The Basics

Where Did Cannabis Come From?

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.

Hemp Pottery
Hemp Pottery

There are a number of common names, some include:

  1. Marijuana
  2. Hashish
  3. Hemp
  4. Ganja
  5. Dope
  6. Grass
  7. Pot
  8. Weed
  9. Mary Jane
  10. Reefer

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.

Cannabis Origins

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.

Hemp Twine
Hemp Twine

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:

  1. Cannabis sativa is accepted as a single undivided species.
  2. Cannabis indica, merits its own species.
  3. Cannabis indica, is a subspecies of the single undivided species.
  4. Cannabis ruderalis, merits its own species.
  5. 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.

Hemp plant
Hemp plant

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.


Cannabis Sativa
Cannabis Sativa

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.

18 Replies to “Where Did Cannabis Come From?”

  1. Thanks for the very informative post! It was a lot of good information. Some of the fonts were too small to read and I almost missed the rest of the post because it was under the reply box. Was this for a research paper? I was wondering if you were going to write more about this topic or why you wrote this topic? Overall good post. Thanks

    1. I believe that I was successfully able to fix the font issue. I am not sure what you mean by under the reply box? The article was not written for a research paper. I wrote this article to give my readers a basic understanding of what cannabis is. It is a trending topic in the news today and my goal is to give my readers current and relevant information so that they can make educated, informed choices and decisions. Moving forward, I intend to explore the topic in greater detail with a variety of thoughtful posts.

  2. Thanks for this well researched and written article on the cannabis plant. I have always used the terms: cannabis, hemp and marijuana, interchangeably. I only realized there are some differences after reading your article. The popularity of CBD oil in recent times has sparked my interest in this topic. There are so many conflicting ideas about marijuana and the hemp plant. What I do know is that THC is the psychoactive component of the hemp plant while CBD oil has numerous beneficial health uses. More people should be educated on the benefits of the cannabis plant. CBD usage has been legalized in most parts of the United States and I think this is a good thing. Before now most people will label anyone that has anything to do with the cannabis plant as a stoner. This is very wrong and should be corrected through massive education

    1. You are correct, currently cannabis in one form or another is legal in 30/50 states in the US. Legislatures still have some work to do but the times they are changing. I believe that as future changes are made the stereotypes will slowly fade. It is my goal to inform the public as the trends change, expose the myths that many have and help others to see the amazing benefits cannabis in its many forms can offer. 

  3. this is a great article thoroughly put together exhaustively.indeed cannabis is a hot topic that stir up different reaction and comment from different people in different background. In the recent years attention had been drawn to it largely because countries can now make money from it. It’s been legalized in many countries. So this your article is not only timely bit educative – everything you need to know. I have used some cannabis oil and the results is amazing! Alot can be done with it if we all can look beyond intoxicating! You have said it all and anybody reading this will surely understand all there is to cannabis. 

    please what is the difference between cannabis and hemp? Are they the same? Which is legalized in Canada?

    1. With all of the changes in recent years cannabis is in fact fast becoming a money making opportunity for the masses. When people can let go of what they previously believed and can embrace the benefits that are available, there will be no stopping them. CBD oil, for example has tremendous benefits for many known ailments and advances in science are making more known daily. I have included a link here that explores some of the proven health benefits as well as links to answer the questions you posed.


      The Differences Between Hemp And Cannabis
      Here are all the legal ways to consume pot in Canada

  4. Hi,

    By reading this article, I have come to know about ‘cannabis’ and also understand What is cannabis. I found a lot of information about cannabis. It is may actually be one of the world’s oldest agricultural crops and likely the first known. It is one such plant. Exploring the taxonomic hierarchy a bit more, we know that this plant is a flowering plant. Thank you for this informative article.

    1. Thank you for your comment. Education is power. We are never too old to learn something new and with that knowledge we will go far.

  5. Thanks for providing the educational post. Recently I heard a lot about Cannabis, particularly CBD. CBD is effective against a number of medical conditions, such as pain, anxiety, and psychological disorder. I always thought that CBD is marijuana. Apparently I was wrong. THC is the major ingredient of marijuana and associated with psychoactive effect of the plant. CBD contains less than 0.3% of THC and is considered to be non-psychoactive, creating no high outcome.

    With legalization of CBD in all 50 states in US, more and more research are going on its effectiveness against huge number of diseases. I was told CBD is also effective against cancer. What is your opinion on this, can CBD cure cancer? 

    1. The following is an excerpt from an article I recently found as well as the link to it in its entirety. With advances in the medical field constantly evolving, I am confident that a cure is inevitable.

      “There is mounting evidence that CBD could potentially fight cancer and, at the very least, help ease symptoms of cancer and side effects of chemotherapy. A 2006 study published in the Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics found, for the first time, that CBD potently and selectively inhibited the growth of different breast tumor cell lines.

      And while there are some studies being done to see if CBD is anti-tumor, it is not recommended to use CBD in lieu of chemotherapy. “I would never recommend someone stop seeing an oncologist or stop medication their oncologist recommended to take CBD,” said Dr. Solomon. “I would add it as an adjunct to that medication, letting the oncologist know that they’re taking it.” The stories you may hear by word of mouth claiming that CBD alone cured someone’s cancer? Purely anecdotal as of now.”


  6. Hello there, and thank you so much for this great information about cannabis.

     I did not know that before hashish and weed come from Cannabis until I read this article, In addition to your article I have heard that the oil that comes from weed or hashish is really good for hair growth. I would really appreciate if your next topic is will be about Cannabis oil and hair growth and probably provide us with the product of weed oil 

    1. Thank you for your thoughts and I will most definitely look into the benefits of using CBD oil for hair growth to include in a future post.

  7. Thank you, for sharing your post on what is cannabis. I was able to get some new info. I’m one of those people who know just enough about Cannabis to get me in trouble. I mostly know the different names for Marijuana. I never know it was invented by man. I have read that they used it as a rope in the ancient days. But nowadays it’s being used to comfort the ill for the medicinal benefits. thank you and God bless~LeNard

    1. Cannabis in one form or another is currently legal in 30/50 states in the US. As this number increases, I believe that it is safe to say that you will no longer have to worry about getting into trouble. In ancient times, it is true that hemp was used to make ropes but it was also used to make other textiles as well like clothing. In addition, cannabis had a variety of other uses ranging from religious ceremonies to anesthetics. Did you know that not only is Cannabis considered to be one of the world’s oldest agricultural crops,

      “In 1619, Jamestown, the first English settlement, established the first-ever cannabis legislation in the New World by requiring all settlers to grow hemp. This trend spread throughout Colonial America, and the value of hemp was so recognized that in Pennsylvania and Maryland the plant was accepted as a form of currency.”

      America’s History with Cannabis? It’s Complicated.

      Cannabis has been used for its medicinal benefits for thousands of years. Today, it is not so much that the benefits and usages are new but rather the world is just coming around to a new way of thinking about them.

  8. Hello admin,

    Thank you so much for your informative post. this gives lots of information about cannabis and its classification. you told 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. i appreciate your work and i will share it with friends.

    1. I appreciate your kind words. There will no doubt be many posts forthcoming that will explore the wealth of information available about said differences and the cannabinoids they contain.

  9. Hi 

    Thank you for sharing this info on this controversial topic. You have provided much background for me to peruse and seem to be quite knowledgable on the topic.

    Where I live, this is still much of a debate as to whether cannabis should be legalized or whether it should be used for medicinal purposes etc. I personally, would need to do more research for myself. I will let you know how that goes as far as the legalization is concerned.

    The byproducts of cannabis you mentioned are quite useful. I don’t hear much about this. 

    I do agree that the effects of alcohol and other drugs are questionable and may, in fact, be responsible for a lot of the things others accuse cannabis of causing.

    Thanks again for the scientific and historical background. Let’s see where I stand on this after I gather some more data. Hopefully, for you and others who promote it ( I assume) for medical purposes, once the stats pan out, why not?


    1. I live in the deep south. As far as legalization, my state is currently one of the holdouts. On the other hand, there is talk in the legislature to move it forward, it is just a matter of time. 

      There have been many studies about the effects of alcohol and as you may know the opioid crisis is an epidemic. As more information is brought to the forefront, understanding and acceptance will come. I have included a link here for a recent study I found, enjoy!

       New Study Finds Marijuana Safer Than Alcohol Or Tobacco

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