Marihuana, The First Twelve Thousand Years

When I was writing The Cartoon Guide to Recreational Drugs I scoured the local libraries and bookstores looking for useful and interesting historical works. Marihuana, The First Twelve Thousand Years is one of my sources.

The parts I generally took notes from were either about the drugs themselves or the prohibition of drugs. You’ll find the information garnered from these books throughout the Prohibition Politics section of this site. It will also have informed some of my own postings stored in the older Prohibition Politics archive.

If you find this information useful, you will want to search out the books themselves to read the text in context. All of the books here are at least moderately interesting.


Ernest L. Abel has written a fascinating, if sometimes apocryphal, history of marijuana, gleaned from the archaeological record, myth, and written history.


In general, if hemp is grown in a way that produces better fiber, it is less psychoactive; if grown in a way that makes it more psychoactive, it is less useful as a fiber.

Named Cannabis sativa in 1753 by Carl Linnaeus.

“Dioecious”: sexually distinct male and female plants.

Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol is the “actual substance in the resin responsible for the plant’s inebriating effects”. (D9-THC)

The stem is hollow & square, covered in strong fibers. Remove them by “retting”: soaking the stem in water so the nonfibrous material disengages. Then bent, so that the fibers separate.

“Cannabis will grow under most conditions that will support life. It is inherently indestructible. Long after other species of plants have disappeared because of drought, infestatiojn, or climatic changes, cannabis will still exist.”

“Depending on the conditions under which it grows, cannabis will either produce more resin or more fiber. When raised in hot, dry climates, resin is produced in great quantities and fiber quality is poor. In countries with mild, humid weather, less resin is produced and the fiber is strong and more durable.”

Growing plants close together reduces the sunlight falling on individuals, so produces better fiber, less resin.

Marihuana Through History

Note that that’s my title, not the author’s; I haven’t kept the title if this section in my notes. As a rope-making plant, hemp has an ancient, well-documented history. It has long been the best known plant for general rope-making, and every culture that uses ropes seems to know this.

Cannabis in the Ancient World

Hemp’s place in mythology and ritual is influenced by its use as quality rope. Only in India is there definitive evidence of cannabis use for its psychoactive properties.

p. 4

Earliest record of cannabis use is from Taiwan. “In this densely populated part of the world, archaeologists have unearthed an ancient village site dating back over 10,000 years to the Stone Age.” The evidence is strips of cord (or the impressions thereof) found in pots.

“So important a place did hemp fiber occupy in ancient Chinese culture that the Book of Rites (second century B.C.) ordained that out of respect for the dead, mourners should wear clothes made from hemp fabric, a custom followed down to modern times.”

P. 5

Oldest preserved specimen of hemp: an ancient burial site dating to the Chou dynasty (1122-249 B.C.). Fragments of cloth inside.

“In fact, hemp was so highly regarded by the Chinese that they called their country the “land of mulberry and hemp.”” Mulberry being the plant that silkworms ate.

P. 6

male plant: hsi; female plant: chu. The male produces better fiber, the female better seeds. “Although hemp seed was a major grain crop in ancient China until the sixth century A.D., it was not as important a food grain as rice or millet.”

Part of first arms race: Chinese originally used bamboo fiber for bowstrings. Hemp was stronger and more durable; archers could fire farther and with greater force. “So important was the hemp bowstring that Chinese monarchs of old set aside large portions of land exclusively for hemp, the first agricultural war crop.”

The history of hemp is the history of civilization: The first paper, in China, was hemp.

Anesthetic in China in the second century A.D.

p. 15

Hemp also played large role in Japanese life.

P. 16

“Besides its role in such legends, hemp strands were an integral part of Japanese love and marriage. Hemp strands were often hung on trees as charms to bind lovers (as in the legend), gifts of hemp were sent as wedding gifts by the man’s family to the propsective bride’s family as a sign that they were accepting the girl, and hemp strands were prominently displayed during wedding ceremonies to symoblize the traditional obedience of Japanese wives to their husbands. The basis of the latter tradition was the ease with which hemp could be dyed. Just as hemp could be dyed to any color, so too, according to an ancient Japanese saying, must wives be willing to be “dyed in any color their husbands may choose.”

‘Yet another use of hemp in Japan was in ceremonial purification rites for driving away evil spirits. As already mentioned, in China evil spirits were banished from the bodies of the sick by banging rods made from hemp against the head of the sickbed. In Japan, Shinto priests performed a similar rite with a gohei, a short stick with undyed hemp fibers (for purity) attached to one end.”

P. 16-18

India was “the first marihuana-oriented culture”. The Aryans (“noble ones”), ancestors of modern Indians, came down from the Himalayas around 2,000 BC. In one of their legends, Siva brings marihuana down from the Himalayas “for their use and enjoyment.”

“According to one of their legends, Siva became enraged over some family squabble and went off by himself in the fields. There, the cool shade of a tall marihuana plant brought him a comforting refuge from the torrid rays of the blazing sun. Curious about this plant that sheltered him from the heat of the day, he ate some of its leaves and felt so refreshed that he adopted it as his favorite food, hence his title, the Lord of Bhang.”

Bhang also refers to “a mild liquid refreshment made with its leaves” One recipe:

Cannabis220 grains
Poppy seed120 grains
Pepper120 grains
Ginger40 grains
Caraway seed10 grains
Cloves10 grains
Cardamom10 grains
Cinnamon10 grains
Cucumber seed120 grains
Almonds120 grains
Nutmeg10 grains
Rosebuds60 grains
Sugar4 ounces
Milk20 ounces

Boiled together [M.V.Ball, “The Effects of Haschisch Not Due to Cannabis Indica,” Therapeutic Gazette, 34 (1910): 777-80

“Two other concoctions made from cannabis in India are ganja and charas. Ganja is prepared from the flowers and upper leaves and is more potent than bhang. Charas, the moxst potent of the three preparations, is made from the flowers in the height of their bloom. Charas contains a relatively large amount of resin and is roughly similar in strength to hashish.”

“Bhang was and still is to India what alcohol is to the West…. It is said that those who speak derisively of bhang are doomed to suffer the torments of hell as long as the sun shines in the heavens.”

“Without bhang at special festivities like a wedding, evil spirits were believed to hober over the bride and groom, waiting for an opportune moment to wreak havoc on the newlyweds. Any father who failed to send or bring bhang to the ceremonies would be reviled and cursed as if he had deliberately invoked the evil eye on his son and daughter.”

The earliest reference to bhang’s psychoactive effects is in the fourth book of the Vedas, the Atharvaveda (“Science of Charms”), written between 2,000 and 1,400 B.C. At 12:6.15 it calls bhang “one of the “five kingdoms of herbs… which release us from anxiety.”” It wasn’t until later that bhang became a part of everyday life. In the tenth century A.D. “it was just beginning to be extolled as indracanna, the “food of the gods.” A fifteenthg-century document refers to it as “light-hearted,” “joyful,” and “rejoices,” and claims that among its virtues are “astringency,” “heat,” “speech-giving,” “inspiration of mental powers,” “excitability,” and the capacity to “remove wind and phlegm.”

The Rajvallabha, a 17th-century text discussing the drugs of India, says

India’s food is acid, produces infatuation, and destroyes leprosy. It creates vital energy, increases mental powers and internal heat, corrects irregularities of the phlegmatic humor, and is an elixir vitae. It was originally produced like nectar from the ocean by churning it with Mount Mandara. Inasmuch as it is believed to give victory in the three worlds and to bring delight to the king of gods (Siva), it was called vijaya (victorious). This desire-fulfilling drug was believed to have been obtained by men on earth for the welfare of all people. To those who use it regularly, it begets joy and diminishes anxiety.

P. 20

“Yet it was not as a medicinal aid or as a social lubricant that bhang was preeminent among the people of India. Rather, it was and still is because of its association with the religious life of the country that bhang is so extolled and florified. The stupefaction produced by the plant’s resin is greatly valued by the fakirs and ascetics, the holy men of India, because they believe that communication with their deities is greatly facilitated during intoxication with bhang. (According to one legend, the Buddha subsisted on a daily ration of one cannabis seed, and nothing else, during his six years of asceticism.) Taken in early morning, the drug is believed to cleanse the body of sin. Like the communion of Christianity, the devotee who partakes of bhang partakes of the god Siva.”

Cannabis is also in the Tantric religion, which evolved in Tibet in the 7th century A.D. Plants such as cannabis were set afire “to overcome evil forces” and was “also an important part of Tantric religious yoga sex acts consecrated to the goddess Kali.”

The Indian Hemp Drugs Commission, “which had been summoned in the 1890s to investigate the use of cannabis in India” concluded that hemp was an “integral part of the culture and religion”.

To the Hindu the hemp plant is holy. A guardian lives in the bhang leaf…. To see in a dream the leaves, plant, or water of bhang is lucky…. No good thing can come to the man who treads underfoot the holy bhang leaf. A longing for bhang foretells happiness. … Besides as a cure for fever, bhang has many medicinal virtues…. It cures dysentery and sunstroke, clears phlegm, quickens digestion, sharpens appetite, makess the tongue of the lisper plain, freshens the intellect, and gives alertness to the body and gaiety to the mind. Such are the useful and needful ends for which in his goodness the Almighty made bhang…. It is inevitable that temperments should be found to whom the quickening spirit of bhang is the spirit of freedom and knowledge. In the ecstasy of bhang the spark of the Eternal in man turns into light the murkiness of matter…. Bhang is the Joygiver, the Skyflier, the Heqavenly-guide, the Poor Man’s Heaven, the Soother of Grief…. No god or man is as good as the religious drinker of bhang…. The supporting power of bhang has brought many a Hindu family safe through the miseries of famine. To forbid or even seriously to restrict the use of so holy and gracious an herb as the hemp would cause widespread suffering and annoyance and to large bands of worshipped ascetics, deep-seated anger. It would rob the people of a solace in discomfort, of a cure in sickness, of a guardian whose gracious protection saves them from the attacks of evil influences…. So grand a result, so tiny a sin!

P. 21

Persia was also invaded by the Aryans (by 1500 B.C., as were France and Germany). The Indo-European languages have the linguistic root an, found in various cannabis-related words such as chanvre (French) and hanf (German). “Our own word cannabis is taken directly from the Greek, which in turn is taken from canna, an early Sanskrit term.”

P. 22

“The Aryans who settled in Persia came from the same area in central Russia asx thbeir cousins who invaded India, so it is hardly surprising that the Persian word bhanga is almost identical to the Indian term bhang.”

The Scythians, around 7th century B.C. came out of central Siberia. “According to Herodotus, a Greek historian who lived in the fifth century B.C., marihuana was an integral part of the Scythian cult of the dead wherein homage was paid to the memory of their departed leaders.”

P. 24

“The Scythians eventually disappeared as a distinct national entity, but their descendants spread through Eastern Europe. While remembrances of their ancestors were lost, memories of ancestral customs were still retained, although, of course, these were modified down through the centuries. It is in this regard that anthropologist Sula Benet’s comment that “hemp never lost its connection with the cult of the dead” takes on added significance since she has traced the influence of the Scythians and their hemp funerary customs down to the modern era in Eastern Europe and Russia

‘On Christmas eve, for instance, Benet notes that the people of Poland and Lithuania serve semieniatka, a soup made from hemp seeds. The Poles and Lithuanians believe that on the night before Christmas the spirits of the dead visit their families and the soup is for the souls of the dead. A similar ritual takes place in Latvia and in the Ukraine on Three Kings Day. Yet another custom carried out in deference to the dead in Western Europe was the throwing of hemp seeds onto a blazing fire during harvest time as an offering to the dead”. [S. Benet, “Early Diffusion and Folk Uses of Hemp,” in Cannabis and Culture, ed. V. Rubin (The Hague: Mouton, 1975), p. 43

p. 26

Earliest “unmistakable” reference to hemp in Egypt: 3rd century A.D., “when the Roman emperor Aurelian imposed a tax on Egyptian cannabis. Even then, however, there was very little of the fiber in Egypt.”

P. 28-30

The Greeks; They pretty much “remained ignorant” of the intoxicating properties, but “were not slow to appreciate the durability and strength of its fiber.” However, the Thracians, a “Greek-speaking people living in the Balkans who were probably more closely related to the Scythians than to the Greeks, were especially adept at working hemp.” Herodotus writes that their clothes were like linen. Plutarch, 400 years later, “mentions that after their meals, it was not uncommon for the Thracians to throw the tops of a plant which looked like oregano into the fire. Inhaling the fumes of this plant, the people became drunk and then so tired they finally fell asleep.”

Thracia was “far from the center of Greek culture”, however. Nowhere is hemp listed for drug use, “although various drugs such as datura (Jimson weed), mandragora (mandrake), and hyoscyanus (henbane) are described as consciousness-modifying drugs in use at ancient Greek shrines and oracles.”

The Romans knew about it, and “used to top off their banquets with a marihuana-seed desert, a confectionary treat which left guests with a warm and pleasurable sensation.”

Hashish and the Arabs

In Arabia, marijuana may have been the drug of choice of those who could not afford wine. As today, prejudice against marijuana use may have reflected class warfare.

The climate of Arabia is particularly suited for growing intoxicating hemp: the resin is formed to keep in moisture.

One legend about the discovery of hemp involves “Haydar, the Persion founder of a religous order of Sufis” who discovered it in A.D. 1155:

“According to the legend, Haydar was an ascetic monk who lived a life of rigid privation and self-chastisement in a monastery which he built in the mountains of Persia. For ten years he lived in this distant retreat, never leaving it for even a brief moment, seeing no one except his disciples.

‘One hot summer day, however, Haydar fell into a state of depression and, contrary to his custom of never venturing out of his monastery, he wandered off into the fields to be alone. When he returned, his disciples, who had become alarmed at his unusualy absence, noted a stranger air of happiness and whimsy in his demeanor. Not only that, the hitherto reclusive monk even allowed them to enter his personal chambers, something he had never done before.

‘Astounded by this dramatic change in their master’s character, his disciples eagerly questioned the monk about what it was that had put him into this frame of mind. Haydar responded to their curiosity with amusement and proceeded to tell them how he had been wandering in the fields and had noticed that of all the plants near the monastery, only one had not been standing motionless in the oppressive heat of the day. Unlike its torpid and inanimate neighbors, this unusual plant seemed to dance joyfully in the sun’s warmth. Overwhelmed by curiousity, Haydar picked a few of its leaves and ate them to see what they would taste like. The result was the euphoric state his disciples now observed in him.

‘Upon hearing of this wonderful plant and desirous of sharing their master’s pleasure, Haydar’s pupils entreated him to show them this strange plant so that they too could partake of its marvelous virtues. Haydar agreed, but not before he made them promise under oath that they would not reveal the secret of the plant to anyone but the Sufis (the poor). So it was, according to the legend, that the Sufis came to know the pleasures and contentment of hashish.

‘After his discovery, Haydar lived another ten years, allegedly subsisting on cannabis leaves. Shortly before his death in A.D. 1221, he asked that cannabis seeds be sown around his tomb so that his spirit might walk in the shade of the plant that had given him such pleasure during his lifetime.”

P. 38

Sometimes called the “wine of Haydar”.

It was known of before Haydar. In the 10th century A.D., Arab physician Ibn Wahshiyah wrote of it in On Poisons, and claimed that the oder of hashish “was lethal”. Most of what Arab physicians had to say (before and after Wahshiyah) about cannabis “was taken from Galen”.

P. 41

“One of the main reasons the Sufis chose hashish over other intoxicants like alcohol was that hashish was cheap. Although proscribed in the Koran, wine was always available to those who could afford it. But wine was a luxury, the intoxicant of the rich; hashish was all the poor could afford.”

Hashish introduced to Egypt in the middle of the thirteenth century, where Sufis were using it. A favorite gathering place for [other?] hashish users in Egypt was the “gardens” of Cafour in Cairo. “Unwilling to tolerate the rabble collecting in the city’s garden spot, the governor of Cairo ordered out the troops. In A.D. 1253, all the cannabis plants growing in the area were chopped, gathered, and hurled onto a massive pyre the flames of which could be seen for miles around.”

After this, farmers outside of Cairo began growing hemp. In A.D. 1324, the new governor summoned troops, and for an “entire month, the army foraged into the countryside on search-and-destroy mission; the enemy—hashish plants.”

But production resumed. In A.D. 1378 the office of the governor ordered the cannabis fields destroyed again. The farmers decided to resist. The troops backed off and placed the area under siege. The people held out “for several months” but the soldiers finally broke through and crushed the resistance, and placed the area under martial law.

By A.D. 1393, hashish was “once again a thriving enterprise”.

P. 44

Passing through northern Persia on his way to China, Marco Polo heard “an amazing story about a legendary ruler known as the “Old Man of the Mountains” and his ruthless band of cutthroats known as the Assassins.” Since about A.D. 1050, they had “struck fear into the hearts of even the most powerful Arab leaders.” Only in 1256 did the Mongols end their stranglehold over the Middle East. According to Polo’s diary, the terrorist leader kept his minions loyal by brainwashing them with tales that “should they die in his service, they would be certain to enter Paradise.” And he gave each a foreshadowing. He had a garden landscaped in his mountain stronghold of Alamut (“Eagle’s Nest”), filled with exotic flowers, and fountains brimming with milk and honey, and “sensuous girls… ready to grant even the slightest wish”. The convert was drugged, carried into the garden unconscious, and allowed to awaken, allowed to “gratify himself to his heart’s content”, drugged unconscious again, and carried out.

Points: 1) the potion is never identified; “Marco Polo makes no mention of hashish at all”. 2) the drug was not given to people sent out on mission; it’s sole purpose was to cause unconsciousness.

Discussion of origin of Assassins in relation to succession of Mohammed, eventually leading to a schism in the Shiite side, the small sect that broke off eventually, in the tenth century under the Fatimid dynasty, won over a convert named Hasan-ibn-Sabah.

Discussion of Hasan’s life. The Fatamids, in Egypt, pro-Ismaili (the Shiite sect, remember?) also taught their Ismaili recruits “the art of assassination”. Hasan learned these there. Eventually tricked someone out of a fortress. “Immediately upon moving into Alamut, Hasan inaugurated a series of building measures to strengthen the fortification. Canals were dug to carry water to the fortress, the fields that sourrounded it were irrigated, fruit trees were planted, and storerooms were erected.

‘The point of these improvements was lost on Hasan’s enemies who, in later generations, mistakenly assumed that he was constructing a sort of Paradise to entice new followers to his ranks. These mistaken stories were eventually recorded by European travelers such as Marco Polo, and through them, Hasan’s fortress became known to Western readers as a palacial mansion filled with lush and exotic plants and populated with beautiful and sensuous women.”

P. 53

“One of the most puzzling questions about the Assassins is how they got their name. The members of the sect never referred to themselves as such. They called each other fidais, “devoted ones.” Only their enemies called them Assassins.

‘In a report to Frederick Barbarossa, ruler of the Holy Roman Empire, they are called Heyssessini. William, Archbishop of Tyre, wrote that “both our people and the Saracens called them Assissini,” but, he adds, “we do not know the origin of this name.”

‘By the thirteenth century, however, the word “assassin” and its variants were being used in Europe in the sense of a paid professional killer. The word was derived from the name of the sect, but no one suggested that they got that name because of their usage of hashish, although a twelfth-century friar, Abbot Arnold of Lubeck, did state that the Assassins used hashish: “hemp raises them to a state of ecstasy or falling, or intoxicates them. Their sorcerers draw near and exhibit to the sleepers, phantasms, pleasures and amusement. They then promise that these delights will become perpetual if the orders given them are executed with the daggers provided.”

Travel books such as the seventeenth-century Purchas His Pilgrimis repeated Marco Polo’s story about a mysterious potion but made no mention of hashish. Another writer of that era, Denis Lebey de Batilly, wrote only that the name given to the sect by its enemies was Arabic for hired killer.

‘Various other explanations were subsequently proposed, among them that the name was derived from “asas,” a word meaning foundation, which was applied to the religious leaders of Islam; that assassin was derived from the Arabic word hassas, which, among other things, meant “to kill;” or that the name was applied to the followers of Hasan.”

P. 54

Europeans were introduced to hashish on the pages of The Thousand and One Nights, in ‘The Tale of the Hashish Eater’.

P. 57

“Hashish symbolized the ageless class antagonisms. The lowly social standing of the poor was attributed to their use of hashish, and the very term “hashish user” became an insulting epithet for what the upper classes regarded as the social misfits of their society. Thus, when the Arabs spoke of someone such as Hasan or his followers as “ashishin” (or Assassins, as the Crusaders pronounced the word), they were freferring to them figuratively and abusively. Whether the Assassins did or did not use hashish was immaterial.”

Rope and Riches

Where with alcohol, wartime causes governments to repress it, with hemp, wartime caused them to enforce the growing of it. Part of the reason it had to be forced on farmers is that the rope-making process was time-consuming; hemp fields required more time between crops than other plants.

A funerary urn dating to the fifth century B.C. contained cannabis seeds; in A.D. 570, in Paris, a limestone tomb of the French queen Arnegunde, contained cannabis: “The buckles on her shoes were made of silver. Around her neck was a gold broach. At the side of each of her temples were gold pins which held a veil of red satin over her face. On each ear was a gold filigree earring. Her body was dressed in violet silk and rested on a bright-red blanket over which was draped a cloth made from hemp…”

Hempen ropes were found in a well from a Roman fort in Dunbartonshire, England, occupied between A.D. 140 and 180. Cannabis was not cultivated in England (according to pollen in soil samples) until around A.D. 400, when the Anglo-Saxons came from mainland Europe. Hempen ropes have been found in Iceland among artifacts dating back to the early Middle Ages. “These ropes were carried there by the intrepid Vikings, for whome strong rope often meant the difference between survival or disaster in the vast uncharted Atlantic.” Cannabis seeds have been found in the remains of Viking ship back to A.D. 850.

It was the Italians who started large-scale cultivation and “eventually turned hemp into haute couture.”

P. 62

“During the Middle Ages, the Italians ruled the seas and nothing surpassed the strength and durability of the hempen ropes with which their ships were outfitted.”

P. 65

Hemp in Italy was once called quello delle cento operazioni, “the substance of a hundred operations”, because of all the work involved in getting its fibers.

Young girls assembled in the houses where the hemp was to be split, and would work well into the night preparing hemp for the craft industries. Each girl took five or six stalks in one hand. With a quick snap, she broke the stalk about a foot from the root. Next, she crooked the middle finger of her left hand and passed the fibers through the crook. While the thumb and forefinger of her right hand still held the unbroken part of the stalk, she grasped the woody part of the stem and pulled it away from the fibers.

The stripped fibers, held between the thumb and little finger of her left hand, were twisted into a coil, and then placed in piles to be beaten and swingled. Beating made the fibers soft. They were tied into tight round bundles, placed on a stone, and pounded with a heavy wooden mallet or flayed with a whip. In mills, a heavy millstone did the pounding.

Swingling was done by placing the hemp strands over a wooden board and removing splinters. Finally, it was combed: separating any fibers that still clung together by passing them through a rough and then a fine-toothed comb.

“The end product was fiber that was without equal for strength and durability.”

P. 66

Venetian law required that Venetian rigging be made with the highest grade of hemp. This came from Bologna, and the Florentines who owned these fields charged exorbitant prices for the hemp. The Tana [state-run factory of the Venetians] duped the Florentines into lowering their prices by claiming they’d import lower quality hemp from Montagnana at a lower price. Bolognese hemp was still more expensive, so the Venetians hired a Bolognese hemp expert, Michele di Burdrio, to teach the Montagneseans how to grow a better quality hemp. Di Budrio was banished from his native city and all his property confiscated. The Venetians compensated him for his losses. However, while Montagnese hemp improved, the overall quality remained inferior to the Bolognese variety.

P. 67

“During the nineteenth century, Italy became one of the world’s main hemp-producing centers, supplying hemp fiber to Switzerland, Germany, England, Portugal, and Spain.” It was the clothing, not ropes, that was prized. “In skilled Italian hands, hemp fiber was turned into a thread that almost equalled silk in its delicacy. It was much finer than cotton and certainly much stronger.”

P. 72

As England gained in power, she realized she needed hemp for her ships. King Henry VIII, in 1533, commanded that every sixty acres of arable land was to be sown one quarter acre with hemp. The penalty for not doing so was 3s 4p. Thirty years later, Queen Elizabeth I rose the penalty to 5s. Few Englishmen complied with the decrees. “Any landowner or small farmer could make more money by raising almost any crop other than hemp.” It exhausted the soil and gave a bad oder when retted.

Russia became the world’s major exporter of hemp, supplying almost 97% of England’s needs in 1633. By the 18th century, 2/3 of Russia’s export was going to England.

P. 75

In 1663 Parliament passed a law according any foreigner who established a hemp-related industry the same rights and privileges as natural-born citizens.

Cannabis Comes to the New World

As with other countries, Americans had to be nearly forced to grow hemp. Drugs such as tobacco were far more lucrative than rope. War changed that temporarily, and at one point we even used hemp as money.

England viewed the New World in the same way as Spain, hoping to get gold from the North rather than the South; there was also the hope of a passageway to the South Seas, giving English control of trade with the East. The wealth they found, though, was furs, trees, fish, and hemp. Sir Walter Raleigh was especially excited at the prospect of harvesting hemp; a friend, Thomas Heriot, had seen a hemp-like plant growing wild in the area that was to become Virginia. (This was Acnida cannabinum, suitable for weaving, but with a far inferior strength to cannabis.) “If only the energies of the colonists could be directed toward raising hemp, England might yet free herself from her heavy commercial debts.”

In 1611, formal orders to raise hemp were received in the colony when Sir Thomas Dale “informed the colonists that the king expected them to grow hemp.” The colonists were indifferent. However, “by 1616, colonist John Rolfe could boast that the inhabitants of Jamestown had raised hemp “none better in England or Hallnd.” However, Rolfe had also begun to experiment with growing tobacco, and it was not long before the demand for American tobacco was greater than anyone could have anticipated. Faced with a choice between raising tobacco and becoming rich or complying with the Crown’s wishes that they grow hemp, the colonists planted tobacco in every nook and cranny of the Jamestown settlement.”

In 1619, the Virginia Company directed every colonist to set 100 hemp plants. (The governor had to set 5,000). Parliament, in 1662, empowered Governor William Berkely to offer each colonist two pounds of tobacco for every pound of hemp delivered to market. Similar bounties were also offered in Maryland in 1671, 1682, 1688, and 1698. In 1682, Virginia made hemp legal tender for as much as one-fourth of a farmer’s debts. Maryland followed in 1683, and Pennsylvania in 1706.

“While these laws and bounties had the effect of increasing hemp production throughout Virginia and Maryland, very little hemp ever found its way into English ports. If there was any extra hemp in the colonies, Yankee merchants wanted it. Hemp was so scarce in the north that supply could not keep up with demand and New England merchants were prepared to buy all the available hemp they could get their hands on.”

In 1629, shipbuilding began in Salem village; hemp was so scarce it had to be imported from abroad. In 1639 the Massachusetts court “formalized its demands by passing a law requiring every householder to plant hemp seed.”

Ropewalks were factories for making rope from hemp. The first was established in Salem in 1635. Another was set up on Purchase Street in Boston, in 1642 by John Harrison, whom Boston businessmen invited from England. By the time of the Revolution, “almost every town on the eastern seaboard had at least one. Boston alone had fourteen ropewalks. It was the taunting of His Majesty’s soldiers by these Boston ropeworkers that eventually set off the “Boston Massacre” of 1770.”

Longfellow described one ropewalk in his poem, “Ropewalk” in 1854:

In that building, long and low, With its windows all a-row, Like the port-holes of a hulk, Human spiders spin and spin, Backward down their threads so thin Dropping, each a hempen bulk.

One problem was “the scarcity and high cost of labor needed to harvest the crop. Both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson tried to raise hemp and both lost money doing so.”

P. 81

“To prepare his land for hemp seed, the farmer usually had to plow his acreage at least three times, once in the fall, a second time in early spring, and a third time just before sowing. Immediately before the seeds were actually planted, the ground had to be carefully raked to break up any clumps so that the seeds would be distributed evenly. Seeds would be scattered throughout the field beginning in late March until the end of June. Generally, a farmer sowed his land at least two or three times just in case his seeds failed to germinate. About forty to fifty pounds of seed were sown per acre, and unless his seed was less than a year old, the farmer could not expect a good crop. Hemp seed had to be fresh and had to have been stored properly. Because older seeds were so unreliable, most farmers refused to have anything to do with suppliers they did not know personally….

‘About four to six days after sowing, the cannabis seed began to germinate. Some young plants grew at an astrounding rate of five to six inches per day. Once his plants began to grow, the farmer could forget about them since no weed was a match for hemp and insects rarely attacked the plant. Thirteen to fifteen weeks later, the plants turned from green to a yellowish brown, the leaves began to droop and fall to the ground, and the flowers began to release their pollen, filling the air with clouds of hemp dust. The plants were finally ready to be harvested. Now came the back-breaking toil dreaded by all hemp growers.

‘Initially, farmers pulled each plant out of the ground to get as much of the stem as possible. A framer who uprooted his crop could clear about a quarter of an acre per day. If he used a knife and cut the stems above ground, he could clear about a half acre.

‘Once a number of stalks had been pulled or cut, the farmer tied them into sheaves about as thick as a man’s leg. These bundles were then leaned against a fence or against each other and allowed to dry for two to three days. After drying came the rotting (or retting as it was usually called). Retting was done to weaken the flue-like resin that caused the outer fibers to stick to the stalk.

‘The colonists used one of three retting methods, and the law stated that a dealer had to specify the way his hemp had been retted. Water retting was considered to be the best method as far as the resulting quality of the hemp fiber was concerned. This involved immersing the hemp in a stream or pond for four to five days if done in summer, or thirty to forty days if done in winter. European hemp was usually water retted, but this was not generally done in America. Instead, Americans preferred winter retting.

‘Winter retting was easier than water retting and it did not require a nearby water source. To winter-ret his hemp, the farmer simply threw the stalks on the ground when it began to get cold, leaving the rain, frost, and snow gradually to loosen the gum binding the fibers. Winter retting generally took about two to three months, and the result was a fiber measurably inferior in strength to water-retted hemp.

‘The third method was dew retting. This was to become the most common practice in Kentucky, but in colonies such as Virginia it was not used very much. Dew retting involved spreading the hemp plants on the ground at night to catch the dew and then tying them together in the morning so that they would remain wet for as long as possible. It was both time-consuming and produced a very inferior grade of hemp. Shipbuilders refused to buy dew-retted hemp, but cotton growers preferred it because it was cheap. All they wanted it for was to bale their cotton shipments.

‘After the hemp was retted by one of these three methods, it was allowed to dry once more. Then came the most tedious job of all, the “breaking” or freeing of the outer fibers from the stalk. During the Middle Ages, breaking was done by hand. But this was too slow a process and eventually “hand brakes” were introduced into the hemp industry. The simplest of these devices usually consisted of several vertical boards attached end to end with a movable arm hinged at one corner to the top board. The hemp was placed over the stationary edge and the top arm, which was sharpened somewhat, was brought down onto the hemp stalks with enough force to cut the fiber but not enough to go through the entire stalk. It was a task that required a great deal of skill as well as strength and stamina. Thomas Jefferson, one of Virginia’s major hemp producers, gave up on hemp because of the back pain his slaves experienced in connection with the herculean breaking process:

The shirting for our laborers has been an object of some difficulty. Flax is so imperious to our lands, and of so scanty produce, that I have never attempted it. Hemp, on the other hand, is abundantly productive and will grow forever on the same spot. But the breaking and beating it, which has always been done by hand, is so slow, so laborious, and so much complained of by our laborers, that I have given it up…”

p. 83

It was commonplace for prisoners to be put to work breaking hemp by their jailers. Before slaves were used, the English had toyed with the idea of sending prisoners to Virginia for just that purpose.

P. 84

“Frequently, the very hemp prisoners broke in jail was used to snap a fellow inmate’s neck. In fact, because rope was so often made of hemp, the word “hemp” gave rise to several slang terms and expressions that were once familiar in England and America, but which have now disappeared from our language. Among the more current terms of a bygone era were “hempen collar,” meaning a hangman’s noose, and “hempen widow,” a woman widowed by the hangman’s hempen noose. “To die of hempen fever” was another way of saying a man had been hanged. During the heyday of the American Wild West, vigilantes were sometimes referred to as “hemp committees,” and “sowing hemp” was another way of saying that someone was on his way to a rendezvous with the hangman.”

“Once hemp had been splintered into shreds on the brake, it was ready for market. More often than not, however, the farmer kept his harvest for his own needs.”

Hempen cloth, hempen towels, hempen napkins and handkerchiefs, hempen tablecloths. “There was virtually no household that did not contain an item made from hemp.”

“After her husband brought her the broken hemp fiber, the farmer’s wife placed it across the top of a “swingling” block, a strong wooden board three to four feet high mounted on a sturdy wooden frame. She and her older daughters now began to pound the fibers as hard as they could with wooden paddles until it was beaten free of woody particles. The long fibers that survived this beating were then drawn through a hatchel, a wooden comb that removed remaining short fibers. Hatcheling was done several times, each time with a comb with teeth set more closely together than the previous one. After the final combing, the fine soft pliable threads were spun into cloth. Short fibers removed during the preliminary hatchelings were called tow, and were made into heavy thread for burlap and cord.”

Then it was spun, bleached or dyed, and weaved.

P. 86-87

The Stamp Act of 1765 started the women of New England “to their spinning wheels in earnest…. In New England, the campaign not to buy British goods was led by a group of women who called themselves the Daughters of Liberty. To meet the expected demand that a boycott against English goods would create” they turned to “spinning bees.”

The spinning bee spread to Philadelphia, Virginia, and as far south as South Carolina. When the revolution came, and textiles from England were completely cut off, the colonists were self-sufficient.

During the Revolution, the demand for hemp skyrocketed. Prices went from 27-35 shillings per hundredweight to, between 1780 and 1782, 300 shillings. “So important were rope and sail to the war effort that any man who worked at these jobs for at least six months was excused from military duty for the duration of the war.”

Part of Benedict Arnold’s objective when he led the British up the Jones River was the Warwick “Public Rope Walk”; its destruction “dealt a considerable blow to Virginia’s rope production for the war effort.”

Another important fiber need during the revolution: paper. In other areas, cotton and flax had since replaced hemp in papermaking. But these were scarce in America, and hemp began to be used again.

P. 89

Robert “King” Carter, ancestor of President Jimmy Carter, owned 300,000 acres in Virginia. In 1774, he decided that “tobacco would no longer be a profitable concern” and switched to hemp. He recognized a war brewing.

Hemp was also used for money, because the new state money was worthless ($1,000 Virginia dollars was worth $1 silver). Jefferson maintained “the hemp in the back country… to be used in paying for articles bought in Philadelphia for the use of the Army. This is an article very much in demand in Philadelphia and a valuable Fund….”

p. 91

Hemp production started in Kentucky in 1775. By 1810, it had become “the grand staple of Kentucky.” In 1850, hemp was second only to cotton and tobacco production in the United States. Tariffs on imported hemp was high in order to encourage local growing.

P. 93

The demand for hemp also increased the demand for slavery. “Take away slaves,” said William C. Bullitt, delegate to the Constitutional Convention of 1849, “and you destroy the production of that valuable article, which is bound to make the rich lands of Kentucky and Missouri still more valuable.”

J.F. Hopkins wrote, in History of the Hemp Industry in Kentucky, “Without hemp, slavery might not have flourished in Kentucky, since other agricultural products of the state were not conducive to the extensive use of bondsmen. On the hemp farm and in the hemp factories the need for laborers was filled to a large extent by the use of Negro slaves, and it is a significant fact that the heaviest concentration of slavery was in the hemp producing area.”

P. 94

“Although working in the hemp fields was backbreaking toil, many slaves preferred it to other kinds of labor since it was task work. Under the task system, the slave was given a fixed amount of work for the day. If he finished his work, he could spend his remaining time as he wanted. A slave could even earn money on the task system…. For every pound of hemp over the 100 pounds he was required to break per day, the slave was paid one cent. A good worker could break about 300 pounds, so it was possible to earn about two dollars a day. Some slaves earned enough money in this way to buy their freedom.” Cotton was gorwn under the gang system, “under the watchful eye of a driver whose job it was to get as much work out of each fieldhand as possible.”

Hemp factory labor was also task work.

P. 96

“After the Civil War, hemp production never recovered. Faced with competition in the form of iron wire cables and bands, and cheaper jute bagging, many farmers simply gave up on hemp and turned instead to other agricultural staples such as wheat.”

However, “as late as 1890, thirty-three million dollars’ worth of cordage was manufactured in the United States, and during World War I the hemp industry experienced a temporary revival.”

The French also envisioned the New World as a “vast repository of naval supplies, especially hemp and timber.” Like many others, Jacques Cartier had mistaken Acnida cannabina for Cannabis sativa. The French wanted hemp to sell to other countries, not for home use: they had been a major exporter since the fifteenth century.

The French had the same trouble as the English convincing their colonists to grow hemp. There was a labor shortage and many “had trouble just trying to grow enough food to stay alive.” To deal with this, “Jean Talon, the wily finance minister of the Québec colony, confiscated all the thread in the colony and declared he would sell it only in return for hemp. At the same time, he gave hemp seed free to farmers with the understanding that they were to plant it immediately and replace the gift with seed from their next year’s crop. Since their children had to be clothed, the women either persuaded their husbands to raise hemp or they bought it themselves and used it to barter with Talon. In this way, Talon created a demand for hemp and an industry to supply that demand.”

When the English took over, they also tried to extract hemp from the colonists, but failed., receiving “only token amounts of hemp from the colonists in Canada.”

When it looked as though Napolean might take over Russia and with it England’s stable supply of hemp, England offered “seventy pounds per ton and 300 acres of land” to anyone who would raise five tons per year. Still, little hemp made its way from Canada to England.

Spain was also trying to promote hemp in the New World. “As early as 1545, hemp seed was sown in the Quillota Valley, near the city of Santiago in Chile.” They tried in Peru and Columbia as well, but only Chile proved successful. They also sent experts to California in 1801, and had encouraging results. By 1807, California was producing 12,500 pounds of hemp; 40% came from Santa Barbara, and good harvests were also reported around San José, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. By 1810, California was producing over 220,000 pounds of dressed hemp. In 1810, however, Mexico broke from Spain, and California was cut off from the subsidies that had stimulated hemp growth. Commercial production ceased, and was never restarted.

Portugal had only Brazil; they tried importing hemp as well, but their slaves from West and South Africa knew what to do with it, and in 1830 the Municipal Council of Rio de Janeiro “prohibited importation of marihuana into the city. Anyone selling the drug was liable to a large fine and any slave found using it could be sentenced to three days’ imprisonment.

Jamaica: a Russian hemp expert was sent by the British to see if hemp could be profitably raised; the attempt failed. The plants began to grow wild, and “when indentured laborers from India came to work in Jamaica following the emancipation of the Negro slaves in the British Caribbean in the mid-nineteenth century, they found ganja already growing there.”

The Marijuana and Hashish Era

While some researchers noted that marijuana might have intoxicating qualities as early as the sixteenth century, it wasn’t until the nineteenth century that scientists started taking its effects seriously. But by then, its inability to be injected meant that use fell after the civil war from already low levels. Its use as an intoxicant, however, began to rise.

New Uses for the Old Hemp Plant

Hemp has a history in folk remedies and occult histories, though to what end when combined with such drugs as belladonna it’s hard to imagine, especially when many of these formulas came not from witches but from the fearmongers who railed against them.

“The discovery of the passage to the East Indies by way of the Cape of Good Hope was one of the great events of Western European history…. Even the momentous landing on the moon pales before the excitement generated by the landings of the first explorers in the East Indies.”

“To supply this demand, anyone and everyone who visited these far-off places, and had the ability to put what he had seen into words, became the bestselling authors and the most sought after raconteurs of their day.”

“It was through these stories, for instance, that many Europeans learned that the hemp plants that grew wild in their fields were used as medicines by the people of India. Even more surprising, Europeans were told that the people in the lands to the east actually made a beverage from this plant which caused them to act as if they were drunk with wine!”

“Even the Italian hemp dealers and artisans who were so expert in evaluating the different grades of hemp fiber were totally unaware of the plant’s other properties.”

p. 107

“Invariably, whenever medieval artists turned to the subject of the Witches’ Sabbath, they depicted a group of women, who were usually naked, compounding a mysterious drug in a large cauldron. As early as the fifteenth century, demonologists declared that one of the main constituents that the witches compounded for their heinous ceremony was hemp.

‘In 1484, Pope Innocent VIII issued a papal fiat condemning witchcraft and the use of hemp in the Satanic mass.[A. De Pasquale, “Farmacognosia della ‘Canape Indiana,’” Estratto dai Lavori dell’Instituto di Farmacognosia dell’Universita di Messina 5 (1967): 24] In 1615, an Italian physician and demonolgist[sic], Giovanni De Ninault, listed hemp as the main ingredient in the ointments and unguents used by the devil’s followers.[Ibid. Cf. Also, Cornelius Agrippa, De Oculta Philosphia (n.d.), vol. 43; and Pierre d’Alban, Heptameron seu Elementa Magica (1567), p. 142.] Hemp, along with opium, belladonna, henbane, and hemlock, the demonologists believed, were commonly resorted to during the Witches’ Sabbath to produce the hunger, ecstasy, intoxication, and aphrodisia responsible for the glutinous banquets, the frenzied dancing, and the orgies that characterized the celebration of the Black Mass. Hemp seed oil was also an ingredient in the ointments witches allegedly used to enable them to fly.

‘Jean Wier, the celebrated demonologist of the sixteenth century, was quite familiar with the exhilarating effects of hemp for sinister purposes. Hemp, he wrote, caused a loss of speech, uncontrollable laughter, and marvelous visions. Quoting Galen, he explained that it was capable of producing these effects by “virtue of affecting the brain since if one takes a large enough amount the vapors destroy the reason.”[Quoted in De Pasquale, “Farmacognosia,” p. 24.]

‘Cannabis still retained its importance as a key ingredient in magical potions well into the nineteenth century. An occult French publication, The Prophet’s Almanac, in its 1849 edition, for example, shows a crowd of people standing in front of a wizard who is gazing through a telescope into the future. Two of the men in the throng carry banners; one banner has “ether” printed on it, the other bears the word “hashish.”

‘Sorcerers and witches were not the only people to attribute magical properties to the marihuana plant. In the Ukraine, peasant farmers used to pluck marihuana flowers on St. John’s Eve in the belief that this would keep the evil eye from hurting their farm animals. Ukrainian girls of marriageable age used to carry hemp seeds in their pockets when they whispered magical spells designed to hasten their wedding day. After they pronounced these spells, they stripped naked and scampered around their homes to complete the magic. In Ireland, young maidens sowed hemp seed during Halloween, believing that if they looked behind them while sowing, they would see the ghost of their future husbands. In other parts of Great Britain, this rite was not confined to Halloween alone. For example, a love poem of bygone days states:

A eve last Midsummer no sleep I sought, But to the field a bag of hemp-seed brought; I scatter’d round the seed on ev’ry side, And three times, in a trembling accent, cried This hemp-seed with my virgin hand I sow. Who shall my true love be, the crop shall mow. [J. Brand, Observations on the Popular Antiquities of Great Britain. (London: Henry Bohn, 1848), 3: 395-6.]

‘While occult in nature, the basis of these superstitious rites are lost in time.”

p. 109

“Hemp was also a particularly familiar ingredient in the folk medicine of Eastern Europe. In Poland, Russia, and Lithuania, peasant farmers relied on the vapor given off by smoldering hemp seeds to relieve their toothaches.[Benet, “Early Diffusion”, p. 46.]… Other common folk uses for the plant were in easing childbirth; reducing inflamation, fever, and the swelling of joints; preventing convulsions; and curing jaundice and rheumatism.”

The idea that hemp could actually have the same intoxicating effects as alcohol, first came from Africa: “In 1510, Leo Africanus, a Moroccan convert to Christianity, told his readers of a compound called “Lhasis” used by the people of Tunis which made them burst into laughter, caused them to act as if half drunk, and “provoked them into lust.”[Leo Africanus, The History and Description of Africa and of the Notable Things Therein (New York: Burt Franklin, N.D.), 3: 722.]”

In 1591, physician Prosper Alpini published The Medicines of the Egyptians, “in which he stated that hashish caused men to revel in ecstasy. He compared the early stages of hashish intoxication to that of alcohol, but emphasized that the visions hashish users experienced were to an important extent dependent on their intelligence and their psychological state at the time they took the drug.”

P. 114-115

That marihuana was frequently mixed with opium caused some confusion for Europeans, who began to believe that “bangue had the same addicting effects as opium”.

P. 120-121

While it was included in many ‘dispensaries’ or ‘dispensatories’, i.e., listings of medicines, “It was not until the middle of the nineteenth century that cannabis was to be given serious consideration by the medical profession. Until that time, it was sparingly used as a folk remedy for certain disorders, but it never enjoyed any popularity and there is absolutely no indication that the English ever became intoxicated as a result of eating cannabis leaves or seeds. The variety of cannabis that grew in England did not produce enough resin for it inadvertently to intoxicate any proponent of the plant as a home remedy.”

Cannabis indica was the name given to the Indian version by Jean Lamark. Carl Linnaeus, in his Species Plantarum, labeled both Indian and European hemp as Cannabis sativa. “This early argument as to whether there is one species of cannabis which includes many different varieties or several different species still remains to be settled.”

The Indian Hemp Drug Debate

One of the earliest examples of a commission to determine the ill effects of a drug. The commission was called because of the dire warnings of the governor of India and decided that the governor was overstating the issue. But the real issue, as usual, was not the drug but the people who used it: the real issue was rising Indian nationalism.

p. 122

The British East India Company, by 1770, was in a financially dismal state. Parliament, after some debate, agreed to extend them a loan, but the company had to place itself under direct Parliamentary control. Among the ways they used to get their money back was a tax on hemp drugs: bhang, ganja, and charas.

The law went into effect in 1798, “with a view to check immoderate consumption, and at the same time to augment the public revenue.[Indian Hemp Drugs Commission, (Simla, India: 1893-4), 3: 16.]”

The governor general believed that “drugs such as charas and ganja, along with opium and alcohol, “are of so noxious a quality, and produce a species of intoxication so extremely violent,” he warned, “that they cannot be used without imminent danger to the individual as well as to the public.” The sale of all such drugs, he urged, ought to be totally prohibited in India.”

“The Board of Revenue met to consider these allegations but decided that the dangers to the country and its people were not so dire as the governor general implied…. These drugs, it declared, “are not for the most part represented as producing any very violent or dangerous effects of intoxication except when taken to excess…. we do not recommend that the sale of any of them be altogether prohibited, but shall proceed to state what appears to us the best means of restricting the use of them, and improving the revenue by the imposition of such taxes as are best adapted to the nature of the cause.””

In 1838, a survey was conducted, and the official in charge “noted that despite the taxes on ganja, it was still used daily by the natives… perhaps India’s hemp drugs ought to be banned outright.” The Parliament decided that the real problem was that they weren’t getting enough taxes out of it. They switched from taxing on potency to taxing solely on weight, then later boosted the tax again.

Criticism mounted. “Behind the rising complaints against the drug was the nuisance, to England at least, of growing Indian nationalism.”

In 1870, the financial secretary of India said “Every lunatic asylum report is full of instances of insanity and crime due to the use of ganja.”

Little was said against bhang or charas: bhang was rather weak; charas was stronger, but so expensive it was consumed only by the wealthy. Ganja was “potent, not very expensive, and popular.”

On October 10, 1871, “when the outcry against cannabis could no longer be brusehd aside,” the secretary to the government of India issued a directive informing administrators:

It has frequently been alleged that the abuse of ganja produces insanity and other dangerous effects…. you will be so good as to cause such investigations as are feasible to be carried out in regard to the efforts of the use or abuse of the several preparations of hemp. The inquiry should not be simply medical but should include the alleged influence of ganja and bhang in exciting to violent crime.

“After sifting through the correspondence, the government issued a statement to the effect that there was no proof that cannabis drugs specifically incited criminal activities to a greater degree than did any other drugs. On the the insanity issue, the governmen5t admitted that while there was “no doubt that its habitual use does tend to produce insanity, the total number of cases of insanity is small in proportion of the population, and not large even in proportion to the number of ganja smokers….”

“Local administrators refused to be silenced, however, and in 1877 enough pressure was brought to bear upon the cannabis issue that a special task force was commissioned to look into the problem. Once again the government admitted that excessive use of cannabis drugs was harmful, and once again it insisted that the only way of reducing consumption was by increasing “the tax on this article as high as it can possibly bear… The policy of Government must be to limit its production and sale by a high rate of duty without placing the drug entirely beyond the reach of those who will insist upon having it.”

“The ganja menace” caught the attention of the Temperance League, and a commission, on March 16, 1893, was ordered to determine whether cannabis should be prohibited in India. The commission met on August 3, 1893 and remained in session until August 6, 1894. What it found:

  • Ganja was the main revenue-generating cannabis drug, but bhang, which was not subject to taxation, was the most popular of the three cannabis drugs, and the most widely used among the Hindus. It was cheap, not very potent, and did not produce unpleasant effects even after consuming large quantities.
  • Use of charas and ganja was declining; as a result of its rising cost, the upper classes were gaining a taste for alcohol, “which sold at a substantially lower price”.
  • “Ganja was especially associated with worship of the god Siva. Devotees of this cult believed that ganja was a special attribute of this god and their partaking of ganja in connection with his worship was akin to communion in the Catholic church. The same held true for the Sikh religion. During a holiday called Dasehra, every Sikh was required to drink bhang in commemoration of the founder of the Sikh religion, Gobind Singh.”
  • Most of the witnesses had no “real knowledge or familiarity with cannabis’s effects. Casual users of these drugs could not be readily identified. Moderate users were generally unknown except to those who also used these drugs…. Despite the fact that most witnesses readily admitted being unfamiliar with the effects of moderate usage of cannabis drugs, the commission was astounded to find them more than willing to express dogmatic opinions.

Some witnesses know only the medical use of the drugs and are prepared to say nothing but good of them, being really ignorant of their use as intoxicants. There are also witnesses who do not know the use of the drugs as intoxicants, but know only moderate use. They have nothing to say of the drugs as would be said of alcohol by the man who only had seen a glass of wine taken at his own table or at the table of a friend. He knows nothing of the effects of excess. Others again have only experience of excessive consumption. The moderate consumer has not attracted their attention. The ruin wrought in certain classes by excess alone attracted their attention. They feel towards these drugs as that man feels towards alcohol whose experience had been mainly gained among the social wrecks of the lowest parts of a great city.

  • “With respect to addiction, the commission noted that while most witnesses believed that moderate usage eventually developed into excessive usage, this belief was based primarily on a general opinion that such progression occurred for all intoxicants.”
  • “Few witnesses were willing to state that moderate use of cannabis drugs was harmful to the body. On the other hand, most witnesses stated categorically that excessive consumption was dangerous. The evidence for this assertion, as was the case for most of the claims the commission heard, was based on casual observation of very few heavy users. In fact, the commission was singularly impressed with the dearth of such claims: “The most striking feature of the medical evidence is perhaps the large number of practitioners of long experience who have seen no evidence of any connection between hemp drugs and disease.” [Indian Hemp Drugs Commission, p. 223]
  • “Although most asylum superintendants stated categorically that excessive cannabis usage led to insanity, the commission noted that these officials “know nothing of the effects of the drugs at all… and they have generalized from the few cases that were brought to them in which the patient’s illness was attributed to cannabis usage…. The opinions they have expressed in stereotyping the popular opinion and giving it authority and permanence” had only added to the confusion. Examing the data, they found that of 222 cases of insanity reported in 1892 (allegedly precipitated by cannabis) only 61 of them could make a reasonable claim of this. “The available information, the commission noted, usually consisted of guesses by police officers regarding the background and habits of friendless and homeless wanderers.” However, they did accept the link: “Taking these accepted cases as a whole, we have a number of instances where the hemp drug habit has been so established in relation to the insanity that, admitting (as we must admit) that hemp drugs as intoxicants cause more ore less of cerebral stimulation, it may be accepted as reasonably proved, in the absence of evidence of other causes, that hemp drugs do cause insanity.” [IHDC, p. 250].
  • “No connection between cannabis and premeditated criminal behavior could be substantiated. The view that such a relationship existed was based on the fact that those who used cannabis drugs to excess were usually people from low social and economic status groups.”
  • “In the case of unpremeditated crime, especially in crimes of violence, most witnesses were of the opinion that, rather than increasing the likelihood of violence, habitual users became timid and quiet. A number of witnesses did insist, however, that they knew of many cases in which cannabis usage led to “temporary homicidal frenzy.” When questioned further on this point, however, these witnesses invariably stated that they could not give any examples of such behavior. The witnesses have “a more or less vague impression that hemp drugs and violent crime have been occasionally associated, but they cannot recall cases,” the commission noted. [IHDC, p. 258]
  • “When an inspector general of police was questioned concerning his statement that “running amok is always the result of excessive indulgence [in cannabis],” he admitted that “I have never had experience of such a case. I only state what I have heard.” Such “witnesses also are typical of a considerable class,” the commission added, “who refer to hearsay, to rumor, and to newspapers as the basis of their opinion.”
  • Others said that since alcohol incited violence, they imagined cannabis would do the same. “All this, tends greatly to lessen the weight of evidence in support of the affirmative answer to this question and to strengthen the impression that it is but rarely that excessive indulgence in hemp drugs can be credited with inciting to crime or leading to homicidal frenzy.”[IHDC, p. 259]
  • In summary: (1) Moderate use of cannabis had no appreciable physical effects on the body. (2) Moderate use of cannabis had no adverse effects on the brain, except possibly for individuals predisposed to act abnormally. Excessive use could lead to mental instability and ultimately to insanity “in individuals predisposed by heredity to mental disorders.” (3) Moderate use of cannabis had no adverse influence on morality. Excessive usage could result in moral degradation. Cannabis intoxication could result in violence, but “such cases were few and far between.”
  • To summarize the summary: The facts showed “most clearly how little injury society has hitherto sustained from hemp drugs.”[IHDC, p. 264]

They recommended that suppression of bhang would be “totally unjustifiable”. “Should suppression occur, it would have the effect of causing the people to turn to more harmful drugs.”

P. 133

Egypt, meanwhile, wanted to suppress cannabis use; and the English received no taxes from Egyptian hashish. Many of the hashish confections were exported to Europe:

  • Turkish Delight: square pieces of hashish containing sugar and gelatin; “a particular favorite of the students at Cambridge University in England.”
  • Sesame Sweetmeat: flat pieces of hashish, sesame seeds, and honey.
  • Bird’s Tongue: black gelatinous pieces of hashish coated with sugar.
  • Saffron: an orange-colored slab of hashish, saffron, and spices.
  • Banana: small banana-shaped pieces of hashish and sugar.
  • Crocodile’s Penis: a black paste made of hashish. It derived its name “from the belief that the penis of the crocodile was a potent aphrodisiac and that hashish was capable of infusing the amorous spirit in its users.”

In 1868, the Egyptians passed a law making possessiona capital offense. In 1874, importation was allowed provided a duty was paid; possession remained prohibited. In 1877, the sultan of Turkey (who still ruled over Egypt), ordered a nationwide campaign to confiscate and destroy the drug. Importation was made illegal again in 1879. In 1884, cultivation became a criminal offense but customs officers were allowed to sell the drug abroad. Profits were divided among informers and customs officers. The laws had very little effect on hashish use in Egypt, but “were reissued in 1891 and 1894. In 1898, over 10,000 kilos of hashish were seized and over 500 businesses were closed because their proprietors had allowed hashish to be used on the premises. In 1908, there were almost 2000 such closings.” They were all unsuccessful.

P. 134

The Greeks, despite their subjugation by the Ottoman Turks, didn’t start using hashish until sometime between 1870 and 1880, when Egyptian and Cyprus immigrants brought it with them. Its use was confined primarily to the poor, and was nicknamed the “weed of the poor”. “Middle-class Greeks, however, quickly became concerned about the spreading use of hashish. They saw the drug as a social danger and they regarded hashish users as degenerates and criminals.” In 1890 cultivation, importation, and use was outlawed, but the law was not strictly enforced. During the twenties, Greece became a major producer of hashish. While it is still prevalent in Greece, use fell after the German occupation of World War II, “primarily because most of the users died of starvation.” [Because they were poor? See M.G. Stringaris, Die Haschischsiet (Berlin: Springer-Verlag, 1972), p. 48]

The African Dagga Cultures

If Indian use of an unapproved drug was a problem, there’s no question that Africans would get in trouble from their white masters for using it. White leaders in South Africa forbid the sale of any portion of the hemp plant to “any coolies whatsoever”.

Africans most likely learned about cannabis from Arabs; it is not indigenous to Africa. The earliest evidence of cannabis in Africa (outside of Egypt) is from 14th-century Ethiopia, “where two ceramic smoking-pipe bowls containing traces of cannabis were recently discovered during an archaeological excavation. From Ethiopia, cannabis seeds were carried to the south by Bantu-speaking natives who originally lived in North Africa, and from them the use of cannabis as an intoxicant spread to other native Africans such as the Bushmen and the Hottentots.”

P. 141

American journalist Henry M. Stanley (of “Mr. Livingston, I presume.” Fame) “had little regard for the African native whome he described as “wild as a colt, chafing, restless, ferociously impulsive, superstitiously timid, liable to furious demonstrations, suspicious and unreasonable….” [H.M. Stanley, Through the Dark Continent, New York: Harper & Bros, 1879), 1:71.]”

He believed that cannabis use weakened them and made them unfit to carry his cargo:

Certainly most deleterious to the physical powers is the almost universal habit of vehemently inhaling the smoke of the Cannabis sativa or wild hemp. In a light atmosphere, such as we have in hot days in the Tropics, with the thermometer rising to 140 Fahr. In the sun, these people, with lungs and vitals injured by erxcessive indulgence in these destructive habits, discovered they have no physical stamina to sustain them. The rigor of a march in a loaded caravan soon tells upon their weakened powers, and one by one they drop from the ranks, betraying their impotence and infirmaties.[ibid, p. 86]

Stanley didn’t have the “misfortune” of encountering the Zulus, who, according to explorer A.T. Bryant in “The Zulu People, “young [Zulu] warriors were especially addicted [to dagga] and under the exciting stimulation of the drug were capable of accomplishing hazardous feats.” Some historians have even suggested that the Zulus were intoxicated with dagga when they attacked the Dutch at the Battle of Blood River in 1838.”

According to German explorer Herman von Wissman:

“The Bashilange were originally a very warlike people, Wissman tells us:

One tribe with another, one village with another, always lived at daggers drawwn…. The number of scars which some ancient men display among their tatooings gives evidence of this. Then, about twenty-five years ago [ca. 1850]… a hemp-smoking worship began to be established, and the narcotic effect of smoking masses of hemp made itself felt. The Ben-Riamba, “Sons of Hemp,” found more and more followers; they began to have intercourse with each other as they became less barbarous and made laws. [I feel… like making laws!]

The transition from feud to friendship was only one of the changes initiated by the hemp cult. An entire religion came into being based on riamba, the Bashilange word for cannabis, which became the symbol of peace, comaraderie, magic, and protection. Tribesmen were no longer permitted to carry weapons in their villages, they called each other friend, and they greeted one another with the word moyo, meaning “life” and “health.” Although formerly cannibals, they abjured their previous custom of eating the bodies of their captured opponents.”

However, the “Bashilange nobility was also upset by the new changes. Hitherto, high-status tribesmen were permitted to wear cotton garments. The new laws of brotherhood did away with such class distinctions. Now anyone who could afford them could wear such clothes.”

Their vassals no longer sent them money, since the Bashilange had “renounced the spear”. A rebellion broke out around 1876, and an attempt to kill the royal family was made. It was unsuccessful, but the perpetrators went unpunished.

“The end was near at hand, however, and it was not long before the anticannabis forces mustered enough support to overthrow the riamba cult. The tribe returned to many of its old customs, but many of the changes initiated as a consequence of the adoption of the cult remained. The Bashilange ceased their warlike activities against their neighbors, much of the legal system was preserved so that harsh penalties were rarely applied, and cannabis still remained an integral part of their daily lives.”

P. 146

“As long as dagga was taken primarily by the black man, white Africa took little interest, other than amusement, in these peculiar drug cults. When cannabis subsequently took root in their own cities, however, the fear of contamination by such foreign practices began to alarm segments of white society. The change in attitude occurred shortly after 1843, when the Republic of Natalia (Natal), on the northeast coast of South Africa, was annexed by England and made a part of the Cape Colony.” As the sugar industry developed, labor was needed, and the British colony of India provided about 6000 mainly low-caste workers.

These “coolies”, as they were called, left the fields as soon as their legal indenture obligations were completed. “But while they fitted into the European way of life, they never became a part of it. Their dark skins, culture, social and religious background, and language set them apart from both the Europeans and the native Africans.”

They’d also brought their use of cannabis with them; cannabis itself was waiting for them. “By 1870, European settlers became so alarmed at the alleged dangers of cannabis to South Africa that they passed a law “prohibiting the smoking, use, or possession by the sale, barter, or gift to, any coolies whatsoever, of any portion of the hemp plant (Cannabis sativa)….””.

The laws were ignored, and measures taken again in 1887. In 1923, South Africa tried to enlist the League of Nations to outlaw cannabis on a world-wide basis, but were unsuccessful.

The Hashish Club

In the 1800s the elite began to take notice of this obscure drug. One of the most famous was Dr. Moreau’s Club des Hachichins in France.

Napolean invaded Egypt in 1798. The Egyptians taught the French troops to use hasish. In October of 1800, Napolean issued this ordinance:

It is forbidden in all of Egypt to use certain Moslem beverages made with hashish or likewise to inhale the smoke from seeds of hashish. Habitual drinkers and smokers of this plant lose their reason and are victims of violent delirium which is the lot of those who give themselves full to excesses of all sorts.

He also brought three French scientists with him to study the culture; Silvestre de Sacy, Rouyer, and Desgenettes. In 1809, Silvestre de Sacy claimed that “assassin” was a word derived from “hashish”. The link between hashish and the Assassins became firmly soldered in cannabis folklore from that time on.”

P. 151

Dr. Jacques-Joseph Moreau (1804-84), who had studied psychiatry under Jean Esquirol, decided to study hashish. After trying it on himself, he enlisted volunteers. “It was in this role as the dispassionate scientist that Moreau became drug dispenser to the Hashish Club, a coterie of France’s leading writers, poets, and artist.” (Club des Hachichins)

One of the volunteers was Pierre Jules Théophile Guatier. Gautier was the founder of the club, which met “on a monthly basis in the elegant Hôtel Lauzun in Paris’s Latin Quarter.” Visitors or members included Alexandre Dumas, Gérard de Nerval, Victor Hugo, Ferdinand Boissard, Eugène Delacroix, and Gautier.

Charles Baudelaire and Honoré de Balzac were there, but didn’t use hashish often. They mostly just observed.

P. 163

In England, Thomas de Quincey announced that he would try some “bang” and report on it, but this never materialized. He did write that:

one farmer in Midlothian was mentioned to me eight months ago as having taken it, and ever since annoyed his neighbors by immoderate fits of laughter; so that in January it was agreed to present him to the sheriff as a nuisance. But for some reason the plan was laid aside and now, eight months later, I hear that the farmer is laughing more rapturously than ever, continues in the happiest frame of mind, the kindest creature and the general torment of his neighborhood.

In an 1858 article in Little’s Living Age Magazine, an article cites drug use statistics around the world: “Tobacco is the one universal narcotic; the others are consumed by the human race in the following proportions; opium by four hundred millions, hemp by between two and three hundred millions, betel by one hundred millions, and coca by ten millions.” No mention was made of alcohol, “in spite of the fact that alcohol abuse was a major problem in England in the mid-nineteenth century.”

P. 167

Cannabis was introduced into Western medicine by “a now obscure Irish physician”, Dr. William Brooke O’Shaugnessy. He introduced intravenous fluid and electrolyte-replacement therapy for treating cholera, and introduced the telegraph system into India (for which Queen Victoria knighted him in 1856). He retired in 1861 at 52, and “for some unknown reason he changed his name to William O’Shaugnessy Brooke.”

He did many animal experiments with cannabis, and, once convinced of its safety, tried it for many diseases, “reporting that in all cases his patients experienced relief from the symptoms of these disorders.” He brought some back from India and gave it to pharmacist Peter Squire to convert to a form suitable for medicine. This became “Squire’s Extract”, and Squire and his sones became the “main and most reliable suppliers of cannabis extract in England.”

P. 170

In the 1890s, chemists Wood, Spivey, and Easterfield, at Cambridge University, “succeeded in obtaining a relatively pure extraction of cannabis which they called “cannabinol.”” They seem to have had some trouble: Spivey and Easterfield were both “blown to bits” by chemical explosions, and Wood was dragged from a burning laboratory.

Hashish in America

It isn’t surprising that early experimenters might find themselves mildly addicted to marijuana: some samples turned out to have up to 25% opium! Rumors also that the Pentagon is built on a great dope farm.

p. 171

“Although hemp had been a valuable and commonplace agricultural staple in the United States from the time of the first settlement in Virginia, the early Americans were totally unaware of the kaleidoscope of sensations lurking within the sticky resin that covered the plant. In fact, it was not until they read the exploits of their own Marco Polo, Bayard Taylor, that Americans learned of the existence of drugs such as hashish. But even then, they failed to make the connection between this exotic drug and the hemp weeds that grew in the vacant lots of their neighborhoods.”

Taylor traveled the Middle and Far East in 1851, and described his experiences with hashish in A Journey to Central Africa (1854) and The Land of the Saracens; or, Pictures of Palestine, Asia Minor, Sicily, and Spain (1855). Taylor first learned of hashish in Egypt.

Fitz Hugh Ludlow was captivated by The Land of the Saracens. He was born in 1836, was profoundly influenced also by Confessions of an Opium Eater, and wrote his own book The Hasheesh Eater: Being Passages from the Life of a Pythagorean, which he published anonymous in 1857. He claimed to have become addicted to hasheesh, requiring the help of a physician to ween himself from it.

P. 177

“Although The Hasheesh Eater is now recognized as a minor classic, and has earned the author the honor of having the Fitz Hugh Ludlow Library in San Francisco named after him, during his own era his book was generally unknown to the American reading public.” A reviewer, in an 1857 Harper’s Magazine, “took considerable comfort in declaring that Americans were fortunately “in no danger of becoming a nation of hasheesh eaters.””

P. 178

Physician John Bell, in the Boston Medical and Surgical Journal in 1857, said that “specimens of hashish that he had obtained from Damascus contained about 25 percent opium!”

p. 179

“By the 1860s, so much hashish was being used in America that an English writer, Mordecai Cubitt Cooke, told his readers:”

Young America is beginning to use the “bang” so popular among the Hindoos, though in a rather different manner, for young Johnathan must in some sort be an original. It is not a “drink,” but a mixture of bruised hemp tops and the powder of the betel, rolled up like a quid of tobacco. It turns the lips and gums of a deep red, and if undulged in largely, produces violent intoxication. Lager beer and schnaps will give way for “bang” and red lips, instead of red noses [Cooke predicted, will] become the style.

P. 184-185

“At the turn of the century the U.S. government was particularly interested in the therapeutic potential of marihuana and planted cannabis as well as opium and henbane along the banks of the Potomac near Washington…. The experiment was short-lived, however. In the wake of controversy over the “doping” of Americans that prompted the Food and Drug Act of 1906, the federally sponsored project was terminated and the “dope fields were eradicated, to be occupied years later by the Pentagon.”[M.A. Aldrich, “Marijuana,” The Dope Chronicles, ed. G. Silver (New York: Harper and Row, 1979), p. 255.]

A Nation of Drug Takers

When America discovered that there were foreigners in the country, they conveniently forgot how recently they themselves had come over; the drugs those foreigners used became illegal. At first the laws targeted specific races; in time, the laws targeted everyone.

America’s Drug Users

Opium was prohibited because it was used by Orientals and cocaine because it was perceived as a Negro drug. More specifically, racist views of the time saw these peoples as less able to resist the criminalizing effects of drug use. Jazz was similarly stereotyped.

The 1905 Sears, Roebuck & Company catalogue advertised a 69 cent bottle:

We here offer a perfectly safe and reliable cure to those addicted to the habit of using opium or morphine in any manner whatsoever.

“At the turn of the century when this notice first appeared, about one million Americans were addicted to drugs such as opium and morphine…. In the early 1900s, when most Americans still lived in the country, the typical addict lived in a small town or on an isolated farm, he attended church regularly on Sunday, and would have been astounded if anyone intimated that because of his addiction he was a degenerate, a deviant, or a criminal.”

P. 190

“Unlike opium, morphine, or alcohol, cannabis was a relatively obscure drug. The so-called hashish vice was still confined to the large cities and to a minority of writers, students, thrill seekers, and the bored upper classes.”

“In the latter part of the 1860s, thousands of Chinese immigrants poured into the American west to work on the railways that were beginning to tentacle across the country. By the end of the 1870s, the construction boom petered out and there were more men than jobs. The railway and mining companies, the large farm owners, and manufacturers took advantage of the situation and offered the lowest possible wages for whatever work they had available. Although white laborers were unwilling to accept the pittances being offered, the Chinese had no such scruples. They needed to survive and they took what they could find. White laborers reacted by blaming the Chinese for ruining the economy and taking jobs away from native Americans.”

P. 191

“…the opium den became the visible symbol of the Chinese presence on the West Coast and as such became the target of anti-Chinese sentiment.”

An editorial in the February 13, 1882 Tombstone Epitaph:

The Chinese are the least desired immigrants who have ever sought the United States…. the almond-eyed Mongolian with his pigtail, his heathenism, his filthy habits, his thrift, and careful accumulation of savings to be sent back to the flowery kingdom. The most we can do is to insist that he is a heathen, a devourer of soup made from the flagrant juice of the rat, filthy, disagreeable, and undesirable generally, an incumbance that we have determined shall not increase in this part of the world.

San Francisco passed the first (in Ameirica) city ordinance against smoking or possessing opium in 1875. Virginia City, Nevada enacted a similar law a year later. “Ostensibly, the reason for these laws was the adoption of opium smoking by young white boys and girls. Oregon’s legislators gave their own reason for enacting its state law against opium: “Smoking opium is not our vice, and therefore, it may be that this legislation proceeds more from a desire to vex and annoy the “Heathen Chinese’ in this respect than to protect the people from the evil habit.”[Quoted in R.J. Bonnie and C.H. Whitebread, The Marihuana Conviction (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1974), p. 14.]

p. 192-193

Doctors, resenting the competition of patent-medicine manufacturers, and the exclusion of proprietary medicines by state law, began to consider means of regulating drug distribution at the federal level.

“The Constitution, however, made no provision for the regulation of drugs by the federal government. The only powers Congress might use involved the authority to regulate interstate commerce and impose taxes. After a long and involved examination of the problem, it was decided that the mandate over interstate traffic was authority enough to oversee the patent-medicine business.

‘On the premise that Americans were addicting themselves simply because they were unaware of the contents of the nostrums they were taking, the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 required that all patent medicines shipped across state lines had to list their ingredients if they contained more than a specified amount of opium, morphine, heroin, cocaine, alcohol, chloral hydrate, or cannabis.”

In 1882, Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act which prohibited Chinese laborers from entering the U.S. for the next ten years. China reacted by adopting an embargo against American manufactures. President Theodore Roosevelt, aware of China’s efforts to eradicate opium addiction among its own people, convened an international conference in 1909 in Shanghai. “By trying to impress China with its goodwill and concern about her drug crisis, the United States hoped to change China’s attitude toward American goods.”

The United States delegates “realized that their own country had no federal laws prohibiting the smoking of opium.” Congress was persuaded to quickly enact such a law. “Henceforth, importation of opium into the United States except at specific entry points, and then only with the provision that it was to be used exclusively for medical purposes, was prohibited. It was now a crime for anyone to buy or sell opium in the United States.”

The various representatives to the conference “had not been empowered by their governments to write or adopt any international treaty for the control of world traffic in opium, so all they could do was congratulate the Americans and promise to make recommendations to their respective governments concerning such a global measure.

‘But the United States had not achieved its primary objective of gaining access to the Chinese markets, and son in 1911 the United States urged a second international meeting,” at the Hague. The British were “cool” to this, since India, its territorial province, was supplying opium to the Chinese market. Persia and Turkey were “less than enthusiastic” for the same reason.

The Americans pressed on. Hamilton Wright, the American delegate, said “Our move [the Shanghai conference] to help China in her opium reform gave us more prestige in China than any of our recent friendly acts toward her. If we continue and press ssteadily for the [Hague] Conference, China will recognize that we are sincere on her behalf, and the whole business may be used as oil to smooth the troubled water of our aggressive commercial policy there.”

‘To gain this foothold in China, Wright pressured Congress to adopt wide-sweeping antinarcotics laws. His appeal was aimed at American prejudices. Opium smoking in America, Wright declared, had been introduced by the Chinese and “one of the most unfortuante phases of the habit… was the large number of women who have become involved and were living as common-law wives and cohabiting with Chinese in the Chinatowns of our various cities.”

‘Wright also incited latent racial fears. “It has been authoritatively stated,” he said, “that cocaine is often the direct incentive to the crime of rape by the Negros of the South and other sections of the country.”[all quoted in D.F. Musto, The American Disease]

A law was proposed to require retail pharmacists to purchase tax stamps for narcotics, including cannabis, and required that they keep “meticulous” records of purchases, regardless of amount. The National Wholesale Druggist Association “vehemently” objected, “since the use of stamps and detailed record keeping would greatly increase the cost of doing business. The NDWA also objected to the inclusion of cannabis on the proscribed list. Dr. Charles West, their spokesman, said that there was no reason to consider cannabis in the same class as opium, morphine, and cocaine, since it was not habit forming. Dr. William Muir, spokesman for the New York Pharmaceutical Association, pointed out that cannabis was a major ingredient in corn cures. Having to keep detailed records of every sale of corn cures was ridiculous.”

The retail interests won out, and the legislation was defeated. “Other nations that had such laws accused the United States of hypocrisy”, and the conference disbanded without agreement.

P. 195

Wright persuaded Congressman Francis Burton Harrison to introduce another antinarcotics bill in the House. It simplified the record-keeping process to please the pharmacists. It still required tax stamps for narcotics. It was framed as a revenue measure, so enforcement went to the Internal Revenue Branch of the Treasury Department.

P. 195

“The legislators did not intend to make addiction illegal. Addicts could obtain all the drugs they wanted, provided they got them through registered suppliers. The Narcotics Division of the Internal Revenue Bureau was created not as a law enforcement body, but as a bookkeeping department to supervise collection of tax stamp monies.” The law was designed to save face, to honor pledges made at the Hague convention.

“The bureaucrats who moved into the department began to feel the need to justify their existence beyond that of mere bookeepers [sic] and they began to look for ways to expand and prove their wroth…. To expand, there had to be an issue, one that Congress could understand and appreciate and at the same time see the need to bolster the Narcotics Division.

‘The plan began with a media campaign aimed at the alleged evils of narcotics. The idea was to stir up the public, make it appear that the country was on the verge of a drug-induced moral collapse. The themese were calculated to arouse fear and apprehension: children were being victimized; narcotics were lethal and enslaving; drug users were criminals. The campaign was such an overwhelming success in spreading panic that the bureau resorted to the same ploy years later when it sought to outlaw marihuana.

‘At the same time as it began waging its media campaign, the Bureau of Narcotics also prepared a second front aimed at increasing the scope of the Harrison Act through judicial reinterpretation of its terms. While the courts held that federal uthorities had no right to arrest physicians for prescribing narcotics to known addicts in U.S. vs. Jim Fuey Moy (1916), it also ruled that physicians were not immune to paying the tax on narcotics in U.S. vs. Doremus (1919). This meant that doctors had to keep records of their dispensations. In a second ruling rendered the same day, the court also held in U.S. vs. Webb et al. That it was unlawful for a doctor to give opiates to narcotic addicts merely to keep them from experiencing withdrawal. Only in cases of senility or intractable pain could an addict legally receive narcotics.

‘…. Henceforth, many reputable physicians were closely watched by overly zealous Treasury agents. Harassment was inevitable; humiliation was commonplace. On the slightest suspicion, doctors were hauled into court to answer charges concerning their medical practices.

‘The medical profession also began to feel that the courts were interfering with the prerogatives of the doctor to treat his patient in a manner best suited to that patient’s welfare. A new fear also began to emerge: the country appread to be moving toward state-controlled medicine and possibly compulsory health insurance.

‘Once bitten, the American Medical Association was twice shy. Years later, when Congress debated outlawing marihuana, Dr. William Woodward, representing the AMA, was one if its most vigorous opponents.”

P. 197

Price for narcotics skyrocketed. Addicts turned to the underworld, and banded together into a drug subculture in various large cities.

The Bureau of Narcotics grew from a budget of $292,000 in 1915 to $1,708,528 in 1932.

The Eighteenth Amendment outlawed the sale, manufacture, and transportation of alcohol across state lines. Consumption remained legal. While not in any way a tax measure, enforcement of this was also placed on the Bureau of Internal Revenue.

P. 198

“The successes of the antinarcotics and temperance movements had the effect of encouraging other reformist groups to “clean up” America. The next targets were tobacco, dancing, and jazz. The cigarette was branded as evil. There was no “energy more destructive of soul, mind and body, or more subversive of good morals, than the cigarette. The fight against the cigarette is a fight for civilization.” While some states in the south and west eventually did adopt laws outlawing cigarettes, these statutes were soon rescinded, too unpopular to enforce.

‘The new dance crazes were another bugaboo of the reformists. Accused of encouraging sex on the dance floor, the tango, hesitation waltz, turkey trot, black bottom, and the Charleston were all denounced as licentious.

‘Jazz was similarly censured as causing “mental drunkenness.” Many agreed with the superintendant of schools in Kansas City, Missouri, who said, “This nation has been fighting booze for a long time. I am just wondering whether jazz isn’t going to be legislated against as well.”

Reefer Racism

During the great depression, America needed a new scapegoat, and in the southwest that turned out to be the Mexican. One means of oppression was to stereotype them as marijuana users and then claim that marijuana turned them into brutes that only superior firepower could stop, much as law enforcement in the south claimed about Negros and cocaine.

“Although America was built by the sweat of toiling immigrants, the newcomers were seldom welcomed. This was especially true when the blue-eyed, blond-haired, fair-skinned, Protestant migrations gave way to the brown- and green-eyed, black-haired, swarthy, non-Protestants from Southern and Eastern Europe who settled in the coastal cities of America.

‘Penniless when they arrived, they were grateful for whatever jobs they could get. Their readiness to toil for the lowest of wages was seen by native Americans as a stab in the back. These foreigners, they felt, were nothing less than strikebreakers.

‘In the southwest, the sudden increase in Mexican immigration to the United States around 1910 set off yet another round of ethnic confrontation. The Mexicans were lower-class immigrants. They were crude, loud, uneducated. They lived in dirty shanties, ate strange food, and spoke a foreign language…. The fact that the Mexicans were Catholics made their situation even more touchy since Protestant America considered Catholicism a religion of dark superstition and ignorance.”

General Pershing’s soldiers marched to the tune “that reflected America’s attitude toward all Mexicans:”

It’s a long way to capture Villa It’s a long way to go; It’s along way across the border Where the dirty greasers grow. [Quoted in P. Jacobs and S. Landau, eds, To Serve the Devil (New York: Vintage, 1971), 1:241.]

Villa’s followers rode to:

La cucaracha, la cucaracha Ya no puede caminar Porque no tiene, porque no tiene Marihuana que fumar.

“The song was adopted as Villa’s battle hymn after his capture of Torreon and subsequent overthrow of the Mexican government because many of his men had smoked marihuana before going into battle, much like other soldiers drinking alcohol before battle.”

“When the 1930s devastated the American economy, the Mexicans bore the brunt of the scapegoat mentality in the southwest. Everything about them was abhorrent to many Americans, and there was a general hew and cry to kick them out of the country. Harassment was commonplace. The Mexicans were censured for almost everything they did or failed to do, including smoking marihuana. Marihuana, in fact, became the pretext for vexing the Mexicans just as opium had been the pretext for vexing the Chinese years before.”

P. 202

The campaign to outlaw marihuana began at the Hague in 1911: Hamilton Wright’s team included California pharmacist Henry J. Finger. “During the conference, Finger unexpectedly rose from his seat to plead that cannabis be put on the list with opium and other narcotic drugs to be censured on a worldwide basis. The reason for such an unprecendented move, he said, was San Francisco’s concern over the “large influx of Hindoos,” who were introducing “whites into their habit.”

Italy also favored restrictions on cannabis. They had just won jurisdiction over the African colonies of Tripolitania and Cyrenaica, where they saw a problem with cannabis.

“The other delegates, however, did not view San Francisco’s plight or Italy’s consternation seriously, and no recommendations regarding cannabis were adopted.”

“At the same time, the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee, which also met in 1911 to hear proposals for federal antinarcotics legislation, were presented with arguments regarding whether cannabis should be outlawed domestically. Heading the anticannabis forces was Charels B. Fauns, a well-known director of a drug and alcohol hospital in New York City. Fauns berated those who minimized the dangers of cannabis. “To my mind it is inexcusable,” he told the congressional hearing, “for a man to say that there is no habit from the use of that drug. There is no drug in the pharmacopoeia today, and of all the drugs on earth I would certainly put that on the list….” Dr. William J. Schieffelin concurred with Fauns, although he felt that Fauns had overstated the case. Although very little cannabis was being used in the United States, he had heard that New York City’s Syrian colony were smoking it and therefore perhaps it should be outlawed.”

Charles A. West, chariman of the National Wholesale Druggists’ Association, and Albert Platt, representing New York pharmaceutical firm Lehn and Fink, spoke against the proposal. Cannabis was not included in the subsequent debate over national restrictions on narcotic drugs.

Various state legislatures moved to prohibit possession unless prescribed by a physician. California was first, in 1915. “Shortly thereafter, nearly every state west of the Mississippi followed California’s lead, e.g., Utah (1915), Wyoming (1915), Texas (1919), Iowa (1923), Nevadda (1923), Oregon (1923), Washington (1923), Arkansas (1923), and Nebraska (1927).”

“Many northern states, however, also had anticannabis laws as early as 1915. To the legislators of Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts, and New York, a narcotic was a narcotic, whatever its name.”

“The motive behind these antimarihuana laws was obvious. Finger had alluded to San Francisco’s “Hindoos” and Schieffelin had had New York City’s “Syrians” in mind… But the Mexican connection was to outshadow these groups by far…”

The 1910 revolution in Mexico “drove thousands of Mexicans north into the United States.”

El Paso, one of the main border towns, passed a local ordinance outlawing the sale or possession of marihuana in 1914. “The pretext for the law was said to have been a fight started by a Mexican who was allegedly under the influence of the drug, but the real reason was dislike, if not hatred, of the foreigners from across the Rio Grande.”

P. 205-206

In 1916, military authorities in the Panama Canal Zone “began to suspect that army personnel were also smoking marihuana”. In 1922, the provost marshall “became concerned about reports that American soldiers were smoking marihuana and were becoming disobedient as a result.” In 1923, the army prohibited possession of marihuana in the Canal Zone (by American personnel).

On April 1, 1925, a formal committee was convened to investigate the problem. The committee watched while some soldiers, four physicians, and two policement smoked marihuana in their presence. “The committee also examined the military records of delinquent soldiers for any evidence that marihuana had produced unruliness.”

“On the basis of the testimony given, their own personal observation, and examination of military files, the committee finally concluded that marihuana was not habit forming nor did it have “any appreciable deleterious influence on the individual using it.” Previous orders forbidding possession of marihuana were subsequently rescinded in 1926.”

Some high-ranking army officers refused to accept the findings and ordered a new investigation. “In 1929, the department surgeon in charge of the new inquiry reported that “use of the drug is not widespread and… its effects upon military efficiency and upon discipline are not great. There appears to be no reason for renewing the penalties formerly exacted for the possession and the use of the drug.”

In December of 1930, the department commander ordered that since “the smoking of marihuana impairs the efficiency of the soldiers [it] is forbidden. Soldiers smoking marihuana or using it in any way will be brought to trial for each and every offence.”

In June 1931, a third Canal Zone investigation was started. “Once again the committee found no evidence to link marihuana with problems of morale or delinquency. “The evidence obtained,” the committee said, “suggests that organization Commanders in estimating the efficiency and soldierly quality of delinquents in their commands have unduly emphasized the effects of marijuana, disregarding the fact that a large proportion of the delinquents are morons or psychopaths, which conditions themselves would serve to account for delinquency.”

“Orders forbidding possdession of marihuana on military installations were to be continued in force.”

[Boys, yer just not playin’ the game! (Foghorn Leghorn?)]

p. 207

Texas police captain: Under marijuana, “Mexicans become “very violent, especially when they become angry and will attack an officer even if a gun is drawn on him. They seem to have no fear, I have also noted that under the influence of this weed they have enormous strength and that it will take several men to handle one man while under ordinary circumstances one man could handle him with ease.””

P. 208

Butte Montana Standard, 1927:

When some beet field peon takes a few traces of this stuff… he thinks he has just been elected president of Mexico, so he starts out to execute all his political enemies.

“When challenged, these statements were never supported. Dr. M. V. Ball, one of America’s few authorities on marihuana, visisted the border towns in 1922 as a representative of the American Medical Association to get a firsthand look at the alleged dangers of marihuana to the citizenry. Ball had previously noted that whenever cannabis drugs were mentioned in the old scientific literature, they were invariably mixed with opium, and he was skeptical of the reports he had heard about the drug as far as its criminogenic properties were concerned.

‘During a site visit to a Texas jail, the warden gave an inmate a marihuana cigarette to smoke so that Ball could see for himself what it did to a man. “To the surprise of the American Prison Physician and the jailer who assured me three wiffs would drive fellows so wild that they become exceptionally difficult to subdue,” the smoker remained calm and unperturbed. “There is no evidence whatever that I can discover,” Ball subsequently reported, “to warrant the belief that marihuana smoking is on the increase among Americans or that it is prevalent or common, there is no evidence worthy of belief that marihuana is a habit forming weed or dug, or that its use is increasing among Mexicans in Mexico or in America.”

Four years later, Dr. W. W. Sotckberger said “We have had correspondence with El Paso and other border cities in Texas for a good many years about this situation,” “the reported effects of the drug on Mexicans, making them want to clean up the town, do not jibe very well with the effects of cannabis, which so far as we have reports, simply causes temporary elation, followed by depression and heavy sleep.”

Several years later (1939), Dr. Walter Bromberg [Marihuana: A Psychiatric Study, Journal of the American Medical Association 113 (1939): 4-12.] “clearly demonstrated the carelessness of police officers in attributing criminal activity to marihuana. Among ten patients whose cases he pulled from the files of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, Bromberg became especially interested in a J. O., a prisoner “described as having confessed how he murdered a friend and put his body in a trunk while under the influence of marihuana.” Bromberg had J.O. brought to his clinic for a detailed interview. The interview convinced Bromberg that J. O. was no more a user of marihuana than was the commissioner of the Bureau of Narcotics. “Although he [J. O.] was a psychopathic liar and possibly homosexual,” Bromberg concluded, “there was no indication in the examination or history of the use of any drug. The investigation by the probation department failed to indicate use of the drug marihuana.”

‘Yet another example of the way facts were deliberately falsified or distorted is a case cited by Dr. Lawrence Kolb. As reported by the press, a fight which ended in the death of one of the combatants was described as a vicious, marihuana-induced murder. The facts, as best Kolb could uncover them, were that two men who were drinking heavily smoked one marihuana cigarette during the night. Sometime later a quarrel ensued. A fight erupted and one of the men was killed. Since marihuana had been used, the newspapers attributed the death to marihuana although there is little doubt that if any drug were responsible for what happened, it was alcohol.”

‘During the 1930s the most sensationalistic of all the crimes to be attributed to marihuana’s baneful influence was that of the death of a Florida family. On October 16, 1933, Victor Licata axed his mother, father, two brothers, and a sister to death in their Tampa home. The following day the Tampa chief of police declared “war on the marihuana traffic here,” after reading the investigating officer’s report that “the weed used as a cigarette had been indirectly to blame for the wholesale murder of the Michael Licata family….” The link between the crime and marihuana was that Victor Licata had been a known user of marihuana.

‘On October 20, a Tampa Times editorial blared: “Stop This Murderous Smoke”: “… It may or may not be wholly true that the pernicious marihuana cigarette is responsible for the murderous mania of a Tampa young man in exterminating all the members of his family within his reach—but whether or not the poisonous mind-wrecking weed is mainly accountable for the tragedy its sale should not be and should never have been permitted here or elsewhere.”

‘Victor Licata was subsequently turned over to a psychiatrist for evaluation. The examining psychiatrist found that not only was Licata criminally insane, but that he had a history of insanity in his family and many of his relatives had been committed to mental institutions. In fact, the Tampa police had made an attempt to have Licata committed to an institution a year earlier (and a half year prior to his using marihuana), but his parents argued that they could take better care of him in their own home and he was remanded to their custody.”

Harry Anslinger used variations on this; during the hearings on the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937, he said:

In Florida a 21-year old boy, under the influence of this drug killed his parents and his brothers and sister. The evidence showed that he had smoked marihuana.

In The Murderers, Anslinger wrote:

Much of the most irrational juvenile violence and killing that has written a new chapter of shame and tragedy is traceable directly to this hemp intoxication…. A sixteen-year-old [sic] kills his entire family of five in Florida…. Every one of these crimes has been preceded by the smoking of one or more marihuana “reefers.”

P. 211

C.M. Goethe, spokesman for the American Coalition, an “antiforeigner group”:

Marihuana, perhaps now the most insidious of our narcotics, is a direct by-product of unrestricted Mexican immigration. Easily grown, it has been asserted that it has recently been planted between rows in a California penitentiary garden. Mexican peddlers have been caught distributing sample marihuana cigarets to school children. Bills for our quota against Mexico have been blocked mysteriously in every Congress since the 1924 Quota Act. Our nation has more than enough laborers.

Missionary Educator Movement in California:

The use of marihuana is not uncommon in the colonies of the lower class of Mexican immigrants. This is a native drug made from what is sometimes called the “crazy weed.” The effects are high exhilaration and intoxication, followed by extreme depression and broken nerves. [Police] officers and Mexicans both ascribe many of the moral irregularities of Mexicans to the effects of marihuana. [Quoted in J. Helmer, Drugs and Minority Oppression (New York: Seabury Press, 1975), p. 63]

Joseph F. Taylor, Los Angeles chief of detectives:

In the past we have had officers of this department shot and killed by marihuana addicts and have traced the act of murder directly to the influence of marihuana, with no other motive.

P. 212

“In fact, surveys of crime and delinquency among the Mexicans clearly demonstrated that they exhibited “delinquent tendencies less than their proportion of the population would entitle them to show.” When the records of one officer who had been adamant in his denunciation of the Mexican crime wave were examined, it was discovered that he had overestimated the proportion of Mexican arrests by 60 percent!”

P. 213

“To reduce the relief burden, labor groups led by the AFL began urging that the Mexicans be shipped back across the border.”

“Mexicans who did not wish to return voluntarily were subjected to varying forms and degrees of harassment. Many were charged with vagrancy. Others were arrested for violation of state marihuana laws. When they began to resist efforts to jail and deport them, their resistance was attributed to the influence of marihuana and these charges lent further weight to the accusation that marihuana incited violence.”

The Jazz Era

During the prohibition era, marijuana use probably increased, and made its way into the culture of the Jazz era. Racist portrayals of the drug’s users spread throughout North America.

p. 214

At the turn of the century, New Orleans was becoming the Marseilles of America: “a cosmopolitan port filled with sailors, traders, gamblers, prostitutes, thieves, con men, and gangsters of every nationality.” It was in the bordellos of New Orleans where jazz got its start, and where marihuana became an integral part of the jazz era.

Moota, as the drug was known in the city, “was popular throughout the red-light district” and came to the attention of the city’s moral crusaders via this route.

The alarm was first sounded in 1920, as Dr. Oscar Dowling, president of Louisiana’s State Board of Health, wrote to governor John M. Parker, urging that something be done about the threat to the city. He dashed off a plea to the surgeon general of the United States, Dr. Hugh Cummings, who agreed with him and took no further action. Governor Parker then wrote Prohibition Commissioner John F. Kramer, who, “while sympathetic” was “far too busy enforcing the ban on morphine to think about widening the sphere of proscribed drugs”.

“It was not long before the newspapers began to realize that the marihuana issue could boost circulation, and in 1926 the New Orleans Morning Tribune ran a series of articles ballyhooing the growing menace of the drug.”:


P. 216

The menace was fogotten for about five years, until the Depression.

p. 217

Dr. Frank Gomila, New Orlean’s public safety commissioner, said that the drug’s effects were well known “especially among the negro population. Practically every negro in the city can give a recognizable description of the drug’s effects.” [F.R. Gomila and M.C.G. Lambow, “Present Status of the Marihuana Vice in the United States,” in Marihuana: America’s New Drug Problem, ed. R. Waton (Philadelphia: J. P. Lippincott, 1938), p. 29.]

Dr. A. E. Fossier resurrected the old myth about the Assassins, and also said:

The debasing and baneful influence of hashish and opium is not restricted to individuals but has manifested itself in nations and races as well. The dominant race and most enlightened countries are alcoholic, whilst the races and nations addicted to hemp and opium, some of which once attained to heights of culture and civilization have deteriorated both mentally and physically.”

P. 218

“Interestingly, Fossier, Stanley, and Gomila each enjoyed greater credibility in other parts of the country than in his own state or city…. In New Orleans itself, and throughout Louisiana, the populace could not have cared less. Blacks were no economic threat [having moved north], most whites had no idea what all the fuss was about, and no one paid any attention to the WCTU.”

P. 219

Most of the marijuana users in New York City lived around 110th Street and Fifth Avenue, with some spillover into the Broadway area above 42nd Street. Most of the drug in Harlem was distributed through independent dealers or in the “tea pad”. There were three different grades available: sass-fras, a weak variety from American-grown plants; messrole or mezzrole, the most popular variety, and gungeon, the most potent, from Africa.

The mezzrole was named after the “Baron Munchausen of jazz”, Milton “Mezz” Mezzrow, a white musician who moved to New York in 1929, and began selling marihuana in Harlem. He “became a fixture in Harlem known as the “White Mayor of Harlem,” the “Link Between the Races,” and the “Man that Hipped the World.” A new word for marihuana was coined after his name—“mezz”; a “mezzrole” was a fat, well-packed marihuana cigarette. Eventually, “mezz” transcended its literal meaning and came to mean anything genuine or superior in Harlemese.”

P. 220

Tea pads were rooms located throughout Harlem, “places where one could relax and talk with strangers or friends over a “reefer,” sanctuaries” from the outside world. “The ambience was always one of peace and tranquility. Any sign of belligerence was squelched immediately; the patron either relaxed or he was forceably ejected.”

For those who bought their drug on the street, “the favorite places to smoke… were dance halls where both musicians and those who listened to their music lit up.”

In the 1930s, “reefer” songs became the rage of jazz: Louis Armstrong’s “Muggles”; Cab Calloway’s “That Funny Reefer Man”; Fats Waller’s “Viper’s Drag”; others, by lesser-known artists, include “Viper’s Moan”, “Texas Tea Party”, “Smokin’ Reefers”, “Mary Jane”, and the “Mary Jane Polka”. “Even Benny Goodman got into the act with “Sweet Marihuana Brown.””

In 1932, “Smokin’ Reefers”, a musical, opened on Broadway, starring “Mr. Belvedere, Clifton Webb”. Lyrics included “the stuff that dreams are made of” and “the thing that white folks are afraid of”.

A. Parry wrote an article, “The Menace of Marihuana” for American Mercury in 1935. “As described by Parry, a Negro man was arrested and brought to a New York hospital after threatening two white women in the street. His actions were attributed to a marihuana-induced dream in which he saw “a bunch of naken wimmin, some of ‘em in bed, black an’ white together, like dey was expectin’ men.”

P. 222

In 1925, Mexico officially outlawed cultivation of marihuana.

P. 224

“The more often the story of the Assassins was told, the more ludicrous it became. The image of the demented, knife-wielding, half-crazed hashish user running senseless through the streets, slashing at anyone unfortuante enough to cross his path, became part of the American nightmare of lawlessness.”

“Modern scholars have concluded that the identification of hashish as the mysterious potion referred to by Marco Polo cannot be proven. [Eq., M.G.S. Hodgson, The Order of Assassins (S’Gravenhage, Holland: Moutaon, 1955); B. Lewis, “The Sources for the History of the Syrian Assassins,” Speculum 27 (1952): 475-89.]

Chief medical officer of the Narcotics Treatment Center in Lexington, Kentucky, Victor Vogel, in 1962, acknowledged that “we do not know of any objective study showing a direct or causative relationship between marihuana and violent crime in a significant number of cases” and then offered the Assassin story as proof.

P. 225

“By far the most emotional issue surrounding marihuana was the contention that schoolchildren were being seduced into using it by drug pushers who, more often than not, were identified as foreigners, Mexicans, or blacks.”

In New Orleans, “According to Dr. Frank Gomila, commissioner of public safety for the city, the marihuana wholesalers in New Orleans were “made up mostly of Mexicans, Italians, Spanish-Americans and drifters from ships.”[Gomila and Lambow, “Present Status,” p. 30] The inference was obviously that American children were being seduced by foreigners.”

P. 226

In 1933, Detective L. E. Bowery of the Wichita Police Department claimed:

no denial can be made of the fact that marihuana smoking is at present a common practice among the young people of the city, and that it is constantly becoming more prevalent. Due to its relatively recent introduction into this territory, habitual smoking is at present almost exclusively confined to young persons among the white people. It is interesting to note that the habit has recently spread among the negroes and that they are known to be trafficking in it.

“On June 22, 1929, the Chicago Examiner reported on the antimarihuana crusade of the local United States attorney, who had moved against storehouses in the city from which marihuana was being “sold to school pupils and other youthful thrillseekers.” Of the nine men arrested, “most of them [were] Mexicans.”

‘The Chicago-Tribune also took up the issue. The marihuana habit, it said, on June 3, 1927, had been introduced into the city by Mexicans and “has become widespread among American youths… even among school children.”

‘In September 1934, a New York Times correspondent described the widespread use of marihuana in Colorado and quoted “some authorities” to the effect that “it is being peddled to school children.”

‘In 1935, the New York Times quoted a Sacramento crusader who claimed that “Mexican peddlers have been caught distributing sample marihuana cigarettes to school children.””

P. 227

“In Detroit, an “American woman” was said to be peddling marihuana for local Mexicans. “She gives the reefers to her own children to sell to their schoolmates.”[New York Times, May 14, 1936]” [But we always lose them before we get to school…]

“In Richmond, Virginia, readers of the Times-Dispatch were told that “school children were being induced to become addicts of marihuana cigarettes and that the weed was being cultivated in and near the city on a wide scale…. A youth who said he was a former addict of the drug tesxtified before the Council that inhalation of one of the cigarettes would produce a ‘cheap drunk’ of several days duration.””

Courtney R. Cooper, who collaborated with Anslinger on “at least one antimarihuana article”, wrote in Here’s to Crime:

there is only one end for the confirmed marihuana smoker, and that is insanity. Therefore, it might be of interest to know that one of the main selling places of marihuana in the United States is in the vicinity of high schools…. The use of marihuana has spread within the last few years so rapidly as to constitute a menace which should receive the attention of every thinking parent in America. …[“Cooper next indicted every apartment building owner in the United States:] Apartments are run by ghoul-minded women; in such apartments high school students gather on the promise that reefer-smoking will put music in their souls and a release from all more restrain[sic—my note]; nothing is said about eventual insanity. …[“Cooper then introduced the sexual promiscuity theme:] Then suddenly a girl wanted to dance. Immediately everyone wanted to dance…. The movements were of sensuosity. After a time, girls began to pull off their clothes. Men weaved naked over them; soon the entire room was one of the wildest sexuality. Ordinary intercourse and several forms of perversion were going on at once, girl to girl, man to man, woman to woman. This is one of the great reasons why girls who are little more than children are now being placed in whorehouses by members of prostitution syndicates, why young boys of otherwise straight habits suddenly join up with dangerous gangs, why there are constantly more murders committed by youth….

P. 231

In Canada, up until 1908 there were no national restrictions against any drugs. Hemp had been a fiber crop across the country until the Depression. “But an economic crisis and anti-Chinese sentiment in the province of British Columbia on the west coast stirred racist fires. Stories of white women and children being lured into opium dens, rumors of huge profits in opium, and moral indignation over drug abuse in general, eventually caused Deputy Minister of Labor (who would latter [sic] become Prime Minister) William Lyon Mackenzie King to recommend to the House of Commons suppression of opium traffic in Canada. There was little opposition to such a proposal, and in 1908 it became illegal in Canada to import, manufacture, sell, or possess for sale opiates for nonmedical use.”

P. 232

“In 1908, Canada also passed the Patent and Proprietary Medicine Act. Like the American Pure Food and Drug Law of 1906, the Canadian law required the labeling of certain ingredients in medicines. Although the presence of opiates had to be indicated, the amount of alcohol limited, and cocaine banned outright, no restrictions were placed on cannabis.”

“In 1911, Canada passed the Opium and Drug Act. The new law broadened the ban against opium by adding morphine, cocaine, and their derivatives to the list of proscribed drugs. Again, cannabis was not mentioned.”

Janey Canuck was Mrs. Emily F. Murphy, “a tough-minded woman who had the persistence and aggressiveness to overcome the barriers placed against women in her time. As a feminist, she fought for the right for women to be tried in court by other women and before female judges, and for her efforts, in 1916 she was appointed the first woman judge in the British Empire.”

P. 233

“Murphy had no sympathy for drug sellers or users. Writing under the name of “Janey Canuck,” her indictment of these “dregs of humanity,” as she called them, was pure racism. These people, she told her readers, were mostly nonwhite (Chinese and Negroes) and non-Christians, who, next to drugs, craved nothing better than the seduction of Canadian women. Behind these outcasts, she maintained, was an international conspiracy of yellow and black drug pushers whose ultimate goal was the domination of the “bright-browed races of the world.” [Maclean’s magazine, in 1920, collected in E.F. Murphy, The Black Candle]

“In [sic] anything, Janey was consistent. She was against all drugs associated with minorities, even marihuana, a drug that was totally unknown in Canada.”

“Hitherto, drug users had been merely been regarded [sic] as moral degenerates. After Janey’s exposé, they became public enemies, bent on the destruction of the White race…. whereas Canadians had never heard of marihuana before Murphy, … Canadian lawmakers were quick to add it to the list of regulated substances in the Opium and Narcotics Drug Act of 1929.”

P. 234

“Although cannabis could no longer be legally grown in Canada without a permit after 1938, it was still dispensed in pharmacies as an over-the-counter medicinal until 1939 and was used in prescriptions until 1954.

‘In 1961, cannabis was included in the Narcotic Control Act and stringent penalties were applied for possession. In 1970, the law was amended and sentences were considerably softened. In 1972, revisions in the Canadian Criminal Code fixed the penalty for simple possession at a minimal fine.”

“The government of South Africa was also concerned lest drugs turn its black population into an unruly mob. Dagga was a popular intoxicant with natives throughout Africa and the government of South Africa felt that it posed a tangible danger to the white minority.” They, at a League of Nations Advisory Committee in 1923, urged that cannabis be classified as a habit-forming narcotic, and that international traffic be brought under the control of the Hague convention. The British delegate managed to block adoption (worried “that such a measure might affect England’s cannabis revenues in India”) by urging that more information was needed. England managed to keep cannabis from the agenda for the next meeting (the Second Geneva Opium Conference) in 1925. Egypt, “also concerned about the social impact of cannabis on its people” introduced the subject. The American delegate supported the resolution to ban international traffic in cannabis, in the spirit of reciprocity. He (Steven Porter) was unaware of any cannabis problem in the United States. The Indian delegation pointed out the unique place cannabis held in his society. Sir Malcolm Delevigne, of Britain? Argued that since cannabis had not been on the agenda, no one was prepared to discuss the issue. Bourgeois, the French delegate, concurred, arguing that it “would be impossible to do so [outlaw cannabis] in the French Congo where there were “several tribes of savages and even cannibals among whom the habit is very prevalent. It would therefore be hypocritical on my part,” he told the gathering, “to sign a Convention laying down strict measures in this respect.””

In the end, the recommendations of a subcommittee were “It should… be remembered that all derivatives of hemp are capable of providing, in addition to products injurious to public health, fibers which can be used in industry (cloth, cordage, matting, etc.) and that the oil seeds may also be employed for domestic purposes. That being the case, it would not appear to be any easy matter to limit the amount grown.””

A recommendation was approved making export of cannabis resin prohibited; however, not all delegate nations signed it, including the United States, nor Egypt, who had brought it up in the first place.

Outlawing Marihuana

You can tell who had the power in the Progressive Era: the American Medical Association opposed the tax act but it was enacted nonetheless. But an exception was made for bird fanciers so that hemp seeds could continue to be sold in birdseed.

The Federal Bureau of Narcotics was created on August 12, 1930, as an independent unit in the Treasury Department. Jarry J. Anslinger was appointed its first commissioner by President Hoover. In the early years, it was concerend primarily with violations of the Harrison Act. “Although mounting attention was being directed at the marihuana issue in the southwest, Anslinger felt that the problem was relatively negligible. The only people using marihuana to any great extent were the Mexicans and it was only from local law enforcement officers that the bureau heard any complaints. Policing the traffic in narcotics left little time to worry about the use of marihuana by some Mexicans. Yet by 1937 Anslinger was able to persuade Congress to adopt draconian federal antimarihuana legislation.”

P. 237

“When Anslinger assumed the position of Bureau of Narcotics chief, he was already a hard-liner on drug abuse. For example, in dealing with violation of the Prohibition Act which outlawed only the sale, manufacture, and transportation of liquor for sale, but not its purchase, Anslinger contended that if it were up to him, the law would be changed so that buyers would also be subject to punishment…. For a first-time conviction he thought that a jail term of not less than six months and a fine of not less than $1000 was appropriate. A second violation, he felt, deserved imprisonment for two to five years and a fine of $5000 to $50,000.”

“While his suggestions for heavy fines and imprisonment were never endorsed in the case of buyers of alcoholic beverages, they were accepted in dealing with violation of the narcotics and later the marihuana laws which did make consumers liable for their actions.”

Anslinger was born in Altoona, Pennsylvania, in 1892. He worked summers for the Pennsylvania Railroad as an assistant to the railway police. “He says that he first became alerted to the evils of narcotics when a friend of his, a choirboy, “died from smoking opium.””

In 1917, Anslinger became an ordinance officer in the War Department, supervision government contracts. He applied to the State Department for overseas assignment, and was sent to Holland as attaché in the American legation. He remained in the foreign service until 1926, serving as consul in Hamburg, Germany; La Guaira, Venezuela; and Nassau, Bahamas. In this post he convinced England to keep a fleet of rumrunners from heading out to sea and eventually going to the U.S. For this, he was appointed to the Treasury Department’s Prohibition Unit. Three years later, in 1929, he became assistant commissioner of Prohibition.

P. 239

In 1930 a major scandal boosted his career. “A number of” agents attached to the New York office of the Narcotics Division of the Prohibition Bureau were caught padding their arrest records; a grand jury found that these agents had been doing so on orders from Assistant Deputy Commissioner William Blanchard, who in turn incriminated Deputy Commissioner L.G. Nutt. “It was the grand jury’s finding that these actions had been carried out to hide a dismal arrest record which it attributed to probable collusion between federal narcotics agents and drug distributors.”

The Prohibition Unit was pretty scandal-torn anyway. Not long afterwards, Congress stripped narcotic control from them and created the Bureau of Narcotics, under the Treasury Department, and Harry Anslinger was first commissioner.

[Note that none of this is referenced, and seems to be speculation:

Why was he initially cool to the prospect of joining the fight against marihuana?

1. The federal courts had limited jursdiction in prosecuting drug-related offenses. They could prosecute buyers of alcohol; even the Harrison Act was basically a taxing measure, and did not prohibit possession.

2. There was no federal law under which marihuana offenses could be prosecuted. The Harrison Act “encompased [sic] only drugs not grown in the United States such as opium.”

3. It would have taken far more men than the bureau could spare.

End speculation]

p. 240

A great deal of public interest has been aroused by newspaper articles appearing from time to time on the evils of the abuse of marihuana, or Indian hemp, and more attention has been focussed upon specific cases reported of the abuse of the drug than would otherwise have been the case. This publicity tends to magnify the extent of the evil and lends color to an influence that there is an alarming spread of the improper use of the drug, whereas the actual increase in such use may not have been inordinately large.

That statement was issued in 1932. Later that year? The bureau’s budget was cut by $200,000, the number of agents on the payroll reduced, “and Anslinger began to fear that the bureau itself was in danger of emasculation. [D.T. Dickson, “Bureaucracy and Morality: An Organizational Perspective on a Moral Crusade,” Social Problems 16 (1968): 143-56.]”

Anslinger used the type of media campaign that had proven successful when the Narcotics Division had sought to expand in 1915. He supplied information to organizations such as the WCTU, community service clubs, and the popular press. They made no secret of why:

Articles were prepared in the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, at the request of a number of organizations dealing with this general subjec t[uniform state drug laws] for publication by such organizations in magazines and newspapers. An intelligent and sympathetic public interest, helpful to the administration of the narcotic laws has been aroused and maintained. [U.S. Bureau of Narcotics, Traffic in Opium and Other Drugs (U.S. Gov’t Printing Office, 1934), p.61]

p. 241

Some newspaper article headlines after 1930:

Youth Gone LocoChristian Century
Marihuana: Assassin of YouthAmerican Magazine
Uncle Sam Fights a New Drug Menace—MarihuanaPopular Science Monthly
One More Peril for YouthForum
Sex Crazing Drug MenacePhysical Culture
The Menace of MarihuanaAmerican Mercury
Tea for a ViperNew Yorker
Exposing the Marihuana Drug Evil in Swing BandsRadio Stars

Most of these articles appeared after enactment of federal antimarihuana legislation, from the files that Anslinger had prepared for his “assault on Capitol Hill.” [Of the 17 articles dealing with marihuana indexed in the Reader’s Guide to Periodical Literature from July 1937 to July 1939, ten acknowledged the help of the Bureau of Narcotics in supplying information (H. Becker, Outsiders [New York: The Free Press: 1963], p. 141).]

In an article for American Magazine 124 in 1937, Anslinger (with C. R. Cooper) wrote:

The sprawled body of a young girl lay crushed on the sidewalk the other day after a plunge from the fifth story of a Chicago apartment house. Everyone called it suicide but actually it was murder. The killer was a narcotic known to America as marihuana, and history as hashish. It is a narcotic used in the form of cigarettes, comparatively new to the United States and as dangerous as a coiled rattlesnake.

“This was typical of the bureau’s “educational campaign describing the drug, its identification, and its evil effects….”[Anslinger and Oursler, Murderers, p. 10]”

He began to urge that marihuana be included in the Uniform State Narcotic Act that was going around the various state legislatures. This law gave the states the power to arrest addicts for possession of outlawed drugs, closing the loophole of the Harrison Act. Only 3 of the 12 states that adopted it by 1935 included marihuana. By 1936, all eighteen of the states that adopted it that year included marihuana.

P. 242

He pulled another trick out of the Harrison hat: He tried to get an international treaty dealing with cannabis. In Geneva in 1936, at the Conference for the Suppression of Illicit Traffic in Dangerous Drugs, he urged that cannabis be included in any treaty they adopted. “The other delegates refused to agree to such a request since a subcommittee charged with looking into the cannabis question indicated that not enough was known about the physiological, psychological, or psychopathic effects, addictive properties, or cannabis’s relation to crime, to warrant any such proposal.”

[Note: He had hoped to “overcome constitutional opposition by citing the precedent of the Migratory Bird Act, a law that had been declared constitutional even though it called for overstepping state police powers because it was part of an international treaty with Canada and Mexico”.]

p. 247

Congressional hearings for outlawing marihuana were set for the spring of 1937. “Typical of the kind of evidence the department was going to depend on is a question put to Anslinger by one of the department’s lawyers: “Have you lots of cases on this?—Horror stories, that’s what we want.”[Quoted in D. Musto, The American Disease (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1973), p. 227]”

The hearings took place in late April and early May. As presented to Congress, the bill stipulated that all handlers of cannabis had to be registered and pay a special occupational tax. Written forms had to be submitted and filed for every transaction involving cannabis, and payment of a transfer tax of one dollar per ounce had to be paid each time the drug was delivered to an authorized recipient. It was introduced by Clinton M. Hester, the Treasury Department’s assistant general counsel. [Hearings before Committee on Ways and Means on H.R. 6385. House of Representatives, 75th Congress. 1st Session, 1937, p. 6.]. “Hester told the House Committee on Ways and Means that the Treasury Department had taken it upon itself to call for federal laws against marihuana after a two-year study by the Bureau of Narcotics revealed that the drug was “being used extensively by high school children in cigarettes.” “Its effect,” he told the House committee, “is deadly.””

No estimates of how many Americans were using it was “ever” discussed. No “qualified experts were summoned to support the bureau’s claim either that children were using marihuana, that marihuana was causing Americans to commit crimes, or that marihuana was “deadly.””

The committee heard excerpts from newspapers and magazines describing the dangers of the drug. “The leading newspapers of the United States have recognized the seriousness of this problem and many of them have advocated Federal legislation to control the traffic in marihuana.” They didn’t tell the committee that the bureau had supplied many of the gruesome stories that the newspapers used.

P. 244

“The committee heard from Dr. James Munch, a pharmacologist who had been giving marihuana to dogs. Asked if the drug altered the personality of dogs, the pharmacologist answered with an unqualified “yes. So far as I can tell, not being a dog psychologist.””

Their medical witness was Harry Anslinger, whose opinion included a “historically inaccurate” version of the Assassins tale.

Marihuana had been defined to exclude the mature stalk, so as to appease the rope and cordage industry. Seeds had not been excluded. This brought a protest from the paint and varnish industry, and from the birdseed industry. “The birdseed representative appeared almost too late to present his case, explaining that the birdseed industry had only just realized that marihuana was another name for the hemp plant!” The bill was changed so that marihuana seeds were not marihuana as long as they were sterilized to ensure that new plants couldn’t grow from them.

The AMA’s legislative council, Dr. William Woodward, challenged the Treasury Department “on all fronts:”

We are told that the use of marihuana causes crime. But as yet no one has been produced from the Bureau of Prisons to show the number of persons addicted to marihuana. An informal inquiry shows that the Bureau of Prisons has no information to this point. You have been told that school children are great users of marihuana cigarettes. No one has been summoned from the Children’s Bureau to show the nature and extent of the habit among children. Inquiry into the Office of Education, and they certainly should know something of the prevalence of the habit among school children of this country, if there is a prevalent habit, indicates that they had not occasion to investigate it and know nothing about it. … During the past 2 years, I have visited the Bureau of Narcotics probably 10 or more times. Unfortunately, I had no knowledge that such a bill as this was proposed until after it had been introduced…. We cannot understand yet, Mr. Chairman, why this bill should have been prepared in secret for 2 years without any intimation even to the profession, that it was being prepared.

At the time, the AMA “was not one of Congress’s favorite institutions. Many of the committee’s members were still upset at the AMA’s successful fight to block health insurance from being included in the Social Security Act”. Representative to Dr. William Woodward:

If you want to advise us on legislation, you ought to come here with some constructive proposals, rather than criticisms, rather than trying to throw obstacles in the way of something that the Federal Government is trying to do.

Of course, if they’d had warning, they could have brought expert witnesses, and brought up such reports as those done for the military in the Canal Zone.

P. 247

Just before the vote was taken, the following exchange took place:

Mr. Snell: What is the bill?

Mr. Rayburn: It has something to do with something that is called marihuana. I believe it is a narcotic of some kind.

[Cong. Rec., 81st Cong, 1st sess, 1937, p. 5575]


Congress noted that since organized crime was making so much money off of marijuana prohibition, that they ought to help ’em along a little.

p. 248

“Almost immediately after the Marihuana Tax Act became law, the Bureau of Narcotics was forced to reconsider its position on one of the main arguments it had used to secure passage of the law. First in the trial of Ethel “Bunny” Sohl in Newark, New Jersey, in January 1938, and then in the trial of Arthur Friedman in New York City in April of the same year, the defense argued that the murders committed by their clients were the result of their use of marihuana. An expert witness, Dr. James Munch, who had previously testified on behalf of the bureau at the congressional hearings on marihuana, testified again at both trials that marihuana would make people do things they would not otherwise do. The implication was that the accused were not responsible for their actions. The jury accepted the defense in both cases, and instead of asking for the death penalty they recommended life imprisonment.

‘By contending that marihuana incited its users to violence, Anslinger had unwittingly undermined his own efforts to secure maximum sentences in any and all drug-related trials. He now had no other choice but to revise the bureau’s position with regard to marihuana’s effects on crime. Instead of claiming that marihuana invariable incited criminal activity, the bureau’s new position was that the effects of marihuana were so variable that no general statement could be made as to its effects on criminality.”

P. 249

There was also the LaGuardia Report; Mayor Fiorello Laguardia had asked the New York Academy of Medicine to conduct an investigation into the problem in New York. “The report, published in 1944, contradicted the bureau’s official position on every one of its conclusions, among which were that:”

  • Marihuana is used extensively in the Borough of Manhattan but the problem is not as acute as it is reported to be in other sections of the United States.
  • The distribution and use of marihuana is centered in Harlem.
  • The majority of marihuana smokers are Negroes and Latin Americans.
  • The practice of smoking marihuana does not lead to addiction in the medical sense of the word.
  • The sale and distribution of marihuana is not under the control of any single organized group.
  • The use of marihuana does not lead to morphine or heroin or cocaine addiction and no effort is made to create a market for these narcotics by stimulating the practice of marihuana smoking.
  • Marihuana is not the determining factor in the commission of major crimes.
  • Marihuana smoking is not widespread among school children.
  • Juvenile delinquency is not associated with the practice of smoking marihuana.
  • The publicity concerning the catastrophic effects of marihuana smoking in New York City is unfounded.

The second part of the study involved medical and psychological tests of individuals under the influence of marihuana. 77 volunteers were studied. 72 were prisoners and 5 were paid. 48 had used marihuana before, 29 never had. The marihuana was either smoked as a cigarette or taken as an extract by mouth.

“A number of minor transient effects were observed such as euphoria, anxiety, relaxation, nervousness, hunger, thirst, disorientation, loss of motor coordination, impaired learning and memory, and in some instances, mild psychotic reactions consisting of “mental confusion and excitement of a delirious nature with periods of laughter and of anxiety.” Contrary to the position of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics the committee found that”

Marihuana does not change the basic personality structure of the individual. It lessons [my sic] inhibition and this brings out what is latent in his thoughts and emotions but it does not evoke responses which would otherwise be totally alien to him. It induces a feeling of self-confidence, but this is expressed in thought rather than in performance.

P. 250

The U.S. Public Health Service also conducted a study. In this study, the six subjects “were allowed to smoke as many marihuana cigarettes as they wanted for thirty-nine days.” All 6 were prisoners, had used marihuana previously, and were in jail for violation of the Marihuana Tax Act. “While the researchers noted a lessening of inhibition and removal of restraint resulting from marihuana use, “in the majority of cases… aggression and belligerency are not commonly seen.” The researchers also noted that tolerance to marihuana appeared to have developed during the study but in no instances did they observe physical dependence.”

P. 251

The LaGuardia Report and other studies “did not go unnoticed on the international scene.” At the first meeting of the U.N. Commission on Narcotic Drugs, in 1946, the commission decided there was no need to appoint a subcommittee to study cannabis, because “some medical opinion in the United States [i.e., the LaGuardia Report] and in Mexico had been advanced that marihuana did not offer any real danger, and had little influence on criminal behaviour. Indeed, the Mexican physicians were of the opinion that its use had no ill effect on the health of the user. The representative for Mexico wondered whether in these circumstances too strict restrictions on the use of this plant, the production of which was in fact prohibited in Mexico, would not result in its replacement by alcohol, which might have worse results.” [K. Bruun, L. Pan, and I. Rexed, The Gentlemen’s Club (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1975), p. 195]

Anslinger “considered the recent report of certain United States physicians on the subject to have been extremely dangerous.” [J.J. Anslinger, “More on Marihuana and Mayor La Guardia’s Committee Report,” Journal of the American Medical Association 128 (1945): 1187.]

p. 252

The Boggs Act redefined sentencing for drug violations, in 1951. Anslinger:

the present wave of juvenile addiction struck us with hurricane force in 1948 and 1949, and in a short time had two Federal hospitals bursting at the seams.

Representative Hale Boggs:

In the first 6 months of 1946, the average age of addicted persons committed… at Lexington, Ky. Was 37 1/2 years…. During the first 6 months of 1950, only 4 years later, the average age dropped to 26.7 years, and 766 patients were under the age of 21…. In New York City alone it has been estimated that 1 out of every 200 teen-agers is not addicted to some type of narcotics.

Bogg’s opinion was that this was because of the mild sentences for violation; Anslinger “solidly endorsed” that view. “At first, Congress was unwilling to adopt such measures. But during the hearings before the Special Senate Committee to Investigate Organized Crime in Interstate Commerce headed by Senator Kefauver, Congress got the impression that organized crime was behind much of the drug traffic in America, and in 1951 it endorsed Boggs’s proposals.”

1st offense: 2-5 years; 2nd offense: 5 to 10 years; 3rd offense: 10 to 20 years. “While the legislators were primarily concerned with the heroin users, they included marihuana in the Boggs Act begcause of the belief that marihuana was a “stepping stone” to heroin use.” Anslinger:

Over 50 percent of those young addicts started on marihuana smoking. They started there and graduated to heroin; they took the needle when the thrill of marihuana was gone.

The Narcotic Control Act of 1956 made for even stiffer penalties, and Texas Senator Price Daniel “played straight man to Commissioner Anslinger:”

Daniel: Now, do I understand it from you that, while we are discussing marijuana, the real danger there is that the use of marijuana leads many people eventually to the use of heroin, and the drugs that do cause them complete addiction, is that true?

Anslinger:That is the great problem and our great concern about the use of marijuana, that eventually if used over a long period, it does lead to heroin addiction.

Later in the same session, Senator Walker [sic] brought up the marijuana-mayhem theme, and Anslinger had to dance a bit around that:

Welker: Mr. Commissioner, my concluding question with respect to marijuana: Is it or is it not a fact that the marijuana user has been responsible for many of our most sadistic, terrible crimes in this Nation, such as sex slayings, sadistic slayings, and matters of that kind?

Anslinger: There have been instances of that, Senator. We have had some rather tragic occurences by users of marijuana. It does not follow that all crimes can be traced to marijuana. There have been many brutal crimes traced to marijuana. But I would not say that it is the controlling factor in the commission of crimes.

Welker: I will grant you that it is not the controlling factor, but is it a fact that your investigation shows that many of the most sadistic, terrible crimes, solved or unsolved, we can trace directly to the marijuana user?

Anslinger: You are correct in many cases, Senator Welker.

Welker: In other words, it builds up a false sort of feeling on the part of the user and he has no inhibitions against doing anything; am I correct?

Anslinger: He is completely irresponsible.

Senator Daniel summed it up:

[Marihuana] is a drug which starts most addicts in the use of drugs. Marihuana, in itself a dangerous drug, can lead to some of the worst crimes committed by those who are addicted to the habit. Evidently, its use leads to the heroin habit and then to the final destruction of the persons addicted.

P. 254

Anslinger, by 1948, began urging the U.N. commission to adopt a Single Convention to encompass all existing international drug agreements, and lobbied for more stringent measures against marijuana. He used the bureau’s “gore” file to persuade U.N. members of the crimes marihuana was inciting. By 1954, the U.N. Economic and Social Council was persuaded that “there is no justification for the medical use of cannabis preparations”, and the Single Convention was adopted in 1961. Congress waited until 1967 to ratify this treaty. And the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act came three years later. “As part of the law, Congress decreed that in the case of drugs such as cannabis which had no recognized medical uses, the attorney general was invested with authority over reclassification since control of such drugs was required by “United States obligations under international treaties.””

P. 255

“By 1969, as many as 70 percent of the students at some colleges had allegedly tried marihuana at least once, [Time, Sept. 26, 1969] and some parents of these students began to worry lest their sons and daughters lose their sanity, become involved in sexual orgies, become wanton murderers, go on to heroin, or wind up in prison.”

A New York Times commentator [New York Times, Feb 15, 1970]

Nobody cared when it was a ghetto problem. Marijuana—well, it was used by jazz musicians in the lower class, so you didn’t care if they got 2-to-20 years. But when a nice, middle-class girl or boy in college gets busted for the same thing, then the whole country sits up and takes notice.

Even before marijuana began to “engulf the college campuses”, there was dissent brewing. The 1962 Ad Hoc Panel on Drug Abuse (President Kennedy’s) [Quoted in R. King, The Drug Hang-Up, p. 93-94] “dismissed the alleged link between marihuana and sexual abuse and criminality as “limited.” The dangers claimed for marihuana, it said, were “exaggerated,” and it challenged the “long criminal sentences imposed on an occasional user or possessor of the drug” as being in “poor social perspective.”

The 1963 President’s Advisory Commission on Narcotics and Drug Abuse:

An offender whose crime is sale of a marijuana reefer is subject to the same term of imprisonment as the peddler selling heroin. In most cases the marijuana reefer is less harmful than any opiate. For one thing, while marijuana may provoke lawless behavior, it does not create physical dependence. This Commission makes a flat distinction between the two drugs and believes that the unlawful sale or possession of marijuana is a less serious offense than the unlawful sale or possession of an opiate.

President Johnson’s 1967 Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice:

Marijuana is equated in law with the opiates, but the abuse characteristic of the two have almost nothing in common. The opiate produces physical dependence. Marijuana does not. A withdrawal sickness appears when use of the opiates is discontinued. No such symptoms are associated with marijuana. The desired dose of opiates tends to increase over time, but this is not true of marijuana. Both can lead to psychic dependence, but so can almost any substance that alters the state of consciousness. … There is evidence that a majority of the heroin users who come to the attention of public authorities have, in fact, had some prior experience with marijuana. But this does not mean that one leads to the other in the sense that marijuana has an intrinsic quality that creates a heroin liability. There are too many marijuana users who do not graduate to heroin, and too many heroin addicts with no known prior marijuana use, to support such a theory. Moreover there is no scientific basis for such a theory.

In 1970, along with the Comp. Drug Abuse & Prev. Act, Congress “demanded” that the Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare issue annual reports on the health consequences of marijuana, along with recommendations for reassessing its legal status.

President Nixon said “this about that”:

As you know, there is a commission that is supposed to make recommendations to me about this subject, and in this instance, however, I have such strong views that I will express them. I am against legalizing marijuana. Even if this commission does recommend that it be legalized, I will not follow that recommendation…. I do not believe that legalizing marijuana is in the best interests of our young people and I do not think it’s in the best interests of this country.

The commission “suggested that private use and distribution of small amounts of marihuana be legalized whereas public possession be subject to confiscation and forfeiture.”

P. 258

“On the federal level, a speech instructor in Washington, D. C., Robert Randall, became the first American since 1937 to be allowed to smoke marihuana legally. Randall suffers from glaucoma. As a result of studies showing marihuana’s ability to ameliorate the effects of the disease, a court battle in which the District of Columbia Supreme Court acquitted him for growing marihuana on the unique defense of “necessity” to commit a criminal act to safeguard his health, and dogged persistence in fighting bureaucratic red tape, he was accorded the right to use the drug without fear of punishment.”

NORML was formed in 1970, “a national lobbying group dedicated to persuading the nation’s lawmakers that marihuana is a relatively harmless drug and its use should be decriminalized.”

P. 259

Since Linnaeus called hemp Cannabis sativa, there has been “vigorous debate” over whether or not there are more than one species, or one species with several varieties. Usually, Cannabis sativa (European cannabis) and Cannabis indica (the Indian cannabis). In 1924, Russian botanist Janischewsky claimed also a third species, Cannabis ruderalis.

One of the main problems is that the plant’s characteristics change depending on where the plant is grown. Seeds taken from the U.S. and planted in India “eventually give rise to plants that resemble those that have always been grown in India if the seeds are continually replanted, and vice versa for those taken from India and replanted in the United States.” There are still subtle differences between the plants that enable botanists to differentiate between the three different species. R. Schultes, “one of the foremost authorities on the botany of cannabis”, said he is convinced that “Cannabis is not monotypic and that the Russian concept that there are several species may be acceptable.”

Cannabis is presently included with the hobs plant (Humulus) in a distinct family called Cannabaceae, “although some botanists still prefer to assign it to the Moraceae family which also includes the mulberry plant to which cannabis was closely tied in ancient China.”

Cannabis is generally believed to have originated in Central Asia, and then spread to China, India, Persia, the Arab countries, Europe, Africa, and the Americas.

P. 261

Cannabinoids are the chemicals in cannabis which are psychoactive. Cannabinol was once considered the principal active ingredient, and was isolated “as early as the 1890s”. It was latered shown to be biologically inactive, although it may affect the actions of other cannabinoids. Cannabidiol was isolated in the 1930s, and also found to be inactive, but again, may affect the actions of active cannabinoids.

Delta-9 THC, the major psychoactive substance in marijuana, was isolated and identified in 1964 by two Israeli scientists, Y. Gaoni, and R. Mechoulam. (Full name: l-delta-9-trans-tetrahydrocannabinol). Others which either have psychoactive effects, or modify the effects of D9-THC are D8-THC, cannabicyclol, cannabichromene, cannabigerol, cannabivarol, cannabidivarol, “and a long list of similar compounds.”

Cannabis grown in temperate climes (where the fiber is strong) has very little D9-THC, and a relatively higher proportion of cannabidiol. In hot climates, it contains a high proportion of D9-THC and “relatively little cannabidiol.”

Marijuana extract distillate may contain as much as 30 percent D9-THC. When marihuana is burned, about 50% of the D9-THC “may be destroyed.”

P. 262

“The smallest amount of D9-THC in a marihuana cigarette that will produce a “high is about 5 mg. However, since about 50 percent of this amount will be dstroyed in the smoking process, the threshold dose is about 2.5 mg. For a 70-kg man, this would amount to a dose of 0.035 mg/kg. Studies of acute toxicity in animals indicate that the LD50 … is 42.5 mg/kg if injected directly into the blood stream and about 106 mg/kg when inhaled in smoke. In other words, a lethal dose of D9-THC is about 5000 times higher than that which produces a “high.”

‘When smoked, the effects of marihuana begin to be felt in about five to fifteen minutes. Maximum effect occurs in about sixty minutes. The parts of the body that receive the highest amount of the drug are those which have the richest blood supply, e.g., the liver, lung, kidney, and spleen. Surprisingly, the brain attains relatively low levels compared with these other organs.

‘D9-THC is metabolized by the liver to 11-hydroxy-delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (11-OH-D9-THC) which also has psychoactive effects. This metabolite is then itself broken down into other metabolites, which are in turn broken down further, and eventually these metabolites are eliminated through the feces abnd the kidney.”

P. 267

“Another not uncommon reaction to use of marihuana is acute paranoia. This response, however, is often a reaction to fear of detection by the police.”

“A 1971 report by Drs. Harold Kolansky and William Moore, which appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association, allegedly documenting psychoses in a number of their patients, has been discredited. In one of these cases, the researches cite the example of a young boy who has seduced by a homosexual who happened to give the boy a marihuana cigarette. According to Kolansky and Moore, the marihuana made him psychotic!”

p. 270

“Cannabis is also remarkable for being able to change its sex—under certain conditions, male plants can turn into females and vice versa.”