The use of Cannabis sativa et indica stretches back for millennia. It has lended itself to the development of many products needed by various cultures and societies throughout the ages. Due to its ability to grow well in the wild in a vast array of climates, it takes on slightly different properties and qualities. Each of these climates lends to a different utility sought out by humans. This is one of the main reasons why it has been cultivated all across the world.
The earliest documented use of Cannabis is from the Chinese around 6000 BCE where the seeds were used as a food source. A tomb was discovered in present day Taiwan that suggested Cannabis was used for ropes. This is pretty remarkable because this is about the time when humans first began to develop agriculture as a common practice. The famous physicist Carl Sagan has even ventured as far as stating that Cannabis was probably the first plant cultivated by humans, thus beginning our modern day agriculture.
The Chinese would further advance their usage of Cannabis by making textiles from it around 4000 BCE. In the year 2727 BCE, the Chinese described its medicinal attributes and then detailed its vast medicinal uses within its pharmacopoeia around 800 BCE. Around the time of 1200 BCE to 800 BCE in the regions of India and Nepal, it was used spiritually in a Vedic religious context as a powerful plant ally, being referred to as an entheogen due to its psychoactive properties producing insight, reverie, and perspective. It would become known as one of the 5 sacred plants of ayurveda, the medical system of the region that is still practiced today. It has been utilized for this purpose ever since in religious, shamanic and spiritual contexts. Finally, in about 500 BCE Cannabis had spread to Europe and its cultivation only continued to flourish.
While Cannabis’ ethnobotanical uses as a fuel and building material are well documented and worthy of study, its powerful medicinal compounds are the true value of this amazing plant, in part because they are not available in any other known botanical. This is primarily the reason why it has been cultivated and venerated as such a sacred plant for so long. Even though Cannabis cultivation and its consumption flourished, with the middle east being the epicenter of this great movement, once the 20th century arrived, governments began to banish its use and production completely. Fortunately, some states and countries allowed it to be used in a medical context under very strict control and oversight. The true reason is up for debate, but the entheogenic properties of Cannabis, most notably induced by tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), are potentially the more prominent reasons recreational use was restricted or outlawed.
After the isolation and chemical description of Cannabidiol (CBD) by Adams et al in 1940, research began to develop to search for the chemical reasons for Cannabis’ medicinal effects. It wasn’t until 1963 that Cannabis research would really take off. Drs Mechoulam and Shvo, of the Hebrew University in Israel, first accurately described the structure and pharmacology of cannabinoids within Cannabis, and have been doing so ever since. Their initial discoveries have inspired a generation of researchers to explore the unique medicinal applications of this rarified and magnificent botanical, in spite of strict international government control. Below is a brief outline of some of the key societies and groups that have developed in the last few decades to advance and preserve knowledge of Cannabis, cannabinoids, the endocannabinoid system, in addition to providing its legal and policy developments internationally, and educating clinicians on how to best utilize Cannabis medically for their patients.
The International Cannabinoid Research Society
Starting in 1970, researchers began meeting annually to hold a symposium on the developments in Cannabis research. It was organized by various researchers, but nothing formal was established. In 1992, it was decided at their annual symposium, that year held in Boulder, Colorado, to formally establish the International Cannabinoid Research Society. There were roughly 50 members when the society was first formed and has now grown in excess of 500 worldwide. The society is dedicated to the advancement of knowledge in all fields of cannabinoids including their biochemistry, physiological mechanisms of endogenous cannabinoids and the endocannabinoid system, as well as the abuse potential associated with recreational cannabis. It addition to being a scientific research society, it also acts as an informational warehouse providing impartial scientific knowledge by hosting annual symposia for researchers.
International Association of Cannabis Medicines
The International Association of Cannabis Medicines was developed in the year 2000 with the mission of furthering information and research on Cannabis, cannabinoids, the endocannabinoid system, in addition to other topics related to their therapeutic potential and medical use. The association is a member funded organization that supports research on cannabinoids and the endocannabinoid system; promotes the exchange of information between researchers, clinicians, and patients; prepares and disseminates credible information on pharmacology, toxicology, and therapeutic potentials of cannabinoids and modulators of the endocannabinoid system; and monitors and documents national and international developments in therapeutics. The association freely publishes information regarding the medicinal applications of cannabinoids and the endocannabinoid system, scientific discoveries, as well as laws and policies on its website and within its newsletter.
Society of Cannabis Clinicians
The Society of Cannabis Clinicians is a non-profit organization formed in 2004 by Dr Tod Mikuriya, MD as a side project of the California Cannabis Research Medical Group. Dr Mikuriya and colleagues wanted to create a society with the mission of educating clinicians and healthcare professionals on the medicinal benefits of Cannabis. The Society publishes its findings and recommendations for medical professionals within the Journal of Cannabis in Clinical Practice O’Shaughnessy in addition to its online collective of material. To further its goal of educating and recruiting physicians and healthcare professionals to recommend Cannabis to patients, in 2015 the Society developed the first ever online Medical Cannabis Continuing Education program. Consisting of 12 modules, the novice clinician is quickly brought up-to-speed on Cannabis’ history and how to utilize this remarkable medicinal.