LESSON #1 : CANNABIS B.C. - Part 1

Return to Lecture Series Index

The history of the cannabis plant is as old as the story of human civilization.  The plant has been used by our ancestors and other species as a source of protein for millions of years.   About one million years ago the capacity to control fire was developed by pre-humans and one can assume that within a few hundred thousand years almost every plant available had been burned in a campfire or cave.  As humans began forming larger groups, the ability to collect hemp seed and store it for years gave them control over a source of protein that could keep them alive through harsh winters.  In his book,

The Dragons Of Eden, Carl Sagan suggests that cannabis was the first domestic crop grown by humans almost 12,000 years ago.  Cannabis provided food, oil, fibre for rope and cloth, and was eaten or inhaled for religious and medical purposes.  A popular ancient method of ingesting cannabis was to cook it in milk and add honey for sweetener to produce what is commonly known as bhang.  Hemp fibers were found in 10,000 year-old pottery found in Taiwan, probably to help strengthen the clay. 

The Chinese have long considered their country the ‘land of mulberry and hemp’.  The oldest paper in the world is hemp paper from China.  The Chinese were using cannabis as medicine before the 28th century and later began making clothing from it because the dwindling animal population could not produce enough fur for the growing human civilization.  Early Chinese healers used to wrap a dead snake around a hemp stalk, or carve the image of a snake on a hemp stalk, and would beat it around the bed of a sick person to ward off evil spirits. 

Ancient Japanese people used hemp for seed, cloth and healing.  India, Afghanistan, and Pakistan have been excellent sources of hashish since the beginning of time.  The Egyptians pharaohs were also cannabis consumers, burning hash in elaborate incense chambers at almost every ceremony.  A cone of hash was made which was placed upon the top of the heads of entertainers and guests at various functions, including parties and funerals.  The Assyrians were another civilization that grew cannabis that they worshipped as the Tree of Life.  The Sumerians, Mesopotamians, Greeks and Persians also used hash in their homes and temples. 

Many believe that The Bible is full of references to cannabis from the Tree of Life to the ‘old vinegar’ that was placed on the lips of Jesus before he died.  God taught Moses how to make cannabis anointing oil.  The ‘burning bush’ was likely a hash plant that helped Moses talk to God.  After all, God gave man all seed bearing herbs.  The Hebrew people used this anointing oil and hash incense until 621 B.C. when King Josiah declared that using anointing oil and burning incense was prohibited except in the worship of Jahweh.  Though this original prohibition contained in the ‘Book Of Law’only lasted a few years, it was used in 325 by the newly formed Roman Catholic Church to justify abolishing the use of cannabis or any other plant for healing.  This anointing oil was openly used by Jesus to ‘heal the lepers’, an act for which he was condemned.  However, during his time the burning of hash incense in the worship of various gods and goddesses of every known civilization was quite popular. 

Pygmies in Africa believe that they have smoked cannabis since the beginning of time.  Though the introduction of cannabis to most of Africa may have been in the last 2000 years, northern parts of the continent have grown the herb for many millenium.  The water pipe was likely invented in Ethiopia.  It is likely that the ancient ‘food of the gods’ was hashish that came from Western Arabia and between the Red Sea and the Nile.

 Cannabis Plant

The oldest known picture of hemp from an illustrated Dioscorides manuscript,
“Constantinopolitanus” (British Museum).


International Hempology 101 Society
Cannabis Buyers' Clubs of Canada