Cannabis is finally beginning to receive the recognition it deserves in modern society. With its recent legalization in Canada, we’ve come so far in recognizing cannabis for all of its positive potential in health and wellness. This leap towards changing the culture of cannabis, however, is occurring after decades of devising strict laws and overseeing unmerited prohibition to criminalize a plant whose benefits and uses are seemingly endless. Historically, why was the focus to ban cannabis worldwide? Where did we take the turn, and has cannabis been serving a false imprisonment all this time?
The term “Cannabis” is a catch-all phrase for a family of plants including many different plant species. This includes Cannabis sativa sativa and Cannabis sativa indica, the two commonly used strains for both recreational and medicinal purposes. It is these strains, and their compounds called cannabinoids (i.e. THC, CBD) that are making headlines in today’s news. Wild hemp, Cannabis sativa ruderalis contains low amount of cannabinoids, and is often crossed with other strains to obtain hearty, weather-resistant plants that can be used for construction of materials for clothes, ropes, and paper to name a few.
Looking back in history, one can say that the Cannabis sativa family used to have a far better reputation and was a highly respected plant due to its many uses. Building materials, medicine, and recreation… What could go wrong?
Cannabis has been used worldwide for millennia as an agricultural crop, pest repellant, building material, fuel, and medicine. The first historical findings of cultivation date back to China at about 5000 BC, although some point to cannabis being grown by humans as early as 10, 000 BC. Chinese Emperor Shen Nung provides the first record of cannabis being successfully used as medicine to relieve pain and arthritis about 4, 500 years ago. Given its high potential and the countless scientific studies done on cannabis since Emperor Shen Nung first applied it to an achy muscle, how and why did develop such a bad reputation?
The last 150 years were a quick downward spiral for cannabis. Like a fallen star, cannabis had all its shine and glimmer taken away thanks to propaganda instilling fear in North American citizens, and big businesses conspiring with governments to kick cannabis out of the industrial playing field. It began when the first Hispanic immigrants crossing the US border with cannabis around 1910. This population, often of lower class and involved in criminal offenses. As such, the use of cannabis became affiliated with poverty, crime, and there was no going back. At the same time, big manufacturing companies jumped on the opportunity to push cannabis out of paper production, which was the norm at the time, to instead use wood and oil. This has partially been the cause for declining natural habitats such as forests, and pollution of water resources. Hemp requires less chemical processing (in turn less water), and is lighter and more durable than wood. Globally, a lot has changed for cannabis, although many of its industrial and environmental benefits are not common knowledge compared to its recreational and medicinal uses.
North America, specifically the United States, is where the fight against cannabis began. It is in a way ironic that today, the US and Canadian governments are adopting total legalization (Canada) and partial legalization (Alaska, California, Maine, and Colorado). In most US States, cannabis is legal for medicinal uses. Gone are the days when its main association was with criminal activities. Today, cannabis is being researched for its incredible medicinal uses, such as anti-inflammatory benefits, reducing anxiety/depression, nausea and vomiting, and severity of muscle spasms/seizures. Retailers are booming with endless products that allow safe consumption of cannabis products in forms such as oils, topical treatments (creams, ointments), nasal spray, edibles, and vaporizer liquids to name a few.
As a result of better information and more available access, cannabis has secured its place in public discussion and is shedding much of its taboo. It is evident that the public and governments worldwide accept the medicinal properties of cannabis and no longer insist on classifying it as a drug. The benefits are too impressive to ignore, and once again it seems that cannabis is regaining its place on the pedestal.