The History of Cannabis and its cousin Hemp

Regardless of the reason behind, if you are reading this post is because you are interested on knowing more about the Cannabis history. 

With the CBD boom in full swing, many people still unaware of the significant role of hemp throughout human history.

On this timeline, we are starting from the very first time archeologist and historians found evidence of the cannabis plant being used by humans until the present.

Let’s see how it all started.

10000 BC-The beginnings-

The first traces of hemp were found in Asian regions that are now modern-day China and Taiwan.
Archaeologists discovered a piece of potter including hempen cord and stone beater which was used to pound the hemp.

A humans drew that appears to be a recognisable hemp leaf has been found in a cave in Japan on the island of Okinoshima.

8000 BC

A relic found belonging to this era suggests that hemp was one of the first plant cultivated by humans.

People on the current region of Taiwan, started to spin hemp fibres to make fabrics, they not longer need to rely on animal pelt.

3500 BC - Egypt-

Hemp is used to made ropes for the construction of the pyramids in Egypt.

Shortly after this, also appears in traditional Hebrew anointment oil rituals.

2735 BC -China-

Chinese Emperor Shen Nung often referred to as Yan Emperor (the divine farmer) is credited with bringing agriculture to ancient China. He made recommendations for using cannabis in tea infusions.

1550 BC -The Ebers papyrus-

It’s a remarkable collection of papyrus scrolls and one of the oldest medical records in existence mentioning hemp in several of its formulations.

1340 BC -Back to Egypt-

Hemp shows up again in Egypt as a piece of cloth in the tomb of pharaoh Akhenaten. Other research found pollen of the plant on the mummy of Ramses II (as well as in other royal tombs).

One of their gods, Seshat the goddess of wisdom,  is often depicted with a cannabis leaf above its head in hieroglyphics.

600 BC -Arrival to Europe -

Hemp is brought to Greece and Russia during migrations from Asia.
After this, it spreads into the rest of Europe and starts to be heavily harvested.

Hindu  religious texts refers to cannabis as “bhang” which literally translates as “good narcotic”, is used on rituals as one of the five sacred plants.

140 BC -Hemp paper-

The first and oldest hemp paper known, is dated back to this period. It was discovered in China (1957) and noted as being tough, durable and waterproof.

Circa 79 -Romans-

After the eruption of Mt Vesuvius in Pompeii carbonised hemp seeds were discovered by archaeologists.

Romans also made cannabis pastries at their parties.

Pliny the elder, mention the use of hemp to make ropes.


A Chinese doctor mentions the use of hemp in some of his notes.

400 -Britain-

Romans bring hemp to Britain where for the first time is cultivated at Old Buckenham Mare.

800 -Vikings-

Vikings use hemp for sailcloth, fishing lines and consume seeds on their way to Northern America.

1150 -Persians-

Persian Saint Haydar discovering the mental effects of cannabis on the mind.

1492 -The Americas-

On his way to the new lands, Christopher Columbus, used sailcloth and ropes made entirely from hemp due its toughness and durability.

Canvas has its name originated from the word cannabis as the sailcloths were entirely made with hemp.

1533 -Henry VIII-

In this year, the king started to require British farmers to grow hemp. If refused, they would be in breach of the law.

1600 -Hemp arrives to the Americas-

Cannabis plant is native the the Americas and was brought in the 1600s by European explores. It will become the most import cash crop there.

1762 -Hemp as tender-

Hemp is used as legal tender, and it has a bigger value than cash in these times. A few years later, the Constitution of the United States was written on hemp paper.

1800 -Napoleon-

Napoleon bans Cannabis in Egypt because of its heavy use by his troops.
Thomas Jefferson, George Washington and John Adams grow hemp as a business.

Hemp is the most robust and most durable natural fibre in the world and it’s known to have more than 25000 uses. That includes textiles, cooking, cosmetics and building materials. It can even help in the fight against deforestation.

1850 -US farming-

At this time, more than 8000 hemp farms were estimated in the US.


Britain starts to import Hemp from Russia as they came up with cheaper and better ways to harvest and process the plant.

Cannabis starts to be used more commonly in the US for recreational purposes, and it quickly becomes popular and widespread.

1906 -US president Roosevelt-

He signed “The pure food and drug act”, the first federal law regulating labelling of products such as alcohol, foods and drugs.

1928 -The age of Prohibition-

Things are starting to change, a US government-backed media and public opinion against hemps starts. It’s believed this is tracked back to the competition between hemp farmers on one hand, and the cotton farmers and timber business on the other. Hemp represented a threat as is a much more efficient source of fibre and possibly paper.

Cannabis has been outlawed on the Geneva international drug conference. This resolution convinced Britain that Cannabis was a threat to society and as dangerous as opium.

Despite this setback, cannabis continues to be available through the NHS until the early 70s.

1937 -Cannabis tax act-

American congress passes the Cannabis tax act, which effectively began the cannabis – and therefore hemp- prohibition era.

It was opposed by the American medical Association. The act made cannabis impossible to be prescribed. 

Some historians believe that the wealthiest man in America at the time, Andrew Melon, secretary of the treasury and a nylon manufacturer, wasn’t in favour of hemp. The reason behind? The wide use of hemp for industrial purposes would damage his financial assets on the nylon business.

1940 -First cannabinoid-

British chemist Robert S. Cahn discovers the cannabinol (CBN).

1941 -Hemp car-

Ford motor company produced an automobile composed of 70% from hemp fibre and 30% resin binder. Also is designed to run on hemp seed oil.
However, with the already restrictions around hemp in place, this car never saw general production.

1942 -CBD discovery-

American Chemist Roger Adams isolates cannabinoid (CBD)

1961 -United Nations decision-

Against the most respectable scientific advise of the day and evidence, the UN places cannabis into the same danger category as narcotics, opioids and cocaine.

This decision appears to be based on economics and politics rather than scientific or public health reasons.

1968 -British research-

The British government carried and study on cannabis and concluded that the long term use of cannabis in moderation has no harmful affects.

1971 -Change in UK legal status-

Despite the previous study, cannabis was removed from the British Pharmacopoeia and reclassified overnight as a scheduled 1 (Class A).

Since this, it was virtually impossible to study the cannabis plant for any medical purpose and remained the case until very recently.

1993 -Industrial hemp-

Industrial Hemp became legal in the UK. only with a license granted by the home office.

2013 -Uruguay-

Uruguay is the first country in the modern era to legalize cannabis. for recreational use. First legal sale was made four years later.

2018 -Farm bill-

The US Congress passes a farm bill that officially ended the prohibition on growing industrial hemp in this country.

2019 -Novel food-

The European Union classifies the CBD as a novel food. 

What is a novel food? It’s food that has no history of “significant” consumption in the European Union before May 1997. According to the Novel Food legislation, any food or food ingredient that falls within this definition must be authorized.

In the UK, after Brexit, this will be supervised by the Food Standards Agency. 

2020 -Voice of Nature born-

We hope you enjoyed this timeline about cannabis and its cousin hemp.

Do you know more interesting facts or details about the cannabis history? We are always eager to learn more, please leave a comment below.

Thanks for your time. 


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