growth stage
Top of Cannabis plant in vegetative growth stage

Whether the drug and non-drug, cultivated and wild types of Cannabis constitute a single, highly variable species, or the genus is polytypic with more than one species, has been a subject of debate for well over two centuries. This is a contentious issue because there is no universally accepted definition of a species.[53] One widely applied criterion for species recognition is that species are "groups of actually or potentially interbreeding natural populations which are reproductively isolated from other such groups."[54] Populations that are physiologically capable of interbreeding, but morphologically or genetically divergent and isolated by geography or ecology, are sometimes considered to be separate species.[54] Physiological barriers to reproduction are not known to occur within Cannabis, and plants from widely divergent sources are interfertile.[42] However, physical barriers to gene exchange (such as the Himalayan mountain range) might have enabled Cannabis gene pools to diverge before the onset of human intervention, resulting in speciation.[55] It remains controversial whether sufficient morphological and genetic divergence occurs within the genus as a result of geographical or ecological isolation to justify recognition of more than one species.[56][57][58]

Early classifications

Relative size of varieties of Cannabis
Relative size of varieties of Cannabis

The genus Cannabis was first classified using the "modern" system of taxonomic nomenclature by Carl Linnaeus in 1753, who devised the system still in use for the naming of species.[59] He considered the genus to be monotypic, having just a single species that he named Cannabis sativa L. (L. stands for Linnaeus, and indicates the authority who first named the species). Linnaeus was familiar with European hemp, which was widely cultivated at the time. In 1785, noted evolutionary biologist Jean-Baptiste de Lamarck published a description of a second species of Cannabis, which he named Cannabis indica Lam.[60] Lamarck based his description of the newly named species on plant specimens collected in India. He described C. indica as having poorer fiber quality than C. sativa, but greater utility as an inebriant. Additional Cannabis species were proposed in the 19th century, including strains from China and Vietnam (Indo-China) assigned the names Cannabis chinensis Delile, and Cannabis gigantea Delile ex Vilmorin.[61] However, many taxonomists found these putative species difficult to distinguish. In the early 20th century, the single-species concept was still widely accepted, except in the Soviet Union where Cannabis continued to be the subject of active taxonomic study. The name Cannabis indica was listed in various Pharmacopoeias, and was widely used to designate Cannabis suitable for the manufacture of medicinal preparations.[62]

20th century

In 1924, Russian botanist D.E. Janichevsky concluded that ruderal Cannabis in central Russia is either a variety of C. sativa or a separate species, and proposed C. sativa L. var. ruderalis Janisch, and Cannabis ruderalis Janisch, as alternative names.[47] In 1929, renowned plant explorer Nikolai Vavilov assigned wild or feral populations of Cannabis in Afghanistan to C. indica Lam. var. kafiristanica Vav., and ruderal populations in Europe to C. sativa L. var. spontanea Vav.[52][61] In 1940, Russian botanists Serebriakova and Sizov proposed a complex classification in which they also recognized C. sativa and C. indica as separate species. Within C. sativa they recognized two subspecies: C. sativa L. subsp. culta Serebr. (consisting of cultivated plants), and C. sativa L. subsp. spontanea (Vav.) Serebr. (consisting of wild or feral plants). Serebriakova and Sizov split the two C. sativa subspecies into 13 varieties, including four distinct groups within subspecies culta. However, they did not divide C. indica into subspecies or varieties.[47][63]

In the 1970s, the taxonomic classification of Cannabis took on added significance in North America. Laws prohibiting Cannabis in the United States and Canada specifically named products of C. sativa as prohibited materials. Enterprising attorneys for the defense in a few drug busts argued that the seized Cannabis material may not have been C. sativa, and was therefore not prohibited by law. Attorneys on both sides recruited botanists to provide expert testimony. Among those testifying for the prosecution was Dr. Ernest Small, while Dr. Richard E. Schultes and others testified for the defense. The botanists engaged in heated debate (outside of court), and both camps impugned the other's integrity.[56][57] The defense attorneys were not often successful in winning their case, because the intent of the law was clear.[64]

In 1976, Canadian botanist Ernest Small[65] and American taxonomist Arthur Cronquist published a taxonomic revision that recognizes a single species of Cannabis with two subspecies: C. sativa L. subsp. sativa, and C. sativa L. subsp. indica (Lam.) Small & Cronq.[61] The authors hypothesized that the two subspecies diverged primarily as a result of human selection; C. sativa subsp. sativa was presumably selected for traits that enhance fiber or seed production, whereas C. sativa subsp. indica was primarily selected for drug production. Within these two subspecies, Small and Cronquist described C. sativa L. subsp. sativa var. spontanea Vav. as a wild or escaped variety of low-intoxicant Cannabis, and C. sativa subsp. indica var. kafiristanica (Vav.) Small & Cronq. as a wild or escaped variety of the high-intoxicant type. This classification was based on several factors including interfertility, chromosome uniformity, chemotype, and numerical analysis of phenotypic characters.[51][61][66]

Professors William Emboden, Loran Anderson, and Harvard botanist Richard E. Schultes and coworkers also conducted taxonomic studies of Cannabis in the 1970s, and concluded that stable morphological differences exist that support recognition of at least three species, C. sativa, C. indica, and C. ruderalis.[67][68][69][70] For Schultes, this was a reversal of his previous interpretation that Cannabis is monotypic, with only a single species.[71] According to Schultes' and Anderson's descriptions, C. sativa is tall and laxly branched with relatively narrow leaflets, C. indica is shorter, conical in shape, and has relatively wide leaflets, and C. ruderalis is short, branchless, and grows wild in Central Asia. This taxonomic interpretation was embraced by Cannabis aficionados who commonly distinguish narrow-leafed "sativa" strains from wide-leafed "indica" strains.[72]

Continuing research

Molecular analytical techniques developed in the late 20th century are being applied to questions of taxonomic classification. This has resulted in many reclassifications based on evolutionary systematics. Several studies of Random Amplified Polymorphic DNA (RAPD) and other types of genetic markers have been conducted on drug and fiber strains of Cannabis, primarily for plant breeding and forensic purposes.[73][74][24][75][76] Dutch Cannabis researcher E.P.M. de Meijer and coworkers described some of their RAPD studies as showing an "extremely high" degree of genetic polymorphism between and within populations, suggesting a high degree of potential variation for selection, even in heavily selected hemp cultivars.[36] They also commented that these analyses confirm the continuity of the Cannabis gene pool throughout the studied accessions, and provide further confirmation that the genus consists of a single species, although theirs was not a systematic study per se.

Karl W. Hillig, a graduate student in the laboratory of long-time Cannabis researcher Paul G. Mahlberg[77] at Indiana University, conducted a systematic investigation of genetic, morphological, and chemotaxonomic variation among 157 Cannabis accessions of known geographic origin, including fiber, drug, and feral populations. In 2004, Hillig and Mahlberg published a chemotaxonomic analysis of cannabinoid variation in their Cannabis germplasm collection. They used gas chromatography to determine cannabinoid content and to infer allele frequencies of the gene that controls CBD and THC production within the studied populations, and concluded that the patterns of cannabinoid variation support recognition of C. sativa and C. indica as separate species, but not C. ruderalis.[52] The authors assigned fiber/seed landraces and feral populations from Europe, Central Asia, and Turkey to C. sativa. Narrow-leaflet and wide-leaflet drug accessions, southern and eastern Asian hemp accessions, and feral Himalayan populations were assigned to C. indica. In 2005, Hillig published a genetic analysis of the same set of accessions (this paper was the first in the series, but was delayed in publication), and proposed a three-species classification, recognizing C. sativa, C. indica, and (tentatively) C. ruderalis.[55] In his doctoral dissertation published the same year, Hillig stated that principal components analysis of phenotypic (morphological) traits failed to differentiate the putative species, but that canonical variates analysis resulted in a high degree of discrimination of the putative species and infraspecific taxa.[78] Another paper in the series on chemotaxonomic variation in the terpenoid content of the essential oil of Cannabis revealed that several wide-leaflet drug strains in the collection had relatively high levels of certain sesquiterpene alcohols, including guaiol and isomers of eudesmol, that set them apart from the other putative taxa.[79] Hillig concluded that the patterns of genetic, morphological, and chemotaxonomic variation support recognition of C. sativa and C. indica as separate species. He also concluded there is little support to treat C. ruderalis as a separate species from C. sativa at this time, but more research on wild and weedy populations is needed because they were underrepresented in their collection.

In September 2005, New Scientist reported that researchers at the Canberra Institute of Technology had identified a new type of Cannabis based on analysis of mitochondrial and chloroplast DNA.[80] The New Scientist story, which was picked up by many news agencies and web sites, indicated that the research was to be published in the journal Forensic Science International.[81]

Despite advanced analytical techniques, much of the cannabis used recreationally is inaccurately classified. One laboratory at the University of British Columbia found that Jamaican Lamb's Bread, claimed to be 100% sativa, was in fact almost 100% indica (the opposite strain).[82] Legalization of cannabis in Canada (as of October 17, 2018) may help spur private-sector research, especially in terms of diversification of strains. It should also improve classification accuracy for cannabis used recreationally. Legalization coupled with Canadian government (Health Canada) oversight of production and labelling will likely result in more—and more accurate—testing to determine exact strains and content. Furthermore, the rise of craft cannabis growers in Canada should ensure quality, experimentation/research, and diversification of strains among private-sector producers.[83]

Popular usage

The scientific debate regarding taxonomy has had little effect on the terminology in widespread use among cultivators and users of drug-type Cannabis. Cannabis aficionados recognize three distinct types based on such factors as morphology, native range, aroma, and subjective psychoactive characteristics. Sativa is the most widespread variety, which is usually tall, laxly branched, and found in warm lowland regions. Indica designates shorter, bushier plants adapted to cooler climates and highland environments. Ruderalis is the informal name for the short plants that grow wild in Europe and Central Asia.

Breeders, seed companies, and cultivators of drug type Cannabis often describe the ancestry or gross phenotypic characteristics of cultivars by categorizing them as "pure indica", "mostly indica", "indica/sativa", "mostly sativa", or "pure sativa".


Cannabis is used for a wide variety of purposes.


The use of Cannabis as a mind-altering drug has been documented by archaeological finds in prehistoric societies in Eurasia and Africa.[84] The oldest written record of cannabis usage is the Greek historian Herodotus's reference to the central Eurasian Scythians taking cannabis steam baths.[85] His (c. 440 BCE) Histories records, "The Scythians, as I said, take some of this hemp-seed [presumably, flowers], and, creeping under the felt coverings, throw it upon the red-hot stones; immediately it smokes, and gives out such a vapour as no Grecian vapour-bath can exceed; the Scyths, delighted, shout for joy."[86] Classical Greeks and Romans were using cannabis, while in the Middle East, use spread throughout the Islamic empire to North Africa. In 1545, cannabis spread to the western hemisphere where Spaniards imported it to Chile for its use as fiber. In North America, cannabis, in the form of hemp, was grown for use in rope, clothing and paper.[87][88][89][90]

Recreational use

Comparison of physical harm and dependence regarding various drugs[91]
Comparison of physical harm and dependence regarding various drugs[91]
A dried bud, typical of what is sold for drug use
A dried bud, typical of what is sold for drug use

Cannabis is a popular recreational drug around the world, only behind alcohol, caffeine and tobacco. In the United States alone, it is believed that over 100 million Americans have tried cannabis, with 25 million Americans having used it within the past year.[when?][92]

The psychoactive effects of cannabis are known to have a triphasic nature. Primary psychoactive effects include a state of relaxation, and to a lesser degree, euphoria from its main psychoactive compound, tetrahydrocannabinol. Secondary psychoactive effects, such as a facility for philosophical thinking, introspection and metacognition have been reported among cases of anxiety and paranoia.[93] Finally, the tertiary psychoactive effects of the drug cannabis, can include an increase in heart rate and hunger, believed to be caused by 11-OH-THC, a psychoactive metabolite of THC produced in the liver.

Normal cognition is restored after approximately three hours for larger doses via a smoking pipe, bong or vaporizer.[93] However, if a large amount is taken orally the effects may last much longer. After 24 hours to a few days, minuscule psychoactive effects may be felt, depending on dosage, frequency and tolerance to the drug.

Commercial cannabis extract
Commercial cannabis extract

Various forms of the drug cannabis exist, including extracts such as hashish and hash oil[7] which, because of appearance, are more susceptible to adulterants when left unregulated.

Cannabidiol (CBD), which has no psychotropic effects by itself[50] (although sometimes showing a small stimulant effect, similar to caffeine),[94] attenuates, or reduces[95] the higher anxiety levels caused by THC alone.[96]

According to Delphic analysis by British researchers in 2007, cannabis has a lower risk factor for dependence compared to both nicotine and alcohol.[97] However, everyday use of cannabis may be correlated with psychological withdrawal symptoms, such as irritability or insomnia,[93] and susceptibility to a panic attack may increase as levels of THC metabolites rise.[98][99] However, cannabis withdrawal symptoms are typically mild and are never life-threatening.[100]

Risk of adverse outcomes from cannabis use may be reduced by implementation of evidence-based education and intervention tools communicated to the public with practical regulation measures.[101]

Medical use

Medical cannabis (or medical marijuana) refers to the use of cannabis and its constituent cannabinoids, to treat disease or improve symptoms. Cannabis is used to reduce nausea and vomiting during chemotherapy, to improve appetite in people with HIV/AIDS, and to treat chronic pain and muscle spasms.[102][103] Cannabinoids are under preliminary research for their potential to affect stroke.[104]

Short-term use increases both minor and major adverse effects.[103] Common side effects include dizziness, feeling tired, vomiting, and hallucinations.[103] Long-term effects of cannabis are not clear.[105] Concerns including memory and cognition problems, risk of addiction, schizophrenia in young people, and the risk of children taking it by accident.[102]

Industrial use (hemp)

Ancient Sanskrit on hemp-based paper. Hemp fiber was commonly used in the production of paper from 200 BCE to the late 1800s.
Ancient Sanskrit on hemp-based paper. Hemp fiber was commonly used in the production of paper from 200 BCE to the late 1800s.
Cannabis sativa stem longitudinal section
Cannabis sativa stem longitudinal section

The term hemp is used to name the durable soft fiber from the Cannabis plant stem (stalk). Cannabis sativa cultivars are used for fibers due to their long stems; Sativa varieties may grow more than six metres tall. However, hemp can refer to any industrial or foodstuff product that is not intended for use as a drug. Many countries regulate limits for psychoactive compound (THC) concentrations in products labeled as hemp.

Cannabis for industrial uses is valuable in tens of thousands of commercial products, especially as fibre[106] ranging from paper, cordage, construction material and textiles in general, to clothing. Hemp is stronger and longer-lasting than cotton. It also is a useful source of foodstuffs (hemp milk, hemp seed, hemp oil) and biofuels. Hemp has been used by many civilizations, from China to Europe (and later North America) during the last 12,000 years.[106][107] In modern times novel applications and improvements have been explored with modest commercial success.[108][109]

Ancient and religious uses

The Cannabis plant has a history of medicinal use dating back thousands of years across many cultures.[110] The Yanghai Tombs, a vast ancient cemetery (54 000 m2) situated in the Turfan district of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in northwest China, have revealed the 2700-year-old grave of a shaman. He is thought to have belonged to the Jushi culture recorded in the area centuries later in the Hanshu, Chap 96B.[111] Near the head and foot of the shaman was a large leather basket and wooden bowl filled with 789g of cannabis, superbly preserved by climatic and burial conditions. An international team demonstrated that this material contained tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive component of cannabis. The cannabis was presumably employed by this culture as a medicinal or psychoactive agent, or an aid to divination. This is the oldest documentation of cannabis as a pharmacologically active agent.[112]

Settlements which date from c. 2200–1700 BCE in the Bactria and Margiana contained elaborate ritual structures with rooms containing everything needed for making drinks containing extracts from poppy (opium), hemp (cannabis), and ephedra (which contains ephedrine).[113] Although there is no evidence of ephedra being used by steppe tribes, they engaged in cultic use of hemp. Cultic use ranged from Romania to the Yenisei River and had begun by 3rd millennium BC Smoking hemp has been found at Pazyryk.[114]

Cannabis is first referred to in Hindu Vedas between 2000 and 1400 BCE, in the Atharvaveda. By the 10th century CE, it has been suggested that it was referred to by some in India as "food of the gods".[115] Cannabis use eventually became a ritual part of the Hindu festival of Holi. One of the earliest to use this plant in medical purposes was Korakkar, one of the 18 Siddhas.[116][117] The plant is called Korakkar Mooli in the Tamil language, meaning Korakkar's herb.[118][119]

In Buddhism, cannabis is generally regarded as an intoxicant and may be a hindrance to development of meditation and clear awareness. In ancient Germanic culture, Cannabis was associated with the Norse love goddess, Freya.[120][121] An anointing oil mentioned in Exodus is, by some translators, said to contain Cannabis.[122] Sufis have used Cannabis in a spiritual context since the 13th century CE.[123]

In modern times, the Rastafari movement has embraced Cannabis as a sacrament.[124] Elders of the Ethiopian Zion Coptic Church, a religious movement founded in the United States in 1975 with no ties to either Ethiopia or the Coptic Church, consider Cannabis to be the Eucharist, claiming it as an oral tradition from Ethiopia dating back to the time of Christ.[125] Like the Rastafari, some modern Gnostic Christian sects have asserted that Cannabis is the Tree of Life.[126][127] Other organized religions founded in the 20th century that treat Cannabis as a sacrament are the THC Ministry,[128] Cantheism,[129] the Cannabis Assembly[130] and the Church of Cognizance. Rastafarians tend to be among the biggest consumers of modern Cannabis use.

Cannabis is frequently used among Sufis[131] – the mystical interpretation of Islam that exerts strong influence over local Muslim practices in Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Turkey, and Pakistan. Cannabis preparations are frequently used at Sufi festivals in those countries.[131] Pakistan's Shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar in Sindh province is particularly renowned for the widespread use of cannabis at the shrine's celebrations, especially its annual Urs festival and Thursday evening dhamaal sessions - or meditative dancing sessions.[132][133]


The word cannabis is from Greek κάνναβις (kánnabis) (see Latin cannabis),[134] which was originally Scythian or Thracian.[135] It is related to the Persian kanab, the English canvas and possibly even to the English hemp (Old English hænep).[135] In modern Hebrew, קַנַּבּוֹסqannabōs (modern pronunciation: [kanaˈbos]) is used but there are those who have theorized that it was referred to in antiquity as קני בושם q'nei bosem, a component of the biblical anointing oil.[136][137] Old Akkadian qunnabtu, Neo-Assyrian and Neo-Babylonian qunnabu were used to refer to the plant meaning "a way to produce smoke".[138][139][140]

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