Passing the Weed: The Spread of Marijuana around the World
By: Mike Jerrard
No other plant on the planet seems to get as much attention as Marijuana. Call it what you’d like whether it be ganja, weed, pot, grass, or hash, but there is no denying that every nation on earth has been introduced to the controversial greenery. So where did it come from? Who were the original pioneer potheads and who were the first international smugglers? What countries today have the highest usage and what exactly does 420 stand for?
As far as who the first hit takers were, that accolade goes to the peoples of Central Asia in what is now called Monglia and Siberia and its history goes back at least 10,000 years. As human population began to explode it was quickly discovered by neighboring tribes and it spread throughout Asia, India, Western Europe, and North Africa. Yes the great Greeks and Romans had there turn with the plant before it spread throughout the rest of Europe and down towards the southern tip of Africa it continued its travels. Of course leave it to the Spanish to introduce the mind altering effects to the new western continents when they brought it to South America during their early conquest of native empires.
From there it would finally travel up into North America where it now finds itself with its greatest fans yet…the citizens of the U.S.A. Although the U.S. might not hold the top spot of highest usage percentage it definitely tops the list of most users according to certain polls with some 40 to 50 million Americans choosing to light up.
Polls have shown that nations with the highest percentage of users include North Korea, Iceland of all places, and Papua New Guinea who have Australia to thank for the introduction during and after WWII. Surprisingly Amsterdam and Mexico are not that high up on the list, pardon the pun. Of course those nations with the most severe punishments for possession of marijuana rank lowest on the list of reported users. Dozens of nations have extreme punishment such as Singapore who carries out the death penalty for those caught with more than just a half an ounce. Singapore comes in at just .004% of people that at least admit to using pot.
Of course Cannabis, which is the technical and scientific name used by scientists, comes in many varieties and sub species. The main 2 types being:
Cannabis sativa– the stuff you smoke
Cannabis sativa L.- hemp or the plant used for clothing, rope, paper, etc.
Hemp basically lacks the high THC content needed to achieve a buzz or high and is instead used for goods. It is one of the fastest growing plants and its use dates back thousands of years. Cannabis sativa is the plant that gets the most attention and despite what side of argument you stand for regarding the rendering it legal or not, there is no denying its effects have made it and will continue to make its popularity live on for thousands of years to come.
Sadly a lot of the negative attitude towards the plant or drug in America dates back to the early association and view that Mexicans used the drug and it caused them to become murderers, rapists, and criminals. Even more sad is that the false stereotype brought forth nearly a hundred years ago still survives today… need I name names.
With all the fun and jokes that revolve around cannabis, the consequences of its use can be very serious whether it be detrimental to people’s lives or extremely beneficial with regards to its medicinal treatment. Whether or not it should be legalized or not will never get rid of the fact that pot is here to stay with some 250 million people worldwide keeping its popularity in the spotlight. Tobacco has shown that even the most negative press cannot deter use, just ask the nearly 1 billion users worldwide.
Oh and what exactly is the whole 420 thing about in regards to marijuana. For all those interested, other than just being the day to celebrate pot, it supposedly dates back to the early 1970’s when a group of California San Rafael “High” School students found a treasure map of sorts which pointed towards the location of a nearby marijuana crop. They met up at 4:20 after school to embark on their journey and although they never found their green gold, the secret code 420 they began using for pot took hold with a little help from the Grateful Dead and their Deadhead fans.