The ancient origins of Cannabis and our changing attitudes towards it

The ancient origins of cannabis and our changing attitudes towards it

Cannabis attitudes are undergoing a seismic shift but what do really know about the drug? 

Our three-part special podcast series is uncovering the science of marijuana.

Cannabis is having a moment. Half of Americans live in a state with legal marijuana and 9 in 10 people nationwide support legalisation in some form. This is a stark difference from mere decades ago, when prohibition was the norm in the entire US. Meanwhile, if you live in Malta, Uruguay, Canada – and maybe soon, Germany – your entire country is one with legal recreational pot. And access to medical marijuana extends to even more countries, including the UK and Australia.

But as medical and recreational use become more popular and increasingly accessible, how exactly did we get to this moment of change? What has research been able to tell us – so far – about how the plant produces its euphoric effects, or what medical purposes it may be able to serve or how it might be harmful? And how could our relationship with this unassuming leaf change in coming decades?

In the first episode of a special 3-part podcast series, Christie Taylor and the rest of the New Scientist reporting team start at the beginning: 27.8 million years ago, when hops and hemp diverged in family Cannabaceae. A million years ago, when Cannabis indica and Cannabis sativa diverged into two differently psychoactive strains. And 12,000 years ago, when humans first domesticated cannabis for mundane household use, not yet dreaming of the euphoric experiences to come.

But of course, it all comes back to the high, and we go there too – the evidence, though still sparse, of drug-related use dating back at least to 500 BC. And, a thousand years later, perhaps the first recorded reference to a ritual not unlike hotboxing.

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Region: North America

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