In the beginning, it grew wild. But at some point nearly 10,000 years ago — and most likely in Southeast Asia, although it soon spread through much of the world — it became a domesticated plant, with different varieties bred for fiber, medicine…and recreation.
Cannabis eventually reached the Americas through the slave trade. In Brazil in the 1500s, slaves were allowed to grow small amounts in the cornfields they tended and smoke it during work; their Portuguese masters reported that it made the slaves more complacent. As cannabis crossed into Central America, indigenous tribes regarded it as a medicinal and spiritual plant, similar to the native peyote. Soon it evolved into a healing herb that soothed the hardships of peasant life in general. Soldiers in the Mexican revolution reportedly loved it, as noted in the folk song “La Cucaracha”: “The cockroach/can’t walk anymore/because it doesn’t have/because it is lacking/marijuana to smoke.”