Cannabis: A Lost History



With the ongoing debates regarding its legalization in the United States, cannabis remains a relevant topic of interest in our modern times. This relevance is by no means a new phenomenon. As illustrated in the enlightening documentary “Cannabis: The Lost History”, the plant has played a key role in many aspects of society for thousands of years.

This history dates back to the year 50 B.C. Ancient Chinese texts from that time herald the plant’s medicinal benefits when treating gout, rheumatism, infection, inflammation and over one hundred additional ailments. Cannabis also proved fundamental in the production of China’s clothing, as well as their dietary regimens and burial practices.

The versatile plant was also embraced across the east. Ancient Indian and Iranian religious texts are replete with references to hemp; in some instances, it served as their chief sacrament. It was an important element in the birth of Buddhism as well.

The film goes on to explore the implementation of cannabis in Egyptian and Greek culture, its enigmatic presence within the pages in the Bible, and the complicated relationship it has endured in the U.S.


The medicinal use of the plant was widely accepted in western culture for many years. That all changed with the formation of the American Medical Association. The guidelines they set forth largely scoffed upon the long term efficacy of herbal remedies, and inspired a campaign that sought to alter perceptions of cannabis in the mainstream. Publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst led these efforts as he spread a steady stream of panic-inducing propaganda. Marijuana, as it was now called, was no longer considered a source of benefit for people, but one of menace.

In its depiction of current circumstances, the film spotlights the many societal issues surrounding our ongoing relationship with cannabis, including mass incarceration, racial disparities, and well-funded anti-drug campaigns.

The film encapsulates a wide range of history into its 65-minute running time as it veers from the sun gods of ancient religious rituals to the hysteria brought on by the exploitation film Reefer Madness. Narrated in great detail and an appropriately laid back tone, “Cannabis: The Lost History” shows a tremendous knowledge and reverence for its subject.

Directed by: Chris Rice

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