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Cannabis is here to stay, but it's been here longer than you think.

It’s surprising to some that cannabis, including hemp, has had a prominent place in society for hundreds, even thousands of years. It was only until recently, about the last hundred years or so, that cannabis became taboo. 

Recently, archeologists found traces of cannabis in burial sites located the high mountains of western China. This was not the first finding however, as archeologists have located other sites and have agreed for some time that hemp (a variety of cannabis with a low THC content) was prominently grown and used for fiber, seed, oil, and food. But what the recent find does confirm is that at some point, the people in this region began to cultivate and grow cannabis with a higher THC content. These strains are common among the burial sites where it appears the plant was used as part of a burial ceremony - a ceremony that involved leaving the physical plane and moving on to a spiritual one. 

But the plant was also found elsewhere, it was even used in the 1800s. An Irishman, Dr. William Brooke O’Shaughnessy, performed the first clinical trials with cannabis, treating rheumatism, hydrophobia, cholera, and convulsions. Inspired by this research, Sir John Russel Reynolds prescribed Queen Victoria cannabis for her menstrual cramps. He wrote “When pure and administered carefully, [cannabis] is one of the most valuable medicines we possess."

So how did we move from using a plant with a myriad of uses, both tactile and medicinal, to worldwide prohibition ? And what does this mean for science and society as a whole as we move forward ?

The rise of the syringe in medicinal practice pushed places like the UK away from cannabis. During the the same time, oil and textile industries boomed as the world underwent an industrial revolution. When the Pope declared cannabis a threat and the Catholic Church signaled a ban, social structures conformed and competitive business men were all to eager to fill in the gaps. Propaganda masked as advertising became rhetoric, and here we are today - still fighting to understand cannabis. 

We’re currently facing times of epic proportions, where significant progress meets significant destruction, depletion, and at the very least radical change. The significant growth in the human population and its effects are undeniable - but there are options. Most of us prefer to live in harmony, more interested in cultivating balance and diversity, rather than disparity and demise. 

Cannabis is resilient. It’s reputation as a weed stems from its ability to produce a high yield with a low amount of water - useful considering all parts of the plant can be used for things we use, eat, and wear.

From textiles to food, remedies to building materials, cannabis can also be used to produce both biodiesel and ethanol fuels, it can be used to remediate soil and sink significant amounts of carbon from the atmosphere. Whether a replacement or additive, cannabis provides an abundance of options to re-invent materials, processes, and remediate the effects of and lessen the dependency on fossil fuels. 

So how does this wonder plant regain its rightful place ? The process has already begun and after more than 30 years of hard work, we have seen the first wave of change. There are plenty of challenges and more to come, legislation and regulation among them. Re-education and access to resources will assist in this process, especially for the communities most affected by the War on Drugs. As million dollar investments pour into the cannabis industry, men and women are still serving prison time for low level cannabis crimes. Cannabis not only provides economical solutions, including new jobs and tax dollars, but a revolution for the way we consume - with our mind and body. 

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