The Bizarre Story Behind How Cannabis Birthed The Term “Assassin”

cannabis hashish assassin

Whispers spread through Europe of hashish-fueled, elite Muslim warriors– followers of one Hasan ibn al-Sabbah who held a stronghold against Crusaders in the mountains south of the Caspian Sea and could be considered the original assassin.

cannabis (hashish) lead to the term assasins
Hasan ibn al-Sabbah

The order of Hashishins, as Europeans called them, carried out series of ruthless political murders (i.e. assassinations) to behead the Abbasid Caliphate, the name for the nation centered in Baghdad in present-day Iraq. The Hashishins also nearly murdered Prince Edward I of England as he led a Crusade in the Middle East, attacking him with a poison dagger and crippling the king for months.

Over the years and in translation, Hashishin turned into the word “ assassin ”. Some speculate the evolution of the term was driven predominantly by foreigners mispronouncing “Hashishins”. Try saying it aloud; you’ll see.

One historical source describes an enlistment ritual to fill the Hashishin ranks with willing assassins involved hashish. A new, young recruit, usually a boy of 17 or 18, would spend several days in a beautiful garden of fruit trees, heavily drugged on hashish and attended to by beautiful young women.

cannabis hashish assassin
Masyaf Castle — one of the hubs for Syrian Assassins

After a defined period of hedonism, Hasan yanked the boys from their luxury and threw them in a dungeon overnight. The next morning, Hasan would tell them, “I get to decide who goes to heaven, so you owe me total obedience.” (paraphrasing here.)

Modern historical scholars, however, say the group’s use of cannabis was probably a legend cooked up by contemporary Westerners, the one who sent Crusaders to fight against people like Hasan.

This may mark the beginning of suspicions in the West that cannabis is a dangerous substance used by undesirable people, a conceit that persists today. We’ve also seen that Scythians (nomadic, ruthless warriors from 200-900 B.C.) were thought to be turned into “cold-blooded killers” due to their use of cannabis — an obviously ridiculous claim leveraged by anti-cannabis activists for years when spreading “reefer madness” propaganda.

About Nicco Reggente, PhD 167 Articles
Nicco is the co-founder and CEO of WoahStork and Strain Genie-- two companies dedicated to bringing to life his passion of bringing personalized medicine to the cannabis industry. Nicco received his PhD from UCLA in cognitive neuroscience with a focus on machine learning applied to neuroimaging datasets. He previously received two B.As from NYU in Psychology and Philosophy.

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