More than just a story about getting stoned or a lifestyle, the story of mankind and marijuana is above all a great love story.
And so it has been since the dawn of time. The eternal muse, which has guided us through the ages, Mary has inspired and united us. After 8000 years of weed cultivation and use, 80 years of repression weigh heavily upon our generation, and turns a simple the joint smoker, into a serious delinquent.
Throughout time, cannabis has been cultivated by numerous civilizations. Cannabis ruderalis (wild hemp) for instance, is not psychoactive but very useful for creating cords, fabrics or even papers. Knowing that the Amazonian forest is growing smaller everyday, how is it that we are not looking at these alternative sources that are staring us in the face. Easy to grow, proliferate and profitable, hemp is already the perfect substitute for woodwhich by the way is a lot more useful in the forest than in the Accounts Payable binder in the office.
As the Ancients gradually discovered the joys of the sisters Indica and Sativa, the full force of their shamanic, religious and medicinal virtues struck them. In order to better understand the intimate relationship that we have with this plant since the birth of mankind, we’re going to take you on a trip through time and space...
EASTERN ASIA, SOURCE OF AN ENTIRE CULTURE
Back to China, 6000 years before our calendar was invented. Suffice it to say that these guys didn’t take long to understand that what they held between their fingers would be very fruitful.
Our journey begins in a pottery workshop. No, we didn’t find Genghis Khan’s mummified remains with a fossilized joint between his teeth, but instead a simple painting of a hemp leaf on a pot, you know, just for decoration. The trail leads us on to the world’s first Materia Medica, it too from China, which according to the locals is over 2 700 years old. In it we find more than 365 different varieties of medicinal herbs, including tea and cannabis. Big up the legendary Emperor Shennong for his work!
The Indians weren’t skimping out either. Even though they’d get their rocks off with our girl Indica more than Sativa, in one of their Vedas (ancient religious texts written in Sanskrit), weed is cited as a damn good way to get oneself into a trance state, especially for religious rituals. They even had specific ways of lifting off, bong or herbal tea, take your pick. This proof on paper is the oldest Indian document ever found. It dates from around 1500 BC, making the good old Bible look like a freakin’ smartphone. Here’s a funny anecdote - according to Indian culture, weed comes straight off the back hairs of the god Vishnu and so provided direct access to the divine - I know a couple guys who are bigger believers than they think.
AN AFRICAN PILGRIMAGE
As if guided by some sort of self-will, Cannabis seems to have paved its way across the centuries. Village after village the people understood that there was in it an inestimable bounty and joined their neighbors by cultivating it as well. The trail leads us now to the Assyrian and Scythian tribes, who carried hemp from Asia to Africa via the Middle East. They too had their own methods. The most common method was a form of fumigation resembling the vaporization that we know today. They would heat up the plant on a stone, without burning it, and inhale the vapors. Even today, vaporization is still the purest way to extract the cannabinoids from the plant. We also owe to these folks the use of resin, the ancestor of today’s Afghan. More suitable to Haschich than the other two, it’s from these countries that we get Afghanica, the newest member of the family.
Still on the trail of the unifying herb, it’s in Egypt, on 3000-year-old papyrus that we find our tender little friend, on one of the world’s oldest medical prescriptions for hemp oil, a prescription worth gold! Bowls containing weed were also found at the pharohs’ tombs, which clearly means that these guys had the intention of bringing their own supply to get high with the gods !
THE WEST, ETERNALLY LATE
Indeed, we discovered marijuana a couple of millenniums late. It’s barely been 400 years since we’ve been smoking, no wonder we’re so crazy about it... How do you compete with the Chinese who between two pipes of opium, blazes a weed pipe, and has been doing so for over eight thousand years ? Even if the first Gutenberg bible was printed on hemp paper, it wasn’t until the 18th century that cannabis really showed up in Europe. Paradoxically, it’s thanks to Napoleon (and not Voltaire) that you can grow your garden. During his conquest of Egypt, Napoleon banned his troops from smoking the local hashish that only aroused greater interest in it, leading to its importation in France. England also played a role with its colonies in India where our Saxon neighbors discovered the qualities of the green and hurried to bring it back home.
Initially weed was consumed in closed circles among high society ; Le Club des Hashischins (The Hashish-Eaters Club), is certainly the most well-known, regrouping Victor Hugo, Baudelaire, Dumas and other potheads of the time. We owe to them several books and poems on the subject. Ganja was for them a source of inspiration, but also claimed the interest of scientists who found in weed and unprecedented subject for the study of the brain. Its importation into the US was through the slaves who brought with them this gateway, their last remaining link with the ancestral traditions.
PROHIBITION AND PROPOGANDA
It is in 1916 that England and France both, despite a 7 volume British study on the subject, comprising of 7 500 pages concluding on the non toxicity of the plant, outlawed the consumption and production of cannabis. That was the beginning of the prohibition. The Americans did the same in 1937, bringing with it a global dictatorship of thought on the subject. Currently in China, consumption of marijuana is punishable by death, and it remains illegal in most countries. How did we move from a plant of divine character to a demonic plant that will drive us mad or stupid ? And yet this is one of the first seeds that man has ever cultivated. It certainly cannot be as bad as they’d like to have us think, it just needs a little taming. It’s only been 400 years since we’ve actually known about it, thats not enough to develop the right perspective, we need the time to better understand it and learn about it to be able to reap all of its benefits without the drawbacks. Turning towards the past seems like a good solution, apparently it still has a lot to teach us.