Industrial, medical, and recreational uses of marijuana increased its fame throughout the world. The many uses of the cannabis plant have a long history, beginning in 8000 B.C. when Taiwanese artists used fibers from the stem to decorate clay pots. Ancients eventually turned the fibers to rope and later weaved them into hemp fabric. By 100 B.C., the Chinese had used cannabis to make paper. These products spread across the ancient world. By 850 A.D., the Vikings had dragged the ropes with them to Iceland. In 1000, hemp ropes helped the Italian navy dominate the seas. The hemp crop was so important that British farmers were commanded to grow cannabis or pay fines. Kings ordered the American colonies to export the crop, but they used it to make rope and fabric of their own. People also used the seeds and their oil in various foods, developing nutritious recipes that remain popular today. Cotton and synthetic fibers have replaced some of these ropes and fabrics, but a new movement supports industrial hemp as a more ecological alternative to these products. Contemporary merchants still sell shirts, shoes, and even hammocks made of hemp. The oil of the seed also appears in modern shampoos, soaps, and salves.
Medicinal marijuana first appeared in 2737 B.C. when the Chinese Emperor Shen Neng prescribed it for many ailments. These treatments grew more popular in all of Asia and down the coast of Africa. Religious uses developed in certain sects of Hinduism in India. By the 1500s, some Europeans had mentioned the plant's medicinal use. In the 1842, Irish physician William O'Shaughnessy published medical experiments that he conducted in India. Tinctures of cannabis appeared in pharmacies throughout the world. Physicians prescribed the drug for everything from earache to nausea. Legislation against cannabis forced the medical community to withdraw it as a treatment by the 1940s. Yet the movement
for medical marijuana continues. Studies performed in the 1970s revealed a new potential application of the drug in the treatment of glaucoma. Research on smoked marijuana, THC, and other cannabinoids, though often hindered by bureaucratic difficulties, continues to reveal potential pharmaceutical applications.
The recreational use of cannabis likely followed its early prescription for physical ailments. The intoxicating effects of the plant may have contributed to the ancient Scythian practice of huffing the smoke during funerals, as first reported in 450 B.C. By 100 A.D., the Chinese Taoists used the drug to induce visions. The intoxicant inspired stories of sexual arousal, like the one in 1,001 Nights, which appeared by 1200 A.D. News of the drug's psychoactive properties spread throughout Europe. Napoleon's soldiers brought hashish to France from Egypt in 1798. Moreau, the French physician, supplied the drug to many French artists and writers in the middle of the 1840s. Literary work about hashish contributed to experiments in the United States, where Fitz Hugh Ludlow published a tale of his intoxication in 1857. Use did not spread in America until after the turn of the century. By the 1930s, the drug was illegal in every state. Despite this legislation, use increased in the 1960s and 1970s. Large organizations designed to alter legislation formed. Recreational use continues, with approximately one-third of Americans trying the drug at some time. The future of this controversial fiber, medicine, and intoxicant will depend on a complex interaction of its biological, psychological, and societal effects.
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