Marijuana was one of the first plants cultivated by humans. Its fibers and seeds have been found in excavations of sites of human communities that are over 6000 years old. The plant has many uses and helped societies advance time and time again.
The symbiotic relationship humans have had with marijuana probably began when a hunter-gatherer discovered the plant's seed-laden branches. The seeds are still used as a grain and are easily gathered from varieties which hold them on the colas (branches laden with buds).
The fiber sheath around the stem is one of the strongest and longest fibers in the plant world. It is easily removed from the core after it has been retted, or left to soak for awhile. The fiber was probably discovered after lying in a pool or puddle. Hemp fiber allowed many human communities to make their first rope and netting (both revolutionary developments) and then to make the move from animal hides to plant fiber clothing.
Humans discovered the psychoactive qualities of the plant thousands of years ago. The Scythians, who lived in northeastern Europe around 100 B.C, inhaled marijuana fumes in enclosed rooms. The practices were described by Herodotus, a Roman, who is considered by Westerners to be the world’s first historian. The tribe had not yet discovered the efficiencies of the smoking pipe.
Before recorded history various marijuana varieties were developed by a combination of selective breeding and acclimatization. For instance, people gathering seeds for food would tend to propagate large-seeded plants whose seeds stayed on the stem.
Marijuana usually developed into hemp in areas above the 30th parallel and contained small but variable amounts of the psychoactive substance, THC. Hemp does contain large amounts of a nearly non-psychoactive precursor of THC, cannabidiol, or CBD. The ratio of CBD to THC in marijuana increases with increasing latitudes of adapted plants.
A very hardy semi-weedy variety of cannabis, ruderalis, is found in the northern Steppes and is still used as a animal food grain. This variety also has a variable amount of THC.
Marijuana can be defined as the varieties of the marijuana plant cultivated for the psychoactive substance THC and its analogs. Marijuana is one of the most widely distributed plants in the world. It is grown in every county of the United States. Traditionally it has been grown in areas from the 30th parallel to the Equator and then to the 30th parallel S. Since the 1960’s it’s range has been increased to the 60th parallel.
Marijuana and hemp are varieties of the same species cannabis, and are sometimes interbred to develop new varieties. Most of the chemical and morphological differences and the extremely diverse gene-pool are artifacts of cannabis’s symbiotic relationship with humans. Humans carried seeds all over the world, and bred the plant to meet particular needs. This process continues today.
Modern marijuana growers are following in a great tradition. The plant has been re-discovered many times for one of its products after having been forgotten by previous generations. Americans are growing the plant today only for its psychoactive qualities. However, there are several reasons to think that when the prohibitions against its use are eliminated, the hemp plant will also be grown commercially in the US.
Marijuana fiber is not only the longest and one of the strongest in the plant kingdom, but depending on the variety, methods of cultivation, curing and processing, the fiber can be used for anything from ship rope to the finest linen-like material. Virtually no scientific experimentation has been done on modifying the fiber for various uses. Yet in countries where its cultivation is permitted, including France, Italy, and Yugoslavia, it is one of the most profitable crops grown. In these countries hemp is grown primarily for its fiber, which is used to make paper including very high quality non-deteriorating stock.
Marijuana pulp could be used in bio-mass operations, for paper making and as a substitute ingredient in place of wood fiber. It would be much more profitable to use marijuana rather than softwood for by-products. Since marijuana takes only one season to grow, farmers could better adjust plans according to market conditions. Marijuana actually yields more mass per acre than most forests.
Marijuana seed can be used as a high protein animal feed and also for its oil, which has many industrial uses. A high protein animal feed can be made from the mash after it is pressed for its oil.
Marijuana is still intimately involved in a symbiotic relationship with humans. This special relationship will help both species evolve and will continue to alter both of their destinies.
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