The use of Cannabis sativa has been recorded for thousands of years, beginning in Asia. It was known to the ancient Greeks and later to the Arabs, who, during their spread of Islam from the seventh to the fifteenth centuries, also spread its use across the Levant and North Africa. Some 200-300 million people are estimated to use Cannabis in some form worldwide. Thus, it is not only one of the oldest known but also one of the most widely used mind-altering drugs.

Since the 1960s, the rise in its use in the United States has been enormous and associated with the youth movement and countercultural revolution. Although the drug was in use before that time, it was popular only in some ethnic and specialized groups (e.g., jazz musicians). By the 1990s, some 30-40 million Americans are estimated to have used it and a substantial number use it regularly— although since 1979 the number of youngsters initiated into its use has been declining after a steep rise with an increasingly lower age of first use.

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