A History of Eating Cannabis: A Taste Test That Led to Religion

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During the Stone Age, humans began exploring their surroundings and figuring out how to survive, forming crude communities along fresh water sources and experimenting with eating the plants and animals they encountered. These humans would have had a hard time ignoring the cannabis plant, its pungent flowers dripping with resin, and ethnobotanists believe it was one of the very first plants they explored. The cavepeople tasted cannabis’s fresh green leaves, bitter flowers and nutty seeds. The thick sap coating the flowers, rich with THC, stuck to their fingers. When they licked it off, they discovered the plant’s ability to intoxicate. They were the first in a long line of hash eaters to come. Today we understand that it was the cannabinoids in the sticky resin of those plants that got those early humans high by activating special human receptors that enhance the expression of FOXP2, a gene that facilitates speech and language development. For our ancestors, there was only an understanding that this plant could take their minds to new places and open up untapped avenues of thought. It gave them good ideas. Researchers Geoffrey Guy and John McPartland theorized that as cannabis coevolved alongside humans, it was primarily responsible for what historians call “the great leap,” the time when we began making tools, weapons and art, and working together in collectives. (PHOTO Bruce Wolf) Ethnobotanist Richard Evans Schultes’s theory is that ingesting those cannabis plants led early humans to invent religion. “Primitive man, trying all sorts of plant materials as food, must have known the ecstatic hallucinatory effects of hemp, an intoxication introducing him to another-worldly plane leading to religious beliefs,” Schultes and Albert Hofmann wrote in “Plants of the Gods” in 1979. “Thus, the plant early was viewed as a special gift of the gods, a sacred medium for communion…

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