Perspective – it affects everything. The world feels heavy for many of us right now. Between the election and, frankly, the astounding shenanigans which have surrounded it for well over a year at this point, the war for water being played out at Standing Rock in the Dakotas, and each of our individual battles to make it through each of our day-to-days, it’s easy enough to feel overwhelmed. We are blessed to have an ally in relieving all this stress: Cannabis.
Cannabis’s symbiosis with humankind is nothing new; on the contrary, the earliest known usage of cannabis by humans, a hemp rope discovered in 1997 in the Czech Republic, dates back to 26900 B.C.
Slow down and reread that. It does not say 2700 B.C., the time of Minoan Culture in Greece and the beginning of the Old Kingdom in Egypt, both events which predate the oldest known surviving texts created by humanity, in the Sumerian city of Abu Salabikh by about a century; this rope dates back nearly 30,000 years.
When we discuss the symbiosis between humans and cannabis, decades and centuries fall by the wayside and we must measure time in millennia. Thirty thousand years ago, according to most sources, falls in the period known as “human prehistory,” the Upper Paleolithic Era to be precise, a time period that predates most timelines for human civilization. The geological record shows an increase in the diversity of toolmaking and the earliest examples of art, in the form of cave paintings, were being created. It was during this time period that Neanderthals went extinct and homo sapiens left the cradle of Africa to populate Australia, Europe and the Americas.
Since then, let’s see … Venus figurines, climate change, technical advances like the fishhook, lamp oil, extinction events, the creation of the bow and arrow. We hunted and ate and shit and bred and millennia rolled by; then came the Mesolithic, the extinction of the wooly rhinoceros; the Neolithic, founding of Mesopotamian society, the root of accepted human civilization; and the Bronze Age (the rate at which I’m fast forwarding through all of this is ridiculous); Abraham, Moses, the Persian Empire, Greece, Rome, Jesus, the Dark Ages, the Renaissance. And cannabis traveled with us the whole time in the medicine stashes of shamans and doctors; as an anointing oil for Middle Eastern kings, the Biblical preparation known as kaneh bosm; as an intoxicant in sweat lodges and pipes; as food; as fiber; until some of us finally arrived, around 1600, on the western shore of the Atlantic.
When the colonization of North America by the English began, the cultivation of hemp was required in the Virginia Colony, a practice enforced by fines levied on those who refused and for the two centuries that followed, it was actually exchanged as legal currency in Pennsylvania, Virginia and Maryland. It was one of the most beloved of all human companion plants.
Then came the 20th century – Henry Aslinger, Reefer Madness, and Cannabis Prohibition in 1937 and its affirmation by Richard Nixon in the early ’70s – and here’s the funny part: In the 79 years (barely a drop in the bucket on this timeline) since this country’s government criminalized a plant, that plant has flourished in direct opposition to a rising empire.
I’ve had many conversations with friends over the past couple months in the run-up to this insane election that included ballot measures on cannabis voted on in American states with a combined population of over 82 million citizens; the confusion and division are palpable; as this interesting (difficult, troubling) time passes, a constant remains: cannabis is our friend – a toke or two and the change of perspective it provides proves it.
Christopher Gallagher lives with his wife and their four dogs and two horses. Life is pretty darn good. Contact him at [email protected]