Cannabis History - Detailed Timeline

Cannabis History - Detailed Timeline


A detailed time line on the history of cannabis. Main article: Cannabis.

10 000 BC - 0 BC

●10,000 to 3,000 BC – earliest record of cannabis fiber use in Taiwan
●5,000 BC – Mid-Neolithic use of hemp fiber
●621 BC – cannabis use was suppressed in Hebrew temples
●400 BC – evidence of cannabis smoking in Mongolia

0 BC - 1000 AD

●~70 – Greek physician Penadius Dioscorides wrote about the medical properties of cannabis in his book De Materia Medica.
●~ 80 – Cultivation of hemp became common in Roman Empire.
●~100 – Hua Tuo, a Chinese physician noted the medical analgesic properties of cannabis.
●~300 – Cannabis noted as a main crop for fiber.
●~ 400 – Cultivation of hemp reached Britain.
●~680 – Cannabis use spread across the middle east with the expansion of Islamic faith.
●~1000 – The recreational use of hashish was well documented in the Arabic world.


●1090 – Nizari Imaili sect of the Shiite schism of the Islamic religion was founded, later to be known as the Hashshashin.
●1150 – First paper mill in Europe produced paper made from hemp.
●1155 – Cannabis discovered in Persia by Haydar, founder of the Persian Sufi Hyderi sect
●~1200 – During the Crusades, the Christians could not fathom how the Hashshashin were so devoted, and it was attributed to drug use – hashish got its bad reputation.
●1256 – The Hashshasin sect broke apart when the Mongols conquered Persia.
●~1271 – Marco Polo wrote about the story of the Old Man of the Mountains in Persia. The story tells of the Hashshashin, now known as the Assasins, known for their consumption of cannabis and ruthless cruelty. Despite the name, it is not certain if they even used hashish at all. ‘Hassass’ is the Arabic verb for ‘to kill’, and this is another proposed derivation for the word ‘assassin’.
●~1300 – The Crusaders brought the term ‘assasin’ to Europe. It not longer denoted the Hashshashin, but meant ‘brutal murder’ to Europeans, and was associated with hashish. They though it had no connection with hemp, which was to them a source of fiber.
●1400’s – Hemp flowers were used a folk medicine in Europe.
●1456 – Johan Gutenberg printed the Bible on hemp paper.
●1484 – Persecution of witches began in Europe, and cannabis was demonized once again as it was an essential part of their ‘witchcraft’.
●1500’s – Cannabis was largely unknown as an intoxicant to Europeans. The sixteenth century saw an increase in travel, and merchants begun to bring back spices, fruits, metals, timber, and drugs – primarily hashish and opium.
●1510 – Portuguese merchants were among the first to bring back hashish.
●1533 – King Henry VIII issued a royal proclamation which imposed a fine on any farmer that did not set aside some of his land for hemp production, due to the fact that large amounts of hemp were needed for the navy.
●1538 – The first English botanist William Turner Praised hemp as a medicine in his book New Herbal.


●1606 – First experimental planting of hemp in Canada by Louis Herbert, founder of Quebec.
●1633 – Russia supplied 90% of England’s hemp.
●1682 – Hemp was legal tender in Virginia, for up to a quarter of a farmer’s debt
●1718 – Irish spinners and weavers arrived in Boston, and over the next twenty years, spun hemp and gave birth to the American textile industry.
●1733 – South Carolina employed Richard Hall to promote the cause of Hemp, he was cannabis’ first public relations officer. Around the same time, many other states were promoting the production of hemp.
●1765 – Stamp Act imposed a tariff on imported goods, thus the American colonies became self-sufficient in textile production. They had a grudge against Britain because they were expected to produce raw materials for export, and then had to buy finished goods.
●1776 – First draft of Declaration of Independence was written on hemp paper.
●1783 – Cannabis was reclassified into two main species, sativa and indica, by French naturalist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck.
●1790 – Cannabis and derivatives were taxed in Britain, to produce revenue for the debt of the East India Company. Alcohol and tobacco were taxed as well. There was some debate as to whether or not ban bhang, ganja, and charas, as they were seen as Indian hemp drugs. The Governor-General wanted all drugs banned, but the British declined, cannabis was too good of a source for tax revenue.
●1798 – Napoleon invaded Egypt to destroy British trade, but his navy was destroyed and the troops were marooned. As an Islamic country, alcohol was unavailable, so the French troops took to hash.
●1800 – A ban was imposed on hash for the French troops in Egypt, but it was ineffective. When the British blockade was lifted, troops were allowed to go back home, and with them they brought hash. It became well known in France.
●~1800 – European writes turned to opium to boost their creativity, and then cannabis soon followed. These writers consumed hashish and cannabis regularly into the mid nineteenth century, and brought it to Europe.


●1800’s – Hemp was being exported by Italy to surrounding European countries, and mass produced in the southern American states. It was seen as a ‘nigger crop’, always managed by black slaves.
●1809 – An Arabic scholar identified the word ‘assasin’ with hashish and Hashshashin, and published his findings to the Institute of France on May 19. He was correct in his etymology, but did not assert that it was a derogatory word and that the Hashshashin (Assassins) were not actual hash users. He brought into modern times the belief that the Assassins were hash users, and it evoked their brutal ways.
●1820 – European interest in the exotic orient was widespread; Chinese porcelain, Persian carpets, Indian tapestries, etc.
●1830’s – Rapid increase in hemp machinery, which eventually took over slave work in America.
●1840 – Cannabis tinctures were available in pharmacies, along with opium.
●1842 – An Irish doctor by the name of William O’Shaughnessy gave some hashish to Peter Squire and asked him to make an extract. This would later become known as Tilden’s Extract.
●1849 – Chinese brought opium smoking to America with the California Gold Rush, and white Americans identified opium smoking with the Chinese foreigners. They were considered the ‘yellow peril’, slowly degenerating and destroying white American society.
●1850’s – European literature has made its way to America. However, American literature about drug-taking in America was more to inform than to entertain. At the same time, cannabis began to appear in dispensatories (physicians textbooks) and was listed as an antibiotic and analgesic. Doctors still preferred opiates because they were water-soluble, and could readily be injected as a painkiller. A large amount of research was being done on cannabis in the mid and late nineteenth century, and it was being praised by doctors all around. Over the next century, this would change.
●1854 – Bayard Taylor, the first American to write about hashish, accidentally overdosed and had a horrific experience. He published a story called ‘The Hasheesh Eater’ (sometimes referred to as ‘The Vision of Hasheesh’) in Putnam’s Monthly Magazine the following year. Fitz Ludlow experimented with hashish for the first time this year, (Tilden’s Extract), and then enticed his friends at Union College to do so as well.
●1856 – Ludlow had graduated but he was addicted to Hashish, taking large doses every day. He came across Taylor’s article, and asked for help in breaking his addiction.
●1857 – Ludlow published ‘The Hasheesh Eater’ and autobiographical book about his problems and addiction to hashish. Through his overactive imagination and prolific writing, hashish was considered more dangerous and addictive than opium, and parts of this notion remain around today.
●~1850 – In Britain, drug consumption was rather rare. There were no hashish houses in London, and no literature on the subject as in America and France. Alcohol was overly popular, unlike America’s somewhat puritanical take towards it around that time.
●1865 – The need for hemp began to decrease. After the Civil war, cotton became more valuable as it could be sold overseas, steel cables began to replace hemp ropes, etc. Drug consumption also gained popularity and widespread acceptance in America. This was partially due to the wounded soldiers coming back addicted to opium form the Civil War.
●1868 – The Pharmacy Act declared that pharmacists and chemists became the overseers of drugs.
●1870 – First laws against cannabis were enacted in America, because it was thought that it made the Indian coolies ill and indigent. The laws were ignored, as mine operators found that their workers were more productive if they were allowed smoke breaks periodically.
●1871 – The use of cannabis in India was being inspected by the British, and how it affected the natives. Three years later, concern rose about the detrimental effects of ganja when reports reached London.
●1875 – First opium laws were passed in San Francisco and then across the American nation, aimed at reducing Chinese influence but said to protect white youth from the destructive habit they brought with them.
●1877 – Cannabis was blamed by Indian administrators as the cause of a lazy work force. In fact, it was poor nutrition, housing, medical care, and hygiene, but this was ignored. The British began to agree.
●1879 – It was believe that the Zulus (Africans) used cannabis during war battles with Britain.
●1880’s – Many cannabis medications and tinctures were being produced be pharmaceutical companies. Hashish painkiller, marijuana and tobacco snuff, and even marijuana cigarettes were advertised as remedies for all sorts of ailments. It was very difficult to assess a proper dose though, as cannabis tinctures were not pure and settled quickly – this resulted in many documentations of cannabis poisoning. As a recreational drug, cannabis was never as popular as opium because it didn’t act right away, and opium was available as laudanum or other mixtures ready for consumption. Cannabis was widely used in South America by peasant farmers, brought there originally from Spain and Portugal.
●1885’s – Synthetic drugs such as aspirin began to emerge. They were easier to standardize, and control. It was the age of optimism and faith in scientific potential. The British Medical Association began to campaign for these new synthetic drugs, and doctors became more aware of them. Around this time, recreational cannabis use hit Britain as it had hit France fifty years earlier.
●1887 – Supreme Court Judge Walter Wragg lead a commission which declared cannabis dangerous to white rule and stability. The ways were tightened, but with no effect, as it was very difficult to police thousands of square miles where cannabis was used.
●1890 – CBN was identified.
●1894 – The Indian Hemp Drugs Commission published an unpartisan and objective 3500 page report on the effects of cannabis in on the people on India, in response to a request to do so by William Caine. This still remains the most thorough and official study performed on cannabis to this day. The summary was the cannabis produced virtually no evils, and if the governor wanted to restrict its use, the best way to do so would be by taxation.
●1895 – American chemists isolated what they thought was the active component in cannabis. Two years later, C. R. Marshall proved that cannabis lost it’s potency due to oxidation. Breakthroughs were made in cannabis research, but it was all too late. Around this time synthetics were quickly rising in popularity, and doctors became responsible for the distribution of drugs through controlled prescription systems.


●1900’s – Hashish use had gained widespread popularity in Britain, and many people were publicizing it’s use. It was a time of freedom of expression and personal liberty, but this didn’t last. Concern began to rise about drug-taking, and attitudes began to change, with concern came fear. Cannabis use was largely unseen in America, but a ‘new’ way of consuming it appeared as smoking the dried leaves and flowers. Drug use was identified with ethnic minorities and foreigners, and it was deemed ‘un-American’. As with the Chinese and opium, cocaine use by African slaves was prevalent in the southern states, and it was said that it endangered the white population as they would rise up and attack white folks. Now came along cannabis. Hemp had been grown for it’s fiber, but it’s psychoactive potential was unknown to the white population. The black slaves knew of it form their experience with dagga, and consumed it just the same. It was, however, the Spanish and Portuguese that brought it into the main stream. Cannabis was popular in Mexico by now, and it slowly crept up into Texas and the southern states. Jazz musicians were using marijuana in this time, and slaves and laborers began to seek it was opium and cocaine became harder to obtain.
●1908 – Opium importation was banned in Canada.
●1909 – Kentucky, the ‘hemp state’, had only 6800 acres of hemp being farmed. Hemp has seen it’s day, as a fiber at least. This year the International Opium Commission met for the first time, but nothing was accomplished.
●1910 – The revolution that overthrew Diaz in Mexico caused a further increase in immigration into America, and the Mexicans brought cannabis smoking with them.
●1911 – The International Opium Commission met to discuss a framework for international drug legislation, but only 12 countries were present. Cannabis was mentioned, but nothing was discussed in terms of reducing abuse. Cocaine importation was banned in Canada. Britain began legislating against drug trafficking at the Hague Convention.
●1914 – A city by-law was put in place in El Paso banning the sale or possession of marijuana after a serious fight broke out between a marijuana user – a Mexican. Other cities followed suit, and soon southern state legislatures began to lobby Washington for federal action. The Harrison Narcotic Act was enacted this year, forcing doctors, pharmacists, and licensed dealers to maintain records of drug transactions. Cannabis was seen as a low priority because it was a common medicine, so it was excluded in the later drafts of the act. However, states began passing their own cannabis laws.
●1916 – Pancho Villa, who helped Francisco Madero overthrow Diaz but later was arrested by General Victoriano Huerta, escaped prison and fled to America where he attacked the military outpost of Columbus, New Mexico with the help of troops that were loyal to him. A well known Mexican folk song tells the story of Villa’s foot soldiers, titled ‘La Cucaracha’, and this is where the American slang for a joint butts comes from – a roach. DORA 40B act made supplying cocaine or opium to troops a serious offence in Britain, and came into existence because the Canadian troops were using cocaine.
●1918 – Egypt had been having great difficulty in controlling cannabis use and possession for he half half-century, because the authorities were allowed to sell whatever they confiscated overseas – but they simply sold it into local markets. Russel Pasha, commandant of the Cairo Police was adamant on controlling what he called ‘white drugs’, namely cocaine, heroin, and morphine, because be thought they were much more dangerous than hashish and raw opium. The authorities disagreed and ordered him to tighten his grip on all drugs.
●1919 – Alcohol was prohibited in America, and anti-drug lobbies were now in a full force attempt to ‘clean up’ America.
●1920 – Canada considered redrafting its narcotic laws, and police magistrate and feminist Emily F. Murphy was asked by Macleans Magazine to write several articles on Canada’s drug problem. She fabricated what she couldn’t find, and took information from American publications, and relied heavily on hearsay.
●1923 – South African government attempted to have cannabis banned, but the British refused as it was still a source of tax revenue in India. Canadian authorities added marijuana to the Opium and Narcotics act of 1923, even thought the substance was almost completely absent in the country for another ten years.
●1924 – A third species of cannabis was distinguished, ruderalis, by Russian botanist Janischewski. By this time, cannabis use was widespread across the globe. Excepting Western Europe, the Americas, and Oceana, the general population knew of cannabis and its recreational potential. The Geneva International Commission on Narcotic Control was set up this year by the International Opium Commission, and it was decided that the exporting of hashish would be restricted to medicinal and scientific usage.
●1927 – In and around this time, it was commonly believed that marijuana made the Mexicans insane, and was the cause of crime and violence in society. See ‘Mexican family goes insane’, New York Times - datelined Mexico City, July 6th 1927.
●1930 – The Federal Bureau of Narcotics (later to become the DEA) came into existence to enforce drugs laws, and Harry J. Anslinger was assigned first commissioner. At first, he only targeted cocaine and opium, but the FBN was soon in trouble. As the Depression caused a major budget cut, Anslinger needed a new target, and it was marijuana. He began to demonize it, with the un-acclaimed help of William Radolf Hearst who popularized the word marijuana in his newspaper, then spelled with an ‘h’, as a criminal substance undermining American culture. His sensationalism worked extremely well in selling newspapers and attracting the attention of the white population. Marijuana possession was outlawed in Panama, as the American troops situated in the Canal Zone had picked up the habit of cannabis smoking from the Mexicans. CBD was identified in this year as well. The increase in Mexicans immigrating to America was viewed negatively, and damaged Mexico’s relationship with America. They took union workers jobs, accepted low wages, and brought marijuana with them wherever they went and were blamed for many ills of society. Marijuana was labeled an alien drug smoked by Mexicans, and it was commonly used by blacks as well throughout America, but the fact that white people had been using the same substance as a medicine had been overlooked.
●1930’s ~ New York took over Chicago and New Orleans as the city of Jazz, where it became very popular among a variety of ethnic groups. The black Jazz musicians were known to smoke marijuana, as explicit lyrics would commonly suggest.
●1931 – The League of Nations decreed that all heroin exportation would cease.
●1933 – Alcohol was re-legalized, and emphasis switched from alcohol to drug use. Thirty three states had cannabis laws in place.
●1935 – Public awareness had dramatically increased as newspaper articles poured out blaming the downfalls of society on illegal drugs and ethnic minorities. In this year, Du Pont began to lobby the US Treasury Department to suppress hemp. Allegedly, several individuals such as Andrew Mellon held substantial shares in Gulf Oil and other petrochemical and pulp paper industries, and stood to loose billions of dollars if the commercial potential of hemp was fully realized.
●1936 – The Conference for the Suppression of the Illicit Traffic in Dangerous Drugs dealt with addressing the criminality of trafficking, and there soon appeared many international legislations and laws to reduce illegal activity. Many of them were not followed by individual countries because they wanted changes made to protect their own interests – but it was the USA that carried out most of the laws and this would impact the decades to come.
●1937 – The Marihuana Tax Act was passed, effectively controlling the social use of marijuana. It imposed a heavy tax on cannabis, including hemp, and destroyed the slowly fading hemp industry. New funding for the FBN was allocated, and Anslinger had accomplished his goal. A competition over public headlines had been present between Anslinger of the FBN and Hoover of the FBI, about who would eradicate more criminals for some years. Hoover was to win by a matter of publicity, as Nazi’s, Communists, and spies were seen as a greater thread than Mexican marijuana users – so Anslinger played up the thread that was now knows as the ‘Killer Weed’. William C. Woodward of the American Medical Association strongly opposed the Marihuana Tax Act, saying it help no scientific basis and was rushed with undue haste. It didn’t help that AMA was mostly Republican and the administration was Democratic, and thus the objections were overruled, and the bill was guided through Senate by the chairman who was a close friend of Du Pont.




●2015 - (add dates, weeks, months, etc) Colorado, Oregon, Alaska, and Washington legalize cannabis

Currently being expanded
Category: Cannabis


1. Booth, Martin. (2003). Cannabis A History. London, Great Britain: Transworld Publishers.

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