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Robert Connell Clarke


Robert C. Clarke: Why I’ve Resigned From the Phylos Bioscience Scientific Advisory Board

Robert Connell Clarke

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Robert Connell Clarke. Отметки "Нравится": 2 212 · Обсуждают: 2. Robert Connell Clarke is the author of “The Botany and Ecology of Cannabis”, “Marijuana…

Cannabis: Evolution and Ethnobotany


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Cannabis – Robert Clarke





University of California Press, one of the most distinguished university presses in the United States, enriches lives around the world by advancing scholarship in the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. Its activities are supported by the UC Press Foundation and by philanthropic contributions from individuals and institutions. For more information, visit

University of California Press

Berkeley and Los Angeles, California

University of California Press, Ltd.

© 2013 by Robert C. Clarke and Mark D. Merlin

Limited hard cover edition, published 2013.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Clarke, Robert Connell, 1953-

Cannabis : evolution and ethnobotany/Robert C. Clarke, Mark D. Merlin.

Includes bibliographical references and index.

ISBN 978-0-520-27048-0 (cloth : alk. paper)

1. Cannabis. 2. Cannabis—Evolution. 3. Cannabis—Utilization. 4. Human-plant relationships. I. Merlin, Mark David. II. Title.

Manufactured in China

22 21 20 19 18 17 16 15 14 13

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

The paper used in this publication meets the minimum requirements of ANSI/NISO Z39.48–1992 (R 2002) (Permanence of Paper).

Richard Evans Schultes (1915–2001) was born, raised, and worked most of his life in and around his beloved Harvard University, where he was an undergraduate and graduate student and then a longtime professor of botany and director of the Botanical Museum. However, Dick, as he liked us to call him, is best known for his 13 years of field research in the upper Amazon Basin, principally in Colombia. One of his several well-known and very accomplished graduate students, Wade Davis, wrote a well-received book (One River, Simon & Schuster, 1996) that features the challenging and engaging experiences of Professor Schultes among numerous indigenous groups in remote tropical rainforest regions of northern South America. Readers are encouraged to read Davis’s book and appreciate the zeal and fortitude of Schultes’s botanical and cultural explorations but, more important, to fathom the profound human-plant relationships of the native people whom he befriended and deeply respected. Schultes was especially sensitive to the ecological, spiritual, and medicinal plant relationships that indigenous peoples developed throughout the world. His profound research and mentorship have become almost legendary. The authors of this book are among the many students, scientists, and scholars who have been deeply inspired by the scientific goals and methodologies of our dear friend, Dick Schultes. We dedicate this book to his memory and celebrate his many contributions to ethnobotany of which he is certainly one of our modern founding fathers.





1Introduction to the Multipurpose Plant Cannabis

In the Beginning: Circumstances of Early Human Contact with Cannabis

A Brief Summary of the Long and Diverse History of Relationships between Cannabis and Humans

What Shall We Call These Plants?

Should We Praise or Condemn This Multipurpose Plant?

What We Discuss in This Book

2Natural Origins and Early Evolution of Cannabis


Basic Life Cycle of Cannabis

Ecological Requirements of Cannabis: Sunlight, Temperature, Water, and Soil

Cannabis Origin and Evolution Studies

Central Asia: Vavilov and the Origins of Cannabis

Cannabis and Vitis

Theories for South Asian Origin of Domesticated Cannabis

Model for the Early Evolution of Cannabis

Summary and Conclusions

3Ethnobotanical Origins, Early Cultivation, and Evolution through Human Selection


First Contacts: Origins of “Human-Cannabis” Relationships

Transitions to Cultivation and Civilization

Earliest Uses of Cannabis: Useful Traits for Ancient People

Evolution of Cannabis through Human Selection

Disruptive Selection

Origin from Weedy Populations

Natural Hybridization: Introgression versus Isolation

Artificial Hybridization

Isolation of Populations

Population Size and Changes in Variability

Evolutionary Effects of Dioecy

Effects of Human Selection on Sexual Expression for Different Products

Marijuana and Hashish

Sexual Dimorphism and Selection

Phenotypic Changes during Domestication


Directional Evolutionary Changes

Cannabinoid Profile

Timing of Floral Maturation

Evolution of Cannabinoid Phenotypes

Geographical Distribution of Cannabinoid Phenotypes

North America

Western Europe

Eastern Europe

Central America and the Caribbean

South America

Middle East

Indian Subcontinent

Southeast Asia

Equatorial Africa

South and East Africa

Summary and Conclusions

4The Cultural Diffusion of Cannabis


Methodology: The Multidisciplinary Approach

Types of Archaeobotanical Evidence for Cannabis

Fiber and Seed Impressions

Other Carbonized and Chemical Remains

Written Records of Cannabis’s Presence and Use

Nonhuman Agencies Affecting the Geographical Range of Cannabis

Human Impact on the Dispersal and Expanding Geographical Range of Cannabis

Early Relationships among Humans and Cannabis in Central Asia

Fishing and Hemp

Hemp, Humans, and Horses in Eurasia

Scythians and Cannabis

Archeological and Historical Evidence for the Spread of Cannabis

Diffusion throughout East Asia

Diffusion from Northeastern China into Korea and Japan

Diffusion into South Asia

Archaeobotanical Evidence from South Asia

Diffusion into Southwest Asia and Egypt

Diffusion into Europe and the Mediterranean

Baltic Region

Austria, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia


Northern France

Iberian Peninsula


British Isles

Mediterranean Region

Summary of Dispersal Phases within and Beyond Eurasia

Phase 1: Primary Dispersal across Eurasia–ca. 10,000 to 2000 BP

Phase 2: Spread into Africa and Southeast Asia–ca. 2000 to 500 BP

Phase 3: Diffusion to the New World–1545 to 1800

Phase 4: Diffusion to the New World–1800 to 1945

Phase 5: Expansion after World War II–1945 to 1990

Phase 6: Artificial Environments and the Proliferation of Industrial Hemp–1990 to the Present

Summary and Conclusions: Cannabis’s Dispersal from an Evolutionary Point of View

5History of Cannabis Use for Fiber


Textile Basics

Historical and Archeological Evidence for Cannabis Fiber Use in China

Hemp Fiber Use in Clothing, Lacquerware, Weapons, and Ships in Ancient China

Traditional Korea

Contemporary South Korea and North Korea

Ancient Japan and Hemp

Ancient Evidence from South Asia, Southwest Asia, and Egypt

Ancient Mediterranean Region

Ancient Europe North of the Mediterranean

Spread of Hemp Fiber Use to the New World

Some Aspects of the Modern History of Hemp

Cannabis and Paper

Advent and Early History of Papermaking in China

Hemp Paper in Ancient Korea and Japan

Dispersal to North Africa and Europe

Hemp Paper Production in North America

Summary and Conclusions

6Food, Feed, and Oil Uses of Hemp


Human Food and Animal Feed Uses of Hemp Seeds

Early Hemp Seed Use in China: Neolithic Period through the Han Dynasty

Hemp Seed Oil in Ancient China

Ancient Evidence for Traditional Production and Use beyond China

South and Southwest Asia

Central and Eastern Europe

Mediterranean and Western European Regions

Present-Day Hemp Seed Production and Use

Summary and Conclusions

7Historical Aspects of Psychoactive Cannabis Use for Ritual and Recreation


Discovery of the Euphoriant Properties of Cannabis in Eurasia

Central Asia

Taoism and Tales of Ma Gu

India and Nepal

Was Soma Cannabis?

South Asian Psychoactive Cannabis Products

Hindu Acceptance of Ritual Bhang Use

Shiva Worship and Cannabis

Other Occasions on which Bhang Was Used

Worship of the Bhang Plant

Mongols and Cannabis

Southwest Asia, the Mediterranean, Africa, and Europe

The Advent of Cannabis Smoking: Tobacco Meets Hashish

Summary and Conclusions

8Ethnobotanical History and Contemporary Context of Medicinal Cannabis


Early East Asian Medicinal Cannabis Use

South and Southeast Asian Medical Traditions

Egyptian Medicinal Cannabis Use

Cannabis in Early Middle Eastern and Later Islamic Medicine

African and South American Medicinal Cannabis Use

European Medicinal Cannabis Use

Present-Day Western Medicinal Applications of Cannabis

Summary and Conclusions

9Nonpsychoactive Ritual Uses of Cannabis


Hempen Rituals of Major Religions: Shamanic Influences Survive Repression

Archeological Remains from Ritual Contexts: Central Asia, China, and Europe

The Hmong: Spirit Travel in Healing, Life Cycle, and Funerary Rituals

China: Shamanism, Taoism, and Confucianism

Korea: Shamanic Funerary Rites, Confucian Mourning, and Ancestor Worship

Japan: Shamanist, Shinto, and Buddhist Hemp Traditions

Europe and the Middle East: Judeo-Christian Hemp Rituals

Hangings: Hemp Cordage and Hempen Executions


10Recent History of Cannabis Breeding


European Hemp Breeding

North American Hemp Breeding

Introduction of NLD Cannabis to North America

Breeding History of NLD Varieties

Introduction of BLD Cannabis

Recent Trends in Cannabis Breeding

Summary and Conclusions

11Classical and Molecular Taxonomy of Cannabis


One, Two, or Three Species?

History of Cannabis Taxonomy

Recent Advances in Cannabis Taxonomy

Genetic and Historical Model for the Evolution of Cannabis Biotypes

Recent Geographical Distributions of Cannabis Biotypes

Europe and the Former Soviet Union

Central Asia, Afghanistan, and Turkestan

India and Nepal

Southeast Asia

Africa and the Middle East

Summary and Conclusions

12Hypotheses Concerning the Early Evolution of Cannabis


Prehistoric Climate Change and Plant Distribution

The Pleistocene

The Holocene

Early Human Dispersals

Plant Speciation and Colonization

Pleistocene Refugia

Postglacial Population Expansion

Speciation Rate

Early Evolution of Cannabaceae: The Hemp and Hop Family

Breeding Systems and Reproductive Strategies as Clues to Geographical Origin


Sex Determination

Reconstruction of a Cannabaceae Ancestor

Summary and Conclusions

13Cannabis and Homo sapiens


The Long-Term Relationship

Summary of Cannabis’s Evolution

Cannabis’s Influence on the Evolution of Human Culture

A Case for the Social Benefits of Cannabis’s Psychoactivity

Human Influence on Cannabis’s Evolution

Environmental Impact of the Human-Cannabis Relationship

Coevolution of Cannabis and Humans: Fresh Concepts

Present Position of the Human-Cannabis Relationship

Remaining Questions and Future Directions

Cannabis is one of the world’s most useful plant groups. It has been a part of human culture for thousands of years beginning in Eurasia, and today it is associated with people in almost all parts of the world. Although Cannabis is most often thought of as a drug plant, its use for a huge number of other purposes including fiber, food, paper, medicine, and so on is almost unparalleled, ranking it with the coconut palm and bamboos. Cannabis is truly a remarkable genus of multipurpose plants with extensive and complicated histories. A fully comprehensive, documented history of Cannabis’s evolution and its widespread, diverse use by humans has never been published. This book is an attempt to accomplish that task. The evolution of Cannabis and the great variety of human-Cannabis relationships are presented here in greater depth than ever before. How this project developed and progressed is an interesting story in itself.

The coauthors have worked earnestly over the past 15 years or more to produce this book; however, they began to focus their scholarly and scientific interests on Cannabis well before their collaboration started in 1996. Both Mark Merlin and Robert Clarke first initiated their research on Cannabis while enrolled in undergraduate programs in the University of California system at their respective campuses decades ago. Their independent and joint field work involving the genus necessitated extensive travel across several continents to countless libraries and museums, complemented by innumerable interviews in regions where Cannabis has either ancient roots or only a relatively modern history of cultivation and use. This volume represents the better part of two scholarly careers spent following the historic trail of both the evolutionary biology and ethnobotanical heritage of Cannabis.

It is quite fitting that University of California Press has decided to publish this extensive body of research. Mark Merlin’s father graduated from UC Berkeley in 1925 with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and Mark earned his undergraduate degree in history at UC Santa Barbara in 1967. Robert Clarke’s mother was a budget analyst for UC San Diego and he received his degree in biology from UC Santa Cruz in 1976.

In the fall of 1967, as an incoming graduate student at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa (UHM), Mark began to think about what topic he would choose to study for his master’s thesis in geography. He had been exposed to the exponential rise in the use of psychoactive Cannabis in California in the second half of the 1960s. Out of almost nowhere the illicit smoking and eating of Cannabis began to spread at a phenomenal rate—at UC Santa Barbara, across the state of California, in several other areas in North America, and beyond. Mark wondered, what is it about this drug plant that allowed it to become such an attractive item of recreational and spiritual interest over what seemed to him to be a very short time? Where did these plants come from, what were their geographical origins and what was their history of relationships with humans over time? And indeed why was Cannabis being so actively suppressed by governments across the globe?

Mark decided that the ancient history of human-Cannabis relationships would be an interesting topic and consulted with his graduate advisors at UHM. He informed them that he was inspired by the man-land (human-environment) tradition in geography and most specifically with the work of Carl O. Sauer, the UC Berkeley geographer who explored the origins of agricultural crops and how their relationships with humans changed landscapes far and wide over much of the planet. His advisors eventually gave Mark permission to pursue his academic goals. Mark spent the next two years carrying out research and writing a thesis that was accepted in 1969. Then with the support of two professors at UHM, one in the English department and another in the history department, Fairleigh Dickinson University Press published his thesis as a hardback book, Man and Marijuana: Some Aspects of Their Ancient Relationships, in 1972, and A. S. Barnes and Company published it as a paperback in 1973. The book was well received and is still a key resource for the early history of Cannabis.

Richard Evans Schultes, the highly respected former director of the Botanical Museum of Harvard University and longtime professor at that institution, was much impressed by Mark’s thesis on Cannabis, as well as his later published PhD dissertation on the evolution and early human use of the opium poppy (On the Trail of the Ancient Opium Poppy, Associated University Presses, 1984). As a result, he invited Mark to spend part of his first sabbatical leave from UHM with him at Harvard. During that time in 1985, the seeds of this book were sown in Mark’s mind. Subsequently, Schultes and Professor Harold St. John (UHM) nominated Mark for membership in the Linnaean Society of London into which he was inducted in 1987 for his contributions to ethnobotany. Some years later, Mark’s coauthored a well-received book on kava (Lebot, Merlin, and Lindstrom, Kava: The Pacific Drug, Yale University Press, 1992) which was published with the scholarly support of Professor Schultes. Later, Michael Pollan referred to Mark’s earlier book on marijuana as an important historical reference in his best-selling book The Botany of Desire (Random House, 2001).

Early in the 1970s, Rob began his scholarly involvement with Cannabis. While attending UC Santa Cruz as an undergraduate biology major, he asked his advisor Jean Langen-heim, who dedicated her career to the study of plant terpenes (volatile unsaturated hydrocarbons found in the essential oils of plants) and the distribution of fossil amber-producing plants, if he could focus on Cannabis for his senior thesis. He argued that the book Mark Merlin had published on marijuana was proof that a scholarly investigation of the biological and cultural origins of Cannabis was a valid line of academic inquiry. Rob’s advisor was impressed with the references Rob had already amassed and granted him permission to pursue his research on the botany and ecology of Cannabis.

The written product of Rob’s extensive botanical research not only satisfied his undergraduate requirement and earned him honors but also was self-published in 1977 as Botany and Ecology of Cannabis. That publication was expanded and took on a form that has been in print for more than three decades, now in three languages (Marijuana Botany: The Propagation and Breeding of Distinguished Cannabis, And/Or Press, 1981). Rob spent much of his career based in Amsterdam working as a plant breeder with HortaPharm BV and serving as projects manager for the International Hemp Association. He also wrote another lengthy book on Cannabis (Hashish!, Red Eye Press, 1998). In addition, Rob collaborated with John McPartland and David Watson on Hemp Diseases and Pests: Management and Biological Control (CABI Press, 2000) and has written many peer-reviewed articles on various aspects of Cannabis botany, hemp cultivation and processing, hempen textiles, and various other manifestations of human-Cannabis relationships. Michael Pollan interviewed Rob in Amsterdam while writing The Botany of Desire and included a number of relevant comments by Rob in his best-selling book.

Rob and Mark communicated by mail back in the 1970s when Rob wrote Mark to tell him that his master’s thesis cum book had inspired his own academic research. Mark congratulated him on his research and initial publication, indicating that it significantly expanded the literature available on the botany of this important genus. For the next two decades, the two were out of touch.

Then in 1996, while they were, unbeknownst to one another, both attending the joint annual meetings of the Society for Economic Botany and the Society for Ethnopharmacology at Imperial College in London, they met in person for the first time. After lengthy discussions concerning their respective careers and scholarly involvement with Cannabis, Mark and Rob came to the joint conclusion that there was a real need for a comprehensive study of Cannabis’s evolutionary biology and ethnobotanical history and that they should write it together.

The two scholars left those meetings in London with a commitment to work in tandem and produce a definitive history of Cannabis through the ages. This project became a saga that included many trips to each other’s home cities, Honolulu and Amsterdam. Extensive correspondence over the years and occasional brainstorming as their paths crossed in such places as California, China, Thailand, and Vietnam drove them forward while many other independent projects also had to be attended to by each. Nevertheless, they pushed on, sometimes in great spurts of research and writing, other times somewhat bogged down with their own respective research and instructional duties. Slowly but surely the large volume that follows took shape and was refined and edited with their critical feedback to each other’s work. A final flurry of work over the past few years led to completion of their labor of love, fascinated as they both remain with this intriguing genus of plants.

The authors are now confident that their synthesis is well worth the large portion of their lives’ work that went into its production. Many people helped them along the way, some with extraordinary efforts to improve their manuscript or inform them about important sources of information of which they were not yet aware. Many of those fine folks are listed in the Acknowledgments.

Human-Cannabis relationships are more important today than ever and have evolved to a greater extent during the duration of this book project than in many preceding centuries. For students, lawyers, physicians, activists, law enforcement personnel, legislators, elected leaders, farmers, and an enormous range of scholars and aficionados, there is something, perhaps a lot, that will be of interest. If you know of additional sources of accurate, documented information pertinent to our discussion of one of humanity’s more ancient plant resources, please let the authors know for future editions that we hope will be inspired by this publication.

Our acknowledgments were written last, which in theory gave us more time to think about them than any other aspect of the 15-year academic odyssey that this book represents. In practice, this time period amounts to a quarter of the authors’ lives. As a result, it is impossible to recall each of the countless persons who offered their helpful support, ranging from critical scholarly input to providing comfortable and thought-provoking sets and settings. Regrettably, we have omitted many of you who may simply take to heart that we very much appreciate your friendship.

Although we accept all responsibility for editing oversights, we relied gratefully on the editorial experience and exuberant participation of Annie Riecken, Michael Backes, Craig Fleetham, and others. We were also very much encouraged by the initial reviews by Richard Tucker, David Burney Ethan Russo, and Norman Grinspoon.

David Watson pioneered many aspects of the modern Cannabis realm and since our early friendship has consistently shared both insights and inanities surrounding the human-Cannabis relationship. Karl Hillig’s investigation of Cannabis’s evolution using modern molecular techniques provided the basic taxonomic system we adopted for this book. Cannabis breeder Etienne de Meijer and colleagues published many core papers concerning Cannabis’s genetic diversity and the inheritance of the genus. John McPartland and colleagues explored the cutting edge of human-Cannabis coevolution, and his meta-analytical analyses provided us with much food for thought. Academic inspiration and support flowed freely from fellow members of the Society for Economic Botany, and we wish to thank in particular Michael Balick, Paul Cox, Trish Plaster, Peter Matthews, Will McClatchey John Rashford, and Doug Yen. Sid Kahn provided wizened views into Central Asian Cannabis history.

Unique images were graciously supplied by Shelly Benoit, Jiang Hongen, Li Xiao, Rohit Markande, Todd McCormick, Nick van der Merwe, Marc Richardson, Mojave Richmond, Neil Schultes, Judy Sky, David Watson, and the University of Kentucky Archives. All figures were adeptly manipulated in the virtual realm by Nancy Hulbirt. Matt Barbee drafted our wonderful maps.

Thanks to the following for their generous academic support and expertise: Hannu Ahokas, Michael Aldrich, John Allen, Elizabeth Barber, Janos Berenji, Jean Black, Ivan Bocsa, Jeff Boutain, Otto Brinkhammer, Teresa Brugh, Ricardo Gonzalez, Gu Wenfeng, Dorian Fuller, Allan Hall, Ho Huu Nhi, Stefanie Jacomets, Hongen Jiang, S. K. Jain, PetrKunes, Nicolai Lemeshev, Laurel Kendall, Marsha Levine, Erica Longtin, Ilze Loze, Marco Madella, Jesse Merlin, Nguyen Van Viet, Sandra Olsen, Pham Thi Minh Loan, Claire Shimabukuro, Andrew Sherratt, Sergei Shuvalov, Claudia Sureda, Sim Yeonok, Joseph Streeter, Siim Veski, Ben Wadman, Goro Yamada, Yan Xia, Yang Jongsung, and perhaps most of all, the University of Hawai’i at Manoa and the International Hemp Association.

We would also like to acknowledge the profound inspiration received from the works of Carl O. Sauer (professor of geography at the University of California at Berkeley), Charles Heiser (professor of botany at Indiana University), Edgar Anderson (professor of botany at Washington University in St. Louis), Jack Harlan (professor of plant genetics at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign), Nikolai Vavilov (former director of the Russian All-Union Institute of Agricultural Sciences at Leningrad), and Richard Evans Schultes (professor of botany at Harvard University). Their scientific and scholarly ideas regarding human-environment and plant-people relationships permeate our discussions of the evolutionary biology and ethnobotanical history of Cannabis. We stand on the shoulders of giants.

Ultimately, we respect our patient yet ever-questioning parents, who encouraged us to pursue that which we truly enjoyed in their hopes that we should do well.


During the long course of writing this book, we have adopted several conventions that may differ from other scientific publications, and they are explained here.


Throughout this book we follow the migration routes and evolutionary interactions of various Cannabis gene pools and their representative taxa. For clarity and readability we represent these gene pools with acronyms such as BLH, rather than broad-leaf hemp or Cannabis indica ssp. chinensis. Full names are used when they first appear in each chapter, and readers should refer often to Table 1, which lists the acronyms used in this book.

Place Names

The time frame of this book stretches from prehistory into the future. Geographical and political names have changed repeatedly during the historical period and are likely to do so again. We have chosen to use the names and political boundaries of present-day countries and regions, even though they may not have been used in the past since this seems easier for the reader than switching names and boundaries during each time period. Geographical terms are the most recently accepted Roman character versions of foreign terms, many of which have only recently come into common Western usage, such as the Hengduan Mountains and Yungui Plateau of southwestern China. We also choose to capitalize geographical features such as Yangzi River but not to capitalize political designations such as Sichuan province.


We use Roman character versions of foreign words and phrases familiar to those who predominately read English. Most Chinese words in the text are presented in modern-day Pinyin without diacritical marks, as well as translated to English, and simplified Chinese characters and Pinyin versions with diacritical marks are included for particularly important terms or where linguistic connections would be less clear without them. We capitalize Chinese and Korean dynasty names as well as historical periods and geological eras and epochs.


In a modern cross-cultural treatise for readers from diverse religious and historic backgrounds, we feel it is appropriate to use BCE (before the Common Era) rather than BC (before Christ), and CE (of the Common Era) rather than AD (anno Domini, in the year of the Lord ). Dates BCE are noted as such, as are early dates CE (generally before 1000 CE), and after this time the epithet is dropped as in 1492 or 2010. For geological time spans and most archeological data, we choose to use BP (before the present) rather than the date (BCE or CE) so the reader will understand how long ago things happened. We make an exception when referring to historical dynastic eras, where we use dates.


All photos in this book were taken by Robert C. Clarke unless otherwise noted.

Acronyms used in this book to represent differing Cannabis gene pools, based largely on Hillig (2005a/b).

Biotypes and their corresponding acronyms, Latin names (scientific binomials), traditional geographical ranges, population status, and primary uses are listed here.

PABiotype: Putative ancestor

Binomial: Cannabis ruderalis

Early range: Northern Central Asia

Population status: Putative C. sativa and C. indica ancestor; either wild or ancient feral escapes

Uses: Possible ancient use for seed and crude fiber

PHABiotype: Putative hemp ancestor

Binomial: Either extant and unrecognized or extinct

Early range: Balkan Peninsula and Caucasus Mountains during last ice age

Population status: Hypothetical C. sativa ancestor

Uses: Possible ancient use for seed and crude fiber

NLHABiotype: Narrow-leaf hemp ancestor

Binomial: Cannabis sativa ssp. spontanea

Early range: Eastern Europe and Central Asia

Population status: Putative NLH ancestor; more likely feral NLH

Uses: Seed and crude fiber

NLHBiotype: Narrow-leaf hemp

Binomial: Cannabis sativa ssp. sativa

Early range: Europe

Population status: Cultivated and feral

Uses: Seed and textile fiber

PDABiotype: Putative drug ancestor

Binomial: Either extant and unrecognized or extinct

Early range: Hengduan Mountains and Yungui Plateau during last ice age

Population status: Hypothetical C. indica ancestor

Uses: Possible ancient use for ritual and medicinal drugs

BLHABiotype: Broad-leaf hemp ancestor

Binomial: Either extant and unrecognized or extinct

Early range: Eastern Asia

Population status: Hypothetical BLH ancestor

Uses: Possible ancient use for seed and crude fiber

BLHBiotype: Broad-leaf hemp

Binomial: Cannabis indica ssp. chinensis

Early range: China, Korea, Japan, and Southeast Asia

Population status: Cultivated and feral

Uses: Seed and textile fiber

NLDABiotype: Narrow-leaf drug ancestor

Binomial: Cannabis indica ssp. kafiristanica

Early range: Himalayan Foothills—Kashmir to Myanmar

Population status: Putative NLD ancestor; more likely feral NLD

Uses: Drugs—marijuana and hashish

NLDBiotype: Narrow-leaf drug

Binomial: Cannabis indica ssp. indica

Early range: South and Southeast Asia, Middle East

Population status: Cultivated and feral

Uses: Drugs—marijuana and hashish; also fiber and seed

BLDBiotype: Broad-leaf drug

Binomial: Cannabis indica ssp. afghanica

Early range: Northern Afghanistan and Pakistan

Population status: Cultivated and possibly feral

MAP 1. Present-day ranges of Cannabis gene pools indicated by their biotype acronyms (cartography by Matt Barbee).

Introduction to the Multipurpose Plant Cannabis

Throughout the ages, [Cannabis] has been extolled as one of man’s greatest benefactors— and cursed as one of his greatest scourges. [Cannabis] is undoubtedly an herb that has been many things to many people. Armies and navies have used it to make war, men and women to make love. Hunters and fishermen have snared the most ferocious creatures, from the tiger to the shark, in its Herculean weave. Fashion designers have dressed the most elegant women in its supple knit. Hangmen have snapped the necks of thieves and murderers with its fiber. Obstetricians have eased the pain of childbirth with its leaves [female flowers]. Farmers have crushed its seeds and used the oil within to light their lamps. Mourners have thrown its seeds [inflorescences] into blazing fires and have had their sorrow transformed into blissful ecstasy by the fumes that filled the air.






In the Beginning: Circumstances of Early Human Contact with Cannabis

Over the vast time span within which humans have known and used Cannabis for many purposes, it has been heralded as one of humankind’s supreme resources and cursed as one of our utmost burdens. As an introduction to this controversial plant, we have constructed a possible scenario for the origins of Cannabis use by humans, utilizing botanical, ecological, and archeological evidence. Hypothetical early human contact with Cannabis and the subsequent discovery and application of its useful resources took place during the distant past in one of the more temperate and well-watered areas of ancient Central Asia.

It was springtime many thousands of years ago. A long ice age had recently ended, and a small group of nomadic people was on the move, venturing far from their ancestral territory. Finding a suitable clearing near the bend of a meandering river, they stopped to camp. They had migrated into this remote location under pressure from other more powerful and aggressive human groups.

In their new open environment, they constructed simple thatch shelters in which to sleep, store their few belongings, and protect their families from the elements. At this time, humans had not yet developed techniques for cultivating plants and domesticating animals. Like all other peoples during this ancient era, this group depended completely on hunting and gathering their food and other required resources.

Women spent much of the day searching for and collecting seasonal wild edible fruits, roots, grains, vegetables, grubs, and nuts, as well as cordage fibers and fuel wood. Meanwhile, men tracked and stalked deer, pigs, goats, horses, certain birds, and other land animals in nearby forests and grasslands, as well as assisting with seasonal gathering. The river adjacent to their new settlement supplied water and promised other important natural resources critical for survival. Fish were also potentially useful if they could figure out how to catch them.

As time passed, they increasingly disturbed the clearing surrounding their settlement and in the process, inadvertently created nitrogen-rich soil environments by depositing organic waste materials in dump heaps. By trampling and cutting back much of the original vegetation, the immigrants unintentionally favored several sun-loving plants that were preadapted to the new, human-made open scars with waste-enriched soil.

One plant that often colonizes dump heaps or waste areas in open environments is Cannabis, a tall herb that is naturally adapted to disturbed or sunny habitats. Toward the end of the short, warm summer, women gathering seasonal fruits and nuts discovered stands of wild hemp full of ripe seeds along the river near their settlement. They teased out and tasted a few seeds and decided they were worthwhile food. Unable to remove the myriad of seeds easily, they cut whole plants with seeds still attached and dragged them back to camp. Thus seeds of this conspicuous herb were brought into the group’s clearing during their search for food. Here, Cannabis found a favorable niche in the sunny, moist, and well-drained soil, nutrient-enriched by human activities.

Women experimented with these plants, letting them dry and flailing them against cleared ground. As they whipped the dry plants against the open earth, seeds flew into the air. Most landed near the threshing where they were swept up, but a few strayed farther and were not retrieved. Others seeds were left behind in threshed plants that were discarded onto dump heaps.

By the end of the next cold season, new spring showers gave the forgotten hemp seeds the necessary moisture required for germination and growth, and the plants flourished through the summer, thriving on available water, sunlight, and nitrogen-rich piles of organic waste. Soon the women began to harvest the hemp seeds around their nearby rubbish piles, making fewer trips farther from home in search of wild hemp. Within a few years, trips to collect wild hemp ceased, and then the seed was harvested only from self-sown Cannabis plants in disturbed environments near their settlement. Human and plant interactions such as these were the bridge between hunting and gathering and agriculture; these were the incipient moments of early settled farming.

FIGURE 1. Cannabis naturally colonizes open streamside habitats with ample sunlight, water, nutrients, and air movement. The plants shown here are Cannabis spontaneously along a watercourse (A) in the northeastern State of Megalaya in India. Feral Cannabis is highly adaptable and can grow and reproduce in a wide variety of temperate habitats, even under extreme conditions such as in a concrete culvert (B) along a highway in rural southwestern China. Cannabis is opportunistic and thrives in nutrient-rich waste heaps resulting from human activities (C) as illustrated by this population in Arunachal Pradesh, India. Cannabis is also a formidable weed in field crops as seedlings (D) grow rapidly in competition for sunlight. Adult plants commonly appear in temperate field crops Cannabis on open fertile land, as in Yunnan province, China (E). Feral plants are often favored by humans and encouraged to survive, either because they are potentially useful for seed and drugs, as in western Nepal (F), or simply because they are strikingly attractive, as along a main street in Kunming in Yunnan province, China (G).

FIGURE 2. Humans living across a wide geographical range have found diverse uses for Cannabis. Examples of this remarkable variety include the cloth of Hmong tribal weavers (A) in rural villages of southwestern China, snack seed food sold (B) in eastern Chinese cities, ritual clothing worn in traditional Korean Confucian funerary worship (C) and contemporary Western recreational and medicinal drug use (D).

FIGURE 3. Cannabis is a versatile crop plant grown with various strategies for different uses. Hemp fiber fields are sown close together to promote stalk elongation and fiber yield, as in the Netherlands (A); hemp seed fields are sown farther apart to allow branching to maximize seed yield as in Gansu province, China (B); and uniform crops of potent seedless female flowers for medicinal and recreational uses are produced by transplanting genetically identical vegetative cuttings as in Switzerland (C).

Like all traditional peoples, past and present, these early humans knew their immediate environment intimately through their own experiences and information passed on orally from their ancestors. As a key element of survival, they were quite familiar with local plants, animals, and inorganic materials, and most of their hunting and gathering equipment was fabricated from local plant and animal sources.

The group’s store of knowledge developed slowly, and when challenged by a new living situation, they were eager to develop new techniques to utilize unfamiliar animal and plant resources. As the newly introduced Cannabis populations grew larger around the settlement, they became increasingly conspicuous. Could Cannabis offer other benefits for survival? Their curiosity grew, and through a process of trial and error, they experimented with its uses.

They knew initially that edible Cannabis seeds borne in clusters on the female plants contained a nutritious oily substance. Soon they discovered that they could also be used as a source of oil for cooking, fuel, or even as a base material for crude soap. They already knew about the uses of fibers and eventually recognized the extraordinary fibrous qualities of Cannabis. They wore animal skins and furs held together with thongs and were always searching for new plants and animals that could provide durable fibers. However, they had yet to learn the crafts of spinning and weaving.

These early settlers eventually learned they could peel bark from the hollow Cannabis stalk and extract long fibers that were easily utilized. They also learned that hemp fibers were very strong, long lasting, and water resistant. As they experimented with methods for fiber extraction, the group saw that by soaking long Cannabis stalks in pools along the river and letting them partly decompose, the process now known as retting took place. After sufficient time, most of the adhesive layers of the stalk decomposed into water-soluble juices, and the insoluble, water-resistant materials (the long fiber cells) were left to be more easily collected and dried. They experimented with the fibers, creating strong, durable, waterproof cords and later discovered how to spin yarn and weave cloth with hemp fiber.

Fish in the retting pools were stunned by a lack of oxygen and/or the water-soluble plant juices and floated to the surface in a senseless state. They were in no way rendered inedible; however, in a stupefied state they were easily gathered. Relatively easy access to an important food resource stimulated early humans to experiment with the construction of fish lines and nets made from water-resistant hemp fibers.

But was the need for fiber or food the only reason for their interest in Cannabis? Perhaps it was first used for its spiritual or euphoric value and thus initially employed for entertainment or ceremonial purposes. In their ceaseless quest for food, they could have first realized Cannabis’s psychoactive potential while eating its seeds. The small, resin-covered bracts surrounding the seeds are potentially psychoactive and could have been ingested along with the seeds; however, the potent smoke breathed in when Cannabis plants were burned would have induced a more rapid onset of mind-altering experiences. At first unintentionally, early humans ventured into new realms of cognitive experience and soon favored Cannabis as a spiritual, recreational, or medicinal ally.

Psychoactive Cannabis resin (complex mixture of aromatic compounds and cannabinoids) can induce rapturous and joyous sensations, ranging from mild reverie and a general sense of well-being to ecstasy and hallucination. In our ancient past, these experiences probably generated a deeper interest in the plant as they do for some today. If only temporarily, the mind-altering resin could have opened new doors of perception for early peoples. Use of the psychoactive resin may have become a key mental and physical refuge from frequently monotonous and strenuous patterns of life.

Consuming Cannabis also could have had an explosive effect on early people’s world view and ideology. Early hunting and gathering groups guarded and handed down mysteries or cosmological explanations that served as their interpretations of reality, and these spiritual explanations helped them understand life and death in their own cultural contexts. The ecstatic, visionary effects of Cannabis ingestion may have morphed these mysteries into a new system of beliefs and symbols, psychologically precipitating the invention and interpretation of invisible spirits, both malevolent and benevolent. If so, these early people came to regard the plant as a gift from their ancestors and their gods to be used as a vehicle for transcending to higher planes of consciousness. Essentially, Cannabis would have provided a means by which they could communicate with their deities—an early Plant of the Gods (Schultes and Hofmann 1992).

Regardless of their initial motivation for using Cannabis, the group soon realized its many possibilities. They used the plant as a food supplement, an important source of fiber, fuel, and medicine, and they revered its psychoactive properties as a mental elixir for relaxation, recreation, and spiritual communication. Most importantly, by consciously or inadvertently carrying seeds as they migrated, Cannabis became part of their transported entourage. Humans and Cannabis became linked in a number of ways very early on and have remained so until modern times.

The scenario presented earlier involves a series of hypothetical yet plausible ancient Holocene events in the lives of a Mesolithic hunting and gathering group that was just beginning to experiment with fishing, farming, weaving, and ritual plant use. This succession of events probably recurred often in several regions during the recession of the last glacial age that began the Holocene Epoch about 12,000 years ago and possibly much earlier in the Pleistocene Epoch. This hypothetical group’s experiences symbolize some of the possible circumstances behind early human experimentation with Cannabis, which evolved into an important and long-lasting multipurpose relationship affecting the evolution of both human culture and Cannabis as a crop plant. The antiquity and depth of this relationship forms the basis of this book.

A Brief Summary of the Long and Diverse History of Relationships between Cannabis and Humans

Cannabis has played a profound role on the stage of human history. The development of agriculture, which began approximately 10,000 years ago, has had monumental consequences for humans and our planet, allowing us to exert more control over our food supply and vastly increase our populations and success as a species. In this book, we argue that in some areas of Eurasia, Cannabis was a major, if not crucial, player in this transformational change in human ecology. The so-called agricultural revolution in fact took millennia to unfold and is still progressing with new scientific breakthroughs in genetic engineering and environmental manipulation. These modern innovations also affect the role and impact of Cannabis in our lives. Through artificial selection of desirable qualities and for a variety of purposes, humans have been manipulating Cannabis plants for many thousands of years.

The saga of human-Cannabis relationships has been a long, drawn-out affair, an epic association of people and a plant that has influenced history on many fronts in various regions of the world. For instance, hemp was a significant and possibly crucial source of rope used to trap, harness, and command the power and versatility of horses, beginning thousands of years ago in the Eurasian steppes. In this huge region horses have long been used in transportation, hunting, farm work, recreation, and war. Hemp also provided rigging and sails that allowed sailing vessels of the great fleets of Europe and Asia to navigate the oceans for exploration, exploitation, battle, commerce, and travel. Cannabis’s function as a vital, nutritious food and source of vegetable oil was significant in the past. Its use for drug purposes, medicinal and mind-altering, licit and illicit, has been widespread not only in our time but also throughout history.

A review of the ancient biogeography history, breeding, genetics, and multiple uses of Cannabis provides us with an enlightened perspective on this age-old natural resource. Before we roll back the clock and consider how our ancient roots intertwine with Cannabis, let us review some basics about the genus as it grows naturally in the wild and as a crop plant under cultivation.

What Shall We Call These Plants?

There are many names for the plant in question. You say weed, and I say hemp. You say marijuana, and I say Cannabis. Are we talking about the same plant?

If you call this plant a weed, you may be right depending on your definition of a weedy plant. Some define a weed as a plant growing where it is unwanted. Others refer to a weed as a plant that has escaped cultivation. It is true that in some regions, such as Central Asia, which is probably its original homeland, or in other areas that have similar ecological conditions, such as the American Midwest, Cannabis escaped from hemp fields and thrives as a feral plant or naturalized alien weed.

On the other hand, if you define a weed as a plant considered troublesome or useless, you may or may not be right. Cannabis plants are troublesome to some, especially farmers as well as officials enforcing laws prohibiting cultivation, possession, and use. On the other hand, for many centuries Cannabis has provided us with valuable resources, including fiber, food, medicine, and religious sacrament, and so it can hardly be considered useless. Use of the term weed is also a colloquialism, being one of many English language nicknames for drug type Cannabis.

FIGURE 4. Cannabis provides many natural resources for humans. Hemp stalks provide fiber used to make cordage (A) and weave cloth. Female flowers (B) provide medicinal and recreational drugs, edible seed (C), hemp seed oil and essential oils (D) are used to make packaged foods and beverages (E). Whole plants serve as fodder (F), provide educators with a compelling example of a traditional, multipurpose plant (G) and add ornamental beauty to our lives (H).

What about the term hemp ? The word hemp originally, and still formally, refers to Cannabis sativa, a tall Eurasian herb that is widely cultivated for its tough bast (bark) fiber. However, in more recent times the word hemp has been applied as a collective noun representing many additional fiber-bearing plants. Today, true hemp or common hemp refers to Cannabis, or more specifically European Cannabis sativa or narrow-leaf hemp (NLH). The complex history of Cannabis as a fiber source in ancient East and South Asia, somewhat later in Western Europe, and during more recent times in North America, is described in detail in Chapter 5.

Marijuana is a common, often notorious nickname for our ancient cultivated and weedy ally and is probably of Hispanic derivation. The name marijuana refers to both the plant and the dried leaves and flowers that are smoked for mind-altering purposes. The term sinsemilla is derived from the Spanish phrase meaning without seed and is the name most commonly used for seedless marijuana.

There are many other colloquial or ethnic names that refer to the plant, or more specifically its mind-altering products, including grass, pot, hashish, kif, ganja, and so on. Biological taxonomists (scientists who systematically classify and name plants and animals) have placed all marijuana, or true hemp plants, in genus Cannabis. Today, many professional and nonprofessional people in countries around the world refer to these plants as cannabis . Although both common and scientific names will be used in this study, we will predominantly refer to them as Cannabis.

FIGURE 5. The range of variation within each Cannabis species and their respective biotypes can be quite pronounced, yet each taxon is characterized by certain common phenotypic traits. Narrow-leaf hemp ancestor (NLHA), C. saliva ssp. spontanea plants are most often of medium height with medium length internodes and less developed branching, small light to medium green leaves with narrow leaflets, and small, leafy inflorescences and seeds, as in this Central Asian population (A). Narrow-leaf hemp (NLH), C. sativa ssp. sativa plants are taller with long internodes and more branch development, medium green leaves with large narrow leaflets and larger inflorescences with medium size seeds, such as this French fiber and seed cultivar growing in the Netherlands (B). Broad-leaf hemp (BLH), C. indica ssp. chinensis plants have more robust stalks and medium to long internodes, more and longer branches, larger deep green leaves with broad leaflets and much larger inflorescences with large seeds, as seen in this fiber and seed crop from Yunnan province, China (C). Putative narrow-leaf drug ancestor, C. indica ssp. kafiristanica plants are short to medium in height, with short internodes and many branches, small medium green leaves with narrow leaflets, and small inflorescences with small seeds, such as this example from Bihar state, India (D). Narrow-leaf drug (NLD), C. indica ssp. indica plants are often tall with medium to long internodes and well developed branches, medium to large medium green leaves with narrow leaflets, and large, long inflorescences and medium size seeds, such as this Mexican variety growing in California (E). Broad-leaf drug (BLD), C. indica ssp. afghanica plants are often short to medium in height with short internodes, well developed branches, large dark green leaves with broad leaflets, and large leafy inflorescences with medium to large seeds, as seen in this Afghan hashish variety growing in California (F).

It is particularly important to understand the names used throughout this book for various kinds of Cannabis. A modern taxonomic treatment of Cannabis is presented in Chapter 11. The use of acronyms (e.g., PA, BLD, NLH) to represent different Cannabis gene pools, in addition to their scientific Latin binomials with subspecies designations (indicating biotypes or groups of organisms with similar phenotypes or observable characteristics) should encourage readers to think in terms of gene pools while tracing the natural and human-directed evolution of Cannabis. Even readers familiar with the history of the taxonomic study of Cannabis will find the modern system presented in this book to be quite different from what was previously proposed and of considerable use in resolving previous taxonomic discrepancies.

Should We Praise or Condemn This Multipurpose Plant?

People have cultivated many different kinds of plants since the dawn of agriculture thousands of years ago. Yet perhaps none have been both praised and condemned so much as Cannabis. As noted in our hypothetical scenario, Cannabis, the notorious provider of mind-altering Δ⁹-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ⁹-THC, or simply THC) and other psychoactive substances, has been utilized for many purposes in addition to its common use as a religious and recreational drug plant. Its stalks can be used as a fuel source. As we noted earlier, the durable tissue derived from the elongated cells found in the outer bark of Cannabis provides fiber for clothing, furnishings, sails, rope, canvas, and other woven materials, as well as for paper. Its nutrient-rich seeds feed humans and domesticated animals; the seed oil is useful for cooking and burning as lamp fuel. And of course, Cannabis has many medicinal applications, most underrealized today but which proved helpful in the past and may become even more valuable in the future.

Although people have enjoyed an extraordinarily long and diverse association with Cannabis over large parts of our planet, it is now almost universally illegal to grow and sell. There are many books describing various generally illicit aspects of this relationship, but few offer a satisfactory look into the vast and interesting shared history of humans and Cannabis, especially our early biological and ethnobotanical experiences with this useful, hardy plant. Hopefully this book sheds more light on a most controversial subject and will help readers better understand why Cannabis has been referred to as both the devil’s weed (from the film Marijuana 1936) and the giver of delight (from ancient Vedic texts).

What We Discuss in This Book

Where, when, why, and how did early humans use Cannabis? What were the environmental conditions in which our relationships with these plants actually began? How and why did the many uses of Cannabis spread from one society to another during ancient times? How have humans and Cannabis interacted and affected each other, even perhaps directing their coevolution? And what are the lessons to be learned for our time and for the future? This is the story of the evolution of Cannabis and its connections to our cultural evolution.

As the father of modern ethnobotany Richard Evans Schultes (1969b), pointed out more than 40 years ago, progress in the study of psychoactive drug plants during the second half of the twentieth century owes its spectacular success to interdisciplinary studies and consequent integration of data gleaned from many seemingly unrelated fields of investigation: anthropology, botany, ethnobotany, chemistry, history, linguistics, medicine, pharmacognosy pharmacology and psychology. This investigation of Cannabis brings together information from all these disciplines and more.

Chapter 2 presents an overview of the natural origins and early evolution of Cannabis and proposes a hypothetical model for the evolution of Cannabis up to the time when early humans first encountered it. Is the scenario presented in this introduction a realistic description of the earliest human contact and use of Cannabis? A coherent, convincing hypothesis regarding the origin of human relationships with any plant must be based on a fundamental understanding of the botany of that species, and especially important is a thorough ecological understanding including environmental adaptations to such variables as climate, soil, landform, and other organisms such as humans. Thus a brief botanical and ecological description of Cannabis is also presented in Chapter 2, including an attempt to identify the probable centers of species formation—the regions where the early evolution of Cannabis occurred.

Chapter 3 provides a critical, in-depth discussion of the cultural circumstances within which people began to use Cannabis, offering an overview of how the early collection of wild plants led to cultivation and in due course to artificial selection of desirable traits and eventually domestication. Human selection has been the most important determinant of Cannabis’s evolution and has radically influenced the geographical range of divergent Cannabis taxa (reflected in phenotypically differing genotypes or genetic inheritance). Many botanical aspects of Cannabis relevant to its natural evolution are discussed, along with a detailed discussion of evolutionary changes in Cannabis imposed through artificial selection, using the present-day distribution of chemical variants as a case in point.

Chapter 4 presents methodology for interpreting material evidence for Cannabis’s antiquity, its biogeographical spread, and general aspects of its multipurpose use over time and space. This includes reference to pertinent paleobotanical, archaeobotanical, archeological, and historical evidence. Chapter 4 also presents our hypotheses for the ancient use of Cannabis seed and fiber in fishing and the early relationships among humans, hemp, and horses tracing a series of phases of cultural dispersal of Cannabis from its Eurasian homeland to various regions of the Old World. In the prehistoric period this involved migrating nomads, who perhaps first spread it into China, India, Southwest Asia, Europe, the Mediterranean, and Africa. A six-phase model is presented for the historical dispersal of Cannabis by humans.

Chapters 5 and 6 present detailed histories of different traditional uses of Cannabis fiber and seed. Thus we learn how Cannabis fiber has been utilized for cordage, cloth, and paper in Chapter 5, and then how it provides seed oil, food, and fodder in Chapter 6. In these two chapters, the ancient as well as modern cultural dispersal of Cannabis for fiber and seed use throughout much of Eurasia, Africa, and the Western Hemisphere are described and explained.

Chapter 7 presents a detailed discussion of ancient through more modern Cannabis use for psychoactive purposes in ritual and recreational contexts. Special consideration is given here to traditional ritualistic applications in order to address the question of whether or not Cannabis was originally a Plant of the Gods (see Schultes and Hofmann 1992; Merlin 1972, 2003). Ethnobotanical traditions of Cannabis use for medicinal purposes are explored in Chapter 8. Cannabis also has a long, widespread, and continuing history as a therapeutic agent, and we review medical usage in East and South Asia, the Middle East, Europe, Africa, and the New World. Some major aspects of Cannabis’s use in modern medicine are also discussed.

Chapter 9 examines the large body of evidence from ancient texts, historical accounts, ethnographic research, and archeological sites concerning the ritual use of nonpsychoactive Cannabis in various parts of Europe and East Asia. Here we focus attention on symbolic, ceremonial, and spiritual aspects of hemp in traditional cultures where it has long been cultivated.

Chapter 10 continues our investigation of the influence of humans on the evolution of Cannabis by following the work of plant breeders during the last century. Through the use of Mendelian selection and breeding techniques, plant breeders developed industrial hemp varieties—seed-propagated cultivars (cultivated varieties) suitable for fiber and/or seed production. Other breeders, both professionals and amateurs, have developed a myriad of seed and vegetatively propagated cultivars for recreational and medical purposes.

Chapter 11 reviews the taxonomic history of Cannabis, explores the realms of modern chemotaxonomy and molecular taxonomy, and assesses their bearing on both the Cannabis species question and evolutionary studies. Recent phylogenetic research is also described and analyzed in terms of its relevance to our understanding of the evolutionary and ethnobotanical history of Cannabis.

Chapter 12 expands upon ideas in Chapter 2 and proposes a model for the early evolution of the hemp and hop family (Cannabaceae) and the migration of Cannabis as the Holocene epoch began 12,000 years ago.

Chapter 13 reviews the long and complex history of Cannabis and its use by humans, continues to examine the depth of our relationship with Cannabis, and critically evaluates new evidence for biological coevolution of humans and Cannabis at the DNA level. Its past, present, and future multipurpose uses are reviewed with special focus on the present position and future potential of recreational, ritualistic, medical, agricultural, and industrial applications of this resource-rich genus. Here we also present new evidence to support our model for the evolution of Cannabis and offer food for thought for future researchers. The comprehensive references section at the end of the book includes citations of all authors cited in the text and should serve as a valuable bibliographic source for further study.

Natural Origins and Early Evolution of Cannabis

What seest thou else

In the dark backward and abysm of time?






Central Asia: Vavilov and the Origins of Cannabis


Theories for South Asian Origin of Domesticated Cannabis




Where and when did humans first come into contact with Cannabis? And how and why did people begin to employ these extremely useful plants? In order to support our hypothetical scenario of early human interactions with Cannabis presented in Chapter 1, we need to identify when and where the species originated. What were our planet’s environmental and biotic conditions during Cannabis’s early evolution? What are the environmental conditions in which it grows naturally without human help? Can we realistically understand how Cannabis evolved? And if so,

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