Cannabis in Iran: A Recent Revival


Cannabis has a long history of use in Iran. Before the advent of Islam in the 7th century CE, the most popular religion in Iran was Zoroastrianism. In the Avesta, which are the sacred texts of Zoroastrians, in a list of various people (Fravaši Yašt v. 124), someone is called Pouru-baṅha (‘possessor of much cannabis’). This is one of the references that seem to indicate the ancient use of cannabis in pre-Islamic Iran. In Islam, the use of alcohol is clearly prohibited in the Koran. However, no mention is made of cannabis, so it has never been entirely certain to the Shi’a religious scholars of Iran whether or not, according to religious law, cannabis is permitted or not permitted in Islam. As in many other jurisdictions, the issue is complicated by the fact that cannabis also has a long history of medical use in Iran. For example, in the Canon of Medicine (al-Qānūn fī al-Ṭibb), by the Persian philosopher and physician Avicenna (Ibn Sina) (980–1037), which became a standard text in many universities, cannabis is prescribed for headache. Several other Persian medical authorities also similarly prescribe cannabis (Ghiabi et al. 2018:122; Gorji and Ghadiri 2002). Over the last 1,500 years or so, the popular use of cannabis has periodically waxed and waned in Iran, due to changing political, social, and religious climates. In the last few years, there has once more been a revival in cannabis culture in Iran and consequent legal discussion of its use. The Global Spread of Cannabis Culture, 1200–1550 CE Historically, cannabis as an inebriant—in distinction from use as a medicine-first noticeably appears in the Muslim world in the 11th century, when the Seljuks conquered Baghdad (Nahas 1982:815). As discussed in another blog (Radical Sūfīs and Cannabis Culture in South Asia), a major influence in the…

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