Cannabis History Explained: 5 Facts to Know

cannabis history explained: 5 facts to know


Marijuana, hash, ganja, weed, pot, etc. are the slangs used to describe the cannabis plant’s proportions. We have somewhat known cannabis since the dawn of humankind. It is one of the oldest psychoactive compounds used by humans.


Typically, cannabis or marijuana is a single term used to describe the plant’s three species – Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, and Cannabis ruderalis. Yet, there is a lot of complexity related to cannabis taxonomy. Each species varies by the amount of the THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) percentage.

Today cannabis is infamous for its ‘high’ effects, but that was not always the case. Ancient cultures didn’t cultivate cannabis for its psychoactive properties but as herbal medicine. In the present, we know a lot less of the cannabis plant despite being known for “the first plant cultivated by humanity.”

One thing we know is cannabis has deep connections with human history. On that note, here 5 facts on cannabis history –

  • Origin story

It is challenging to pinpoint the first origin and cultivation of the cannabis plant. We don’t even know how long humans have used cannabis. But, specific evidence shows it might be the oldest crop man has cultivated. The use of cannabis can be traced back to at least 12,000 years.

It has always been said that cannabis originated in Central Asia along the regions of Mongolia and southern Siberia. From there, this plant traveled the world by various migrating groups. In 1997, a hemp rope was found in Czechoslovakia, which dates back to 26,900 BC, making it the oldest evidence associated with cannabis.

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In Yuan-shan, Taiwan excavated a Neolithic site dating from 10,000 BC uncovered pottery with hemp cord marks and a stone beater used to beat hemp. The time difference between Czechoslovakia and Yuan-shan sites might hint that the cannabis plant spread millions of years ago?


Another cultural evidence of cannabis use was found in the Chinese Neolithic site in Yangshao on the Yellow River banks. The site dates back to 4,000 BC, and the archeological evidence found that the Yangshao economy was heavily dependent on hemp. The people wore hemp clothing and created various hemp objects. Hemp seeds were used to make oil and were part of a regular diet.

  • Evolution of cannabis species

Taxonomy helps us to understand the differences and similarities between millions of organisms on Earth. The biological taxonomy of the cannabis plant has always been exciting and confusing to date. Let’s take a quick look of a taxonomic hierarchy of cannabis –

  • Kingdom- Plantae
  • Division – Tracheophyta
  • Class – Magnoliopsida
  • Superorder – Rosanae
  • Order – Rosales
  • Family – Cannabaceae (hemp)
  • Genus – Cannabis L. (hemp)
  • Species – Cannabis sativa L. (hemp, marijuana, hashish, etc.)
  • Subspecies – Cannabis indica, Cannabis sativa, Cannabis ruderalis


Stephan Endlicher, an Austrian botanist was first to place cannabis in the Cannabaceae family in 1837. Humulus (Common Hops), a sister plant species of cannabis, was placed in the same family by Endlicher. Botanists tried to group cannabis into the Urticaceae and the Moraceae family but failed. In 2002 it was determined that ‘Cannabaceae’ is a discrete famil

Why does it matter? Early fossil records exhibit that the Urticaceae family emerged in the Late Cretaceous period, whereas Humulus lupulus became speciated around 6.38 million years ago. It gives rise to a possibility that the cannabis plant evolved somewhere between this timeline.

A significant study suggested that there is a clear link between Humulus and Cannabis. The scientists analyzed over 150 fossil pollen studies throughout Asia and found out that Cannabis and Humulus bifurcated around 27.8 million years ago.

Cannabis has been on Earth for 28 million years!

The cannabis family we know today has been evolved significantly due to different environmental and climatic changes. Cannabis has made it from pre-humanity to present NuLeaf Naturals. 

  • Ancient history

It comes to no surprise that the cannabis plant has such deep and colorful connections in ancient history. The archaeological site of Yuan-shan, Czechoslovakia, and Yangshao reveals and also proves that cannabis was major cultivation back then.

In ancient China, clothing was made from hemp fiber. The Pen Ts’ao, a Chinese medicinal textbook written in the name of legendary emperor Shen Nung (2,800 BC), claims that “Ma” or marijuana was a powerful medicinal plant. Siberian burial mounds dating back 3,000 BC have remnants of brunt cannabis seeds.

Carl Linnaeus, in 1753 was first to give cannabis its taxonomic identification. The plant was described and popularized to Westerners in the 1800s. William O’ Shaughnessy made a report to the Medical and Physical Society of Calcutta, India, in 1839. The report has explained the different effects of ‘ganja’ on people. Ganja was the Indian name for the cannabis drug. He also conducted the first-ever clinical trials of cannabis drugs on animals like dogs, cats, mice, and rabbits.

Cannabis first came to be popular in Europe when Napoleon’s troops returned from Egypt. Humanity has had industrial and medicinal use of cannabis in every millennium.

  • Use of cannabis as medicine

The first-ever written record of cannabis use for medicinal purposes was in the Chinese textbook of the Pen Ts’ao (2,800 BC). After that, cannabis reached the Middle East by 1,400 BC ending up in Europe in the First Century AD.One of the most influential societies, Ancient Greece, has also used cannabis for medicinal purposes. Anthropologists have found trace amounts of THC in an Egyptian Mummy’s bones, tissues, and hair that lived sometime in 1,000 BC.



  • Downfall of cannabis

We can say that every millennium saw the use of cannabis for industrial or medical purposes. But everything changed in the 1900s; cannabis was criminalized worldwide as an element of “War on Drugs.”

Recreational cannabis became a sore spot for many countries and remains a part of the “drug problem.” The modern era saw advancements in the industrial and medical sectors, eliminating and stigmatizing cannabis.

Cannabis became associated with casteism, racism, and class discrimination. That made a profound impact on the cannabis industry, and the 1900s saw the downfall of cannabis.


Cannabis has been cultivated for at least 12,000 years or much earlier than that. Practically every culture and society recognized the benefits of cannabis throughout the history uninterruptedly. It’s only in recent times that some factors caused retaliation against marijuana. Presently, the misunderstanding surrounding the plant is changing and the future different from today!