Here is a very good background editorial on ‘Hemp’ and its history written by Jim Prues on ‘The People’s Voice’. Some very good points in history are covered well in the full article, see link at bottom.
Hemp is the common name for cannabis, the first plant cultivated by humanity as we crept from being Neolithic to becoming Agrarian. Likely this was due to a few reasons. First, hemp is an extremely versatile plant, with leaves, seeds and stalks all capable of creating useful products. Second, it’s particularly easy to grow, needing little in the way of fertilizer or pest control. And finally, hemp is native to many parts of the world, particularly The Fertile Crescent, where some of the first agriculture happened early in our civilization.
Hemp use predates the Agrarian Age, as hemp fibers have been found in pottery in China and Taiwan dating to 7,000 years ago. The classical Greek historian Herodotus (ca. 480 BC) reported that the inhabitants of Scythia would often inhale the vapours of hemp smoke, both as ritual and for their own pleasurable recreation. So presumably the Scythians were the first recorded stoners.
In Europe, hemp growing and production became quite popular during the Medieval Age, having disseminated in that direction along with much of the technology of the Arabic Golden Age in Northern Africa. In Europe hemp seeds were used for food and oils, the leaves for teas and the stalks for fibres, including rope, clothes, sails and paper. Estimates put the number of Europeans actively involved in hemp growing and production in the 15th and 16th century at well over 50%.
Hemp has a strong historical influence on every continent, with varied cultural and religious traditions. Many African spiritual practices involve consuming hemp smoke to enhance awareness and generate visions like the Dagga ‘cults’.
The Spaniards brought hemp to the Western Hemisphere and cultivated it in Chile starting about 1545. However, in May 1607, “hempe” was among the crops Gabriel Archer observed being cultivated by the natives at the main Powhatanvillage, where Richmond, Virginia is now situated; and in 1613
Read the rest of it here