Explaining the Historic Relationship Between Marijuana, Medicine and Religion
The renown physician and herbalist Nicholas Culpepper (1616--1654) [above] cited its use for coughs, jaundice, colic, worms, joint inflammation, gout, hip pain, and burns. Likewise, Jethro Kloss (1863--1946) in his now famous herbal Back to Eden, adds rheumatism, influenza, pleurisy, asthma, and diphtheria as possible uses for the plant. Well into the 20th century, the popularly used Mrs. Grieve's (1858--1941), A Modern Herbal, advocated hemp for easing stomach pain, insomnia, nervous disorders, and a variety of other disorders--with the author professing to use it as needed herself. The religious use of marijuana is documented in many ancient texts from around the world, and is presumed to have been used for thousands of years before recorded history.
Physical evidence dating to prehistoric times clearly shows that it played a significant role in the development of African, Middle Eastern, East Indian, and Chinese religions. Making the logical assumption that early humans would have experimented with every plant they could chew, avoiding cannabis (which has been known to exist for at least 50,000 years) and discovering its properties would have been virtually impossible. In their quest for edible seeds, early humans undoubtedly ate the sticky tops of the marijuana plant and subsequently discovered its euphoric and hallucinatory properties.
Religion historians speculate that cannabis may well have been accepted as a special gift from the gods who provided them a sacred medium with which to communicate with the spirit world; psychology speculates that it would have reproduced the dream-state early humans thought only existed during sleep. Used primarily as an incense in historic times, its use can be found in the writings of the Egyptians, Babylonians, Palestinians, Mesopotamians, Greeks, and Semite tribes--including the Israelites.
Many present-day religions such as the Rastafarians of Jamaica, followers of the Ethiopian-Zion Coptic Church, and members of many Pagan/pre-Christian religions believe it is referred to in Biblical text: "Oil and perfumes make the heart glad" (Prov. 27:9), "The tree of life and the leaves of the tree were for healing of the nations" (Rev. 22:2), and "God said, 'Behold, I have given you every plant bearing seed which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree and seed you shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth . . . I have given every green plant for food'" (Gen. 1:29). Many theologians throughout the world today view marijuana in much the same light as indigenous peoples regard peyote, coca, or jimson--plants that have been used in religious ceremonies for millennium. The question they pose is, "How can governments presume to control how people commune with god?"