What is Cannabis Sativa?
Cannabis sativa is an annual herbaceous flowering plant indigenous to eastern Asia but now of cosmopolitan distribution due to widespread cultivation. It has been cultivated throughout recorded history and used as a source of industrial fiber, seed oil, food, recreation, religious and spiritual moods, and medicine.
The earliest recorded use of cannabis Sativa as a medicinal drug occurred in China in 2737 BC. The Chinese emperor Shen Nung claimed that cannabis was effective in treating beriberi, constipation, malaria, rheumatism, and absent-mindedness.
Recreational use of Cannabis sativa is well documented in early Arabic and Persian literature. In the 10th century AD, the Arabian physician Ibn Wahshiyah wrote “The Book of Simple Drugs”, which included a chapter on how to intoxicate people with Cannabis sativa smoke.
The origins of the recreational use of Cannabis sativa in the West are somewhat unclear. Some believe that it was introduced by Spanish or Portuguese sailors who had picked up the habit while in port cities in Morocco or South America. Others claim that it was brought back from Asia by British soldiers who had been stationed there during colonial times. Whatever its exact origins, by the early 19th-century Cannabis sativa was being grown commercially for its fiber in France and Russia and for its seeds in Holland.
In 1839 French writer Jacques-Joseph Moreau published “Du hachisch et de l’aliénation mentale: études psychologiques” (“On Hashish and Mental Illness: Psychological Studies”), which included accounts of his own experiences with the drug as well as those of other famous literary figures such as Honoré de Balzac, Alexandre Dumas, and Victor Hugo. These works helped spread knowledge of marijuana’s psychoactive effects throughout Europe and North America.
In the United States, medical usage began following the publication of an article entitled “Medical Marijuana” by William O’Shaughnessy who had observed its effects while working as a doctor in India. By 1851 O’Shaughnessy’s article had been reprinted 27 times! A flurry of articles followed suit over the next several decades and by 1900 marijuana was listed in US Pharmacopeiasas useful for treatments ranging from gonorrhea and anthrax to rabies and cancerous tumors! However marijuana’s therapeutic heyday wouldn’t last long…by the 1930s laws restricting its sale and possession were enacted in 29 states across America.