Prohibition

”Hashish of good quality taken moderately does hardly any harm; excessive and incessant use of bad hashish, especially together with malnutrition, has a shattering effect. (…) One believes that its use enables hard and continuous labor, does away with pain and prevents the bad effects of climatic changes. One ascribes the creation of a cheerful and pleasant drunkenness to it.”

As soberly and tranquilly as ‘Meyers Konversationslexikon’ of 1908 reported on hemp as a psychoactive drug, the ‘British Hemp-drug Commission’ in India took on a similar tone some decades before, when it found, after extensive research, that there was no reason to ban the traditional stimulant of the Indian colony. Instead the commission uttered the suspicion that ”the attack on the hemp-drug had been initiated only in order to sell European hard liquor in its place.”

As we can see from these statements, there was no ‘cannabis-problem’ in those days and during the international opium-conferences of the League of Nations, where between 1911 and 1931 the first global drug prohibitions were institutionalised, ‘Indian hemp’ played only a minor role. The proposal to put it among ”controlled substances” came from Egypt and South Africa – the South African Boer regime was having trouble with its rebellious, dagga-smoking indigenous population – and did not meet with much interest from the European powers, but found a majority in the end, as it was feared that these possible coalition partners would be offended in other matters. The German Reich, as the world´s leading producer of morphine, heroin and cocaine, agreed to the hemp prohibition after Egypt had assured Germany that it would not forbid imports of heroin and cocaine.

The ‘cannabis problem’ was invented in the early thirties in the USA, exactly at the same time when new machinery and technology considerably simplified hemp crop processing. Harry Anslinger´s ‘Federal Bureau of Narcotics’, a forerunner of today´s ‘Drug Enforcement Agency’ (DEA), founded specifically for his anti-hemp-campaign, was financed, not surprisingly, by the chemical company DuPont, the oil industries, and the newspaper magnate and woodland owner Hearst. The prohibition of hemp cultivation put not only that unpopular raw material competition out of business but also promoted the persecution of minorities like blacks and latinos, as well as white musicians and bohemians, who were considered to be consumers of cannabis. This suited the plans of self-declared racists and Hitler-admirers DuPont and Hearst, as well as those of the then US government, which had just ended the alcohol prohibition and was looking for employment for their now supernumerary policemen and agents.

The 1937 ‚Marihuana Tax Act’ not only closed down hemp cultivation in the USA, the preceding campaign against the ‘killer weed’ cannabis laid the foundation stone for the character assassination of hemp still going on today. Whether plain lust of murder, uncontrollable urge to rape or simply utter madness, no evil existed that wasn’t caused by the use of cannabis. Starting from the USA, one of mankind´s safest and innocuous stimulants was, after millennia of beneficial and unproblematic use, marked a ‘dangerous narcotic dope’.

Harry Anslinger had the whole Jazz musician scene spied upon, starting with Louis Armstrong, and planned to eradicate this ‘diabolical music’ altogether along with the marihuana plant. Even though he could be slowed down at this point, after WW II Anslinger was lauded away to the newly founded UNO where he could now indulge in his prohibition addiction on an international scale.

With that still valid ‘Single Convention’ – the Drug Agreement of the UNO – which counts cannabis among the most dangerous drugs, the anti-hemp-maniac Anslinger left a legacy to the world whose revision is now as before long overdue. The prohibition of cannabis rests on a foundation of pseudoscientific lies and propaganda which are, after more than half a century, engraved deeply in the public mind, but a change of this mind and a political turn to reason is now obvious. The public image of the hemp plant has changed, focussing not on the ‘dope’-aspect alone anymore but on the whole plant with its multiple uses. The healing herb hemp is rehabilitated science  – and its smoking for relaxation and stimulation grew from the quiet esoteric tip of a hippie minority to great fun for the masses, draconic punishment in most countries notwithstanding.

The complete failure of the prohibition can hardly better be demonstrated. It is only a question of time until the notoriously sluggish institutions of justice and power will have to adapt to this reality.

 

 

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