The global history of cannabis closely follows migration patterns, conquests, and trade routes throughout history. The plant originated in Central Asia and spread quickly throughout the world. The first case of cannabis consumption is attributed to the Chinese herbalist, Emperor Shen Nung. Around 2700 BC, he categorized more than 365 medicinal herbs, many of which remain in use for Eastern medicine practices today. Scythians introduced the plant to Iran and Anatolia between 2000 and 1400 BC as they roamed the Altai Mountains, which later became part of the Silk Road. As the Silk Road began to formally take shape, cannabis was quickly introduced to Greece, Egypt, and Africa. Cannabis arrived in Spain after the Moorish invasion in the 8th century and Morocco remains one of the world’s largest producers of hashish. Spaniards brought cannabis to the Americas in the mid-1500s, where it was grown on North American plantations for rope, paper, and other fiber-based products. Jamestown settlers even imposed fines on those who didn’t produce hemp in the early 1600s. Both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson grew hemp. Cannabis enjoyed widespread global acceptance until the early 1800s.
In the early 1900s, the attitude within the United States of America toward cannabis took a pointed turn thanks to a combination of political, cultural and financial factors. American legislation prohibiting marijuana started popping up at the state level, beginning with a ban by Massachusetts in 1911. Cannabis users in the early 1900s consisted mostly of Mexican immigrants who arrived in the United States during the Mexican Revolution from 1910 to 1920, African-American jazz musicians in and around New Orleans, and Caribbean immigrants and bohemians north of New Orleans. The term used by Mexican immigrants during this time was “marihuana,” a word propagandists would later bastardize and use to encourage cannabis prohibition. Numerous states passed cannabis-prohibitive laws on the books by the time alcohol prohibition was repealed in 1933. By 1937, the American propaganda campaign had successfully woven misinformation and paranoia into the fabric of the cannabis conversation throughout the world.