The Columbian / Associated Press

5 things to know on 420: Some facts about marijuana

In honor of Clark County’s first legal celebration of 420 — the marijuana culture holiday that falls on April 20 — we thought we’d list some lesser-known facts about cannabis.

(A farmer smokes hashish near the northern Afghan city of Mazar-e-Sharif on Sept. 11, 2002. Many people in the region grow illegal cannabis to smoke or export. -MINDAUGAS KULBIS/Associated Press)
(A farmer smokes hashish near the northern Afghan city of Mazar-e-Sharif on Sept. 11, 2002. Many people in the region grow illegal cannabis to smoke or export. -MINDAUGAS KULBIS/Associated Press)

The Columbian’s new Cannabis Chronicles website also launches today at http://cannabis-chronicles.com, with news, reviews, videos, links, a calendar and more.

Here are some facts about marijuana that you may not know:

1) Medicinal history

The use of cannabis as a medicine dates back thousands of years. The first descriptions of “ma,” the Chinese word for cannabis, date to the first century, A.D., although its use may actually predate that by several centuries. In ancient China, it was used to treat menstrual pain, gout, rheumatism, malaria, constipation and absentmindedness. It was also later used as a surgical agent to ease pain.

2) Social sipping

In India, a cannabis-derived drink called bhang has been used much like alcohol for centuries. The drink was and still is sometimes used in social and religious gatherings. And during the Middle Ages, Indian warriors often drank it before going into battle to relieve panic and stress associated with fighting.

3) Rome and Europe

The ancient Romans documented the plant’s use to make rope, and cannabis juice was noted as a good treatment for earaches. That knowledge spread to Europe, and cannabis was used to treat ear problems through the Middle Ages.

4) Hashish

Arabs discovered how to make hashish nearly 1,000 years ago from the sticky resin, or kief, that collects on the plant’s leaves and flowers. Hashish was used by Haydar, the Persian founder of a religious order of Sufis, starting in 1155 A.D. The Sufis used the drug as a mind-expander and means of spiritual insight. During that time, many other Arab groups looked down on the Sufis as sort of the hippies of their day. The Sufis were accused by other groups of insanity, of undermining the work ethic, and of sexual deviance, although the Sufis themselves said the drug gave them otherwise unattainable insights into themselves.

5) In the United States

Marijuana has only been illegal in the United States for the past 70 years or so. The first anti-drug laws in this country were created in 1914 as part of the Harrison Tax Act, which was applied to opium, morphine and cocaine and their derivatives. At that time, cannabis was still legal and a component in many patent medicines. From 1915 to 1937, 27 states passed laws against the use of marijuana, including Washington state. The drug became federally illegal in 1937. President Richard Nixon’s “War on Drugs” ramped things up further, after passage of the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970.

Source: “Marijuana — The First Twelve Thousand Years,” by Ernest L. Abel.

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