Civilizations throughout human history have embraced marijuana for recreational and medicinal use. Hemp cord used in pottery was discovered in an ancient village site near modern-day Taiwan dating back more than 10,000 years. Finding hemp during this date range means that it is one of the oldest known human agricultural crops. Meanwhile, the first recorded use of cannabis as medicine was in 2737 B.C.E., by Emperor Shen Neng of China. He officially prescribed marijuana tea to treat ailments such as gout, rheumatism, malaria, and poor memory.
Here is a brief sampling of other milestones in the historical use of cannabis:
70: A physician in Nero’s army named Dioscorides lists medical marijuana in his Pharmacopoeia.
130-200: Greek physician Galen prescribes medical marijuana.
200: Chinese surgeon Hua T’o uses marijuana as an anesthetic.
300: A young woman in Jerusalem is given cannabis during childbirth.
1200: 1,001 Nights, a famous Arabian collection of stories, relates hashish’s intoxicating and aphrodisiac qualities.
1300: Ethiopian pipes that contain marijuana show that it has spread from Egypt to the rest of Africa.
1764: Medical marijuana appears in The New England Dispensatory.
1850-1915: Marijuana is widely used throughout America as medicine drug and can be purchased at general stores and pharmacies.
India has embraced cannabis use religiously, medicinally, spiritually, and recreationally for centuries. Marijuana is mentioned in the Vedas, sacred Hindu texts. They refer to cannabis as one of five sacred plants and a source of happiness, joy, liberation, and freedom from fear and anxiety. A popular drink called bhang (a blend of cannabis paste, milk, ghee, and spices) is consumed in India to this day for both enjoyment and medical reasons.
With the prevalent use of marijuana throughout human history, it raises the question, “Why and when did it became demonized?” Unfortunately, the answer is in part influenced by racism. America’s attitude toward cannabis shifted in the early 1900s. The fear of Mexican immigrants fleeing the 1910 Mexican Revolution sparked racist propaganda. Texan police officers claimed that smoking marijuana (a common pastime for the immigrants) led to bloodlust, violence, and superhuman strength. Despite the lack of any evidence supporting those claims, marijuana prohibition spread rapidly throughout the U.S.
Fortunately, attitudes toward cannabis use are slowly but surely shifting in the U.S. Medical marijuana is now legal in 33 states, and recreational marijuana is legal in 11. Many politicians and celebrities have spoken in favor of marijuana. Here are a few quotes from iconic people who use (some of whom may surprise you!):
1. “The best way I would describe the effect of the marijuana and the hashish is that it would make me relaxed and creative.” — Steve Jobs
2. “I think that marijuana should not only be legal, I think it should be a cottage industry. It would be wonderful for the state of Maine.” — Stephen King
3. “I’m a huge believer that if more people smoked — not just for medicinal purposes, but for lifestyle purposes, instead of drinking — the world would be a better place.” — Susan Sarandon
4.“It’s silly that having a puff of legal pot at the end of the night is news amongst a sea of scary drunk people.” — Sarah Silverman
5. “When I was younger, I realized it helped my cramps, and I’ve had a good relationship with it since. It continues to help me feel better as I get older.” — Whoopi Goldberg
6. “The only thing pot does for me is it gets me to stop thinking. Sometimes I have a brain that needs to be turned off. Some people are just better high.” — Justin Timberlake
7. “I put it where drinking used to go, and the quality of life has gone up considerably.” — John Mayer
8. “It’s nice to watch it being accepted, knowing you were right all the time about it: that it was not a killer drug. It’s a medicine.” — Willie Nelson
9. “They’re talking about kids who have grand mal seizures, and they’ve discovered that marijuana eases that down to where these children can have a life. That right there, to me, says, ‘Legalize it across the board!’ ” — Morgan Freeman
10. “When I smoke pot, I want to look at nature and laugh about everything and eat some delicious things and then sleep.” — Nick Offerman