A History of Medical Cannabis Part 1: Ancient Cannabis

Medical Cannabis is known by many names.

Whether you call it; ganja, weed, dope, grass, or the medical cannabis, it all means the same thing. Cannabis is one of the earliest plants known to be harvested by man. In fact, the oldest human artifact on record is an ancient sandal made from cannabis fibers known as hemp. The fibers of the cannabis plant were used in the oldest civilizations like Rome, Assyria, Egypt and China.
Some of the oldest known medicine was also made from cannabis. The earliest record of medical marijuana use was in 2900 BC by Chinese Emperor Fu. He and a majority of his citizens used the herb for medicinal purposes. From treating headaches and nausea to acting as an aphrodisiac, the ancient Chinese were pioneers in cannabis research.

Over the centuries, marijuana was used medicinally all over the world.

Many festivities and religious ceremonies involved cannabis as well. Cannabis was so important to ancient religious rites that it was an integral part of many rites including the process of anointing. Early Christians were well aware of how cannabis worked and used it in many of their most sacred rituals.
Christians inherited many of their religious practices directly from the Hebrews. The word Christ actually means ‘the anointed one’ and many scholars believe that Christ was anointed with chrism, a cannabis-based oil. The ancient recipe for this oil recorded in Exodus (30:22-23), included over 9 pounds of cannabis flower which the Hebrews called kaneh-bosem.
The Hebrews extracted the cannabis into about 11 pints of olive oil. This cannabis concoction was then mixed with a variety of other herbs and spices in very specific ways. The mixture was normally used in anointing and rituals that would allow the priests and prophets to commune with the divine.

Cannabis was used by more than just the ancient Chinese and Hebrews though.

India has a deep and long history with the plant.  Ancient chefs created a drink known as bhang out of cannabis paste, milk and spices. Shiva is said to have loved the drink so much that he took the title “Lord of Bhang”. Bhang has remained a medical remedy/ preferred beverage in India for centuries and is prepared there to this day. Zoroaster is also said to have listed cannabis as the most important of 10,000 medicinal plants.
The Indian Hemp Drugs Commission described the history and culture of cannabis in India: “To the Hindu the hemp plant is holy. A guardian lives in the bhang leaf… To see in a dream the leaves, plant, or water of bhang is lucky… No good thing can come to the man who treads underfoot the holy bhang leaf. A longing for bhang foretells happiness.”
Cannabis has been popular in India since the beginning of recorded history and is often drank. Nuts and spices like; almonds, pistachios, poppy seeds, pepper, ginger and sugar are mixed with cannabis and boiled in milk. Yogurt can also be used instead of milk. While popular in the east, bhang has never caught on with western pallets the same way.

Romans used Medical Cannabis as well.

The Greek physician Pedanius Dioscorides from around 40-90AD was a Roman army doctor who traveled widely on campaigns throughout the Roman empire. He studied many plants, gathering his knowledge and assembling it into a book he titled De Materia Medica (On Medical Matters).
Published around 70AD, De Materia Medica became the most important medical text for the next 1500 years. Virtually all medical texts were based off of this single work. Within its pages were contained the most important and useful plants known to mad. Included in the tome was cannabis, both kannabis emeros and kannabis agria, the male and female respectively. Dioscorides stated bluntly that the plant used in the making of rope also produced a juice that treated earache and suppress sexual longing.

Even the Egyptians were into medical cannabis.

In the ancient world, Egypt was a center of trade and information. Their position at the mouth of the Nile provided a base of strength for millennia. Part of that strength was advanced medical techniques that were passed down through the use of writing. Ancient Egyptian doctors and pharmacologists would use papyrus to record their work.
One of the oldest texts to survive to modernity is the 2nd century Fayyum Medical Papyrus. This ancient Egyptian text is believed to contain the earliest record of cannabis as an ingredient in cancer medicine. While they didn’t record enough for us to assess the successes of ancient Egyptian cancer treatments, cannabis continues to receive interest as a cancer therapy today.
Cannabis pollen was even found on the mummy of Ramesses II. He was a powerful Pharaoh who died in 1213 BC. It is unclear how the cannabis was used but prescriptions for cannabis in Ancient Egypt also included treatment for the eyes (glaucoma), inflammation, cooling the uterus, as well as administering enemas.

Cannabis is actually new to the Americas.

By the late 1700s, American medical journals began recommending hemp seeds and roots for the treatment of inflamed skin, incontinence and venereal disease. But it was Irish doctor William O’Shaughnessy who first popularized marijuana’s medical use in England and America.
O’Shaughnessy was a physician with the British East India Company during the years leading up to the American Revolution. He found marijuana eased the pain of rheumatism and was helpful against discomfort and nausea. Patients were prescribed cannabis most for cases of rabies, cholera and tetanus. Truly, Dr. O’shaughnessy was an integral part of the rise of medical cannabis in Europe and the Americas.

In the age of scientific innovation, cannabis was in medical texts.

In 1621, medical marijuana made its way into the English Mental Health Book, the most popular medicinal textbook from the time. Of all the things it could have suggested, it recommends marijuana to treat depression, the same as modern scientific research has shown.
Early Settlers had cannabis but mainly used it for fiber. The Jamestown settlers brought the marijuana plant specialized to produce fiber commonly known as hemp, to North America in 1611.
Throughout the colonial period, hemp fiber was an important export. By 1762, cannabis cultivation can become so common that Virginia awarded bounties for hemp culture and manufacture along with imposing penalties on those who did not produce it.

It wasn’t until the 1900’s that cannabis lost its medical, economic and spiritual prominence.

With the invention of television and the consolidation of media during the 1900s, cannabis moved from medical staple to outcast with surprising speed. Due to the efforts of Larry Anslinger and his associates, medical cannabis was stripped from medical texts and scientists were effectively banned from studying it.
Top image: Bigstock

European Cannabis News Update

European Cannabis News Update – The Highs and Lows

It seems that the news coming out of America pertaining to cannabis is quite abundant. Things, however, are quite different in Europe. This does not mean that there isn’t any news surrounding cannabis coming from Europe. In fact, there have been several recent updates. Let’s take a look at some of the recent developments with cannabis in Europe.
CROATIA: Back in October of 2015, Croatia decided to soften the relevant legislation and legalized cannabis for medical use. This made them the very first country in the Balkans to permit legal access to medical cannabis for patients who suffer from serious illnesses. The purchase of marijuana, however can only be made legally from pharmacies. The Croatia government has partnered with a Canadian company to import its products to Croatia for distribution. Patients will have access to two varieties of liquid capsules that contain the active medicinal ingredients found in cannabis. This shows great progress as this will be the first export of Canadian cannabis. It is a big step for Croatia. The health ministry warned that it remains illegal to grow marijuana and that medical marijuana can only be legally prescribed by doctors.
ITALY: Recently the Italian government made a decision to update their draconian cannabis laws including ones that could have prosecuted scientists that worked in labs that performed medical marijuana research. The recent changes to the law now prevent this kind of situation from occurring. This was a good start, however, it did not do much for patients who utilize cannabis as a medicine. On July 25th, legislation was presented in Italy’s lower house that proposes the legalization of cannabis as well as a distribution system. Italy’s Parliament will continue debating other cannabis-friendly legal reforms and will also discuss adult-use. Politicians will have to decide if the bill will pass through to the upper house for a final approval.  Senator and Deputy Foreign Minister Benedetto Della Vedova, expressed his support openly for both cannabis legalization and the parliamentary group(Intergruppo Cannabis Legale) that supports more cannabis friendly policies.
GERMANY: Germany is the biggest country in Europe and every change in German Cannabis policy has a big impact in the European Union. Germany’s Minister of Health, Hermann Groehe, announced that next year the country will start a medical cannabis program. With Germany being the biggest country in Europe, this also means that they will be home to the largest population of individuals who would benefit from legalization. For many years, the Netherlands has been the primary source for German patients to obtain cannabis. As Cannabis has become more popular over the last few years, the Netherlands can no longer guarantee that they can keep up with the demand going forward. Also, the German population has realized that the cost would be cheaper for them if they built their own supply chain. They plan to cultivate and produce their own medicinal marijuana and the cost for the patients’ treatment is expected to be covered by their insurance companies. German Justice plays a catalytic role in these changes. Just recently the German Court ruled that a seriously ill man has the right to grow his own medical marijuana when he asked for his right to be confirmed. The German Federal Administrative Court (the highest court in the German justice system) made a landmark decision(one that cannot be appealed or overturned) and ruled in favor of a multiple sclerosis patient’s rights to cultivate their own cannabis at home for medical purposes.
ENGLAND: A few months before the infamous Brexit occurred, there was a big debate on whether the policy of the country should change to be softer than it was. A grassroots movement campaigned for that change and managed to collect more than 200,000 signatures for a petition requesting a more cannabis friendly legal framework. As with every debate, all the opinions were heard. Some studies performed by the Institute for Social and Economical Research made predictions that a legal cannabis market would cut the UK deficit by £1.25 billion. The government seemed to realize the economic aspect of the issue and that legalization could mean huge profits during these difficult times of economic crisis.  Despite the fact that the debate surrounding legalization is still pending in England, events such as the Product Earth Expo are showing promise for the future.
Unfortunately, we cannot report that things are equally promising in France.
FRANCE: Although France wants to be known as a liberal and free country, when it comes to Cannabis, the laws are very strict. Cannabis use has been illegal in the country since 1970. Even the smallest of amounts are punishable by one year in prison and a $4,200 fine. In a recent interview, the socialist minister Jean-Marie Le Guen stated that “prohibition had not caused drug use to fall”, and members of his party expressed their disappointment and called decriminalization “a bad idea.” The one and only medical cannabis product that was supposed to be legally available in the country since January of 2014, is still not available for those who need it. Many individuals speculate that the reason why stems directly to the French alcohol industry as they see cannabis as a threat, just like the alcohol industry in the U.S.