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A Journal on Forensic Medicine




Minerva Medicolegale 2011 December;131(4):119-31

language: Italian

History of the use and abuse of cannabis throughout the world

Mari F., Bartolini V., Vaiano F., Bertol E.

Sezione di Tossicologia Forense, Dipartimento di Anatomia, Istologia e Medicina Legale, Università degli Studi di Firenze, Firenze, Italia


The history of cannabis is very old: the first references to the use of this plant are contained within a Chinese treaty on drugs, dating back to 5000 BC, where it is suggested as a sedative and a universal panacea. There are also many citations and descriptions of the use and effects of cannabis, which can be found in ancient texts and in more recent literature. Over time the plant has been used for many purposes, first cultivated for its fiber, useful in the production of cordage, clothing, and paper. Later it was also used for its psychoactive properties, as a medicine for many diseases, in relation to religious practices and voluptuary consumption. Only in 1965 it was, however, isolated the active principle, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, a discovery that allowed to understand the mechanisms of intoxication and psychophysical effects of this substance about which the discussion on its dangerousness and on its potential use in medicine is still open. However, currently, cannabis is the most widely used drug of abuse, despite the attempts made by various States and by International Organizations in order to limit its spread and consumption.

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