Cannabis chronicles: South America


It was generally accepted that hemp was introduced to Chile by the Spanish during their conquest of 1545 onwards. It was also known that cannabis use was boosted by the arrival of African slaves in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. But latest research of German archeologists identified cannabinoids in various tissues from seventy-two Peruvian mummies, dated 200-1500 AD. These new evidence may lead to reevaluation of the current theories. [1] 

Cannabis was among the first species that arrived in Latin America as part of the Columbian exchange, which started in 1492. In reality even the first transatlantic ships, which were used to reach Latin America, used fiber hemp for their ropes and cords. According to sources from Mexico and Chile, in 1545 the Spanish Crown requested growing hemp in the American colonies but this was limited to selected regions.

Cannabis was used for recreational and probably medical purposes by sailors, settlers and slaves. Northeast of Brazil was the region where cannabis was used the most. However, there are no records on medical use of cannabis from colonial-era Brazil.

According to the Brazilian sources some slave-owners allow their slaves to plant cannabis between the sugarcane and this is one of the reasons why it was used popular among the slaves.

There is a legend that in 1817, as Queen Carlota Joaquina of Portugal (who had spent several years in exile in Rio) lay on her deathbed in Lisbon, she relented and asked her slave Felisbino to bring her “an infusion of the fibers of diamba do amazonas,” so that she could die in peace. This suggest that it is possible that the white elites have also used cannabis but in secret.

Jah Rastafari
Jah Rastafari


Cannabis was popularized in the British Caribbean by Indian laborers who replaced the African slaves in mid- to late- 19th century. They were offering cannabis to Afro-Caribbeans at a lower price than the popular rum. For Jamaica, scholars have suggested that East Indian spiritual leadres and their ganja-induced chants of “Jai Kali Mai” were inspiration for parallel African spiritual groups, who adopted ganga as a sacrament and developed similar chants such as “Jah Rastafari”. [2]



  1. CANNABIS The Genus Cannabis
  2. Marijuana in Latin America and the Caribbean

Read more at Cannabis Chronicles

Leave a Reply

error: Alert: Content is protected !!