Cannabis may be a hot topic in the news today, but it is not the new kid on the block. Some people may know a great deal about the subject while others know very little. It is my goal to educate our readers with facts, not fluff. Please, feel free to join the conversation as we explore relevant, useful information that will educate and inform. Before we can answer the question, Where did cannabis come from? We must first define cannabis.
What Is Cannabis?
Let us begin with the basics. What is Cannabis exactly?
Cannabis is a noun. A noun can be is a person, a place or a thing. In this case, we are referring to a thing. The term cannabis came from a derivative of the Greek word kannabis. Cannabis is a tall, upright plant structure with glandular hairs, serrated leaves that are divided and a stiff stem. Although classified as a drug, it is also widely grown to produce hemp fiber.
The plant produces flowers that are used to make a dried preparation. Extracting the resin that the plant produces is also popular. It is quite common to smoke Cannabis, however it can be consumed in a variety of ways to elicit the desired effect.
There are a number of common names, some include:
- Mary Jane
Where Did Cannabis Come From?
Agriculture, invented by humans, dates back some 10,000 years. Some believe that the dawn of agriculture became the basis for modernized society. In an ancient village site in modern day Taiwan, hemp cord used in pottery was discovered indicating that Cannabis may actually be one of the world’s oldest agricultural crops and likely the first known.
Kannabis is a a word with Ancient Greek origins that made way for the term Cannabis we use today. We use Cannabis to describe an annual (a plant that completes its life cycle within 365 days, then dies), dioecious (having the male and female reproductive organs in separate individuals), flowering herb. The ancient Greek historian, Herodotus, first recorded the use of cannabis in The Histories, a record in which he detailed the origins of the Greco-Persian Wars.
- Eukaryota (domain) – any organism with cells that contain a nucleus.
- Plante (kingdom) – any number of organisms containing chlorophyll that use the sun as an energy source.
Cannabis is one such plant. Exploring the taxonomic hierarchy a bit more, we know that this plant is a flowering plant, or angiosperm within the dicot class.
- Rosales (order)
- Cannabaceae (family) – aka the hemp family, share few traits other than a common origin.
- Cannabis L (genus) – the smallest genus in the family contains a single species and one accepted taxia overall.
- Cannabis sativa L (species) – the lowest level of the taxonomic hierarchy, named for the swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus, due to his knowledge of sativa as a cultivated plant in Europe.
Although the species debate rages to this day, only one remains.
Jean-Baptiste Lamarck was a French nationalist and an evolutionary biologist. Following in Linnaeus’ footsteps, he later described another species as having a great utility as an exhilarate albeit poor fiber quality. He named the species Cannabis indica after specimens collected in India.
Asian origins of the genus are widely accepted today, however the number of species within the genus continue to be aggressively disputed. A third species, Cannabis ruderalis, has gained recognition but its placement within the taxonomy is open for debate.
Depending on the source of the information, you may find any of the following possible:
- Cannabis sativa is accepted as a single undivided species.
- Cannabis indica, merits its own species.
- Cannabis indica, is a subspecies of the single undivided species.
- Cannabis ruderalis, merits its own species.
- Cannabis ruderalis, is a subspecies of the single undivided species.
In the 19th century, additional Cannabis species were proposed, including strains from Indo-China. They were assigned the names Cannabis chinensis Delile, and Cannabis gigantea Delile ex Vilmorin. Many taxonomists found these species difficult to distinguish due to their putative nature.
The single-species concept was still widely accepted in the early 20th century, except in the Soviet Union where Cannabis continued to be the subject of active taxonomic study. The name Cannabis indica was widely used to designate Cannabis suitable for the manufacture of medicinal preparations.
The Same But Different
Hemp is an exclusive member of the cannabis sativa family.
On the other hand, Marijuana, the dried flower of the female cannabis plant, can come from either the cannabis indica or cannabis sativa species.
Although both hemp and marijuana can come from the cannabis sativa family, there are distinct differences between them.
Hemp is lean and its leaves are shiny.
Marijuana has broad leaves and the plant is bushy.
They are also set apart by differences in their chemical composition.
There are over 100 cannabinoids found in cannabis. The amount of these differ dramatically between marijuana and hemp.
Marijuana’s most common cannabinoid is THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol. This cannabinoid is associated with the psychoactive effect of the plant. THC levels in marijuana can reach up to 30% depending on the strain.
THC levels in hemp, on the other hand, are less than 0.3%. The low levels of THC in hemp indicate its historical industrial purpose. Hemp grows rapidly. It’s strong fibers make it ideal to craft paper, clothing and rope.
Although hemp does not provide a high, it does contain significant amounts CBD, or cannabidiol. CBD, a nonpsychoactive cannabinoid, is also found in marijuana. CBD concentrates are popular in that their interaction with the immune system and the receptors of the central nervous system can offer a variety of medicinal benefits. Read more about CBD here.
I hope this post has given you, the reader, a basic understanding of Cannabis, what it is, where it came from and how it originated. It was also designed to bring awareness to some of the similarities and differences among the well known varieties within each taxonomic grouping. Please share your thoughts on this post and let us know what topics you would like to see here in the future.