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How Cannabis Has Changed

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JoshuaHolt JoshuaHolt
Added 15 January 2021

How Cannabis Has Changed

Cannabis is far from what people used to call 'grass'. Nowadays, grass is considered low grade stash cannabis, and there have indeed been many overall changes when it comes to the strength, smell and look of the plant. This article goes into how cannabis has evolved into the powerful cultivar it is today.

The History Of Cannabis

The History Of Cannabis

Cannabis has been used for centuries as a therapeutic, religious and medicinal tool, as well as for it's fibre and as a source of nutrition. It originates predominantly from Central Asia and the Indian subcontinent and back in the day was mostly grown from the hemp variety. Today, cannabis is a very different plant. 

There are many records of cannabis being used in ancient times in Japan, dating back to the Neolithic Age. There is the theory that hemp was one of the first plants to be cultivated by humans for its uses. It is said that hemp was later adopted by China, Korea and India. The word 'ganja' in fact comes from the Sanskrit word for hemp. These accounts date as far back as 8000BC.

Further down the line cannabis began to spread across the globe as it made its way through places such as Iraq, Syria, Egypt and eventually to Africa. Traces of hashish and hemp in these areas date back to 1200AD.

By the 1600s hemp had reached South America from Spain and was being cultivated industrially.

It was not until after the beginning of the 1800s that cannabis saw a big change in terms of the way people used or viewed it. Prohibition began as the psychoactive properties of cannabis sativa or hashish became known and people started to ban its trade, use and possession. Laws were put in place across various countries and in 1937, the Marijuana Tax Act came into place in the US. This placed hemp in the same category as cannabis, essentially preventing the industry from growing further. It became increasingly difficult to test and results varied 'due to difficulties to obtain consistent results from batches of plant material of different potencies'.

Hemp Grown Before 1937 Marijuana Tax Act

Even in countries where it is legal to grow hemp there are strict measures in places to keep it within the limits of the law. Some places where its cultivation has been banned still have the possibility of importing, however the expense and difficulty of its trade means the industry is still relatively underdeveloped compared to what it could be.

Despite all the restrictions, growers and breeders have managed to keep the cannabis line alive behind closed doors, yet there is still much work to be done. Thanks to the development of indoor growing techniques growers have been able to continue experimenting, allowing for extensive cross breeding and refining of genetics to produce the best quality product on the market.

The downfall to this is the safety of the individual, who can risk a lot just to produce a few plants. In this sense, cannabis use has generally become a lot more discreet. People often have to hide their habits related to it.

Thankfully, cannabis is making progress and as laws are lifted more research is possible and further studies are being conducted on its medicinal potential, which have shown extremely positive results so far.

Ways Cannabis Has Changed

Modern Indoor Growing Equipment

Let's take a look at some of the ways cannabis has changed over the long term.

  • The Development Of Indoor Growing - The possibilities of indoor growing have gained attention and setting up at home is simple and affordable. Grow systems have advanced, lights have gotten more efficient and feminized indoor strains have been created.
  • Increasing Potency Of Cannabis - You may have heard a parent or someone from an older generation comment on how much stronger the weed is now compared to how it used to be. Although cannabis has seen an increase in THC, terpenes and other compounds, very often it is the case that is it not that much 'stronger' than the stuff our ancestors used to smoke. It's just different and we have a lot more varieties now. 
  • Concentrates and Extracts - The discovery of new ways to process cannabis means we now see many forms of cannabis extract with an appearance far from how it looks on the plant. Cannabis concentrate culture has grown massively over recent years and with the invention of vaporizers there has been a wave of new technologies around cannabinoid extraction and consumption.

  • Local Growing - Whereas cannabis used to be imported most of the time because of restrictions in certain countries, laws have been relaxed in many places across the world meaning consumers can often source their cannabis more locally. Also, growing cannabis at home is now easier than ever.
  • Not Used As Much In A Religious Setting - Cannabis was often used in religious practices and rituals amongst different cultures. This is still the case (as for the Rastafari), however our relationship with cannabis is now much more recreational. Recreational cannabis smoking was not really a thing way back when.
  • Medicinal Potential - Scientific research in the field of cannabis is increasingly possible and there are now numerous studies detailing its medicinal potential. Because we know so much more about cannabis it can now be grown specifically for medicinal use without the psychoactive side effects. The information available opens up many doors and proves cannabis still has a lot to show.

Cannabis These Days Often Contains 25%+

The increase in potency of cannabis has created a worry that there is a higher risk of harm when using it recreationally. THC content has risen on average by about 14% since the 1970s, which is quite a substantial amount considering THC is partly responsible for the negative psychoactive effects some people experience from consuming cannabis in higher doses.

The Future Of Cannabis

The Future Of Cannabis

What the future holds for cannabis is yet to be uncovered, but the way we're going, we will be seeing new, potent cannabis varieties coming out as breeders work and compete to produce new highs and flavours. As for now, cannabis is still going through massive developments, with fresh genetics being bred left, right and centre.

We are likely to see further developments around cannabis in the medical industry as governments change their views and see how its production can help to boost economies as well as the well being of people's lives. There are over 100 cannabinoids in the trichomes produced by the cannabis flowers, and only a few have research behind them.

Recreational cannabis clubs like those coffeeshops in Holland or associations in Spain may become more of a common occurence and having access to top quality buds may just get easier and easier. Plenty of countries have decriminalized cannabis since the beginning of the 2000s.

Cannabis Culture Has Grown In Spain

Either way, seed breeders will continue to improve their favourite genetics by selectively crossing the best strains, which will only result in fatter, tastier, smellier buds. We're now seeing 30%+ THC strains hitting the market, and all sorts of mind blowing extractions bursting with terpenes. We can't wait to see what will come next.

Sour Diesel (Zamnesia Seeds) by MadeInGermany from GrowDiaries.

If you found this article useful or have any views on the changes cannabis has been over the years, we'd love to hear from you! Please drop us a comment down below!

External References

A Brief History of Cannabis and the Drug Conventions. AJIL Unbound. - Collins, John. (2020).

Highlights in the History of Cannabis. - Earleywine, Mitch. (2003).

History of Cannabis as a Medicine: A Review. - Zuardi, Antonio. (2006).

The rapid evolution of UC cannabis research. California Agriculture. - Crowder, Lucien. (2019).

Cannabis: Evolution and Ethnobotany. Ethnobiology Letters. - Rashford, John. (2015).

A history of Cannabis from ‘marijuana’ to ‘dope’. British Journal of School Nursing. - Wright, Jane. (2011).

Disclaimer: This article does not provide medical advice. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

This article was updated April 2021.



I'm glad to not hear you repeat the "In the 60s and 70s THC content was between 3 and 5%" myth that floats around. I was there and highs were better than they are now. Plenty of bud only required 2 hits and occasionally one hit was enough. That said, I think weed is stronger now, just not 10x stronger and far less variation in effects from what I remember.

Thanks for a great read!