Cannabis is an inherently social thing. Think about it — who doesn’t have a few fond memories of passing around a joint with their friends on the back porch?
Even if you aren’t one to partake with friends, medical and recreational consumers alike will often swap stories about their favorite strains, terpenes, and methods for using cannabis.
And this isn’t an inherently new idea, either. Like many other entheogenic plants and fungi, cannabis’ historical roots are quite social and community-centric, too.
Ancient Medicinal & Ceremonial Cannabis Practices
Archaeological evidence of cannabis plants dates back about 10,000 years ago, with the plant likely originating from Central Asia.
Cannabis was utilized as an important source of fiber for textiles, food, and medicine for healing rituals in Ancient China during 4000 B.C.E. Several ancient texts describe the medicinal properties of cannabis, including:
- Pen Ts’ao Ching: The world’s oldest pharmacopeia said MáFěn (a “preparation made of female cannabis flowers”) was useful for treating rheumatic pain, constipation, malaria, and gynecological disorders.
- Chêng Lei Pen Ts’ao: Described MáFěn’s ability to reduce body temperature and “purify blood” (1108 CE).
- Ho Han Shu: Described cannabis’ analgesic (pain-relieving) properties for the first time (25-221 CE).
Traditional Japanese medicine considered cannabis a mild laxative. However, cannabis was also used to alleviate asthma, treat parasites, and heal poisonous bites.
Cannabis use spread rapidly throughout ancient India, enjoying its place in both medicinal and sacred religious practices.
“Cannabis was indeed considered a source of happiness, able to elicit joy and freedom feelings,” explains the study by Pisanti & Bifulco. “It was commonly used in many religious rituals, as reported in the sacred text Atharva Veda, a very ancient collection of holy writings in Sanskrit.”
During weddings in India, cannabis was consumed as a drink called Bhang to provide the bride and groom with protection from evil spirits, another study says.
Medicinally, cannabis was used as an analgesic, anesthetic, antiparasitic, antispastic, and diuretic substance. Cannabis was also used as an aphrodisiac, anticonvulsant, and appetite stimulant.
“Even in Tibet, Cannabis was considered a holy plant and was used in Tantric Buddhism to facilitate meditations, besides its application in the traditional Tibetan medicine, which ascribed a fundamental relevance to the healing properties of the plant,” Pisanti & Bifulco continue.
Cannabis Culture Today
Needless to say, cannabis culture today in the United States is a lot more… Well, regulated. It’s very formal. You go into a dispensary, you make your purchase, then you go home and spark up a bowl on your couch while streaming something on TV. Maybe you keep a journal about how each strain makes you feel.
But the element of socialization is still there, especially at small gatherings or even large parties. Why do people enjoy sharing cannabis with others?
In many ways, it helps us facilitate a better connection with each other. It removes the barriers of social anxiety, judgment, and ego.
Even when just discussing cannabis, it’s something that gets us intrigued. It satiates our inner scientific curiosities. It’s a way to share knowledge and experiences with others.
Key Takeaways: Cannabis Has Always Been a Social Plant
Sharing cannabis with others is not a new idea. In fact, the very origins of cannabis vividly depict its “social” side through its abundant use in ancient medicinal, spiritual, and ceremonial practices.
However, cannabis isn’t the only plant that fosters deeper connections with others. To learn more about the social side of psychedelics, listen to episode 18 of the Cannabis Science Today podcast. In this episode, host Emily Fata interviews Dr. Julie Holland to discuss how psychedelics make us feel more connected to ourselves and our community.
- Pisanti, S., & Bifulco, M. (2018). Medical Cannabis: A plurimillennial history of an evergreen. Journal of Cellular Physiology, 234(6), 8342–8351. https://doi.org/10.1002/jcp.27725
- Kohek, M., Sánchez Avilés, C., Romaní, O., & Bouso, J. C. (2021). Ancient psychoactive plants in a global village: The ritual use of cannabis in a self-managed community in Catalonia. International Journal of Drug Policy, 98, 103390. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.drugpo.2021.103390