A Brief History of Cannabis

The history of marijuana spans thousands of years, dating back to its original cultivation in the ancient world. In fact, burned cannabis seeds have been found in tombs dating back to 3000 B.C.

History of Marijuana

Cannabis comes from Central Asia. It acquired one of its more common names from a region called the Hindu Kush in the mountains of Northern India. To this day, many strains claim an “Afghani” lineage, referring to the timeless style of growing marijuana perfected in Afghanistan’s highlands.

The very first cannabis plants are thought to have originated near Mongolia, in the vast plains of Siberia. As nomads migrated through these lands, cannabis slowly dispersed into the greater world.

Marijuana had many uses to its first cultivators. Out of this period, our understanding of the plant developed to include the manufacture of hemp. These civilizations were the first to use hemp to make rope, clothing, linens, and a variety of other products.

Many cultures throughout history have appreciated the marijuana plant. Traces of cannabis have been found in civilizations throughout time and across the planet, including cultures you wouldn’t expect to have appreciated cannabis. For example, there is evidence that cannabis was smoked by certain Emperors of China, as well as Scandinavian Vikings and Islamic Sultans.

Cannabis in the Americas

The cannabis plant did not always have the same negative stigma attached to it as it does today. In colonial America, for example, farmers in Virginia and Massachusetts were required to grow hemp as a cash crop due to its plethora of uses. However, it was not until later that use of cannabis for its psychoactive and healing effects became widespread in America.

The history of marijuana in America is complicated. For a long time, there were no restrictions on the sale, use, or consumption of cannabis. Before 1910, there simply weren’t enough people using cannabis for it to attract the attention of federal authorities.

During the beginning of the 20th century, however, cannabis consumption began to grow as trade opened up with the rest of the world at an unprecedented rate. Along with opium, the public began to consider marijuana as a “poison”, and it was eventually regulated for the first time under a series of laws known as the “poison laws”.

In 1937, the “Marihuana Tax Act” was passed, which prohibited the possession and sale of cannabis for anything other than medical or industrial use. At the same time, anti-marijuana sentiment and general misinformation about the plant was extremely pervasive, even though the popularity of cannabis continued to grow through illicit means. Regulation of cannabis by the Congress of the United States has only continued since then. This increase in government interference defines the worldwide history of marijuana during this period.

In the 1970s, the legal status of cannabis was reexamined as the old laws were said to be outdated. Unfortunately, this process only resulted in stricter controls being placed on the sale of marijuana. However, redefining the relationship between the government and marijuana has enabled states to pursue their own destiny with regards to the plant, and many states have recently opted for recreational legalization.

Political winds in the United States seem to be moving in the direction of legalization, though history proves that progress is not a straight line. As more states and countries begin to legalize cannabis, the economic benefits will likely change people’s preconceptions about an otherwise remarkable industry.

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Kush: The Rich History (And Origin) of Kush Strains

Cali Kush, Pure Kush, Master Kush, Bubba Kush, Purple Kush, and of course, the legendary strain that inspired the Kush revolution, OG Kush. To say Kush strains are loved and revered would be an understatement! Kush strains consistently rank as some of the most popular strains, with numerous varieties taking top honors at cannabis cups across the globe (including the revered HIGH TIMES Cannabis Cup). Let's dig into the history of kush.

While Haze varieties have long had a commanding influence among Sativa-dominant strains, Kush varieties have occupied a similar position among Indica-dominants. So what’s the history behind this beloved lineage? Kush strains trace their heritage to the Hindu Kush region, an area with disputed boundaries shouldering India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. Hindu Kush is located north of Jammu and Kashmir, currently controlled by India — which Pakistan argues belongs to them. The area has a rich history, not just because of its long history of cannabis and hashish production, but for its volatility and political instability.

Nestled comfortably along stunningly gorgeous Himalayas mountain range, the environment (with its lush hillsides, fertile soil and deep valleys) is ideal for cultivating cannabis. The region has long grown some of the world’s most epic herb. To the delight of cannasseurs all over the world, the marriage of human and natural selection have consistently yielded some of the tastiest, most resinous bud known to mankind.

Hindu Kush: An Epic Landrace Strain

Not only is Hindu Kush a region made famous by its popular crop, Hindu Kush is an eponymously named landrace strain. In fact, it’s because of landrace strain that the words “Kush” and “Indica” are used interchangeably. What’s a landrace strain you ask? According to the well-known seed bank, Seed Supreme:

“A landrace strain is pure, never crossed and always grown in its natural environment: this isolation and the resulting inbreeding means these varieties are highly stable and extremely vigorous. It was only a generation or two ago that, were you talking about marijuana at all, it was one of these pure strains; you might know them from family stories of the travelling days, sampling all there was to be had on the hippy trail.”

All popular Kush strains — like Bubba Kush, Purple Kush, and Cali Kush — trace their lineage directly to Hindu Kush. Likewise, Master Kush and OG Kush, two of the most beloved Kush strains, were originally bred by legendary seed bank, Sensi Seeds. In fact, many of the best strains — including cannabis royalty AK-47 and White Widow — are grandchildren to Hindu Kush. Of course, Hindu Kush’s offspring have been genetically and commercially crossbred (so they aren’t technically landrace strains). Nonetheless, boasting a royal lineage, it should be no surprise why Kush varieties are so popular.

The Hippie Trail

How did Kush strains make their way to Europe and the New World? You may have heard about the Hippie Trail. The Hippie Trail was made famous by subculture seekers in the mid-1960s through the late 1970s. Many a beatnik and hippie made the overland journey, traversing Europe to South Asia (specifically Pakistan, India, and Nepal). A popular alt-tourist destination, North Americans and Europeans (particularly members of the Brotherhood of Eternal Love) made the pilgrimage bringing back with them Hindu Kush seeds.

Ultimately (and quite tragically), in 1973, Afghanistan’s self-installed president assumed power from the previously hash-friendly King, and conceded to pressure by the Nixon Administration. That same year, the new president outlawed hash and cannabis. Ultimately, the president was overthrown by communists in 1978. Not long after, the Soviets invaded, and the region has been in turmoil ever since (with a succession of long and bloody conflicts).

Ask an aging hippie about pre-war Afghani hash, and you’ll be in for a trip down memory lane. The profound impact of Hindu Kush on Western cannabis cultivation can’t be understated. The Kush strains from this region revolutionized production. Indica strains are more versatile (from a growing perspective) than Sativa strains. By introducing these marvels of nature to the genetic pool, growers were able to dramatically shorten flowering times, while being able to be cultivated in cold and remote areas, like Alaska.

Unfortunately, because many Kush strains have specially bred to be as potent as possible, the term “Kush” isn’t always associated with its rich heritage. More often, they’re known for having sky high THC (which is not always true). Consequently, in Europe and the U.S, many legislators have pushed for harsher penalties for possession (or sale) of Kush strains. (Ironically, with the blessing of the British government, “baby-pharma” company, GW Pharmaceuticals, have been legally cultivating Kush strains for medicinal purposes for years.) Nonetheless, Kush strains will continue to occupy a special place in cannabis culture. So next time you enjoy a nice Kush (and its accompanying “couch lock”), don’t forget to hug a hippie!


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