Cannabis and History

“It would be wryly interesting if in human history the cultivation of marijuana led generally to the invention of agriculture, and thereby to civilization.” – Carl Sagan

Although I think Carl Sagan’s quote is more of a musing, hemp rope dating back over 10,000 years, located in the area of modern day Taiwan, puts cannabis cultivation as one of the first and oldest known agricultural crops. Cannabis seeds then quickly spread to all parts of Asia, and its first written account comes in 2,737 BCE by Emperor Shen Neng of China. By this time, the two dominant species (C. Sativa and C. Indica) of cannabis separate and start getting migrated with humans. Cannabis Indica heading to the far reaches of the East, it was mostly utilized for spiritual and medicinal needs. This made breading Indica strains with higher amounts of CBD compared to THC. This also made growers focus on “flowers” which lead to an overall structure of a short, densely branched plant with fatty leaves like a bonsai tree. As for Cannabis Sativa, it headed west and was used mostly for hemp fiber. This lead to tall, loosely branched plants with long, pinner leaves. Even though fiber from the stock was the most important use for Cannabis Sativa, people were also cultivating it for food (seeds) and medicine (flowers.) A tribe in Croatia was known to harvest all three items from one plant, rock stars!

As commerce and travel got easier, cannabis seed trading was helping to connect various landraces in a process called hybridization. By mixing the genes of Indica and Sativa plants, growers started getting the best of both worlds from a process called “hybrid vigor.” This opened the flood gates of genetic tinkering among strains. So while all “strains” have the same genetics (just as all dogs have the same general canine genes to categorize it as a species.) It is safe to say that there are over 1,000 identified strains, and an unlimited future of cross-breading.

The techniques of growing cannabis have been changing agricultural practices for centuries. We are currently looking at a new horizon in cannabis cultivation as it emergences from the basements and backyard of tax-paying citizens into the large-scale grow facilities. The impending legalization of cannabis worldwide will open the flood gates to new technologies that will lead not only to more flavorful and potent flowers of cannabis, but it will bring back a rise to hemp, which can be used for food, fiber, and fuel!

It’s been a wild ride to date, and the future looks bright for Cannabis!