Reefer Madness - History of Cannabis Culture

Historically, cannabis has ties to religion and spirituality. It has been used in different cultures around the world since as early as 4000 B.C.

Traditional Uses

Oldest uses of cannabis across different cultures -

China: The earliest known usage of Cannabis was by Taoist shamans who used it with ginseng to predict the future.

India: In the ancient Vedic literature, cannabis is considered a sacred plant that was the source of happiness.

Hindu Holy Drink – Bhang
Source: Dailyhunt.in
Tibet: Buddhists used cannabis for increased awareness and a means to aid in meditation.

Greece: Herodotus, a Greek historian in the 5th Century B.C wrote about Cannabis use in rituals where the smoke was inhaled for inducing euphoria

Prohibition-era

Not only did ancient cultures understand the benefits of cannabis but also big pharma who up until the early 1900s produced and sold Cannabis medicine in health shops.

Early 1900’s cannabis medicine
Source: Wikipedia.com

It was only due to propaganda fuelled by political agenda in the United States, led by Harry Anslinger, that Cannabis was reclassified as a prohibited drug. Harry Anslinger, The Commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, used sensationalism and racism by exploiting the existing anti-immigrant sentiment to gain public support against Cannabis despite contrary scientific evidence.

 
Harry Anslinger
Source: Wikipedia.com

 

During the early 1900s, Cannabis was commonly associated with Mexicans and African-Americans. Anslinger incorrectly correlated higher crime rates with cannabis use by people of colour. Movies such as Reefer Madness received wide publicity and fed into that hysteria because of the political climate created by him.

 
1930’s Propaganda movies
Source: Wikipedia.com; mashable.com; kqed.org

 

In 1937 Anslinger's efforts led to the establishment of the Marihuana Tax Act that outlawed possession or sale of cannabis. The United States political rhetoric influenced the global cannabis policy. Consequently, most legal scientific research also came to a halt.

 

Black market and counter culture

Following the prohibition era, the black market for cannabis thrived globally with the United States still being one of its largest consumers. The Counterculture of the 1960s was an anti-establishment movement that supported cannabis and its use. The black market grew to primarily serve this community. It was at this time that growers, due to the fear of authorities cultivated Cannabis behind closed doors. As demand for cannabis grew, growers started to differentiate themselves by breeding and mixing different strains to produce more potent cannabis flower based on personal experience rather than scientific research. This also gave rise to very colourful strain names such as Acapulco Gold and Durban Poison for the growers to stand out.

Source:  The Independent

 

Getting back to mainstream

 Recently, through activism and research, the regulation around cannabis has eased leading to increased awareness of its therapeutic benefits and its side effects. We now have cultural icons from all walks of life like artists, actors, businessmen, athletes who publicly support the use of Cannabis. The way cannabis is consumed is also changing and moving from the traditional smoking a joint to edibles, topicals, & vapes. Thus, allowing a larger number of people to experience cannabis.

We believe in the coming years' Cannabis products will continue to evolve and be widely available. 

NZ 2020
Source: radionz.co.nz

 

Further Reading

What is 4/20 - https://www.leafly.com/news/lifestyle/the-long-strange-history-of-420-the-global-cannabis-holiday

Cannabis enthusiasts and cultural icons - https://www.rollingstone.com/culture/culture-lists/50-most-successful-marijuana-enthusiasts-you-should-know-114790/

Aussie & Kiwi Cannabis culture - https://www.nzherald.co.nz/travel/news/article.cfm?c_id=7&objectid=11701773

https://www.vice.com/en_nz/article/wjg3pw/one-of-new-zealands-first-cannabis-growers-could-be-our-first-saint