Early Experimentation With Marijuana / Cannabis

The cannabis plant can be consumed in many different ways. Today it is popular to either smoke crushed leaves and flowers of the plant or to consume marijuana in baked goods. The first experience with cannabis written down in English describes a different method: drinking.

The first Englishman to write down his experience with cannabis was a sailor named Thomas Bowrey. In the 1670s he was on a ship that stopped in Bengal, India. India is the where Cannabis indica grows. It was very popular in the city to put the crushed leaves, flowers, and seeds of the cannabis plant in water. This drink was called bhang. Bowery and a few of his friends decided to try the concoction. They did not know how they would react to the drink since they have never had it before so they paid a local man to watch them. He locked them in a room so they would not embarrass themselves in public. Most of the men enjoyed their experience and sat around talking to each other, one believing himself to be an Emperor. Not everyone was happy though, one sat in the corner crying and Bowrey wrote that one even became so angry he broke a large vase with his head and then started punching the columns that held up the porch, causing his knuckles to bleed.

In India at the time, they had three different ways to prepare cannabis. Bhang, the drink the English sailors tried, was the cheapest but also the weakest. Bowery believed that drinking cannabis was a better way then either smoking it or chewing the leaves. He said it was faster-acting. There was also ganja, prepared from the flowers of the plant and charas, which was pure sap from the plant and had the strongest effects. Indians had first used the plant for its healing properties, but like in many other places, it soon became a recreational drug.

Around the same time, two English women in Bengal, India also saw the leaves for sale. They each bought a small glass bang, which was seasoned with cinnamon and sugar. They soon fell into laughing fits. Something that was not very proper for an English lady in public. It seems that no matter what time period, people enjoy trying new things with this wonderful plant!



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