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A Complete History of Marijuana, According To Scientists

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New studies on marijuana are churned out nearly every day, with most of them focusing on novel findings about the plant’s therapeutic potential and the implications of legalization.

But cannabis itself isn’t new. Far from it. And a study published this month in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology documents the fascinating evolution of humanity’s relationship with marijuana over the course of thousands of years of history.

Researchers compiled a trove of documents from around the world and examined earlier studies in order to “provide a critical and comprehensive evaluation, from the ancient times to our days, of the ethnological, botanical, chemical and pharmacological aspects of [cannabis], with a vision for promoting further pharmaceutical research to explore its complete potential as a therapeutic agent.”

There’s a lot to learn from the paper. Here are a few things that stood out.

Via the Journal of Ethnopharmacology.

Where does cannabis come from?

Central Asia and Southeast Asia are considered the regions where the plant originated. It’s also where cannabis was domesticated. The regions are “believed to play a vital role in its evolution,” according to the study.

What was it used for?

Before its medical properties became known, the fibrous plant was commonly used for textile manufacturing. Archeologists have discovered “sophisticated plaited basketry” based on cannabis at Czech Palaeolithic sites, for example.

“In fact, it has been referred to as the oldest known cultivated fibre plant and even today it is used as a constituent of fishing nets,” the researchers, who are from Italy and Sweden, wrote.

How did people discover its potential as a recreational botanical?

Via the Journal of Ethnopharmacology.

There are a couple schools of thought on this topic. But from a “Western-centered viewpoint,” researchers generally believe that natural events caused the plant to be accidentally burned, inadvertently revealing its “psychotropic nature.”

Where has cannabis been featured in religion?

All over the place, apparently. Religious texts where marijuana is referenced span from the Old Testament, where it was seemingly mentioned as an “incense and sacred oil,” to Hinduism and tantric Buddhism, where the plant was once believed to “facilitate the meditation and communication with the spirits,” according to the new paper.

When was marijuana first used as medicine?

There’s certainly room for debate on this, but the researchers said that the timeline started about 5,000 years ago in China. The so-called “father” of Chinese agriculture, emperor Chen Nung, included the plant in the first Chinese pharmacopeia. That text said cannabis was prescribed for “fatigue, rheumatism and malaria.”

Via the Journal of Ethnophamacology.

“Moreover, Chinese physicians used the seeds of [cannabis] mainly for their vegetal oils and proteins.”

When did cannabis first appear in the Americas?

Marijuana didn’t show up on American shores for thousands of years after it was first discovered. It was “not known in the Americas until the arrival and settlement of the first European colonists,” according to the researchers. “During this period [cannabis] was used primarily for the strength and the resistance of its fibres.”

“Indeed, the Spanish and English colonies in the Americas mainly imported the botanical varieties ideal for textile manufacturing.”

What are the origins of prohibition?

In 1484, Pope Innocent VIII issued a “papal bull” that denounced both witchcraft and the use of marijuana. Of course, the bulk of prohibitionary policies were introduced in the 20th century—with the “Marijuana Tax Act” in the United States in 1937 and an Act of Parliament in the United Kingdom in 1971.

Where did the name “Cannabis sativa” come from?

Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus coined the term “Cannabis sativa” in the middle of the 18th century, the researchers wrote. Subsequently, French naturalist Jean Lamark distinguished between Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica, writing that the former was a European plant and the latter came from “Indian origin varieties.”

Marijuana Looks Like An Alien World Under An Electron Microscope

Photo courtesy of Max Pixel.

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.

Kyle Jaeger is Marijuana Moment's Los Angeles-based associate editor. His work has also appeared in High Times, VICE and attn.

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How Marijuana Ruined Ronald Reagan’s Valentine’s Day

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It was 38 years ago that marijuana soured an otherwise lovely Valentine’s Day for President Ronald Reagan.

What started as a serene evening—spent swapping gifts and kisses with his wife, Nancy—quickly devolved into a nightmare when the two settled in to watch the comedy film “9 to 5” starring Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin and Dolly Parton.

The movie was “funny,” Reagan wrote in a diary entry on February 14, 1981. But “one scene made me mad,” he steamed.

“A truly funny scene if the 3 gals had played getting drunk but no they had to get stoned on pot,” the Gipper, clearly more of a sipper than a toker, wrote.

“It was an endorsement of Pot smoking for any young person who sees the picture.”

lily tomlin Nine to Five GIF

Reagan had made his views on cannabis clear earlier, during his 1980 campaign, when he said marijuana was “probably the most dangerous drug in the United States.”

His wife later took up that torch and led the “Just Say No” campaign, which discouraged young people from experimenting with drugs by promoting sensationalized depictions of their effects.

And while that Valentine’s Day in 1981 was spoiled by the giggling trio of ladies smoking Maui Wowie in “9 to 5,” the Reagans went on to enjoy many more holidays together in drug-free matrimony.

Maury Povich Smoked A Marijuana Strain Named After His Wife, Journalist Connie Chung

Photo courtesy of the U.S. National Archives.

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.
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Maury Povich Smoked A Marijuana Strain Named After His Wife, Journalist Connie Chung

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Maury Povich, host of one of America’s most popular and longest-running daytime TV talk shows, said on Thursday that he doesn’t regularly roll blunts at home, but he has smoked a marijuana strain named after his wife, the journalist Connie Chung.

Povich, in an appearance on the radio program Sway’s Universe, said that his spouse first heard about the Chung-branded cannabis variety from comedian Lewis Black, who was “doing a story on various marijuana as they became legal, I think, in the state of Washington.”

“Lewis called up my wife and said, ‘Connie, do you know that there is a strain of grass called the Connie Chung?'” Povich recounted. “You know we had to try that.”

So the couple traveled to Washington and indulged for themselves.

“It’s so legal, it’s like nothing.”

Also in the radio interview, Povich implied that smoking cannabis as a substitute makes it easier to smoke fewer cigarettes, which he eventually quit. And he talked about how he knew “a lot of athletes over the years” who used cannabis medicinally, and questioned why sports leagues don’t allow players to consume marijuana.

Chung herself got a kick out of her namesake strain and even gifted a sample of it to Andy Cohen on an episode of his Watch What Happens Live show last year.

“I’m very easy to grow, I require less attention and care, and I give good yield,” Chung said. “I’m perfect for daytime use when facing deadlines, need to be alert and imaginative.”

Mike Tyson And Joe Rogan Swap Stories About Psychedelics And Marijuana

Photo courtesy of Sway’s Universe.

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Mike Tyson And Joe Rogan Swap Stories About Psychedelics And Marijuana

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Former boxer Mike Tyson had a mind-blowing discussion with Joe Rogan about tripping on psychedelics and smoking marijuana on Thursday.

“I like who I am when I smoke. You know what I mean?” Tyson said in an appearance on the Joe Rogan Experience podcast. “Without weed I don’t like who I am sometimes. That’s just real.”

Rogan agreed.

“It makes me nicer,” he said. “It calms me down.”

Check out the video of Mike Tyson and Joe Rogan discussing drugs below:

Beyond cannabis, the two discussed using 5-MeO-DMT, a tryptamine that is found in the venom of a certain toad species, among other places in nature.

“I smoked this medicine—drug—whatever you want to call it, and I’ve never been the same,” Tyson said. “I look at life differently. I look at people differently.”

“The experience I can’t even express, really. Almost like dying and being reborn.”

Rogan said he had similar experiences with the drug.

“That’s what it felt like to me, too,” he said. “You stop existing.”

“It’s inconceivable,” Tyson added. “I just don’t have the words to explain it.”

Tyson, who is now an entrepreneur in the cannabis industry and has his own marijuana-focused podcast, said he’s been smoking weed since he was 10 years old.

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard Talks Marijuana And Psychedelics With Joe Rogan

Photo courtesy of Joe Rogan Experience.

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.
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