For parents who indulge in a little cannabis recreationally or medicinally, the most important thing kids need to know is that it’s not theirs. But as they mature, and pot becomes increasingly mainstream, your kids may need to know more than that. Fortunately, thanks to the rich history and evolving science of cannabis, there’s so much more to learn beyond that smoking it makes any concert fun. So check out the following facts, which are more educational than intoxicating.
READ MORE: The Fatherly Guide to Weed
Cannabis May Have Ancient Chinese Origins
The oldest written reference to cannabis dates back to 2727 B.C. in China, where Emperor Shen Nung allegedly discovered it and used it medicinally, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration Museum. While some sources regard Shen Nung’s discovery of pot as mere myth, there’s certainly evidence that the Ancient Chinese were among the first fans of weed. Oracles of the Shang Dynasty wrote about smoking it on turtle shells between 1200 B.C. and 1050 B.C. Scientists also discovered a man buried nearly 3,000 years ago in the Gobi Desert with a bowl containing almost 800 grams of pot, the Journal of Experimental Botany reports. More recently, researchers uncovered another man buried nearby from around the same time who was laid to rest in a shroud of pot plants. Clearly, they were ahead of the cannabis curve.
It Was Commonly Used in American Medicine Throughout the 18th Century
From China, medicinal pot spread throughout Asia, the Middle East, down the eastern coast of Africa, and into parts of India. William O’Shaughnessy, an Irish doctor, is credited with introducing cannabis to England and the U.S. in the 18th century. Medical journals of the time often prescribed hemp seeds and roots for inflammation, incontinence, and sexually transmitted diseases. O’Shaughnessy found that it effectively treated pain from rheumatism and relieved nausea in patients with rabies, cholera, and tetanus. It was a common and relatively noncontroversial ingredient in many medicines that didn’t even have to be listed on labels up until the Food and Drug Administration passed the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906.
With The Advent Of The Term “Marijuana,” Attitudes Towards Weed Changed
The term “marijuana” was introduced by Harry Anslinger, the first commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (which would later evolve into the DEA), as an effort to link its use with minorities and exploit white people’s xenophobia following a spike of Mexican immigration in the 1920s and 1930s. “There are 100,000 total marijuana smokers in the U.S., and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos, and entertainers. Their Satanic music, jazz and swing result from marijuana use. This marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers and any others,” Anslinger (who really could have used a toke) allegedly said.
William Shakespeare Might Have Gotten High
Shakespeare’s Sonnet 76 goes: “Why write I still all one, ever the same, and keep invention in a noted weed.” Anthropologist Francis Thackeray was the first to confirm that this may have been a pot reference until 2001, when they discovered cannabis residue on fragments of a pipe found in Shakespeare’s garden in England. (Thackeray later petitioned to exhume Shakespeare from his grave to test for signs of cannabis use, a request which was not granted.) Many experts have argued that these limited findings are not proof, and there’s no way to know for sure if Shakespeare was a stoner — even though weed does make iambic pentameter easier to stomach.
You Cannot Technically Overdose
It is exceedingly rare (to the point of being unheard of) to overdose due to smoking too much pot. That’s because cannabinoid receptors (unlike opioid receptors) are not located in the brainstem areas that control breathing. Unfortunately, it is possible to die indirectly from cannabis use, such as in one case where a paranoid person jumped to their death from a balcony after consuming too much of weed. One controversial German study claimed that cannabis consumption lead to the cardiac deaths of two young men, but other experts were skeptical of the findings. Likewise, allegations in 2017 that an 11-month-old died of medical cannabis did not suggest the child overdosed, but that their heart muscle may have become inflamed due to medicinal marijuana.
But Not Everyone Reacts to It Well
Just because people can’t die from cannabis directly doesn’t mean everyone is going to react to it well. The pollen in pot can trigger allergic reactions is some people, causing symptoms like itchy eyes, coughing, sneezing, hives, and occasionally anaphylactic reactions, though these are rare. Another unfortunate side effect some people experience, called cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome, includes uncontrollable vomiting, which will kill anyone’s buzz. And despite weed’s reputation for not being addictive, that’s not necessarily true for everyone either. Studies show that some people are more genetically predisposed to developing a dependency than others. So one person’s chill, recreational high may be another person’s hivey, pukey problem.
It’s Not Easy Being “Green”
The demand for cannabis might be good for making money, but like most things in capitalism, it’s not the best for the environment. It takes approximately the same amount of energy to produce 2.2 pounds of pot as it does to drive across the country five times in a car that gets 44 miles to the gallon, a 2011 report from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory revealed. While outdoor growing could reduce the cannabis industry’s carbon footprint, the pesticides to maintain it have been linked with the deaths of endangered spotted owls. So smoking weed doesn’t make you some earth loving hippie, it just increases your tye dye tolerance.
First Online Ever Purchase Was Weed
Long before the days of Amazon, the first e-commerce transaction that ever occured was between Stanford University and MIT students in 1972. Using the Arpanet account in their AI lab, Stanford students successfully sold MIT students a small bag of weed, amounting to easily nerdiest drug deal of all time. While weed isn’t exactly why you can order toilet paper in bulk and have it delivered next day, it’s fair to say it sparked the process.
It’s Basically Beer Relative
Hops and cannabis are closely related belonging to a family of plants called the cannabinaceae, researchers confirmed in 2002. They both smell, look, and taste the same for a reason. Both plants have terpenes, which are compounds that give them their unique smell, which are made of molecules called isoprene, which multiply or merge to make unique odors of each. Thus when someone argues that smoking pot is not that different from drinking an IPA, they may not be a stoner. They could be a botanist.
It’s Most Likely Bad for Growing Brains
While occasional cannabis use in otherwise healthy adults has been been linked with relatively low risks, plenty of evidence suggests that the opposite is true for developing adolescent brains. The subject remains challenging to study directly as it involves large samples of children using it to draw broad conclusions, a bulk of the animal research indicates that it can have lasting effects on cognitive processing, and potentially shrink the amygdala and hippocampus. Of course, kids are not the same as rats, and the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development, currently being conducted by the National Institutes of Health, is following kids from ages 9 and 10 for a decade, looking at a variety of data including the potential dangers of early cannabis use. But given the large body of research demonstrating the crucial brain development that occurs during adolescence, along with the role cannabinoid receptors play in processing appetite, pain-sensation, mood, and memory, it’s any high before they’re brains are fully formed is asking for more than a bad trip. Whether weed is for them or not, they’ll have a much better time figuring that out when they grow up.