Cannabis. Mention this to people and there are two reactions that are common. With first the person1 treats you more or less like a human being, though a total stoner. The next person2 thinks that you are a junkie, obviously worship Satan, kill babies and eat their raw flesh to support your habit and that you will be dead in the next three months. These views, though understandable, are not the whole truth. This plant could be the miracle product of the new millennium. As it once was, so it may be again.
Cannabis is unusual in that, as an agricultural crop for so long, there are still plants in the 'wild'. Indeed anywhere there was an agricultural role, some plants quickly escaped and established themselves as a new wild population. Cannabis is an incredable survivor, it quickly adapts to the local enviroment, and so can be found from Kansas ditch weed all the way to its original home in South-East Asia. It will thrive in any latitude and is equally comfortable from equatorial Africa, almost all the way to the tundra in Alaska.
Due to confusion by authorities, scientific and secular, over the years many different names have been given to this wonder of the natural world. In this article they are all interchangable, and even though some mean a particular use for the plant, this nomenclature is in no way set in stone. So cannabis, hemp, marijuana and a number of other names all refer to the same plant.
Due to the size of this Guide Entry, this section has been added for ease of navigation.
Cannabis and man go a long way back3. The plant is believed to have evolved in Asia, probably somewhere on the gentler slopes of the Himalayas. It was used by the hunter/gather bands and spread far afield. The first reputable, documented use of cannabis by humans is thought to be from a stone age village in Taiwan. Here archeologists discovered pottery decorated by hemp cord and ribbon. It is likely that use by similar tribes was widespread throughout the China, and some think that the plant helped start the agricultural revolution, about that time in 8000BC.
The agricultural revolution was the cusp point between Homo sapiens sapiens living as a nomadic hunter/gatherer and him living as 'modern man'. The agricultural revolution allowed a steady source of food from one area, allowing man4 to settle down and start building and learning. It gave him some lesiure time, it eventually lead to the first cities and the first tradesmen. It is thought that the revolution occured when a cross of wild wheat and another grass had offspring whose seeds where large enough not to be blown away by the wind. Quickly another mutation made the seed even bigger and it fell right by the parent, and so agriculture was born. However many different seeds have been found in tombs of this period and just after, including cannabis seeds. Cannabis seeds are already large and in the wild they form large stands, ideal for agriculture. So cannabis could have been one of the contributors to everyone here now, it could of been one of the catalysts of civilisation itself.
Cannabis became so useful that one of the earliest neolithic cultures in China, the Yang-shao, which sprang up in the Yellow River valley about 4500BC, used it for practically everything. From nets and clothes to ropes for the first simple machines they provided the base on which chinese culture started, and their use of cannibis was continued throughout the next 5000 years. However by the time the Yang-shao had started using it cannabis use had spread to central europe, where the Bylony culture had been already been using for generations. The ancient egyptians also used the plant and there is evidence that the ancient hebrews also used the plant. But it was China that became the first cannabis driven culture.
The people of the Middle Kingdom continued there use of cannabis, though by the birth of Christ other, more pallatable, cereals had become the staple diet. Although after a war induced famine, around the time of the birth of Christ, the people again reverted to using wild cannabis seeds for food. However up to this point hemp had changed the civilisation, animal skins were out, hemp cloth was in for those that could afford it, When silk became popular, hemp became the clothing of the masses. Hemp paper, extremely resistant and long-lived paper, was being produced, allowing writing to become more accessable. The seeds were being crushed in oil presses, producing all singing, all dancing oil to be used in everyhting from cooking, through lubrication, to a base for paint, varnish and soap. The hemp cake left became an important animal feedstuff. Every part of the plant was used, the root for medicine, the stem for rope, textiles and paper, the leaves and flowering tops for intoxication and medicine.
The psychoactive effects of cannabis were well known to the Han and it appears in the oldest known pharmaecopia, Shen Nung Pen Tsao Ching. Shen Nung was the, basically, the founder of Chinese medicine, in 2000BC, though the book was written just before, or just after the birth of Christ, it was based on oral teachings passed down. In the book it describes the cannabis plant as Ma. With ma-fen, the flowering tops, being chocabloc with yin, the passive, feminine energy. These were then proscibed during cases of a loss of yin, such as menstrual cramps, rheumatism, beri-beri, malaria and constipation, among others. The Chinese also warned that too much ma-fen would produce hallucinations5, but also mentioned 'if taken over a long term, it makes one communicate with spirits and lightens one's body'.
By this time cannabis use had spread from the Middle Kingdom, and with the help of the nomadic steppes tribes spread over the whole continent. India quickly made hemp its own, with tradition saying that the plant was sent from the gods so that man may attain, delight and increased sexual desires. The gods, with some demons help, were said to have churned the milk ocean to make Amrita, A drop of this Amrita fell to Earth and cannabis sprouted. It was consecrated to Shiva, and was the goddess Indra's favourite drink. After the churning of the ocean the demons attempted to gain control over the Amrita, but the gods managed to hold them off. Cannabis was given the name Vijaya6 to celebrate their success. Ever since then the plant is thought to bestow supernatural powers on its users. Indeed today India is one of the only countries where cannabis is legal.
The Scythians, one of the nomadic tribes from central asia, was a culture in with cannabis had a central role. This tribe seems to have done much to spread the weed throughout the ancient world. For over 1000 years this tribe used cannabis seeds in its burial customs, but in 430BC Herodotus, a greek historian, described ritual and recreational use observed among the Scythians. Herodotus described a teepee-like construction that the Scyths built, with heavy wool pelts as the walls. Glowing hot stones were placed in and then cannabis seeds and fruit placed in and burned. The Scyths seemed to get excited by this.
The Greeks and Romans not only knew about cannabis, but its use was widespread throughout the classical world. Before Herodotus wrote about the Scythians he wrote about the Thracians and their fine hemp cloth. There is also a minor mention of hemp as a remedy for backache, though that appears to be the only reference the Greek have for a medicinal use. This is unusual in that the Arabic and Hebrew cultures, both contempory and near to the Greeks, had quite a strong tradition of cannabis as a medicine.
By the time of the birth of Christ there was a reliable sea route from Tel Aviv down the Red Sea and straight across to the Indian subcontinent. The Romans, Greeks and Arabian traders all made good use of it, indeed Doubting Thomas, one of Christ's disciples, was meant to have taken this route to spread the word east. Christianity was planted in the east, and thrived until the Portuguese sailed round the Cape 1500 years later, and the Inquisition decided they were heretics and burned their history and churches. The sea route used was risky, using the monsoon winds to sail to India in about 40 days, but was highly profitable, and many items were traded, including pepper, which was unbelievably expensive in the west7, and hemp.
At the same time the Thracians were throwing hemp fruit onto fires and inhaling the smoke to get intoxicated. The Romans knew about cannabis and used it in medicine. Though neither of the great classical cultures had great, widespread, recreational cannabis use, they both knew about the psychoactive effects. Democritus wrote that cannabis was drunk, with wine and myrrh to produce visions, and in 200AD Galen reported that it was customery to give hemp to guests, to produce hilarity and enjoyment.
In 536AD a great volcanic eruption left a great cloud, dimming the sun for ten years. This catastrophy was the killing blow for the ancient civilisations. Plague and famine ruled the world. The Roman empire transported the black death to all the corners of their empire. Any who had contact with them contracted it, this was the death knell for the Celts in Britain. This is the beginning of the Dark Ages, and once the dust settles and recorded history, in the west, resumed 300 years later the world had taken a more modern shape. And cannabis was right there.
This section will deal with hemp and humans from The Dark Ages8 to the end of the 19th Century. By the Dark Ages cannabis was a well established plant in the far-east, and was increasingly well known and used in the old world. It is in the Middle East that its use goes ballistic. The Middle East, the heart of Arabia, had the heaviest concentration of users, but it was widespread through the rest of the Arab world, all the way to Spain. During the dark ages it was the Arabs who kept cannabis culture, like so much else, alive.
In the rest of Europe hemp was grown and used, mainly for fibres to produce cloth. The Anglo-saxons grew large quantites for this very reason, however, in general, they appeared to either have no idea about the psychoactive properties. This may be due to the fact that high quality fibre producing cannabis normally has very low levels of the psychoactive compounds. Indeed the plants would of been 'evolved' by the people, sowing the seeds of the best fibre producers, so each generation becomes more specialised at producing fibre.
Arab dominance of this time was unquestioned, the empire spread from China and India all the way through Africa, to the Atlantic Ocean and into Spain. Once established they were philosphers, scholars and educated people. They kept alive the knowledge of the now defunct classical cultures. Mathematics, architecture and medicine amongst others came to the West from the Romans and Greeks through the Arabs.
The great empire followed the teachings of Mohammed, and a worshipper could walk from one end of the empire to the other and still have similar temples, people and customs. One of the restrictions muslims face is the ban on alcohol. Without another easily produced psychoactive compound to contend with cannabis had it easy. One hundred years before The Battle of Hastings, Arabian scholars debated the pros and cons of eating hashish.
It is meant to be around this time that Hasan ibn al-Sabbah, the Old Man of the Mountain, started recruiting followers in Khorasan, Persia. These followers were meant to have eaten hashish to give them visions of The Garden of Paradise. They were then trained and became fearful killers, and for 200 years this group was meant to have a stranglehold on the surrounding nations. Their use of hashish gave them their name, today they are known by a corruption of the original - the Assassins. Eventually the surrounding states all rise up and crush Alamut, destroying the assassins. Fifty years later Marco Polo passed through this area and picked up stories of the 'assassins' and eventually carried them back to 'civilisation' and Europe
Cannabis consumption in the Middle East during this period continuously increased and spread further through Egypt and Iraq. Books were written and poems composed about it. Its increasing use must of seemed unstoppable. The rulers must of been worried, and when, in 1378, another war with the Central European Christians loomed the authorities cracked down. Emir Soudon Sheikhouni tried to destroy all the plants, and imprisoning all users. Torture was also used and users could expect the removal of their teeth. This lowered use in the short term, but within a few years cannabis consumption had grown beyond the original level.
Use in Africa was thought to have been totally imported with the followers of Mohammed, however more recent studies seem to show that, at least in some tribes, the use of cannabis is so ingrained that it must predate the arrival of Islam. In the Congo there are still followers of the Riamba Cult, which believes that cannabis is a god, a protector from both physical and spiritual harm. All over the 'dark continent' cannabis used to seal treaties and deals, and smoked for ritual and recreation purposes. There is a strong tradition of medicinal use in Africa, and it is continued today. The Hottentots and Mfengu still use it to help with snake bites, and Sotho women smoke it before childbirth, to induce partial stupefaction.
Whilst the Arabs stored the seeds of the Rennaisance the use of cannabis was increasing throughout the major powers in Europe. During the reign of Henry VIII, in England, cannabis growth was fostered by the crown, and the fibre used to outfit the burgeoning Royal Navy. The other Old World powers had also seen the use of cannabis as sails and ropes for ships, and all over cannabis was grown to supply the demand. By the time that Queen Elizabeth had claimed the throne, England was looking for supremecy of the seas, and the fleet was growing, all the rigging and sail was made from hemp fibre.
The need for large quantities of the material made the crown foster the growth of hemp to a greater extent. Everybody who owned above a certain amount of land would have to put a percentage of this to hemp growth. This meant that as the colonies were opened up in the New World, cannabis was exported to produce more and more hemp material. By the time the English had started importing hemp into the New World the Spanish had already being using the bounty of the New World to produce large quantities of canvas for 50 years, or more.
Hemp was not only used for fibre, though that was the dominant use that it was put to. The medicine of the time, such as it was, was based on herbs and their properties. In 1652 Culpeper wrote the first encyclopaedia on British vulgar herbs and their uses, Culpepers Complete Herbal. In it he mentions hemp, but does not describe it, as 'This is so well known to every good Huswife in the Country, that I shal not need to write any Description of it.' The uses it was put to were many and varied, though the more psychoactive properties are not mentioned, probably due to the sub-species being selected for fibre production, it is used for worming, burns, flux, cholic, inflamations, jaundice. Not only did all parts of the plant have their use, but each different preperation also did.
The expanding of the world, and of trade, all performed by tall ship, meant that hemp stayed as one of the worlds most important crops through the next couple of centuries. As the Old World expanded, the old empires started falling under their sway. India was 'discovered' and assimilated into the British Empire. As with all such assimilations it was assimilated through the spilling of blood.
It was W.B. O'Shaughnessy, a surgeon with the British East India Company, and a professor at the University of Calcutta that gave cannabis a real boost in western medicine. After studying the herb in India and verifying many of its properties and applications he published, in 1839AD, a paper showing its properties as an analgesic in the treatment of rheumatism, and as a remedy for severe convulsions. This really started the use of cannabis in a huge number of illnesses and problems. This sudden boost in popularity did have a dark side in that, no doubt, 'snake oil salesmen' claimed it as a universal cure all. However this aside real doctors did use it succsesfully. Sir John Russel Reynolds prescribed it for Queen Victoria, to help her menstrual cramp.
This huge medical following quickly showed the psychoactive properties of the herb, and many people, both in the Old and New Worlds started using it recreationally for the first time. As modern medicine started coming of age, cannabis started falling out of favour, its affects were just too variable. The same dose produced different effects in different people, and the immense genetic variablilty of the plant meant that quality control was very difficult. Many other 'new' drugs were appearing, that produced more predictable results. Aspirin was the ideal for a pain killer, similar doses gave similar results in different people.
With the decrease of pressure from the medical sector, and increased use, especially amongst the poor, the British government started a study on cannabis in 1893. The following year it was ready and is still one of the most complete and systematic studies of cannabis to date. It is huge, seven volumes comprising 3281 pages in total. There were seven commisioners, four Britich and three Indian, working in Simla in India. It compiled its report from testimonies secured from 1193 witnesses, including a Rajah, and went into all aspects of cannabis use. Unfortunatly its rarity and formidable size seems to have limited its use, and little of the findings make their way into any of the reports and papers that have followed it through the years.
Though the medical community was slowly turning its back on cannabis, it was still in mass production. Fibre was still being produced in huge quantities, even though the age of sail was on its final legs. It became a standard cheap material for clothing, cheap and hard wearing. The recreational use was on the increase and many people still used it for releaving pain. As the 20th Century crept upon us, cannabis was still with us, as it had been since the dawn of 'modern man'.
The 20th Centruy, the century of industrialised warfare, the century of the television, the car, the aeroplane. Cannabis entered this century as one of the most promising crops for the future. However the journey through these 100 years was not a smooth ride for cannabis, or its users. Cannabis was not entering this century alone. Many of the worlds pharmacopaeia wonders had made it to 'civilisation'. Coca and opium were known, and indeed Coca-Cola and Laudenum were well used, however increased use started highlighting the negative aspects of these 'wonders'.
Not very much was known about the actual mechanism of activity of cannabis at this time, and worry about the potential dangers were very large in the imagination. In the Second International Opiate Conferance, in 1924, the Egyptian delegation mentioned that their workers, preferred to sit around and smoke hashish, instead of working. This, with some help from the west, allowed cannabis to be classed as a narcotic, and the following year cannabis was banned in the UK, by the Dangerous Drug Act.
In the US cannabis was already appearing in state legislature, and had been for ten years by 1925, however it was the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 that killed the golden crop. After some dodgy moves and lies, detailed in the prohibition section of this article, by politicians, journalists and the new federal police departments, just formed, this 'tax' was levied and marijuana cultivation effectivly banned. It was also the era of 'Reefer Madness', where marijuana was said to be an addictive drug producing insanity, criminality and death. One puff on a marijuana cigarette would turn anybody into a deranged rapist, of the bodies of the people the user had murdered.
Once the US finally decided to join the Second World War hemp was needed to outfit troops and for use in the navy. Due to the tax, however, all hemp was imported from South-East Asia, which was now out of bounds. The US government started a massive effort to get hemp grown. Leaflets were produced, classes given and the Marijuana Tax Act was ignored during the war, instead Hemp for Victory was the slogan, and a film showing farmers how to produce it.
After the War there was a lull, on the surface, about cannabis. The rest of the world, recovering from the war still used it, in all its forms, but Harry Ansliger, head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, still kept up his battle against it, as will be discussed in the prohibition section of this article. It would be the 1960's before marijuana surfaced again in the 'developed' nations.
The heady days of the '60s was when cannabis started hitting national consciousness again. Kennedy sacked Anslinger, and was reputed to use cannabis to relieve his back pain. After that the new 'youth' culture that was forming took it up, big time. The recreational use of cannabis was not widespread, especially in the UK, where the 'swinging sixties' of legend only seemed to happen in London, but with the famous people of the age using it, The Beatles, Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd being the most famous, it was becoming more and more popular.
It was in the '60s that a new social force, possibly the greatest campaigners for cannabis, appeared in The Netherlands. Disaffected Dutch youths, called Nozems, part Mod, but mainly bored teenagers, riding round looking for trouble started gathering around a couple of 'anarchists'. Van Duyn started a magazine called Provo for the thinking man, whilst Robert Jasper Grootveld, a window cleaner, became the focus on the streets. The Nozems flocked to these, and their contempories, and the 'Happenings' that they did.
The Provos were the archetype for the later carriers of 'counter-culture', the Merry Pranksters, the hippies, the Diggers et al. They all took the Provos creed of non-violence and absurd humour, oh and hallucinagenics, to try and create social change. Originally disgusted by advertising and, especially, the tobacco industry it soon started to expand its ideas into all spheres of Dutch life. Pollution, housing, cannabis, policing.
One of the reasons of their success was their opponants. The Mayor of Amsterdam and the police, were ready again and again to step up and prove themselves ignorant and willing to use massive, unwarrented force to stop the Provos. Especially when the were lots of journalists around, especially especially when the journalists were mingling in the 'Happening' and were able to be beaten to the floor.
Eventually the authorities, sick and tired of being on the wrong end of the press, started to adapt, and instead of violence they tried to manage the Provos, using obsolete laws to effectively ban them. However the Provos sidestepped when a demonstration permit was refused on such a technicality, and the Provos appeared bearing blank banners and handing out blank leaflets. It was becoming ludicrous, a Provo, Koosje Koster, was arrested at a Happening for handing out raisins, and apparently 'Bringing the public order and safety into serious jeopardy.'
The peak of the movement was the 'attack' on the royal wedding procession. The smoke bombs used were very visible, and seen all over the world. Due to the Provos 'threat' - succesfully fostered by the Provos and their 'White Rumour Plan' - extra police had been drafted into the city, from the country and with no idea who the Provos were. Yet again it ended in police violence, though this time international journalists were in the crowd. A week later the final straw came. A photo exhibition was held, documenting the police violence. The guests were attacked and severely beaten by the police. This made many start calling for an investigation, ending with the dismissal of the Police Commisioner and, a short while later, the Mayor of Amsterdam.
Though only peripherally concerned with marijuana, in that they used it, the Provos, through their actions, and the actions of their opponants, set up an atmosphere of that allowed politicians to use some uncommen wisdom and actually think about what they are doing, instead of a simple Pavlovian stimulus/response. This eventually ended up, almost ten years later, with the decriminalisation of cannabis9.
In the US it was also becoming more and more popular. Young people everywhere were using it. Abroad, soldiers were using it in Vietnam, along with harder substances - diamorphine10 in particular being easy to find. However, at home, it was the anti-war protestors, hippies and other 'alternate' lifestyle groups that were associated with marijuana. Groups whose anti-war stance made them an easy target for the label 'anti-american' and their demonstrations made them easy targets for police brutality and tear gas.
In the UK the Wootton Report, commissioned by Her Majesty's Government was published at the end of 1968, shortly after John Lennon was arrested, and recommends that possession of cannabis should not be an offence. The report stated 'Having reviewed all the material available to us we find ourselves in agreement with the conclusion reached by the Indian Hemp Drugs Commission appointed by the Government of India (1893-94) and the New York Mayor's Committee (1944 - LaGuardia) that the long-term consumption of cannabis in moderate doses has no harmful effects'. James Callahan, the Prime Minister, rejected the report.
The following decade, the '70s, followed a similar path. Study after study was done on cannabis and its effects, most finding that, as dangerous drugs go, it was pretty harmless, certainly less harmful than tobacco or alcohol. However time after time these reports were dismissed, ignored, rejected by politicians, wanting to be seen to be forceful against 'drugs'. The US started stepping up its crusade against marijuana, banning research, stopping people joining the federal Investigational New Drug program, removing the word 'hemp' from high-school books. It was Reefer Madness II. However Alaska legalises it for personal use, several Australian states start to decriminalise and the Netherlands coffeeshop model opens its doors.
It was in the 1980's that the US brought the full weight of its corpulent mass to bare in its crusade against cannabis. The Reagun/Bush administration ordered the universities of America to destroy all cannabis research that was carried out between 1966 and 1976 and restarted The War on Drugs. Again and again scientists, judges and doctors gave evidence that cannabis was no more harmful than tobacco or alcohol, and DEA Chief Administrative Judge, Judge Young, calls cannabis 'the safest therapeutically active substances known to man'. From all over the world, in areas where cannabis is used by large numbers of the population, research comes in showing very little detectable long-term damage caused by the consumption of cannabis. World leaders decided that all these reports, like their forerunners, were wrong.
So politicians started pouring money into the War on Drugs, their voters worrying about increased crime. They not only poured money in but started giving the police greater and greater powers. In the US and in the UK assets of suspected drug dealers can be ceased by the police and go straight to the coffers of the police. Urine testing was also heavily pushed, especially in the US, and even more human rights were eroded. The sentances for drug users and dealers are time and time increased. Three strikes and you are out is introduced. Marijuana users start to get longer sentances than rapists.
The War on Drugs was meant to reduce the harm caused by psychoactive compounds11. However due to the large amount of users of cannabis it is marijuana that makes up the majority of users and there is a debate going on, and has been at least since The Le Dain Commission Report published in Canada, 1972, about harm and marijuana. The harm caused by having a criminal record, possibly gaol time, loss of job, house and family, caused by The War on Drugs, is certainly alot more than the harm caused by even heavy cannabis consumption. Also the uneven enforcement of the law, depending on who catches you and who you are, you may recieve a caution or arrest, does nothing for justice or for respect for the law.
The War on Drugs was declared won by Ronald Reagan in 1989, though his Secretary of State disagreed when looking at the worldwide production of drugs. It obviously was not won, by the time of the decleration marijuana was, weight for weight, more expensive than gold. This, hardly suprisingly, encouraged organised crime to get involved, on the other hand the price of other, more dangerous, easier concealed drugs, like cocain and heroin, had never been lower and the never more pure.
The last decade of the millenium saw President Clinton admitting to smoking, but not inhaling, cannabis and Howard Marks, a personable marijuana smuggler, admitting to smoking, but not exhaling. For a president who had tried it, more people were put in federal prisons for smoking marijuana than any previous administration, the spending on The Office for National Drug Control Policy was increased to over $17 billion dollars, the amount of prisoners in US gaols rises over two million, the highest amount, per head of population, in the world. Drug Czars started mushrooming all over, to very little effect.
During the 1990's, however, the cause for legalisation started gaining ground, helped by the continuing persecution of ill people. It is hard to look good when you are sending cancer patients, people suffering from AIDS and multiple sclerosis to prison for trying to use cannabis to alleviate symptoms. The medical use of marijuana really gained ground and eight states in the US now allow medical marijuana to be prescribed by physicians for a wide range of problems. Washington DC voted in a referendum to allow the use of medical marijuana, but congress decided that this was wrong and overruled the people. It is still illeagal in Washington DC.
By the end of the millenium the prohibition against cannabis is starting to crumble, worldwide. More countries than ever before are decriminalising, or looking into decriminalisation, even in the face of the US. The exceptions being the highly prohibition orientated, control freak, 'we know best' countries - namely the UK, the US and France.
So standing on the cusp of the new millenium what does the future hold? Well, who can tell? However maybe an educated guess can be made. The continuing ground swell of support will, possibly, get medical marijuana legalised in many countries. Though the isolation and production of the psychoactive compounds, by influential pharmaceutical companies, may make only their pills legal.
Idiot 'we know what is best for you' politicians will die or retire, and relaced by new ones, hopefully more aware than their predeceasors, hopefully allowing more lenient scheduling for cannabis. However this is not engraved in stone, most likley the politicians coming through the ranks are learning very well who butters their bread, so they will be just like the generation before.
For the next few years, possibly even a decade, the US will try to keep cannabis illegal, and will assert all its might to try and keep the world the same. Military, and espionage, operations at home and abroad will continue and escalate, trying to keep the US drugs free. If this works or not will depend on other factors, the most important probably being the economy.
The plant that cannabis comes from, Cannabis sativa12, is an annual plant. This means that a particular plant will only live through one season13. The only legacy being the next generation of seeds, ready for the following season.
Cannabis sativa follows a normal plant lifecycle, as detailed below, the length of which is determined by the photoperiod 14. Normal, wild behaviour gives a life cycle of between four and nine months in general. The photoperiod falling below about 12 hours, so as winter approaches and the nights get longer in the wild, is a trigger. This starts a cascade that gets the plants to become sexually active.
The quick turnover and production of lots of seeds makes Cannabis sativa a natural survivor, one may be tempted to say that it grows like a weed :). It quickly adapts to the local enviroment, through natural selection, and will grow just about anywhere.
Cannabis Sativa is also diocious, meaning that the plants are sexed. One plant will be male, producing only pollen, and another will be female, producing seeds15. Some plants can naturally be hermaphroditic, and it is posssible, through plant hormones and other stressors to transform part of a female plant into a male plant, but this is the exception, not the rule.
The moisture and warmth of spring start the embryo's stretch toward the sun. Water is absorbed and the embryo's tissues swell and grow, splitting the seed along its suture. The embryonic root appears and once clear of the seed, the root directs growth downward in response to gravity. Meanwhile, the seed is being lifted upward by growing cells which form the seedling's stem. Now anchored by the roots, and receiving water and nutrients, the embryonic leaves - the cotyledons - start to grow and unfurl. They are a pair of small, oval, smooth leaves, jam packed full of chlorophyll to absorb the life-giving light. Germination is completed in between three and ten days. The embryo has been born and is now a seedling living on the food it produces through photosynthesis.
The growth of the second pair of leaves begins the seedling stage. They are set opposite to each other and usually have a single blade. They differ from the embryonic leaves by their larger size, spearhead shape, and serrated margins. The next leaves that appear normally has three blades and is larger. This is the pattern the plant follows. Each new set of leaves will be larger, with a higher number of blades per leaf. This continues until they reach their maximum number, often nine or 11. The plant is a seedling for between about four and six weeks.
This is the period of maximum growth. The plant can grows as fast as its leaves produce energy for the new growth. Each day more leaf tissue is created, increasing the overall capacity for growth. With perfect growing conditions cannabis has been known to grow six inches a day. In lesss ideal conditions, such as the real world, the rate is more commonly one to two inches a day. As the vegetative stage continues the number of blades per leaf starts to fall off. The leaves start appearing alternatly up the stem, rather than opposite each other. The 'internodes16', which have been increasing up until now, start to decrease. This means that the growth appears to get thicker. Branches which appeared in the axils17 of each set of leaves grow and shape the plant to its characteristic form. In the wild vegetative stage is usually completed in the third to fifth months of growth, but in captivity it can be less than two months.
This is a period, of one to two weeks, during which growth slows considerably. The plant is beginning a new program of growth as encoded in its genes. The old, vegetative, system is inactivated and the new flowering genes kick in. This phase ends at the appearance of the first flowers.
Cannabis is dioecious, this means that each plant either produces male or female flowers, and is considered either a male or female plant. Male plants usually start to 'flower' about one month before the female. However, there is obviously sufficient overlap to ensure pollination. In the male the first signs are the upper internodes elongating. After a few days the male flowers appear. The male flowers are quite small, about 1/4 inch long, and can be various shades, though green or purple are common. They develop in dense, drooping clusters capable of releasing clouds of pollen dust. Once the pollen falls, the males lose vigour and soon die.
The female flowers consists of two small18 , fuzzy white stigmas raised in a V sign and attached at the base to an ovule. The ovule is contained in a small green pod. The female flowers develop tightly together to form dense clusters, bud, cones or cola's as they are commonly called. The bloom will continue until pollen reaches the flowers, fertilising them and beginning the formation of seeds. Flowering commonly lasts for a month, maybe two19, but can continue almost indefinatly, if the enviroment is kind enough.
Once fertilised the female flower develops a single seed, wrapped in two specially differentiated leaves. In thick clusters, they form the seed-filled 'buds'. After being pollinated it can take upto five weeks before the seed is ready and viable. Once fully-seeded the plant will stop growing and will start dying. During flowering and seed set, the plant may fluctuate in colour. All the plant's energy goes to reproduction and the continuance of its genes. Everything is poured into the seed, even the chlorophyll in the leaves starts disintegrate. The golds, browns, and reds which appear are from pigments which utilise other wavelengths of light, formerly masked by the chlorophyll.
Once the seeds are mature the plant dies, at least in the wild, succumbing to the ravages of weather normally. In captive populations it is possible to restimulate vegetative growth and so start the whole cycle over again. However, in nature this is the end of this generation.
The family of the cannabis plant is still poorly understood, with modern science almost barred from studying it by most governments. The number of species is still not known and the nomenculture is in no way set in stone.
As mentioned in the History section cannabis has many, many different uses, and for thousands and thousands of years it provided its bounty to all. At the tail end of the 20th Century, due to massive prohibition, most people do not know of the multitude of different uses that this plant has. Although recently research has started again, into the plant and its derivatives, and some uses have been rediscovered. This section takes a quick look at all the different uses that our leafy friend can be put.
The medical uses of cannabis have, recently, been in the news a lot, and it is this medical use that is doing more to change the perception of the 'devil weed' into a truer picture of the plant. Cannabis does not cure, or has not been shown to cure, anything. However it is a good medicine, in that it seems to relieve the symptoms of a wide range of different, mainly chronic and incurable, ailments and diseases. It can also relieve the symptoms of some of the more toxic forms of therapies.
Due to the massive prohibition that has been placed on cannabis in the last half of the 20th Century, most of the evidence is circumstantional, or anecdotal. Even now research is highly hampered, and with many politicians counting on the Drugs War, even if any positive results for cannabis comes out, they are not widely reported. Beware - some of the abilities attributed to cannabis, here, may not be true, or may not work in a particular case. Most of these accounts are based on 'anecdotal' evidence, sometimes a large amount of 'anecdotal' evidence, but 'anecdotal' none the less. More scientific research needs to be carried out - a lot more.
Even if you decide that it is the only thing that keeps you in a fit state to do anything, be warned, it is still illegal in the UK. The law says it is illegal, the police will enforce the law and the Crown Prosecution Service will try to send you to prison for supply. A jury may let you away with it, and prosecutions of the sick and dying are falling. However the rights to a jury trial are being slowly and surely taken away, you may well be sent to prison for trying to relieve your MS or chemotherapy. Again you have been warned.
Even if it was proved that cannabis could help any of the following problems, where there is evidence that it can, it is unlikly that growing the plant yourself will be allowed. Pharmaceutical giants will be applying pressures to limit the use to their own cannabis derivitives. Of course this is alright as, no doubt, people will not want access to their own, organically grown, cheap medicine. They will want to pay through the nose for the privilige of using pharmaceutical products.
The following are only a few of the problems that medical marijuana may be able to help with. Again the Internet is one of the best ways to find out about this plant, and its effects on a wide number of ailments. The link in the subheader, above, links to medical-cannabis.org. This site is dedicated to medical uses of the plant, but most sites dealing with cannabis will have, at least, a small amount on the medicinal uses. However, the results and recommendations must be taken in the context of the site where they are found. Pro-marijuana sites could recommend it for everything, and anti-marijuana sites will say it cannot be used for anything. Read up lots and make your own decision, unless you are in the UK - where it is illegal, and you must suffer, and not use it20.
Multiple Sclerosis is a progressive disease of the central nervous system. It has a large range of symptoms, effecting almost any part, or function of the body. Most sufferers start with the relapsing/remitting form of the condition, and there is no known cure. Each relapse has the chance of leaving them progressivly more disabled.
Cannabis can relieve, in some people, some of the symptoms involved with this condition. Though mainly used, as in most of the other conditions mentioned in this section, for the relief of pain. In MS it can also control ataxia and spasticity that can occur during the progression of the disease, and the tremors that can also occur. Some people also claim that it stops the relapses, or at least makes them much further apart. However, as stated above the evidence for these claims is, at the moment, only anecdotal.
Recently there have been a few studies authorised to look into the potential for cannabis to help alleviate the symptoms of MS. Indeed there are proper scientific, double-blind trials of cannabis, and its potential to help MS sufferers. There are also plans for trials with large numbers of people
Glaucoma is name covering a group of diseases which affects the eyes of sufferers. The diseases have commen features including a raised eye pressure, damage to the optic nerve and the loss of sight. The effects are, at the moment, irreversible and it is the one of the largest causes of blindness in the western world. Though some people may get some symptoms, including visual anomolies, such as halos and rainbows appearing, dimming of the sight, in most people it is totally asymptomatic. This stealthy progression has caused some to call it 'the sneak-thief of sight'.
The only successful treatments are ones that lower interocular pressure, and drugs that do this must be used for the rest of the unfortunates life. Cannabis does lower interocular pressure for between four and six hours, and indeed some people are legally prescribed it (there are even two people in the US who are allowed to use it!21).
Though the exact mechanism in which it works is unknown, some people have used cannabis to keep their sight for decades. There is major discussion going on about the dangers of a lifetime of smoking cannabis outweighing the dangers of glaucoma. Recently, however, there is a new cannabis-based treatment without the dangers of smoking, or the difficulty in self-titration22 in oral consumption. The vaporiser has been around for a while (though you will find almost nothing about it anywhere) and a new eye-drop method, that uses less of an active dose and lasts the same amount of time.
Another catch-all term for a large number of problems that can beset the human condition. Cancers can affect almost any part of the body23. Cancers normally work by increasing, or starting, uncontrolled cell division in a particular tissue. As in most of the problems discussed in this section, the onset and development of the disease is highly variable and dependant on a large number of factors.
Cancer treatments are still in an early, almost barbaric, stage and basically come down to either trying to slice it out, kill it by radiation, or by poison. Radiotherapy shoots radiation through the body, and focuses it on the tumour. However all the tissues in the radiations path get zapped, and this can kill healthy cells or cause another cancer to develop. Chemotherapy works on the idea that the chemicals used are slightly more poisonous to cancer cells, than they are to healthy human cells, and that as the cancer cells are dividing then they will take up more of the dangerous chemicals. This method can also produce more cancers, and destroy healthy tissue. The final method is surgery, and this can be successful, if the cancer is caught early enough and hasn't become metastatic24.
Both chemotherapy and radiotherapy have side-effects, which is hardly suprising. Both can cause a large number of problems including hair-loss, sterility, another cancer, nausea, vomiting and wasting. Cannabis can help with some of these problems. Cannabis can counteract the nausea and vomiting, allowing patients to keep food down, lead a, more or less, normal life. There is also some evidence, from preliminary trials in the laboratory that cannabis can have an anti-tumour effect, at least on some cancers. As always more studies need to be done.
A recent disease, only having been recognised in the last 20 years, Aquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, or AIDS, is the latest STD to sweep across the world. Caused by a retrovirus25 called the Human Immuno-deficiency Virus, or HIV, and transmitted by sexual fluids and blood. AIDS is the final stage of HIV infection, but may only occur years after first infection. It is a fatal disease.
HIV is normally transmitted by 'unprotected' sex26, sharing needles that pierce the skin, or through a contaminated blood tranfusion. Symptoms at this stage are mainly 'flu like with headaches, body aches and possibly a fever and maybe a rash27. There are treatments available, which will slow the virus down, but there is no cure, as of yet (10/07/2000).
It used to be thought that HIV, after infection, entered the hosts DNA and became inactive, however it now seems that the virus is continually active, and the immune system just wears itself out trying to destroy the virus. Once the immune system is worn down, then HIV infection becomes 'full-blown' AIDS. This is normally classified as such when the victim has an involuntary drop in body weight of ten percent. Due to the lack of an immune system the victim is at risk from any opportunistic pathogens in the enviroment, or even their own body.
There are a number of different treatments for HIV/AIDS, all mainly concerned with slowing the virus replication with protease inhibitors. Most people take multiple drug treatments, with the hope that the high concentration will kill all the virii, however there is no evidence of a cure, only the prolonging of an active life. These treatments, like the cancer treatments, are highly toxic and can cause bad nausea and vomiting. Cannabis can help with these problems and with AIDS-related wasting.
Arthritis is a problem with the joints28 of sufferers. It can occur at any age, and at any time. It is another catch-all name given to about 100 different problems, all leading to the inflammation and degeneration of the cartilidge and bone in the joints. This causes pain, swelling and progressivly more limited movement.
There are treatments available, doctors prescribe analgesics and non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, to treat the pain and the swelling. Research has shown that cannabis has analgesic properties and recent research has also shown that it could have anti-inflammatory properties as well. Cannabis could be a new weapon to fight this crippiling disease, but, and is this becoming familiar? More research needs to be conducted.
Very recently (01/08/2000) researchers in Israel have shown that the active incredient of C. sativa, that helps with arthritis - at least in mice - is cannabodiol. This has not been shown to help in a human model, but it seems the most likely compound found in the plant that would help with arthritis. It also means that Marinol would not help in this particular problem. As cannabadiol has no, or very little, psychoactive effect. However, it may be an ideal substance for synthetic production.
Due to scare stories, the effect that cannabis has on psychological problems has long thought to be entirely negative. Most thinking has been along the lines of, 'this patient has problem x and he smokes marijuana - marijuana must cause problem x.' However more recent research shows that cannabis can have a positive effect on psychological disorders, and that patients may be using cannabis to self-medicate themselves, to alleviate the symptoms of a wide range of psychological problems.
Several psychological problems have had some research on the effects of cannabis. These include Tourettes Syndrome, the symptoms of which are nervous tics and violent outbursts. Cannabis derivatives, in a small study, caused the spasms and the violent outbursts to be highly reduced - from 40 per hour to seven per hour. Importantly this problem has only ineffictive treatments for it at the moment, and cannabis could be a major treatment for it. However the studies done so far were small, and much more research needs to be conducted
Cannabis can also help out in eating disorders. The munchies, finally, may have a possible use. In studies done on anorexia nervosa patients showed that cannabis had a positive effect on most of them, however the test group was small, and it did not help all of the patients. Indeed some patients had a negative reaction to cannabis, but as standard treatments have only a poor effect, and the disease has high mortality, cannabis may be another weapon in the fight. Of course, more research needs to be performed.
Even with schizophrenia, a severe mental disorder, cannabis has the potential to help. Studies on schizophrenics, who did not have any medication, showed that those who self-medicated with cannabis were in hospital less, and, if used in conjunction with more standard medicines, the other problems with schizophrenia - delusions, apathy, emotional detachment etc. - were much reduced. The use of cannabis in these cases has opened up a possible whole new way to control this severe mental disorder.
There has been some research on cannabis and depression. Some of it shows good results, with patients getting a positive effect, and some of it shows negative effects. It is thought that the negative effects come from some of the worse effects that the cannabis 'high' can have - such as anxiety and paranoia - see the Psychoactivity section for more information of the way cannabis works, and the effects it can have.
Due to the wonders that cannabis can produce in the treatment of symptoms in a large range of life-changing diseases and problems, the governments could not keep it all quiet. The answer they came up with is Dronabinol29. This is a synthetic alternative to cannabis. It is basically just delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), and it is legal, to prescribe, in some areas where cannabis is still outlawed.
Though used as a substitute for cannabis, there are a number of problems associated with dronabinol. For one it is an oral delivery sytem. It is prescribed to help nausea and vomiting, in all the serious diseases mentioned above. However it can take up to two hours to take effect, which, in many cases, is way to long to keep anything down.
Along with the slow lead time, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol is the main psychoactive incredient of cannabis. This leads to the 'high' feeling. Also, as it is taken orally it is passsed through the liver, where the powerful enzymes quickly convert it into derivatives, including an 11-hydroxy metabolite. This particular metabolite is almost five times more active than THC. This powerful psychoactive can lead to adverse psychologically reactions. Smoked cannabis is more flexible, and self-titrating - as the effect is almost instantaneous the user can stop once the desired level is reached. Indeed, experts in drug delivery freely admit that cannabis' medical benefits vary greatly depending on route of delivery and say that inhalation the 'first line' of administration.
Dronabinol, as mentioned above, is only THC. The cannabis plant has many different cannabinoids, as many as 80 unique cannabinoids. The actual effect of these molecules is unknown. There does not seem to be any major psychoactive effect, as in THC. It has been hypothesised that these extra cannabinoids have minor effects on the overall experience - some make the munchies more intense, some head for the sleep button, etc. However this is just speculation, and research needs to be done into these marvellous molecules.
Finally is the matter of cost. For a single years worth of Marinol some users can be paying upto $15 000 a year! For a product which is not as good as marijuana30. Even in very tough prohibition countries, where the price of good marijuana can be, pound for pound, more expensive than gold, it would be cheaper to purchase marijuana on the black market, than to continue using Marinol. The costs in growing your own would be minimal compared with this.
Of all the uses which cannabis is put, it is this one which causes all the controversy. It is this one that the laws and prohibition are meant to stop. Ironically, it is this one that the most popular use of hemp, in the Occident. As mentioned in the History section people have been aware of the psychoactive properties of cannabis for a long time and have been using it as such for an equally long time, and any state trying to stop it has been unsuccessful.
Cannabis is injested, normally by eating or smoking. It is, in most cases, done for much the same reasons as drinking. It is relaxing, it changes perception, it can take thought processes in totally new directions and it makes sensations easier to appreciate. Large doses, however, can increase anxiety, and produce paranoia.
Most of the cannabis plant is edible. Everything from the tops to the seeds are able to be eaten. The seeds being the most appetising to the modern pallate. However modern cereals are now much more firmly established, and possibly much more appetising than hemp. Though the modern cereals are, currently, the top dog, cannabis could make a vital impact on the worlds food situation.
As is continually being mentioned throughout this Article, cannabis is one of natures survivors. This means that it can grow almost anywhere, in some very harsh enviroments. It needs little looking after, and can quickly adapt to local conditions. This could make it ideal for some of the poorer states on this planet. It has a quick growing cycle, deep roots, and, in the main, no need of fertalisers or persticides. Ideal for places that cannot afford these Western luxuries.
The seeds are, probably, the most nutricious parts of the plant, like in any cereal crop. Studies have shown that hemp seeds are, possibly, the most nutricious seed on the planet. They are just jammed full of goodness, all the essential amino acids, no inhibitors31, plenty of the essential fatty acids, all in ratios ideal for human consumption.
Hemp seeds, like soya beans, are very versatile, and can be used to produce many different products. Anything that uses another grain can be adapted to use hemp seed; so you can produce hemp flour, and so hemp bread, even brew hemp beer, and maybe if you distilled it there would be hemp whisky. These are not the only things that can be made - there is hemp oil, as mentioned in the history section and hemp burgers, hemp milk32, hemp ice-cream, hemp butter and hemp cheese.
Hemp seeds are favourably compared to sunflower seeds and even flax seeds, providing more than either in the essential nutrients stakes. So the important thing is what do they taste like? Once through the hard outer coat, the soft white meat is said to have a 'light, nutty' taste. Hmmmm, helpful description of eating what is, basically, a type of nut. Luckily these products, even the more estoric ones, such as ice-cream, are starting to appear in British shops, so it is possible to taste them for yourselves.
The tops are edible, but this is were most of the psychoactive compounds of the plant are found, so eating these is normally not for nutritional purposes. These will probably not be making their way into British stores, in the near future.
The main use for C. sativa through out most of history, especially in Europe, is its use for cloth. Hemp makes an excellent, strong wearing cloth, which can be used for any number of purposes in both good and bad conditions. In the past it was mainly used as sail canvas, but its use in the clothing industry was also important.
Though the cloth that is produced from C. sativa is not as soft as cotton, it is a lot harder wearing. There is no natural strech in the fibre, and it has a natural hardiness to it. It is up to five times stronger than cotten, and with the correct way to work it can be almost as soft. It was a natural choice for cloth, and people took to it readily, some peoples, especially in SouthEast Asia still use it to this day. Even in the US it was only the Marijuana Tax, in 1937, that stopped people growing it and making their own cloths out of it.
The plants that are used to produce fibre are grown differently to the plants grown for other purposes. As many as possible are grown tightly packed together, forcing them to strech to the sunlight. They can grow upto 15 feet tall, producing fibres much longer than can be easily used by modern, automatic, weaving machines. Also it is obvious when the plants are ready, the leaves fall off. Once this happens the plants are cut down and left out in the rain, with regular turning, both sides 'retted33' evenly. This allows the two main parts of the stalk to come away fairly easily.
After the retting the plants are allowed to dry, then broken and split. After this the 'scutching' occurs, when the plants are beaten to seperate the fibre and the woody parts. The fibres removed are about 1.8 meters long, and are fairly inflexable at this point. The fibres are then sorted, the finest going to make clothes, the worst being made into highly durable canvas. This process is called hackling, and is basically performed by drawing the fibres through the teeth of a comb, called a heckle or hatchel. After the seperation similar fibres are spun together and banded into a long length.
After the banding, the fibres go through several stages of softening and then are drawn into their final lengths and put onto the bobbins. The fibre is then spun into thread, or yarn, and the thread woven into cloth. Depending on the quality of the fibres the cloth can vary from something like a fine, fine linen to heavy duty sail cloth.
Cloths made from hemp are, not only, the strongest and most durable, but they keep warm in winter, and, with a loose weave, cool in summer. It is highly absorbant and naturally resistant to anaerobic bacteria. Leaving a fresh and clean feeling. Although it is slightly rougher than cotten, after a few washes it starts to mold to shape, and will become more and more comfortable over its long life.
Other than the uses mentioned above marijuana can also be utilised in a large number of other products. Henry Ford was a great believer in the power of hemp, indeed hemp is probably one of the most versatile plants on the planet. Ford built a car, no, honest a real live whole car, out of hemp, a car that ran using a hemp petroleum distillate. All from renewable biomass, no more non-renewable resources, hemp may be one of the answers needed to feed the worlds energy hunger.
It is possible to make plastics and similar materials from high-cellulose material, such as parts of the hemp plant, though at the moment it is not efficient, but then again there has been no advances since it was banned in the US in the 1930's. A lot of people wanted cellulose from trees to be the main material, a lot of powerful people, and modern oil companies make a pretty penny from plastics made out of fossil fuels, they are not going to want anyone stepping on their record profits (03/2001 - BP Amaco realise record profits). Though there are finally some serious looks at producing biodiesel.
Environmental Reasons for Use
This part is a bit different to those above. Those parts looked at actual uses, this part will look at one of the main reasons of why to use it. As the heading gives away it is mainly an enviromental reason, though due to some of the abilities of the plants, there are major economic reasons which to use C. sativa.
The natural resitance that C.sativa enjoys, along with its incredible speed of growth means that in fibre producing stands - where the plants are grown close together - they quickly out-compete other plants, and choke off their sunlight. This means that weeding is not such a large problem. This also means it can make for a quick growing wind break or hedge, and the dense growth acts to stop pollen spreading far and wide. This means that you need less herbicides and pesticides, already a saving.
The deep roots draw up nutrients from deep in the ground, where they are 'locked' beyond the reach of most plants. These nutrients are then into circulation, as it were, meaning less need for fertalisers. Long roots also mean drought resistance. No more pishing one of the most important natural resources - water - away, watching it evaporate before it does any good. indeed this plant sounds ideal for developing nations - and it would be if we, developed nations, didn't make them stop growing it, and grow crops that we want, which we buy at a pittance, and leave them with nothing, more or less34.
For most uses it seems ideally suited. An acre of hemp will produce up to four times the amount of cellulose that an acre of trees will, and hemp will grow to maturity in a single year. For most uses the plant is left after it dies and the leaves fall and decompose on the field, returning a large proportion of the nutrients taken. Though surely not a panacea for all ills, hemp seems to have some definate advantages that could be used in various industries, it seems criminal to waste that.
Though a word not often used35, or even associated with The Drugs War, especially by those waging it, but
prohibition is what it is - and it is having exactly the same consequences as prohibition of alcohol, in the US, during the 1920's.
Throughout most of the last 1000 years of history, it seems some ruler or
other has been trying to stop people from using C. sativa. None has seemed to work
effectively, or much at all. The first recorded ban was in the 1370's, when Emir Soudon Sheikhouni
decided that consuming cannabis was bad. He used some pretty barbaric methods to stop it, such as
removal of the users teeth, but he failed to make the number of users fall.
This section will look at the history of cannabis prohibition, concentrating on the US's policy. The
US has been the greatest weight behind continued marijuana prohibition and there actions, overt and
covert, have influenced many other countries drug policy. Researching this section was quite a
shock, especially when the US is held up to be the ultimate democracy, with everyones rights
enshrined and inviolate.
The US was prime territory for prohibition, a puritan background, looking for the 'City on the Hill'
- a place without any of the diseases of the human condition, no poverty, no drunken debauchery, the
prisons turned into workshops etc. Taking no notice of the problems caused by alcohol prohibition,
and with the help of some big players, prohibition became the national solution to stop the
dangerous infiltration of drugs, and with a bit of judicious playing, the international solution
Reefer Madness was, originally, a short film. The first in a whole slew of films, it depicted people
smoking this marijuana and then becoming the worst people in the world, ever. They gave in to their
base urges, become wanton hussies and psychopathic murderers, all after a single toke. It was first
shown in 1936, and gives the whole era, with its sensationalist stories, and its almost
Witchhunt-McArthur-like tolerance, its name.
The background to Reefer Madness was the increasing mechanisation of hemp products. Originally all
the work needed to be done on hemp, to produce anything, all had to be worked by hand, making it
very labour intensive, and inefficient. However, at about this time there were advances in
mechanising some of the more labour intensive parts of hemp industry. Making larger scale
industries, based on hemp products, more viable.
Given that many hemp products that were becoming economical, including paper, it is time to take a
look at the people of the time. Although it was some time ago, the coming together of these people,
and the things that they did, changed the way that cannabis was looked at throughout the US. Before
this cannabis was looked at as hemp - good for fibre etc. After these people had finished they had
managed to change its status to 'marijuana' - a devil weed - and they had managed to get the
Marijuana Tax passed. Their actions are still reverbarating here and now, today.
A nice gentleman, or maybe not, of quite considerable means. He owned most of the main newspapers of
the time, despised non-whites, especially Mexicans36,
owned about half of the US, and was the real life inspiration for Citizen
Kane, which explains a lot. He owned massive tracts of forests, used in his paper mills to
mass-produce paper. This was worth a fortune. The advent of hemp industrialisation was a big threat
to him - cheaper37, better paper, all out of his control. He
could lose millions. This could not be allowed.
Luckily he had an easy way to influence public opinion. He was the owner of many newspapers and
magazines. Through out the previous ten years he had already stuffed the public full of horror
stories about Mexicans, and African-Americans, all coming over here, stealing your jobs and your
women, so the public was primed for the barrage of Reefer Madness. Marijuana became the killer of
children. A car crash, where a marijuana cigarette was found was kept on the front page for weeks,
any alcohol related crashes, safely tucked away inside.
Such media-manipulation was only the beginning, sensationalist stories were in. Indeed the whole
period was the prime time for 'yellow journalism' - sensationalist stories, with little basis in
fact - so called, possibly, becauses of the poor quality paper, that it was printed on, aged
quickly, or because of a comic strip in Hearst's newspapers The Yellow Kid. The worst of them
were the blatently racist attacks - not only stories of Negros raping white women, after coming
under the influence of marijuana, but 'Negroes and Mexicans, inflamed by the hell-spawned herb,
dared to step on white men's shadows, look white people directly in the eye for more than a few
seconds, look at a white woman twice, and even go so far as to laugh at white people in public'.
This kind of propaganda quickly stirred people up. People started harassing their representitives to
stop this drug from killing their children and the ball started rolling.
The owner of DuPont Petrochemicals, another large company, the main manufacturer of US munitions,
before The Second World War. DuPont had just got his hands on a number of patents, mainly to do with
plastic, but also a new way of producing paper from timber. This was going to be the big money
spinner for DuPont, upto 80% of the company's income would be from these patents. All of these were
threatened by the possibility of the industrialisation of hemp. Luckily he had just gone into a
partnership, to produce paper, with William Randolph Hearst. Both were happy to keep hemp down,
indeed DuPont had some inside help. His banker, who had lent him an awful lot of money, Andrew
Mellon wielded considerable influence.
The man who owned the other half of the US, including The Gulf Oil Corpertation. He was also
Secratary for the Treasury. He was another one of the richest men in the US, and had lent DuPont
considerable sums of money, from his bank, Mellon Bank. Money which he probably wanted a return on.
Luckily for him, he was able to get his nephew-in-law appointed as the Director of the Federal
Bureau of Narcotics, and help save DuPonts bacon by helping along the outlawing of his main threat -
Later in his career it turned out that his corruption was on a level not seen before.
The front line man in this hall of infamy, the Director of The Federal Bureau of Narcotics. It was
Anslinger who fought for the Marijuana Tax, it was Anslingers stories which were published in
Hearst's newspapers and in some way it is Anslinger who still gets the blame for it all. He
certainly wasn't an innocent pawn in this farce. In the early days of Reefer Madness he was making
sure everyone knew that cannabis induced psycopathy and turned people into murderers. However, a few
years later he was stating that it provoked lethargy, and would turn the US communist. During the
McCarthy era, there are indications that he was providing McCarthy with morphine, so that the
Commies couldn't corrupt him via his opiate habit, but still he was denouncing the devil-weed.
With help from his uncle, Andrew Mellon, he was appointed as the first U.S. Narcotics Commissioner.
Under President Hoover, Anslinger was appointed to the newly created position on August 12, 1930 at
the age of 38. At the time the police force had become newly powerful. After the massive increase in
police numbers during alcohol prohibition, they had quite a bit of political clout. However after
the end of prohibition they needed something to justify all the money they were getting. With the
help of the players above, they got it. Marijuana.
Later in his life he seemed to change his stance, and say that he couldn't understand what all the
fuss with cannabis was about. However there were significant differences between what he was saying
in the 1970's and the documentation left from his time in the FBN. The documentation indicates an
intense dislike for marijuana, jazz singers and negroes in general. There are several documents
outlining a plan for a mass round up of jazz singers and the ilk. Though this never came to
After all the shock-horror stories in the press, and with some judicous behind the scenes by Andrew
Mellon, no doubt, the government leapt in to save everyone from this madness-inducing weed. It moved
quickly, very quickly. With some judicous backroom manouvering, between the Federal Buerau of
Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs and the Treasury Department the whole bill seemed to be rushed through
in a couple of days.
Normally a bill will be debated, almost ad nauseum, before it becomes law, however in the
case of The Marijuana Tax it had two one-hour slots where it was debated before the Ways and Means
Committee38. The actual transcripts were so
small that when they came to be looked for, they were unable to be found for months. They had
slipped down the back of the bookcase, right to the bottem. The bookcase had to be dismantled to get
There were several intrested parties included in the discussion. A spokesman for each of the main
industries using hemp, or hemp products - farmers, bird seed, paint manufacturers and doctors. Most
didn't seem to mind the ban, able to get their hands on other sources of analogous substances for
their industries, or cheap South East Asian hemp. The doctors, however, were suprised and shocked at
the potential banning of cannabis, until this time not even associating it with the wicked, Mexican
This didn't change
After the Second World War, and the whole 'Hemp for Victory', it is all a bit quiet. McCarthy is
doing his bit to keep the US communism free, and Anslinger does his bit to make sure his job is safe
by saying that marijuana no longer made people into psychopaths, but caused lethargy, apathism and
communism. It was only later in the 1960's that psychoactives came fully back into the limelight.
It was 1968 when Richard Nixon, the man who never lies, needed a slogan for his election campaign.
Jimmy Carter was going for a 'War on Poverty', and Nixon needed something to get the middle class
vote. The 'War on Drugs' was the result.
The latest developments for the War on Drugs are frightening. The US, and other countries, have
scientists developing biological agents to destroy the source of the drugs, the plants themselves.
Now that may sound like a good idea, heroin addiction is a serious problem, but once out of the
bottle, it may be hard to get the genie back in. Imagine some terrorist or dictator with a
self-replicating, self-spreading way of destroying wheat, or corn. Not a pretty picture, or maybe
the agent is too good, spreads, kills all the opium poppies in the world. No more morphine, no more
of the most effective pain killers known to man. Still a bad, bad scenario.
Biological warfare is not a game you want to be playing. It is gambling with the whole world's
ecosystem. You would think they would have learned after Agent Orange, but there are still
politicians (and some scientists) who want to do this, both in the UK and the US.
The consequences of prohibition are immense. As happened in the 1920's, in the US, the supply is
controlled by organised crime, it is tax-free, pure profit, all disappearing back into organised
crime. With pound for pound some drugs fetching more than gold, it is a lucrative trade. Lucrative
indeed, with the UN estimating that it accounts for eight percent of total world trade in
The trade, as it is illegal, is totally unregulated. Disputes and market share is decided by flying
lead, rather than adverts and lawsuits. The actual product is unknown, it could be anything. The
increasing sophistication and armaments of the police are reflected in the increasing armaments and
sophistication of the otherside. Also with such large amounts of money being made corruption of
officials is easy. Offer a man, even a policeman or a customs man, four times his yearly salary for
looking the other way, or taking down a rival, and there are few who wouldn't at least consider it.
The main consequence for people in the street, though, is not any of this, or giving tabloids
shocking - and selling - headlines, or less drug addicts in the street, because there aren't. In the
US, and the UK, all types of drugs are cheaper, more pure, and easier to find than 20 years ago. No,
the main consequence for the public is the constant erosion of human and civil rights.
The erosion of civil rights goes beyond the obvious one to do with medical
marijuana, where, if you are dying, or severly ill you can be denied a medicine which
potentially could help you out, maybe even keep you functioning and if you do use it, you will be
put in prison. Of course this picks on the most vunerable in society, the ill, a group with more on
their mind and so least likely to complain, and, hell, they are dying so they will not be around
The War on Drugs has changed the face of policing, the world over. The police get more and more
power over the public - stop and search, property seizure, big guns and all kinds of privacy
invasion. All this is coming to a country near you now. The worst part is that it isn't some
dictator that is trying to force this view on others, it is the view of the 'policeman of the
world', the self-proclaimed free-est nation on earth, The United States of America. The free-est
nation in the world, with over two million people in prison. It is also the view of the UK, France
and Sweden amongst others.
Seizure of the assets of criminals seems like a good idea, ill-gotten gains going to the state and
all that. Indeed it is a good idea, but the way it has been implimented in the US, and how it will
be implemented in the UK leaves a lot to be desired. First of all the burden of proof is taken from
the state and placed onto the accused - OK if it is a criminal in the sights, but not so good for an
innocent person. Also you have to prove that the money, and assets39, you have is legally gotten. The amount of proof needed for them to take the
assets away is also reduced, so you can have your assets siezed, but not be convicted of a crime, or
even be charged with a crime - i.e. you do not have to be a criminal to have your assets
The major problem in the US is that seized assets and goods go straight back to the force that
seized them, effectivly the more you seize, the more money you get, not a system designed to
minimise abuse. Indeed there are cases going to court, and being settled out of court, right now,
highlighting some of the abuses. Apparently the UK system will not work like that. However, if it is
any less open to abuse will have to be seen.
Seizure is not the only nibble away at civil liberties. Survelliance techniques, with the help of
modern technology, are hugely advanced. Not just phone taps, email taps and such, but actual looking
right into your home, right through the walls, with sensitive infra-red camaras. They can see
exactly what you are up to. Watching TV, they see you; on the toilet, they see that; having some
intimate fun with the partner of your dreams, hell they are probably videotaping that. Your home may
not be the castle you think it is.
There is also minimum sentancing. To deal with all the people who are caught with drugs - mainly
cannabis users only - special drug courts were set up. Running night and day, the judges do little
more than sit and listen. Charges come with a minimum sentance, so prosecuters decide the prison
time, by deciding which charges the defendants go up on. Now you may well think that this is
alright, they are criminals, they deserve to be locked away. However, this takes all the power from
judges to decide an appropriate sentance. Medical marijuana users are locked away, with no regard to
their circumstances. The minimum requirements mean that non-violent drug users are pushing out
violent offenders. Rapists can now expect less of a sentance than a medical marijuana user. This is
What is to show for all these restrictions? Well crime is at an all time low. Well that is a lie. As
of 08/03/2001 crime in the UK is on the rise, the US has an all time high prison population, at over
two million. There is half again more heroin addicts in the US than there was ten years ago. It
seems that all these extra powers do not seem to be helping in the fight against crime very much. Is
the exchange a fair one?
Some lawmakers and politicians, who have been on the recieving end of the seizure laws - one
policewomen had her car confiscated because her son was driving it, and he had a joint on him - have
started trying to reign in the police state powers. This process is just starting, and no doubt
there will be a major struggle. The enforcement agencies won't want to see 'their' money disappear,
they will put up a fight to keep it.
However all of this came a bit too late for many people. Including Donald P Scott, a reclusive millionaire who lived
in an isolated Malibu ranch house. He was shot dead, by police during a drugs raid. Scott, still
slightly drunk, and obviously just out of bed, stumbled out his bedroom, armed with a pistol, to
deal with what he obviously thought were burglars, intruders or rapists. He was shot dead, and no
illeagal drugs were found. The police settled out of court as they thought the jury would not
believe that it had not been a land grab, under forfieture laws, for the $5 million estate. The
County District Attorney said that the police had used false information to secure a warrant for the
It is also too late for Mario
Paz. Mario, a grandfather, was shot twice, in the back and in front of his family, during
another drug raid. The raid was, by the polices own admission, 'high risk'. It was conducted in the
middle of the night, with a full SWAT team, with flashbang grenades, automatic weapons and the whole
family hauled out, as were - including Mario's widow, only in her knickers and police handcuffs. The
police still refuse to return Mario's life savings to the family, even though no drugs, or evidence
of wrong doing was found (19/03/2001).
On a more positive note, though, marijuana activists are starting to band together, are getting
'ordinary' people together to listen and learn about cannabis. It helps that throwing sick and dying
people into prison never looks good, and these people are then able to exert more influence, indeed
start getting public officials who break the law thrown out. In California there are recall
petitions, trying to get enough signatures at the moment (07/03/2001) to force the District
Attorneys out of there positions, and into another election. The reason behind this is the continued
arrests of medical marijuana patients, even though there has been a state law, passed in 1996,
allowing cannabis use for some severe illnesses40. The police still arrested people who were within their rights under Prop. 215, and
the DA's still prosecuted them. Well it seems the people have had enough of the state ignoring the
law, and the will of the people.
It is starting to have an effect as well. In Placer County, in California, the County District
Attorney, Fenocchio, has been forced to
drop several medical marijuana prosecutions, and in worried tones is saying that there should be a
dialogue between enforcement officials, healthcare providers and citizens to find a reasonable
number of plants for medical use. Even if this is succesful, and Fenocchio survives the recall
petition, the County will still be sued by people who were effected by the 'arrest first' policy.
Remember this is the US, where settlements can reach astronomical sums - the whole of the County
could be facing bankruptcy. Maybe the peoples' will can be done.
Where to start? Well some well documented experiences by three medical marijuana activists seem to
provide the best material. This section will look at what has happened, and is still happening in
California, mainly to three men. Todd McCormick, Peter McWilliams and Steve Kubby.
Todd McCormick contracted Hyptocytoisis X
Steve Kubby was diagnosed, in 1977, with a rare form of adrenal cancer.
Peter McWilliams was a well respected author. Note the past tense there, because The War on Drugs
has killed him. Some would say, that is wrong, the US Government has murdered him, in cold blood,
and no one has batted an eyelid, but that is predujiced. This man's story is probably one of the
worst abuses of human rights, of trickery, of shady underhandedness out there. This shows what is
happening today, in The War on Drugs. Read his story well, you could be next.
Peter McWilliams was working with Todd McCormick on a book about how to grow medical marijuana.
When put like this cannabis prohibition seems like madness. If even the worst of the health effects,
spouted by the most rabid prohibitionists, are true it still doesn't come close to the damage that
prohibition itself is causing. Cannabis doesn't lock people up, take their houses, jobs, even lives.
Prohibition does that. Cannabis does not undermine law and order, prohibition does that.
On the other hand politicians are mainly cowards, want to be elected again and so desprately will
try not to look 'soft' on drugs. As long as their sons and daughters are let off with
warnings, then it is alright for the rest to be locked away.
The Dutch has one of the most liberal policies, regarding cannabis, in the whole of the 'free' world. This section is going to look at their experience with the 'demon weed'. Many studies and reports, even done today, do not look at the evidince that The Netherlands has produced for the past two decades. Some even lie about the findings. This section will, hopefully, just give 'the facts, ma'am'.
Though with a radically different policy now, early in the 20th Century The Netherlands fell in with the US ideal of a vitually drug free society. All drugs were harmful, and that prohibition and criminalisation was the correct way to quickly deal with the problem of drug abuse41. By the 1960s and 1970s the use of drugs was rising, the quickest sections being cannabis and opiates. This was threatening a massive health problem for the future. The Dutch decided that current policy was not working, and decided to look into alternatives.
The Working Party on Narcotics, in 1972, recommended that the use of the drugs concerened per se did not pose an unacceptable risk to society, but that the risk came about from the circumstances in which drugs were used and the extent of their use. With this view it quickly became obvious that the primary aim of the government was to stop and control the risks of drug use to society and the individual. This means that the governments role is to stop people starting drugs without adaquate knowledge of them, or under the coercion of others and to get assistance, either medical or social to those drug users with problems.
This policy became known as the harm reduction policy. The actual mechanics were worked out following scientific investigation, with the legislation falling into two broad catagories, those substances deemed that use was an unacceptable risk to health, and those where the risks were less. Now commonly known as the split between 'hard' drugs and 'soft' drugs, the latter basically constituting cannabis products.
Due to the international backlash that would be felt, mainly provided by US pressure, if they legalised cannabis, the Dutch government decriminalised it for personal use. This means that though it is still an offence to have and to use cannabis, in practicle, everyday life you are not going to be detained for small quantities. Coffeeshops sprang up, selling cannabis in all its forms, also tolerated by the authorities.
The downside to decriminalisation is that, though small quantities of the herb are overlooked, large quantities are not. Leaving the very pertinent question of where the coffeeshop sellers get their supply from. This is normally seen as the backdoor, and no doubt criminal organisations can get pretty rich off this 'loophole'. Though, in some lights, an unsatisfactory solution, this policy has served the Dutch people well.
Well, there are no cons42 in for cannabis posession, for personal use. So police time and money can be spent on other, more dangerous, pursuits. There is more room in the prisons, leading to better standards, and people actually spending time there, instead of violent offenders being released to house more 'druggies' a la current US, and soon to be UK, policy.
The policy of treating drug use as a social and medical issue, rather than a political and criminal one, pays off in spades. The disassociation of hard drugs and soft drugs means that The Netherlands has one of the lowest opiate addiction rates in the world. The addicts in Holland are gettin older, living longer and are more likely to be integrated into society, with young people very unlikely to be caught up in those particular chemicals. Even the amount of cannabis use is below that of the prohibitionist UK43 and well below that of the ultra-prohibitionist US.
Recently - 28/06/2000 - the Dutch government was suprised by a parliamentary vote favouring allowing large amounts of C sativa to be grown, allowing the wholesale trade and so more or less legalising it. Though a close vote, the majority won by a single vote, it seems to be a major change in attitudes to the plant. The government, still worried about their EU neighbours44 are stalling on drawing up legislation. The backers of the bill are threatening legal action if the government does not bow to the will of parliament.
All around Europe the way cannabis is dealt with is changing. Belgium has joined Italy, Spain and Portugal with, what is in effect, decriminalisation for possesion of small amounts of cannabis. Belgium even plans on going further with actual decriminalisation for small amounts, though it has no plans to decriminalise the sale of it45. Luxomberg has a decriminalisation bill going through its parliment at the moment, and parts of Germany have already effectivly decriminalised it.
However the Dutch experience is not lauded over the world as the way to go. In fact instead of giving the facts the Drug Czar of the US46, Barry McCaffrey, went so far to outright lie in his report on The Netherlands and their policy. Saying that the Netherlands marijuana use was higher than the US (it's not) and that the drug policy caused more crime (it doesn't). This caused the Netherlands embassy in the US to put forward its own statistics, however the embassy also put in references, so it could be verified by anybody who cared to. The Netherlands may have the last laugh as it seems that their policy on tolerance is becoming more and more accepted around the world, while the US finds itself more and more isolated in its War on Drugs.
To be continued.......(or started :)
change.36After Pancho Villa decided that a large
wad of Hearst's land, 800 000 acres, was actually his, in the Spanish-American War.37The Department of Agriculture reckoned hemp-based paper would cost about
half the price of paper produced from timber.38Who knows what this committee does?39ie. your
house.40Proposition 215, or The Compassionate Use
Act41This is not quite the truth as The Netherlands, along with most of the rest of the world decided not to prohibit alcohol or tobacco.42Convicts43A European Union report, released on the 12/10/2000 shows the percentage of adults who have used cannabis, in the past year, is nine percent in the UK, but only five and a half percent in The Netherlands. Of course in the teenage age group the number is much higher, with 41 percent of teens in England and Wales having tried cannabis at sometime in their lives, but only 31 percent of Dutch teenagers with a similar experience.44Especially rabid prohibitionist France and UK.45A bit bizarre, but such a step in a more fair direction, makes critisism a bit hard.46Soon to be ex-czar (13/01/01)