Cannabis was one of the first crops ever cultivated, near the beginning of the Neolithic Era. It was first noticed by farmers growing as a "weed", but was realized to be made up of extremely tough fibres, which happened to be perfect for making cloth, bowstrings, and an abundance of other materials. This was the original purpose of cannabis, and why people as early as these cultivated the plant, although the psychoactive properties and highly nutritious seeds are believed to have been discovered not long after.
Scandinavia was the first place in Europe to cultivate weed, almost 10000 years before Britain.
It is believed that as far back as 4000 BC shamans and medicine men were using cannabis as medicine. This also happens to be when Shen Nung is said to have lived, a mythic figure who experimented with many herbs to find their medicinal properties. Known as the father of chinese medicine, he supposedly collected all his botanical research into a book called Pen Ts'ao Ching (The pharmacopeia), the earliest version of which is from first century CE. In it, the use of "hemp tincture" is recommended for many ailments. By second century CE, cannabis was being mixed with wine as an anesthetic used during surgery.
Cannabis spread around the entire continent from China around 2000 BC, the same time that numerous nomadic tribes, mainly the Aryans, moved away from Central Asia. In Korea, it was cultivated by coastal farmers. In Japan, hemp was held in the highest regard, as a symbol of purity. It was given as wedding gifts, woven into ceremonial garments, and used in Shinto rituals to drive out evil spirits and demons. It was also brought to India around this time, where it flourished due to the hot climate. The hotter the environment, the more resinous the plants, and the more resinous the plants, the more potent its psychoactive properties. It was embraced by both the growing Hindu and Buddhist religions.
It was so valued in China, that it was listed as a major crop in Xia Xiao Zheng, the oldest know Chinese farming treatise. It was used as currency, as a means to pay taxes, and as ritualistic tribute. The tough hemp fibres were used to make rope, string, sails, clothing, netting, bowstrings, and even paper by 150 CE. It was even grown as a grain crop for its nutrient-rich seeds, as well as for scrolls and canvases used for art.
Aryans brought cannabis and hemp to India, but they were nomadic invaders, conquerors, and traders, and by 1500 BC, they were in Persia Greece, and even Germany and France. Wherever they went, they brought cannabis with them. All the cultures that were "visited" by the Aryans embraced cannabis for it versatility, and in turn shared it with other cultures that they made contact with.
Taoism had been on the rise since 4000 BC, although at the beginning it viewed intoxication as antisocial, so the use of weed was decreased, until 1000 BC, when Taoists had a growing interest in alchemy, and they began using weed as a method for "inducing visions". Contrary to this, the recreational use of marijuana didn't actually take off, whether due to China's negative outlook on drugs, or the already prevalent problem with opium.
In Hinduism, it is said that the god Shiva rested under a cannabis plant, and that when he woke up he was hungry, and he ate some of the plant, which invigorated him and became his favorite food. He is sometimes referred to as the Lord of Bhang (the Indian word for cannabis). According to Hinduisms holy scriptures, he brought cannabis to mankind as a source of happiness and pleasure.
The Middle Eastern Assyrians started using cannabis for religious practices around 900 BC, as proven by cuneiform tablets recovered from the library of King Ashurbanipal in Nineveh, in modern day Iraq. It is thought that they burned it in temples as incense, and hemp fabric from this time period has also been discovered in Turkey. There are records of ancient Persians using hemp medicinally as well.
Historians believe that cannabis was farmed for its fibres as early as 478 BC in France.
De Materia Medica was a book written by Pedanius Dioscorides, discussing medicinal use of cannabis.
Hemp plants produce 4 times the amount of paper per square acre than trees, you can use 90% of the plant for it, versus the 10% of a tree, it grows in 100 days, as apposed to 100 years, its much more durable, and its even waterproof. There are even works of art, created on hemp scrolls centuries ago that still exist today.
The climate in Europe is mostly temperate and cold, so weed in Europe was originally extremely low in THC content, but had extremely tough fibres, and was mostly used for textiles, sails, rope, etc. The practices of farming weed were spread rapidly across Europe by the legendary Greek and Roman powers. A document from 301 CE called the Edict of Diocletian, "A Prospectus of Trade Goods and Services", lists hemp sails and hemp rope as products made in Roman Britain. Weed had been in Scandinavia since as early as 8000 BC, and the vikings used it heavily for sail cloth and rope.
By 800 CE, Germany had cultivated cannabis, even before the Roman empire exposed the rest of Europe to its farming practices. Russia is thought to have been an early adopter as well, cultivating it in southern Russia around the same time as the Germans.
Some scientists think that the Arabs discovered the intoxicating effects of weed when it was brought by Chinese or Indian itinerants while others think that they were exposed to it on a military campaign to India. Weed was used medicinally to treat a wide range of illnesses, as these practices spread when the Roman Empire expanded. Originally, Arabs ate weed, not smoke it.
Weed is thought to have been brought to "The New World" by vikings around 1000 CE.
In pre-renaissance Europe, hemp was mostly grown and used locally, and it wasnt until the explosion of maritime trade that hemp was mass produced. The hemp "revolution" started in Italy, where the city states heavily relied on maritime trade. In the Port of Venice, they built a state-run factory called Tana, and this factory went on to produce what quickly became the worlds best rope and sails, all from hemp.
Arabs traded in China, and learned how to produce paper. They later invaded southern Spain and brought that knowledge with them, and the first recorded paper factory was built in Xativa, Spain. Mills popped up in Toledo and Valencia soon after. While Spain was under the Arabs' rule, they guarded the process of paper making very closely.
Paper making techniques spread throughout Asia as the Arabs lost power in Spain, near the beginning of The Renaissance.
The Renaissance brought the first printing presses to the world around 1440 CE, around the same time the secrets of paper making were introduced by Arab traders and conquerors. Hemp was a major component in early paper, along with flax and cotton. Hemp paper was also used by artists for sketching, as it was so readily available, and likely had a hand in the development of Renaissance art.
Christopher Columbus arrived in North America under hemp sails, bearing the Spanish flag. Amerigo Vaspucci sailed a few years later, also with hemp sails. John Cabot claimed Newfoundland for England, and Brazil was claimed for Portugal all fueled by hemp. The world as we know it today could have been very different without cannabis.
The Dutch started using their windmills to speed up the production of hemp fibre, and they were so successful that they had to import raw materials from Russia, and Italy.
European maritime powers during the renaissance era included Portugal, Spain, the Netherlands, and England, all of which had a huge demand for cannabis.
In 1533, the demand for hemp in England was so high that a royal proclamation demanded farmers grow hemp. Farmers were against it, as they thought the smell caused disease, and that it sapped the soil of nutrients. Nonetheless, it was grown in mass quantities to fuel the English navy.
Although cannabis at this time in Europe was almost purely for hemp, due to the climate and lack of THC, it was still used as a medicine for various diseases. The English naturalist William Turner wrote a book called New Herball, which spoke of its therapeutic effects.
The conquistador Pedro Cuadrado, serving under Hernando Cortes, was the first European to bring hemp seeds to the new world. Reportedly, his farming was quite successful, except in 1550, the Spanish government ordered he reduce the production of hemp because the natives were doing something other than making rope with the plant. The hot climate would've made the cannabis extremely dense with resin, and high THC content.
Cannabis was cultivated in Chile, as an attempt by the Spanish government to eliminate the Russian monopoly on the cannabis market. The Portuguese brought in people from Africa, likely how the natives discovered its psychoactive effects. The Spanish's attempt at growing hemp was not very successful, ass they lacked expertise in farming, and the hot climate made the plants too resinous for strong hemp fibres.
Because of the low levels of THC in early European weed, its psychoactive properties were little known. Europeans grew hemp for its fibres, as apposed to India, where it was used primarily for intoxication. A Portuguese doctor named Garcia de Orta discovered Indian "bhang" during work for his country's viceroy in the Indies. He wrote a book called "Colloquies on the Simples and Drugs and Medicinal Matters of India and of a Few Fruits", and in it he reported that "the Indians get no usefulness from this, unless it is the fact that they become ravished with ecstasy, and delivered from all worries and cares, and laugh at the least little thing." Accounts of "bhang" continued being written by explorers and doctors. Often the effects of weed were confused with opium. A doctor from the East India Company published a book in 1689 in which he said opium was made from nightshade and "bhang." Weed's reputation and intoxicating effects were greatly misunderstood and exaggerated throughout Europe due to accounts like those.
In 1588 and English fleet destroyed the Spanish armada, and that English fleet had and estimated ten thousand acres worth of hemp in the ropes and sails.
After the victory against the Spanish, the demand for hemp in England was so high that its farmers couldn't keep up. The navy began importing from Russia, and by 1633, 90% of England's hemp was imported from Russia.
Hemp was first introduced to Nova Scotia around 1606 by Louis Hebert. He is remembered as Canada's first apothecary. Neither the French colonists in Canada, or the English in the colonies wanted to take up field space growing hemp, as they needed food. Their governments back home, however, wanted the colonies to produce huge amounts of hemp the would further spread their reputation on the seas.
The colonists were forced by their agreement with the Virginia Company to grow hemp right from the start. In 1607, King James made weed cultivation mandatory.
To get colonists to grow weed, governments often used the "stick" without the carrot. In 1666, Jean Talon, the representative of King Louis the XIV, confiscated all the thread he could find to "encourage the inhabitants to grow a great deal of hemp" by promising to redistribute the thread to people that agreed to his terms.
In 1682, farmers were allowed to pay off debt using hemp. In 1733, South Carolina hired Richard Hall to wage a public relations campaign promoting hemp, and in 1735, Daniel Henchman of Boston published a book called "Cultivating and Raising of Flax and Hemp." This convinced Massachusetts to let the colonists pay taxes with hemp.
The Neolithic Period, also called New Stone Age, the final stage of cultural evolution or technological development among prehistoric humans. It was characterized by stone tools shaped by polishing or grinding, dependence on domesticated plants or animals, settlement in permanent villages, and the appearance of crafts such as pottery and weaving.
Weed may have made it to the Americas with the vikings before colonization, but it wasn't cultivated until colonial times.