Short history of marijuana

Marijuana has a long history which can be traced back as far as ancient Egypt. There is evidence to show that marijuana plant seeds were burnt and inhaled possibly as part of an ancient ritual.

Ancient world

The hallucinogenic properties of marijuana were very popular with parts of the ancient world which included Indian and Nepal. It was used as part of their religious ceremonies to induce a trance-like state.


In the 1st century AD the Chinese used marijuana for its medicinal qualities. Marijuana formed part of many herbal remedies at that time and was a commonly used substance.

India and the Middle East

The use of marijuana as a medicine spread to other parts of the world such as India and the Middle East. But it had a range of other uses as well which include recreation, religious ceremonies and manufacture.

Hemp fibre was harvested from marijuana plants to make clothes, ropes, sacks, mats and fishing nets.

Western Europe

In the 19th century soldiers within Napoleon’s army brought marijuana with them from their time spent fighting in North Africa. This was the first introduction of marijuana as a recreational drug to Western Europe.

It was also used for medicinal purposes at that time. One example of this was the use of marijuana as a painkiller during childbirth or to ease the pain of menstruation.

Marijuana formed an important part of many herbal remedies in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

20th century UK

This situation changed in the early part of the 20th century. In the 1920’s recreational use of marijuana was banned in the UK: this occurred following an international conference in which the negative effects of marijuana were highlighted.

It was also banned in several other countries such as South Africa, Canada and New Zealand.

The dangers of marijuana were a common theme throughout the 1930’s and 1940’s although this was prevalent in the US rather than the UK.

Marijuana was not widely used in the UK during that period although it was a part of the 1950’s beatnik scene and the Rastafarian movement.

It experienced a sudden surge in popularity during the 1960’s–the emergence of ‘hippy culture’ and was mainly used by students in the UK and other countries.

The Misuse of Drugs Act came into force in 1971 which classified marijuana as a Class C drug although it has been upgraded to a Class B drug since then.

The 1970’s saw another surge in use of marijuana due to the influence of reggae music plus another surge in use during the 1990’s.

The reason for this recent increase in popularity can be attributed to an increase in drug use amongst young people during that time.

21st Century UK

Marijuana remains a popular drug of choice for many people who use it for its relaxing, mood enhancing effects. But it could be argued that this surge of interest is more common amongst smokers than non-smokers.

In other words, if you smoke tobacco then you are more likely to smoke marijuana than a non-smoker.

There is evidence to show that the popularity of marijuana is decreasing amongst young people in the UK. This refers to people who would normally smoke marijuana via a joint or bong (pipe) but are less likely to do so in the light of the recent smoking ban.

Smoking in general is seen as less socially acceptable than before which may also account for this decrease usage.

Attitudes towards smoking have hardened over the last few years which mean that as it less acceptable to smoke in public it is even harder to find somewhere to smoke a joint.

(Source: initial source – European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction)

So whilst marijuana use remains popular with older people it is perhaps less attractive to the younger generation.

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