Research Finds That Cannabis Used To Grow Wild In Ancient Europe

While Europe is lagging behind when it comes to cannabis legalization, meadows of cannabis used to cover the continent.

May 27, 2018
Cannabis Field in France. Meadows of cannabis once used to cover regions in ancient Europe.

Industrial hemp crops (Cannabis sativa L. vulgaris), late summer. (Photo by Henri-Alain Segalen/Gamma-Rapho/Getty Images)

Europe isn’t known for being on the forefront of cannabis. The Netherlands acting as an exception, most countries on the continent have limited medical marijuana programs, and almost none have legal recreational cannabis. That’s not to say there hasn’t been activism and progress in countries like Switzerland, but similar to the rest of the west legality hasn’t prevented people in Europe from smoking their fair share. But a new study suggests that Europe used to have swaths of weed, growing wild across the lands. To see it, you’d just have to turn back the clock. Way, way back.

A team of researchers from the University of Vermont (where recreational cannabis is now legal) sampled pollen collected from Stone Age fossils throughout Europe to figure out what pre-civilization vegetation might have looked like on the continent. The study collected pollen from more than 470 locations. The samples not only allowed the scientists to see back in time to what kind of climate these ancient plants grew in but what kind of plants they were. And weed, they believe, once grew wild throughout Europe.

Cannabis used to grow wild in Europe but went extinct before first farmers arrived research finds Congress Blocks Recreational Marijuana Sales In Washington, D.C.
Cannabis Field (Photo b Alex Ang via WikiCommons)

But this green paradise didn’t last long enough for any stoner to appreciate. At the dawn of the Neolithic area, when farmers from the Middle East made their way into Europe approximately 9,000 years ago, these meadows of cannabis began to vanish. It wasn’t human pollution or agricultural activity that killed off the ancient cannabis, say the researchers, but the changing climate as Europe began to get warmer.

There is not a lot of evidence to suggest these early farmers cultivated the cannabis plants. It would be thousands of years before alcohol was distilled, and the research team does believe there was a chance that communities without access to booze might have experimented. “Even muted psychoactivity would have been appreciated by people who did not yet have alcohol,” said Joel McPartland, the head of the research team.

May 27, 2018