Monday, March 17, 2014

Historical Cannabis Facts

Historical Cannabis Facts

This history of cannabis is long and confusing, and only relatively recently has the possession of cannabis been a criminal offence. Here's a look back at some of the peculiarities of its history…

It's been a Medicine for 4000 years

Although the debate about medicinal marijuana is a relatively new one in the West, in India, China and the Middle East, cannabis' medicinal properties have been celebrated for around 4000 years. In China it was used to treat all manner of conditions from malaria to constipation! It took a long time for it to be used as medication in the west – around the middle of the 19th century. Queen Victoria was proscribed it to relieve period pain, and it could be freely purchased in shops throughout the United States.

Towards the end of the century, its usage in western medicine faded with the invention of the syringe. Injected drugs took effect far faster, and cannabis (which could not be dissolved in water and thus injected) fell out of favour. Over the last few decades of course, the debate over medicinal marijuana has reopened.

Founding Fathers Grew Hemp and Cannabis

While it is unclear as to whether any of the founding fathers actually used the drug recreationally, it is clear that George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and other founding fathers grew hemp, as documented in their own diaries. Jefferson imported seeds from China, while Washington notes that he was attempting to get his gardeners to separate the male and female cannabis seeds – “began to separate the Male from the Female Hemp at Do – rather too late”. Some have suggested that maybe Washington's insistence on separation of the crop implies he used the herb medicinally to treat his renowned tooth aches. Whether or not you believe this, you can't deny the significance of hemp to the history of the USA: the declaration of independence is written on hemp paper!

Hemp for Victory!

More recently, and an area of US history the government is very keen to brush over is the 1940's “Hemp for Victory” campaign. During the Second World War, imports of hemp were restricted, meaning that marine cordage, parachutes and other military essentials were in short supply. The government responded by distributing free cannabis seeds and allowing men to defer the draft if they agreed to stay home and support the war effort by growing hemp. By 1943, American farmers had harvested 375,000 acres of hemp.

Marijuana a Truth Serum?

Yes, for a time in the 1940s, the United States' Office of Strategic Services (OSS) experimented with cannabis as a truth serum. They noted in their trials that the drug made a subject (in this case a member of the mafia) “loquacious and free in his impartation of information”.

One example of its usage was in the interviewing of Augusto Del Gracio, one of Lucky Luciano's enforcers. After being given a cigarette spiked with THC concentrate, he talked openly about the gangster's heroin operations. So successful was the experiment that for the next meeting they upped the THC dosage in the tobacco – but this proved to be too much, and the mobster simply passed out for two hours.

Many US Government Funded Studies have Extolled the Virtues of Cannabis

Many government funded studies have been brushed under the carpet after they failed to turn the negative results intended. Studies have shown all kinds of things, from cannabis' failure to increase death rates (Sidney, S et al. – ‘Marijuana Use and Mortality'), its lack of long term consequences (Eisen SE et al. ‘Does Marijuana Use Have Residual Adverse Effects on Self-Reported Health Measures, Socio-Demographics or Quality of Life?'), that it may prevent cancer (multiple studies) and that it does have medicinal value (Joy, JE, Watson, SH and Benson, JA. ‘Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base'). The latter of these has been largely ignored by the government, and caused the co-author John A. Benson to tell the New York Times that the government “would rather it never happened.”