The latest issue of the Journal of Experimental Botany includes a report on the oldest known marijuana stash, nearly two pounds found in the grave of a Gushi shaman who was buried 2,700 years ago in the Gobi Desert near Turpan. Analysis of the "superbly preserved" plant material—which had been placed in a wooden bowl and a leather basket, presumably for the shaman's use in the afterlife—found that it contained substantial levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), marijuana's main active ingredient. "The cannabis was presumably employed by this culture as a medicinal or psychoactive agent, or an aid to divination," write the authors, led by the American neurologist and cannabis researcher Ethan Russo. "To our knowledge, these investigations provide the oldest documentation of cannabis as a pharmacologically active agent."
In their 1993 book Marihuana: The Forbidden Medicine, Lester Grinspoon and James Bakalar say:
A native of central Asia, cannabis may have been cultivated as long as ten thousand years ago. It was certainly cultivated in China by 4000 B.C. and in Turkestan by 3000 B.C. It has long been used as a medicine in India, China, the Middle East, Southest Asia, South Africa, and South America. The first evidence for medicinal use of cannabis is an herbal published during the reign of the Chinese emperor Chen Nung five thousand years ago. Cannabis was recommended for malaria, constipation, rheumatic pains, "absentmindedness," and female disorders.
Meanwhile, the Marijuana Policy Project reports that Germany is about to become the fifth country to allow the use of cannabis as a medicine. Last month in the U.S., Michigan became the 13th state to do so.
[Thanks to Holly Fisher for the tip.]