From a casual toke to solemn ceremonies, it is an age-old pastime to Smoke weed. But have you ever sat back and pondered the origins of this seemingly timeless activity? One may ask, who was the first person to get stoned, and where did this cannabis consumption craze begin? Fear not, dear reader, for you’ve arrived at the right place! Join us as we unfurl the mystic veil of the past to take an informational trip back in time, uncovering the roots of this remarkable plant.
First, we must revisit the ancient Jirzankal Cemetery on the Pamir Plateau, around 2,500 years ago, where archaeologists found a groundbreaking clue. Evidence suggests that cannabis was smoked during sacred funeral rites, utilising wooden braziers containing residues of cannabinoids. Further investigation revealed a societal hierarchy that heralds imbibing in this plant’s fumes, causing historians to surmise that our forebearers pioneered hotboxing by using enclosed spaces for these funerary rituals. Read more about this study here.
The Ancient Beginnings of Cannabis Consumption
The history of cannabis can be traced back to about 28 million years ago, with the divergence of the cannabis plant around the Tibetan Plateau. It likely spread across continents with man, and the earliest physical proof of cannabis use as a psychoactive substance was unearthed in China at the Jirzankal Cemetery. Before this discovery, hemp, a type of cannabis, had been cultivated for its fibrous properties, creating materials like cloth and paper.
The term ‘má’ in Chinese, referring to cannabis, doubles as “numbness”, indicating an ancient understanding of its psychoactive effects. This linguistic clue aligns with the recorded usage of Cannabis use in ancient times in China going back to the 1st millennium BC for its anaesthetic properties, labelled ‘mázui’, alluding to cannabis intoxication.
“The term ‘má’ in Chinese, referring to cannabis, doubles as ‘numbness’, indicating an ancient understanding of its psychoactive effects.”
As we journey through the annals of ancient cannabis history, let’s have a look at how the plant found its way into different applications in various parts of the world:
|Around 1000 BC
|Around 500 BC
|Religious and spiritual practices
|Central Asia & Eastern Europe
|1st Century AD
|Ceremonial steam baths (Scythian tribes)
|1st Century AD
Various uses and applications of cannabis have been recorded throughout human history. From being a source of fibrous materials for making cloth and paper to being appreciated for its psychoactive properties, cannabis has evolved with the societies that value it. As we continue to unravel the mysteries of this ancient plant, it’s clear that its history is as diverse and colourful as the cultures that adopted it.
Centuries of Highs: A Timeline of Cannabis Use Through the Ages
The adoption of cannabis for its mind-altering qualities likely began in Central Asia, with advancements through trade routes associated with the early Silk Road, which connected an extensive network from Asia to Europe. Greek references to the Scythian rituals support this theory with Herodotus’s documentation of their cannabis rituals, indicating a broader dissemination and cultural integration of the plant beyond its geographical origins (although the Ancient Greeks were said to hate the barbaric practices).
The Silk Road: From Central Asia to European Shores
The Silk Road was an instrumental force in the cannabis trade and the diffusion of regional cannabis use throughout ancient civilisations. Spanning continents, it facilitated the exchange of goods, culture, and knowledge between diverse societies, paving the way for cultural integration and historical cannabis use across the globe.
Herodotus: “The Scythians…take some of the hemp-seed, and…throw it upon the red-hot stones; immediately it smokes, and gives out such a vapour as no Grecian vapour-bath can exceed; the Scythians, delighted, shout for joy.”
Cultural Clouds: How Cannabis Entered Different Civilisations
Global cannabis consumption was highly varied across different civilisations. In ancient Egypt, cannabis was used medicinally for sore eyes and haemorrhoids, as revealed in texts dating back to 2000 BC. The “Bell Beaker culture” in the Netherlands leveraged its healing properties as a painkiller as early as 2800 BC, suggesting a pan-European familiarity with the plant. Similarly, in Asia, ancient Indians revered the cannabis plant, with Hindu texts relating its use in religious rituals and healing applications.
- Ancient Egypt (2000 BC): Treatment for sore eyes and haemorrhoids
- Bell Beaker culture, Netherlands (2800 BC): Painkiller
- Ancient India: Religious rituals and medicinal benefits
Historic Strains and Potent Pot: Unravelling the Growth of Potency
The discovery of high THC levels in ancient cannabis samples from the Jirzankal Cemetery implies either a targeted selection or cultivation of historical strains of Cannabis. This historical evidence suggests that ancient cultures recognised potent cannabis.
|Average THC Content
|Jirzankal Cemetery (2500 years ago)
|Unknown Ancient Strain
|Mexican Acapulco Gold
|Strains: Girl Scout Cookies, OG Kush, White Widow
The increasing trend of THC content history is noteworthy, as seen in the table above. The emphasis on THC enrichment points to an awareness of the plant’s psychoactive potential, predating modern breeding practices aimed at enhancing potency.
From Ritual to Recreation: The Evolution of Cannabis Use
The journey of cannabis, from a sacred ceremonial substance in ancient cultures to the medical and recreational powerhouse it is today, highlights the remarkable adaptability and appeal of this versatile plant. While the Cannabis use evolution boasts rich and varied historical roots, the changing social, religious, and medical contexts in which it has thrived underscore the enduring benefits of its psychoactive and therapeutic properties.
Medical historical texts reveal the valuable role cannabis played as a potent analgesic and anaesthetic. In Chinese medical literature dating back to 100 AD, the plant has prominent citations for its therapeutic benefits. Notably, the renowned surgeon Hua Tuo developed an innovative anaesthetic compound by blending cannabis with wine, paving the way for surgical advancements at the time. With a deeper understanding of its anaesthetic and psychoactive effects, cannabis began to serve a dual role in medical and recreational Cannabis spheres.
“The more things change, the more they stay the same; marijuana use, once consigned to ritualistic contexts in ancient societies, has now secured a position of cultural prominence and recreational ubiquity in modern times.”
As the Cannabis landscape evolved, so too did the methods of consumption. Ancient practices involved the burning of cannabis in enclosed spaces, producing an intoxicating atmosphere akin to a modern-day hotbox to smoke weed. Meanwhile, early religious and spiritual rites in India embraced the plant, both smoking and consuming it as a beverage called ‘bhang’, offering a conduit to commune with gods and achieve elevated metaphysical states.
A Timeline of Recreational Cannabis History
- 1920s–1930s: Cannabis is part of American jazz culture, symbolising creative expression and camaraderie among musicians.
- 1960s: The countercultural movement propagates Cannabis as a tool for personal freedom, self-exploration, and rebellion against societal norms.
- 1970s: Amsterdam Coffeeshops started selling cannabis openly, establishing the city as a haven for Cannabis enthusiasts.
- 1990s: Medical cannabis dispensaries emerge in the US, with California leading the charge on legalisation.
- 2000s-Present: Recreational cannabis use gains increasing acceptance on a global scale, with countries such as Canada, Uruguay, and South Africa legalising its consumption.
Today’s diverse methods of Cannabis consumption, including smoking weed, vaping, edibles, and topicals, demonstrate the persistent influence and inherent flexibility of the plant, transcending cultural barriers and social prejudices. As Cannabis’s story unfolds, from hallowed cannabis rituals in antiquity to widespread recreational Cannabis in modern times, it highlights the resilience, adaptability, and long-standing appeal of this extraordinary natural resource.
Unwavering in its presence throughout history, cannabis has consistently held significance in a myriad of medicinal, ceremonial, and recreational settings. Originating from ancient burial sites where it was employed as a psychoactive substance, we observe its continued importance today with the expanding landscape of medical Cannabis, CBD products, and recreational use.
Such a storied past is a testament to the plant’s enduring qualities, reflecting evolving social perspectives and scientific knowledge that have shaped the ongoing discussions surrounding Cannabis legalisation. Indeed, the very narrative of cannabis serves as a reminder of its intrinsic connection to various aspects of personal well-being and cultural practices.
As you delve into the depths of the cannabis legacy, prepare to embrace the transformative journey of this historic plant and seek out the wide-ranging benefits it offers, spanning from ancient times to the present day. In doing so, you’ll inevitably gain a greater appreciation for its multifaceted nature and the invaluable role it has played – and continues to play – in our shared human experience.
The identity of the first person to smoke weed is unknown, but the earliest evidence of cannabis consumption dates back approximately 2,500 years in the Jirzankal Cemetery on the Pamir Plateau in Central Asia, where archaeologists found wooden braziers containing cannabinol residues. It is unlikely that this is the first actual use of cannabis; merely our oldest discovery to date.
Cannabis is believed to have originated around the Tibetan Plateau about 28 million years ago before spreading across continents, with the earliest physical evidence of its use as a psychoactive substance discovered in China at the Jirzankal Cemetery.
Cannabis usage likely spread across the globe through trade routes associated with the early Silk Road, connecting a vast network from Asia to Europe. Greek references to the Scythian tribe’s cannabis rituals support this theory, with Herodotus documenting their use of cannabis steam baths.
Ancient Chinese texts reveal the recognition of cannabis’ psychoactive effects as early as the 1st millennium B.C., with its use as an anaesthetic referred to as ‘mázui’, implying cannabis intoxication. The discovery of high-THC cannabis strains in the Jirzankal Cemetery also suggests a deliberate selection of potent strains for their psychoactive properties.
Throughout history, the role of cannabis has evolved to encompass medicinal, ritualistic, and recreational uses across various cultures. Ancient civilisations, like Egypt and India, revered the plant for its curative properties while others, like the Scythian tribe, incorporated it into ritualistic practices. As the understanding of its psychoactive and anaesthetic effects deepened, cannabis began serving a dual role in both medical and recreational pursuits.
The enduring place of cannabis in human history, with its various applications as a medicine, spiritual aid, and recreational substance, informs contemporary dialogues around cannabis legalisation, and diversification into various products, including medicinal and recreational strains, as well as CBD-based therapies.