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Where did Cannabis Originate?

The question that often comes to mind is where did cannabis originate? There isn’t a simple answer, but the earliest known records of cannabis date back to as far as 1000 B.C. The one thing that is definitive is that there are no U.S. ties to cannabis as a place of origination. All signs point to the Chinese. I’ll give you an abbreviated history of cannabis here to help answer the question of where cannabis came from.

Chinese Roots

It is said that cannabis was used in China for medicinal purposes, with medicinal use being recorded first in 4000 B.C. In 2727 B.C., it is reported that Chinese Emperor Shen Nung used cannabis himself for medicinal relief. The history, at least recorded history, dates back some 12,000 years.

Cannabis is one of the oldest crops in the world. Seeds in the Xinjiang area of China/Siberia are estimated to be from 2500 B.C. based upon the age of the burial mounds and tombs of nobles that seeds have been found in.

It is thought that cannabis traveled to Korea around 2000 B.C., perhaps earlier. In Indian culture, cannabis was used to relieve symptoms of anxiety.


It is estimated that cannabis made its way to the Middle East, for use by the Scythians, between 2000 B.C. and 1400 B.C. The Scythians are speculated to have introduced cannabis to both Russia and Ukraine within that time period. In the 5th Century, cannabis made its way to Germany, where some German inhabitants introduced it to Britain.

Viking Era

Studies indicate that seeds from cannabis plants were found on Viking ships. This would have been somewhere in the 9th Century, perhaps mid-way through.

20th Century

Fast forward to the 19th Century. This is when cannabis was introduced to North and South America. During the Mexican Revolution (1910 through 1911), is when it is speculated that cannabis traveled from Mexico and into the United States. It wasn’t long after the Mexican Revolution before revolts against marijuana started happening.

Beginnings of Prohibition

In 1915, cannabis became illegal in Utah. By 1931, 29 more states followed. Harry Aslinger is credited with starting prohibition efforts in 1930. It took 7 years of fighting the federal government, but the Marijuana Tax Act came to be in 1937, as Aslinger’s multiple attempts were successful. Aslinger was the first commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics.

The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) began regulating the Marijuana Tax Act when it was enacted. This ultimately led to full prohibition in the U.S., criminalizing possession.

Where we are Today

Fast forward again to present-day. More than 50-percent of the United States is now cannabis-friendly, in either medical or recreational form. Controversy remains as the DEA has declined to reschedule cannabis and remove it from the list of controlled substances, classifying it as dangerous as lethal drugs like heroin.

Countries around the world are relaxing their positions on cannabis as many have decriminalized possession/use or legalized in medical or recreational form. Several countries are actively looking to change their country’s cannabis laws. The relaxed opinion regarding cannabis leans in the direction that someday, perhaps in the near future, cannabis prohibition will end.

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