Human civilization began with agriculture, which means cannabis—one of the first and oldest crops in history—could be what sparked everything. We know that as far back as 10,000 BC, early humans decorated pottery with hemp cord. Hemp seed and oil were used for food in 6000 BC, and in 2737 BC, China’s “Red Emperor” Shen Nung, documented the healing powers of marijuana in his book, “The Herbal.”
But what about recreational use? It took us eight thousand years and a trip to India to figure out we could get high from cannabis. The “Atharvaveda,” a sacred Hindu text dating back to 2,000 BC, refers to the plant as a “bringer of joy”, and “sacred grass” with guardian angels residing in its leaves. It associates cannabis with the god Shiva, the “Lord of Bhang.” (Bhang: a traditional Indian drink made from dried marijuana and spices.)
As far as people and weed went, things were pretty chill for about 4,000 years. Then, in 1937, America passed the Marijuana Tax Act, effectively criminalizing the plant for the first time. Next came the War on Drugs, “Just Say No,” and millions of needless imprisonments. After decades of struggle, we’re at a state of acceptance unheard of in our lifetimes, and with technology and innovation, we’re emerging from prohibition better off than we were going in (we can get even higher!). With all of this drama, it’s easy to lose perspective on our history. So, for that, I offer this visualization:
Picture a joint. It represents the timeline of our history with cannabis. The mouthpiece is ancient pre-China—12,000 years ago, and the end you light is right now, with our social movement marching toward nation-wide legalization.
The second you spark your joint, hemp-growing American settlers, the birth of jazz, the war on drugs, the fight for legalization, medical marijuana, vaping, 2020 Solutions—300 years goes up in smoke.
Take a nice long drag, and you board a Viking ship delivering hemp rope to Iceland back in 850 AD. Hold it in, then visit the Buddha during his six year cannabis fast. By the third hit, you make it to Ancient India to worship Shiva in the first ever high of humanity. Keep going—a few more puffs—walk the trade routes back to China—crack open “The Herbal” and have a chat with The Red Emperor about medical marijuana.
If you get to the end, grab a roach clip and savor it. You’re in an ancient land—foreign in every way, yet part of your very DNA. You’re discovering something, working the earth, getting along, initiating the grand story of civilization. This is profoundly human. You’re in the stone-age. Think about that the next time you take a toke!
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