There is a village in China that knows the secret to long life: wine and cannabis. Ancient civilizations across the planet knew the various incredible aspects of the cannabis plant and the value of a mind at peace. Modern civilization is finally getting it.

Wars have been fought over cannabis — it is that useful. When ancient Chinese land barons realized hemp fiber was stronger than fiber from bamboo, they ordered their archers to switch out their bamboo bowstrings for hemp ones. Their arrows flew farther and faster than the arrows of anyone still using bamboo. Hemp’s durability was so valuable that it became the first “war crop.”

Historically, cannabis has helped individual regions become self-sufficient. Each region of ancient China grew hemp to produce various materials needed for life. Hemp was cultivated for materials long before the medicinal properties of the cannabis flower were discovered. Their discovery prompted a new set of scientific revolutions in ancient cultures.

The Chinese tell a story of one of their emperors, Liu Chi-Nu, who was injured and applied crushed marijuana leaves to his wound. The medicine healed him and Liu afterward announced his revelation to the people of China, who began using it for their injuries.

By the first century A.D., Taoists became interested in magic and alchemy and began recommending the addition of cannabis seeds to their incense burners. The resulting hallucinations were highly valued as a means of achieving immortality.

A set of four holy Hindu books called the Vedas tells of battles, conquests and subjugation of enemy armies and eventual settlement in India. It even speaks of how their god, Shiva, brought the marijuana plant down from the Himalayas for their use and enjoyment.

According to an Indian legend, Shiva became enraged over some family disagreement and went off by himself into the fields. There he took refuge from the rays of the blazing sun under the shade of a cannabis plant. Curious about this plant that sheltered him from the heat of the day, he ate some of its leaves and felt so refreshed it became his favorite food — hence his title, the Lord of Bhang.

Bhang is a drink prepared with cannabis that to India is what alcohol is to the West. Many social and religious gatherings in ancient times, as well as the present, were simply incomplete unless bhang was part of the occasion. It is said that those who speak negatively about bhang are doomed to suffer the torments of hell as long as the sun shines in the heavens.

War was another occasion during which bhang, and more potent preparations like ganja, were often consumed. Indian folk songs mention ganja as a drink of warriors. Just as modern soldiers sometimes take swigs of whiskey before going into battle, Indian warriors in the Middle Ages routinely drank small amounts of bhang or ganja to assuage any feelings of panic. This custom earned bhang the nickname of vijaya, meaning “victorious” or “unconquerable.”

Humans today are finally catching up to the wisdom held by ancient civilizations. Peace of mind is more valuable than a dozen 3G iPads or all the gold in the world, and many humans have long recognized the ability of the cannabis plant to relieve anxiety and assist in realizing mental peace. The argument against marijuana on the basis of toxicity to public health has been destroyed. Cannabis is medicine. The argument against marijuana based on the “gateway drug” theory has also been destroyed. Most users of cannabis never try any other drug. Ultimately, the argument against marijuana on the basis of morality has proven shortsighted — the medicinal benefits of the cannabis plant far outweigh the damage done by the abuse of some users.

Human evolution relies on the freedom to make choices, good and bad. Those who need cannabis for medicinal benefits should be publicly enabled to do so. Those who abuse cannabis to the harm of wider society should be held personally accountable for their actions and should not be permitted to blame their laziness and/or stupidity on the cannabis plant. You decide the course of your own evolution. Choose wisely.

Daily Nexus drug columnist Kevin W. McCarty chose wisely.