History Of Cannabis In Africa

In the early 1500s, cannabis was discovered in Eastern Africa. Here it rapidly dispersed across the continent throughout the century. Sub-Saharan Africans took to smoking cannabis in pipes, a practice invented locally but now seen worldwide. Different types of cannabis use were adopted by Africa’s diverse cultures, such as the Central African versions which were then spread via the slave trade across the Atlantic.

In the 1920s, the cannabis plant was outlawed across the continent mainly due to its psychoactive effects. However, despite being illegal, cannabis continues to be cultivated and consumed across the African continent.

According to historians, smoking pipes were first invented in sub-Saharan Africa as early as 600 BCE. Archaeologists have found pre-Columbian pipes in sites from Lake Chad to Ethiopia, and south to Botswana. Africans invented water pipes which are historically associated with cannabis use, and archaeologists in Ethiopia have found chemical traces of cannabis in pipe bowls dating back to around 1325.

Cannabis use in Lesotho dates back to the 16th century, when the Koena people traded cannabis with local San tribes in exchange for land around 1550. By the 19th century, cannabis was a staple crop in the kingdom. Lesotho’s farmers have been growing cannabis for the consumption at home and for export for centuries.

Lesotho suffers from grave poverty - the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) classifies Lesotho as one of the least developed nations in the world with almost six in ten of Lesotho’s population living below the national poverty line. As a result, many small-scale farmers in Lesotho grow cannabis among their maize crops to export to South Africa and other African countries to survive. In 2008, Lesotho became the first country in Africa to regulate medical cannabis.

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