Macro detail of Cannabis flower (sour diesel strain) isolated over black background, medical marijuana concept
We tend to think of cannabis and marijuana only in terms of the well-publicized legalization efforts of the last twenty years. But this is only because of the human tendency to view history in light of one’s own memory. As far as marijuana is concerned, it is a lot older than America’s love affair with medical cannabis. In fact, new research suggests that the ancients in at least one civilization smoked pot during funeral ceremonies.
A study published by the Science Advances Journal in 2019 seems to indicate that pot smoking rituals were pretty common in China 2,500 years ago. No surprises there, even if you are not a major fan of recreational and medical cannabis. Asian cultures have long been known for their love of all things botanical. Much of Eastern medicine is based on plants, herbs, and other natural remedies.
A more important aspect of the research is that it reaffirms humanities long history with the cannabis plant. Humans have probably been dabbling with marijuana for as long as they have been producing alcohol. Ditto for opiates and a whole range of organic psychedelics.
Wooden Braziers for Marijuana
Lead researcher and archaeologist Meng Ren wrote in the study that his team came to its conclusions about ancient marijuana use based on eight wooden braziers uncovered in China’s Jirzankal Cemetery. A botanical analysis of the braziers’ residue indicates that cannabis plants were burned in the boxes.
The braziers being found in tombs at the cemetery suggests they were used during ancient funeral ceremonies. Add all the components together and you have a scenario in which mourners may have burned cannabis, and perhaps other plants too, as part of the official religious observance attached to mourning.
Was the cannabis burned to make mourners feel better? Did they believe that burning cannabis and inhaling the smoke would help them achieve a higher spiritual plane? Or perhaps burning the plant material was not intended for the mourners at all. Maybe it was similar to other ancient practices based on the belief that smoke could carry the dead person’s soul to the afterlife. No one really knows for sure.
Not a Modern Phenomenon
Archaeologists will continue to speculate about ancient marijuana use for as long as the question exists. And although we may never have all the answers, the most important lesson is that marijuana use is not a modern phenomenon. It has been going on for a long, long time.
Marijuana’s history is enough reason to seriously consider it as a plant with potential medical benefits. It goes without saying that it’s time for the federal government to get out of the way of legitimate medical cannabis research. Better yet, agencies like the FDA and DHS would do well to actively support new research.
States Want Medical Cannabis
It is clear that the states want access to medical cannabis. More than three-dozen states, including Utah, have demonstrated as much by enacting legal medical cannabis programs despite ongoing federal prohibitions. Furthermore, Salt Lake City marijuana dispensary Beehive Farmacy says that Utah is among a small number of states demonstrating an acute interest in research that could produce standard cannabis prescriptions that are written by doctors and filled by pharmacies.
No one should be surprised that marijuana has been used medicinally and religiously for thousands of years. Why would we expect anything different? There is a lot about ancient medicine we seem to have forgotten or purposely ignored. Perhaps if we look backward every now and again, instead of relying exclusively on Western medicine to keep us healthy, we might discover a plethora of helpful things.