A Wiki search reveals: Cannabis 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; all three may be treated as subspecies of a single species, C. sativa; or C. sativa may be accepted as a single undivided species. The genus is widely accepted as being indigenous to and originating from Asia.
Data is still being gathered on the modern medical efficacy of cannabis. An ancient and versatile plant valued for its fiber as well as its medicinal qualities and use in spiritual practice, cannabis was cultivated throughout ancient China, Japan, Korea, Siberia, Assyria, Africa and India thousands of years ago. Cannabis fibers were used in cloth and early paper – the word canvass is a derivative of the word cannabis. Seeds were eaten whole and pressed for oil. The leaves and flowers of the plant were used in spiritual practice and healing. Hashish, a resin pressed from cannabis trichomes has many ancient references for spiritual and medicinal use.
Historians agree that cannabis is one of the earliest known cultivated crops with indications that it was used in spiritual ceremony as early as 8000 BCE. Polish anthropologist, Sula Benet theorizes that the plant referenced in the biblical Book of Exodus as “keneh bosm” or “q’aneh-bosm” is the plant we know as cannabis. Same with New Testament references to “sweet calamus” or “sweet cane” listed as ingredients in the anointing oils used by Jesus Christ.
In more modern times, Napoleon was introduced to hashish during his campaign in Egypt, which he brought to France in 1799 as an anesthetic. Throughout the 1800s, cannabis in all its forms was used medicinally around the world – as a painkiller, to quell nausea and to alleviate the suffering of those with mental health issues.
It was in Mexico that cannabis became known as marijuana. In his book, Home Grown: Marijuana and the Origins of Mexico’s War on Drugs, Issac Campos explains the racially-motivated history of the association of marijuana with Mexican migrants that led to the draconian North American laws banning its use. For the 20th century, use or possession of cannabis was a felony and burdened the US penal system. This prohibition extended to the non-psychoactive hemp plant and sadly halted North American cultivation of one of the most versatile and sustainable plants known to humanity.
Forced underground, the use of cannabis continued. Proponents continued to document its medicinal benefits and risked harsh penalties including prison while using cannabis to alleviate symptoms of glaucoma, epilepsy, neuromuscular disabilities, post trauma stress syndrome, AIDS and cancer treatments. In the early 2000s states began to sanction the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes and encouraged research into cures and treatments using cannabis.
Cannabis can be consumed as an edible or tea, smoked or processed into incense, resin, tinctures and balms. Modern cultivation has developed a much more sophisticated understanding of THC levels and terpenes present in order to deliver a product that stimulates (sativa) or sedates (indica) to varying degrees.
Terpenes, the biochemical component that creates aroma and taste, are being studied in depth to better understand how the chemical composition of a plant strain can enhance its characteristics. Mango, as an example, is believed to enhance the psychoactive compounds of cannabis while anecdotally, black pepper will dilute that effect.
Research into the health benefits of cannabis continue. At this time, we know that this plant, cultivated since the dawn of humanity, is complex and seemingly offers natural answers to many of the ailments plaguing us today.
As of May 2021, cannabis, also known as medical marijuana or MMJ, is legal in 36 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands.
Want to find out more? Here is a list of useful links.