The History of Cannabis Sativa

While the specifics of the history of Cannabis are a bit murky, we do know that it is a perennial plant with an origin in the Oligo-Miocene, a time period of preanthropic expansion. Many of its subspecies were domesticated during the early Neolithic, and its distribution is closely related to human settlements and trade routes. We do know that wild Cannabis spread to Europe and eastern Asia, where it eventually became known as marijuana.

The first known use of cannabis can be traced to central and Southeast Asia. The plant’s name in China, Ma, means “numbness,” and it was used for medical purposes in prehistoric times. Ancient Chinese physicians used it as a medical anesthetic by using wine and herbal extracts, and even burned cannabis seeds in shaman graves. But what is the history of cannabis in these regions?

Cannabis is classified into two subspecies, namely the narrow-leaf hemp and the broad-leaf drug. It is also a hybrid of two different species, NLD and BLD, and a variety known as BLD/NLD. Recent molecular evidence indicates that the cannabis family has ten genera, and that they diverged from one another in the Middle Cretaceous. Cannabis and Humulus have historically been grouped together in the Cannabaceae family, but Grudzinskaya (1988) added a fossil genus, Humulopsis. This makes only Humulus and Cannabis currently accepted as members of the family. Both species are vines with similar fruit composition.

Historically, hemp was domesticated in China about 12,000 years ago. Due to legal restrictions, the history of cannabis sativa has been understudied. The resulting genomic dataset includes more than 110 whole genomes of cannabis, hemp, and other drugs. Its legal status has resulted in a renewed consumer demand for the plant. However, there are still many mysteries surrounding the plant, and more studies need to be done before we know it completely.

In the Neolithic, the ancestors of hemp branched off from wild Cannabis, where it evolved into several distinct species. Later, it was transported outside of Eurasia in cultivated form. It reached Africa after 2000 years BP, and by 1545 CE, it was widely distributed around the world. With its versatile properties, cannabis is now cultivated by humans for multiple purposes. These include fibre production and drug use, such as CBD you can find at .

Cannabis sativa’s history is complicated by its various sexual phenotypes. The ratio of male flowers to female flowers determines the type of cannabis plant. Dioecious cannabis is preferred for drug production, while monoecious cannabis strains are preferred for textile fiber and pulp and paper production. Cannabis is classified into four major biotypes: BLD, NLH, and NLD. A number of cultivars are exclusively cultivated.

Evidence from fossil pollen suggests that wild Cannabis was widely distributed throughout Europe in the Pleistocene. In Europe, it may have been domesticated during the Neolithic/Copper Age. Its domestication, however, occurred in situ during the Bronze and Copper Ages. It may have reached the Iberian Peninsula in wild form during these times. There is also evidence of cultivation and hemp retting from the Middle Ages.