Where to start with one of the most culturally-loaded plants out there? It’s a little bit what-came-first-the-chicken-or-the-egg really, isn’t it except substitute farm-based dilemmas with something along the lines of: What came first? The peaceful high or the vaguely crusty woven harem trousers? It is actually a pretty remarkable plant all in. Beyond it’s aforementioned uses as a recreational drug and textile, the seeds can be nibbled, the leaves can go in a salad, the oil can supposedly relieve eczema and also provide scent for candles if you’re that way inclined.

All these reasons go some way to explaining why it’s one of the absolute oldest plants to have been cultivated by humans - we’ve been growing it for around 12,000 years now, with the earliest example sourced from China in the neolithic age. Initially found in pottery, the Chinese later used hemp to make clothes, shoes, ropes and a very early form of paper. Since then pretty much every notable civilisation and culture has had a go (so to speak): the Ancient Greeks inhaled the vapour from seeds for ritualistic and recreational reasons; 2nd century Jews living in Palestine would spend up to three years meticulously growing the plants from seedling; Chris Columbus brought it to the Western hemisphere when he began growing it in Chile… Even George Washington was supposedly partial to its charms, though whether that had any impact on some of the more infuriating passages to find their way into the US constitution we couldn’t possibly say…

We focus a lot on the fleeting beauty of flowers, but plants like hemp remind us they don’t just exist in a vacuum, divorced from history; people; the wider world.

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