With how popular cannabis is today, you’d think it was a brand-new concept the world was just getting introduced to. But oh, how wrong that is. Cannabis is a plant that’s been around for thousands of years, dating back to some of the most ancient civilizations on Earth. While fancy portable vapes may not have been crafted yet, people have always relied on some rudimentary method of smoking to enjoy their herbs.
Today, we’re traveling back in time to discuss the evolution of smoking weed and how the process has evolved. From classic tobacco leaf wraps and clay bongs to advanced pre-rolled palm leaf cones, we’re covering the history of ways to smoke weed.
1000 BCE: Azullu
For decades, modern society was naïve enough to think that smoking weed was a somewhat new practice. However, just because we don’t have photographs of ancient civilizations lighting up doesn’t mean they didn’t do it. In fact, we’re quickly discovering evidence that even thousands of years ago, cannabis was being smoked one way or another.
About 1,000 years before the Common Era, Mesopotamian civilizations were thriving in the Middle East. By some means of travel and trade, Mesopotamians got their hands on the special cannabis plant. Though they didn’t necessarily roll up their flower and smoke it — not that we know of, at least — they utilized it frequently within their food and drink for spiritual and religious practices.
Called azullu, Mesopotamian clay tablets depicted that they used cannabis to help with certain medical conditions; it was also often included within incense. So, while they weren’t directly smoking their cannabis, these ancient civilizations were just starting to understand the potential that this plant brought.
From here, its popularity only spread further across the globe.
900 CE: Hashish
Over time, the idea of adding weed into foods and beverages became more and more popular. Soon, the world was seeing bhang in Asian cultures and cannabis-infused Haoma throughout the Middle East. During 900 CE, hash, or hashish, was also widely being discovered.
In Southwest Asia, people were uncovering the ability to press hash out of cannabis, simply through the use of friction and pressure between the fingers. This resinous substance was often consumed for medicinal and religious purposes. However, it wasn’t for quite a while before hash resurfaced and truly exploded in popularity.
1000 CE: Bongs
You might think that bongs are a fairly new invention within the cannabis scene, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. While people were rolling up and smoking tobacco for years, it appears as though high-ranking officials smoked cannabis out of gold bongs centuries and centuries ago. That’s right: 2,000 years ago, people in areas of Southern Russia crafted rudimentary bongs to enjoy their herbs. We don’t even see gold bongs nowadays!
When this first gold bong was discovered back in 2013, it was carefully cleaned and examined for use. Inside of the piece was black residue that later tested as a mix of both opium and cannabis, a combination frequently used by royals in these ancient civilizations as a way to enjoy themselves. Just how we load our bowls today (or, at least, similarly), Scythian chiefs did the same.
1320 CE: Cannabis Pipes
One of the first (and oldest) traces of cannabis smoking pipes dates back to around 1320 CE. In the 70s, archeologists discovered what appeared to be traditional smoking pipes in an area of Ethiopia. Similar to the bongs found in Russia, these pipes contained small traces of black resin inside the bowl piece. This substance was tested immediately and was found to be cannabis; after all those years, it still contained some THC.
Even though the cannabinoids had degraded quite a bit, it was still obvious what had been smoked and enjoyed through these rudimentary pipes. This finding indicates that smoking weed, historically, has always been a way for people to unwind; just at this time, it appeared to only be for those of the highest status. Knowing this implies that these civilizations understood the incredible benefits (or at least some of them) that cannabis could produce.
From there, the smoking pipe continued to evolve, changing materials, design, and even status. Over the years, pipe-smoking only gained popularity. While most turned to use them for tobacco, the evidence demonstrates that weed, too, had a home within these traditional pipes.
The 1800s: Joints
As the centuries progressed, people stayed smoking out of pipes and adding cannabis to their foods, beverages, and incenses. In the 1800s, however, something new was introduced to the cannabis scene: joints.
While ancient civilizations had used palm leaf and tobacco leaves as wraps for their herb for centuries, there hasn’t been evidence that they specifically stuffed these leaves with cannabis during these times. However, history can concretely say that joints were being smoked in Mexico throughout the 1800s. Old medical documents have been found discussing the use of medicinal cigarettes for chest pain and similar ailments. These “cigarettes” were actually cannabis mixed with tobacco, just like the spliffs we see today.
Knowing that these cannabis-tobacco smokes were advertised for medical purposes might imply that the plant was utilized for recreational purposes during this time, too. In the 19th century, both marijuana and hemp were on the rise, and these paper-rolled smokes became more and more commonplace.
The 1980s & 90s: Blunt and Vaporizers
Throughout the 20th century, cannabis use experienced a tumultuous run. During the beginning of the 1900s in the United States, cannabis and its constituents were still being celebrated and widely enjoyed. However, as time progressed and racist stereotypes began to encase the public’s perception of cannabis, regulation and demonization hit harder than ever. Now, weed was no longer the cultural, spiritual celebration it once was; instead, it was, supposedly, the cause of Reefer Madness.
Nonetheless, during this time, we still saw brave souls continue to work with the plant, crafting new and unique ways to smoke weed. Soon, people were replacing the insides of the cigars with cannabis, smoking some of the first blunts without even knowing. Even more revolutionary, though, was the production of vaporizers in the 1990s.
In 1996, Markus Storz began crafting the world’s first public-use herbal vaporizer. After only a few years of development, the first Volcano vaporizer was put on the market in 1998, despite being in a time where almost all of the country had cannabis criminalized. This incredible invention was not lost in the industry, and, soon, vaporizers became one of the community’s most beloved ways of smoking weed in history.
The 2000s: Non-Tobacco Wraps and Pre Rolled Cones
Slowly but surely, at the turn of the century, cannabis’ stigma was starting to change. Once again, people began understanding the potential benefits of the plant, and people began getting creative with ways to smoke weed. While the market already had a few rolling papers and blunt wrap options, a need for cleaner, tobacco-free smokes was obvious. In the 2000s and 2010s, the cannabis industry saw the introduction of non-tobacco wraps and leaf cones.
Companies like King Palm focus on crafting all-natural pre-rolled cones that give smokers a more organic option if they so choose. Plus, these leaves come already pre-rolled, so you don’t even have to deal with the hassle of rolling your wrap like they did in the good ole’ days. Instead, with pre-rolled cones like these, you just have to pack them. RAW, as well, has branched out to creating hemp rolling papers for those searching for a more vegan, eco-friendly option.
Today, you can find non-tobacco leaf rolls wrapped in gold, dipped in flavors, or ones that are completely free of any chemicals, dyes, and nicotine.
What the Future Holds
In 2020, we’re seeing a wave of cannabis acceptance that hasn’t been experienced in decades. As the country works towards legalizing the plant–whether recreationally or medicinally–one state at a time, it’s likely that we’ll continue to see new ways to smoke weed. From dab rigs with perks to 6-foot bongs and pre-rolls with terpene capsules, the cannabis community has more smoking options than ever before–and that’s only going to grow.
While we can’t tell you exactly what the future of smoking weed holds, we can predict that methodologies will continue to advance. But, until then, at least you can relish in the incredible options you have today, understanding just how far some of these devices have come throughout the course of history.