A recent paper on ancient cannabis use has made news this week, with some fascinating insights into its origins and spread through Asia and Europe. You can read a good summary of the research at the New Scientist link, so no need for me to rewrite it here.
What did catch my attention though is the following image from the paper, which maps archaeological sites in Eurasia that have been found to contain cannabis remains that date to more than 3000 years ago (ie. 1000 BCE).
What this clearly shows is how widespread the usage of cannabis was in ancient times, with some of the dates stretching back well before the advent of written records. In his wonderful book The Long Trip: A Prehistory of Psychedelia*, Paul Devereux offers fascinating insights into how not only cannabis, but many other psychoactive plants, have been used the world over for millennia, often for ceremonial and/or religious/mystical reasons. It is one hell of an eye-opening read, especially for those who think ‘tripping’ was something that started with the counterculture of the 1960s, and I can’t recommend it highly enough (no pun intended)!
Understanding this fact makes modern culture’s outlawing of many of these plants as even more nonsensical than it already is. Our ancestors across the globe have actively used these plants as both physical and spiritual medicine for at least 10,000 years, but suddenly in the last few decades our governments and law-makers have seen fit to not just ban them from human consumption, but to make them illegal and even imprison people who choose to use them.
It is an absolute joke that such laws continue to exist – persecuting those wishing to explore their own mind – when prominent political leaders (the last three U.S. presidents), scientists (Carl Sagan, Francis Crick, Oliver Sacks etc.), tech leaders (Apple’s Steve Jobs etc.) and artists and musicians (too long a list to even begin) have all admitted to using psychoactives, and in some cases have been passionate advocates for their use and benefits.
That is certainly not to dismiss the dangers that such mind-altering substances can sometimes pose. But as long as no-one else is being hurt by a person’s decision to explore their own mind with psychoactives, I don’t see how it is any business of the government, or law enforcement, to stop people from doing so (let alone imprison them for doing it!).
The laws are a nonsense, and it’s far beyond time for us to state that plainly and make the necessary changes. The story of human history is one of exploring and expanding our minds to uncover new ideas and understand ourselves better, and the archaeological record continues to reinforce the fact that psychoactive plants have been an integral part of that entire history.
* Full disclosure: ‘The Long Trip‘ is a release of Daily Grail Publishing.