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Smoking the funny stuff in China

Looks like very early residents of China had a penchant for smoking what we used to vernacularly call wacky tabackey. Yup, marijuana.

Archaeologists who dug up a 2,700-year-old tomb of a shaman near Turpan out in far west Xinjiang province found a curious pouch. Inside was the wacky weed. News reports call it the oldest stash of marijuana on Earth.

The cannabis was “superbly preserved by climatic and burial conditions,” according to this article in the scientific Journal of Experimental Botany.

“The cannabis was presumably employed by this culture as a medicinal or psychoactive agent, or an aid to divination. To our knowledge, these investigations provide the oldest documentation of cannabis as a pharmacologically active agent, and contribute to the medical and archaeological record of this pre-Silk Road culture,” the abstract says.

No pipes, bongs or rolling papers were uncovered in the tomb of this wild and crazy guy.

The dope apparently had a very high content of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, but the leaf was too old to measure precisely.

So the question is whether the stash was just for the shaman’s personal consumption. According to the journal, the shaman had 789 grams of the stuff, which by my calculation is almost two pounds. That would put him in the slammer for a long time in a lot of places these days. Then again, he might argue that it was for medicinal purposes.

According to this news article, the Xinjiang region of China may be an original source of cannabis strains worldwide.


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"China Rises" is written by Tom Lasseter, the Beijing bureau chief for McClatchy Newspapers.

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