The Indo-European Legacy of Ancient Cannabis
There are few plants that have caused upheavals in human society comparable to those centered on cannabis in modern times. Since the declaration of the ‘war on cannabis’ by American President Richard Nixon in the 1970s, the American prison population has exploded from 300,000 to 2.2 million people, and the United States has become home to nearly 25 percent of the imprisoned population of the entire world. As of 2018, between 40 and 50 percent of drug arrests in the United States were for cannabis. The situation in America is mirrored by similar ‘wars’ on cannabis in other western societies, such as the United Kingdom, where 2.1 million adults aged 16 to 59 used the plant in 2016, in spite of its illegality.
Cannabis Americana Distributor logo, United States, 1917. ( Public Domain )
The attitudes supporting prohibition have begun to collapse in recent years. The myriad possible medical applications of cannabis in treating diseases, disorders and other ailments are becoming increasingly well known. Politically, the grim statistics noted at the beginning of this article are offset by the fact that while United States Federal policies remain unchanging, 10 states and the District of Columbia have legalized cannabis for recreational use, and 21 states have legalized medicinal usage. Canada has become the first North American country to legalize recreational cannabis use, and some experts predict something similar in the United Kingdom within five years. South Africa has also legalized recreational use in 2018.
Ancient Cannabis Use
What seems to be missing from the highly politicized discussion concerning this issue is the incredible history that cannabis shares with humankind. In fact, the modern legal perspective of mind-altering plants such as cannabis is the polar-opposite to the ancient world-view, as explained by Merlin (2003): “We live in an age when a divine vision is dismissed as a hallucination, and desire to experience a direct communication with god is often interpreted as a sign of mental illness. Nevertheless, some scholars and scientists assert that such visions and communications are fundamentally derived from an ancient and ongoing cultural tradition… humans have a very ancient tradition involving the use of mind-altering experiences to produce profound, more or less spiritual and cultural understanding.”
Drawing of Cannabis sativa from Vienna Dioscurides, 512 AD. ( Public Domain )
Cannabis cultivation and its use could well be as old as humanity itself.
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Jason Jarrell and Sarah Farmer are investigative historians and avocational archaeologists. They study many subjects including depth psychology, Biblical mysteries, political science, and comparative mythology. They’re also authors of the book, Ages of the Giants: A Cultural History of the Tall Ones in Prehistoric America (2017). | ParadigmCollision.com
Top Image : Fractal Cannabis Marijuana Mobius Dragon ( CC0)