10 things you did not know about cannabis

A field of green cannabis plants

You probably know a lot about cannabis. In fact, these days if you don’t have a basic knowledge of cannabis you probably don’t pay much attention to current affairs, given how much focus the media has paid to it in recent years. Still, there’s always more to know, so we’ve compiled a list of our favourite little-known facts!

You probably know a lot about cannabis. In fact, these days if you don’t have a basic knowledge of cannabis you probably don’t pay much attention to current affairs, given how much focus the media has paid to it in recent years. Still, there’s always more to know, so we’ve compiled a list of our favourite little-known facts!

1) Cannabis is the world’s most valuable crop

This fact is by no means obscure, but it is surprising how few people understand the true, unbelievably huge value of the global cannabis crop. Not only is it the world’s biggest cash crop in absolute terms, with a gross production value of over $300 billion in 2014, it is also the most lucrative per square kilometre–at $47.7 million/km², it far outranks its closest competitor cocaine, which brings in an impressive $37.7 million/km². And it does so on just a fraction of the land used to grow rice, maize, and wheat, the highest-grossing conventional crops. These three crops each take up around 2 million km² in land, while cannabis was estimated in 2010 to take up just 6,148 km²!

2) In Bhutan,  cannabis is used as pig feed

A large pig lying in some straw
In Bhutan, cannabis is so abundant that it is fed to pigs (© nutmeg66)

In the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan, wild cannabis grows so prolifically that the locals view it as a nuisance and even feed it to their pigs. The tiny, landlocked kingdom has historically been highly insular and strictly Buddhist–and not the kind of Buddhist that approves of intoxication! Thus, having no culture of cannabis use as an intoxicant, the Bhutanese have traditionally had very little use for it. However, in recent years as television (and foreign media) has infiltrated the country, there are increasing signs that the country’s youth are wising up to the possible pleasures of their wild bounty.

3) Japanese ninjas once trained by leaping over hemp plants

In this fascinating article, one of Japan’s leading experts on cannabis, Junichi Takayasu relates how a childhood book inspired him to grow cannabis (and how displeased his mother was when she learned of his ambition!); this book illustrated how ninjas-in-training would start a crop of hemp, and each day as it grew rapidly taller would be forced to leap higher and higher over it, and thus develop their leg muscles. Takayasu was so inspired that he now runs Japan’s only museum dedicated to cannabis and hemp!

4) The Bashilenge was a cannabis cult in 19th-century Congo

In 1881-1882, the German explorers Pogge and Wissman travelled throughout the southern Congo basin, and in the course of their journey they encountered a sect of hemp-worshippers known as the Bashilenge, who also called themselves Bena-Riamba, meaning “sons of hemp”. They cultivated vast fields of cannabis, the harvest of which featured heavily in all manner of important rituals, such as business deals, holidays, and peace treaties. Members of the cult were required to show their devotion by smoking as much cannabis as possible, and the hemp pipe took on a significance similar to the peace pipe of the Native Americans!

5) In England, hemp ropes were used by professional hangmen

A hangman’s noose tied around a wooden beam
In England, hangmen’s nooses were made from hemp (© Theglobalpanorama)

Before capital punishment was made illegal in England in 1965, professional hangmen used hempen ropes as nooses, due to their superior strength and relative lack of elasticity. Hemp was the preferred material, but would often be mixed with other fibres such as Italian silk, to make the drop smoother. Use of hemp ropes by hangmen became so ingrained that a noose was often referred to as a “hempen necktie” or just “a hemp”.

6) In Switzerland, cannabis was once sold in “aromatic pillows”

At the height of Switzerland’s famously relaxed drug policies at the turn of the 21st century, hundreds of cannabis shops throughout the country sold small amounts of cannabis packaged as “aromatic pillows” or “bath scents”, on the proviso that they were not for human consumption. Unfortunately, the laws subsequently tightened up and the aromatic pillows are no longer available–although the laws relaxed yet again in 2013, and Geneva and several other cities are now thinking about permitting retail sales of cannabis.

7) Hemp has been used to make bulletproof clothing

Hemp fibre truly is a wonderful thing. It has clothed humanity for thousands of years, and in modern times has been used in countless innovative new ways. One of the most astonishing of these new applications is in the manufacture of high-strength fabrics, some of which are strong enough to stop a 22-calibre or even a 9mm bullet. Clothing designer Hemp Hoodlamb has a IIA-rated bulletproof coat, the HHL Classic Bulletproof, which has been tested to stop a .22 and a Glock 9mm!

8) In Iran, they have been making cannabis extracts for hundreds of years

In Europe and North America, cannabis concentrates such as wax and shatter are really just starting to explode in popularity, although the basic techniques have been in use for thirty years or more. However, our expertise pales in comparison with that of traditional Iranian hash-makers, who worked out a method of adding ground-up weed to near-boiling water to extract the resin, which they called row?an-e bang. When the cannabinoid-rich oils are heated by the water, they rise to the top of the container while the plant matter sinks. The oily globules can then be skimmed off and dried, producing a basic yet highly effective form of pure cannabis oil!

9) Cannabis was widely used in 19th-century American veterinary medicine

It’s widely-known that cannabis has a long history of use in medicine, but what is less well known is that it’s not just humans that we traditionally treated with cannabis, it was our livestock too. Historic texts from various countries attest to cannabis used in veterinary medicine, but it is arguably the USA that had the most developed pharmacopoeia of cannabis-based animal medicine. Look here for a gallery of dozens of tinctures and ointments used to treat all manner of maladies in horses, cows, sheep and various other farmyard beasts.

10) Ancient Europeans held erotic, naked rituals in honour of hemp

A field of green cannabis plants
In ancient Europe, naked fertility rites were carried out in the hemp fields (© Edward the Bonobo)

Throughout much of ancient Central and Northern Europe, the Nordic goddess Freyja was worshipped as a deity of love and sexuality. She was also associated with hemp, and during the sowing and harvesting of the yearly crop some remarkably salacious fertility rituals took place, involving “marriageable boys” and female participants that were “required to be totally or partially naked”. The source provided also goes into some interesting detail about Catholic girls going in groups into the hemp fields and rolling around naked among the plants… Anyway, it seems that these peculiar customs have tragically died out, more’s the pity!


3 thoughts on “10 things you did not know about cannabis”

  1. As per my research.. Per say joints coz cancer.. N sum it cures cancer.. Soo my question is does it cure.. Or coz cancer!??

  2. Cannabis has been in use for thousands of years in many ways
    Iv been along time smoker and a firm believer that if they illegalized it our world would be a much richer place there are so many uses from clothing to running your car

  3. jamiemaelyn

    Very interesting article. Covered 8 things I didn’t know about cannabis. I was surprised.

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    Sensi Seeds

    The Sensi Seeds Editorial team has been built throughout our more than 30 years of existence. Our writers and editors include botanists, medical and legal experts as well as renown activists the world over including Lester Grinspoon, Micha Knodt, Robert Connell Clarke, Maurice Veldman, Sebastian Maríncolo, James Burton and Seshata.
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