Long recognized as one of God’s greatest gifts to mankind, Ganja truly can heal the earth. Unknown to many today, cannabis hemp was used worldwide in paper, fiber, lamp oil and nautical applications throughout the 19th century, constituting “possibly the largest agricultural and industrial businesses in America” (Herer 83). In the early part of the 1800s cannabis was the number one medicine in the US (83). It held that spot tightly, until it was nudged to second place by morphine in 1863, unseated again in 1901 by aspirin (83).
Throughout its usage history, doctors did not consider the effects of cannabis to be habit forming, anti-social, or violent. As Herer explains, “Mary Jane” contains sixty compounds that are currently known to have therapeutic value. Unlike tobacco smoke, cannabis smoke does not alter the small airways in any way. Small airway damage is where cigarette smoking causes its most long-term and permanent damage (110). In total, cigarettes are responsible for the deaths of 430,000 Americans each year (110).
Despite the fact that tens of illions of Americans smoke pot regularly, there was still not one death attributed to the drug as of 1997 (110). A 1976 report by Dr. Tashkin, M. D. of UCLA found that cannabis was more of an irritant than cigarette tobacco in just one of the twenty-nine areas of the human lung under study (110). In the large air passageway marijuana smoke is fifteen times more irritating than cigarette smoke. Often glossed over is the fact that tobacco causes only minimal disruption to this area; hence the improper statistic that one joint causes lung damage equivalent to several cigarettes.
On a hugely ironic note, the US government followed up this finding by limiting cannabis pulmonary studies to only the large air passageway, the very next year Another popular falsehood is that marijuana causes permanent brain damage. After multiple Freedom of Information Act lawsuits, mainly by cutting edge periodicals, the government was forced to release the methods it used in its brain damage studies. Herer’s book details how Dr. Heath of Tulane University forced a group of Rhesus monkeys to inhale the equivalent of He concluded that the monkeys began to atrophy and die after ninety days.
Heath then killed off the dying monkeys, then opened their brains counting the dead brain cells, to compare his findings with the control group (107). Even the heaviest pot smoker on the planet doesn’t come close to smoking thirty joints in one day! It’s important to note Dr. Tashkin considers that smoking sixteen or more “large” spliffs in a day could lead to hypoxia, or a condition where the lungs are over saturated with smoke, and become deprived of the oxygen necessary to remain healthy (110).
Meanwhile, a 1981 UCLA study of the Coptic eligion in Florida, whose worshipers are some of the heaviest pot smokers in the US, metered absolutely no brain differences between smokers and non-smokers (112). Water pipe technology, often referred to as “paraphernalia,” has been proven to remove many of the carcinogens that do occur in marijuana smoke. Ingesting cannabis orally can wholly avert any possible lung damage. Marijuana can be enjoyed in various eatable forms ranging from brownies and space cakes to the festive ganja goo-ball and refreshing hash orange juice. Often, anti-drug groups tout that marijuana causes an increase in crime.
Such claims are simply incorrect. In the most complete study of “reefer” consumption in its natural setting, Vera Rubin and Lambros Comita confirmed that, aside from marijuana busts, there is no real link between cannabis and crime. They also found that the heavy use of ganja is unlikely to curtail one’s motivation to work (112). Legalizing marijuana guarantees many positive effects. Currently, prohibition forces drug profits into the hands of crime. Ideally a drug dealer is a local, selling a small amount of marijuana to turn a mild profit, either financially or in “bud. Unfortunately, many drugs are trafficked through criminal organizations. Without any oversight these organizations are free to turn innocent cannabis profit into other, harmful ventures.
On the other hand, “[s]ince adopting a policy of tolerance and non-prosecution of cannabis/hashish smokers Holland has seen a substantial reduction in cannabis consumption among teenagers and a 33% drop in the number of heroin addicts” (113). Anyone with firsthand experience using marijuana knows that it typically induces a mellowing effect. It does not produce he type of roudy, aggressive behavior typically associated with alcohol abuse. During the late 1800s, cannabis was successfully used in treating opiate, chloral hydrate, and alcohol addiction, with some patients recovering after only twelve doses of cannabis extract. Marijuana continues to be an effective tool in the modern treatment of alcohol addiction (113).
According to the American Medical Association claims that smoking cannabis would be beneficial for 80% of America’s 15 million asthma sufferers (112). Records dating back over thousands of years indicate the use of marijuana for the treatment f asthma, and today California residents who suffer from the disease can legally use cannabis under state law, with a doctor’s permission. Additionally, marijuana can be used to treat epilepsy, back pain, and muscle spasms. As a topical preparation, cannabis can provide pain relief from rheumatism as well as arthritis. Pot can also bring headache and stress relief, along with a reduction in blood pressure, and the relief of numerous other ailments.
Thousands of Americans suffering with cancer and AIDS stand to benefit greatly from the increase in appetite that marijuana can often Grass or weed, is linked by many to enhanced creativity. Authors such as Lewis Carroll, and jazz greats like Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington are all said to have used cannabis for creative stimulation. Discussed so far have been primarily the social and medical aspects of cannabis usage. The healing power of hemp, however, extends much farther than just an improvement for humans on a personal basis. As a crop, hemp can produce four times a much paper per square foot than a tree can, according to government estimates. Hemp is an easy crop to grow, with a brief growing season, and it can be raised in all fifty states of the union.
Substituting hemp paper for standard tree paper would be a very wise move. Every grade of paper can be made from hemp, and with the enormous growth possibilities for hemp, valuable, oxygen-producing trees could remain standing in From 1631 until the early 1800s, cannabis hemp was valid legal tender in most of America, good enough to pay your taxes! The government’s motivation was to encourage farmers to grow more hemp. As Herer reports, there were several reported shortages of cannabis in Virginia between 1763 and 1767 that led to legislation, which jailed farmers who refused to row cannabis.
Both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson grew cannabis on their plantations (1). Because of the extreme strength of hemp pulp, nautical sails, rigging, cargo and fishing nets, flags, and oakum (sealant) were made from the stalk of the marijuana plant (8). Until 1937, 70-90% of all rope, twine, and cordage were made from hemp (8). Hempseed oil can also be used for lighting, and was at one time, the most popular fuel of choice for this purpose. Futuristic US citizens, such as Henry Ford, envisioned a nation powered by organic, renewal Bio Mass Energy derived from hemp.
Its demise was realized as the large monopolies were negotiating their rise to power (8). So how did this gift from God, this plant that served as legal currency become illegal? Why? Many factors came together, which eventually ended up yanking hemp out of its vital role as an American staple. As more and more corporate mergers saw industries folded into a handful of giants, the U. S. federal government gave control of most domestic textile production to DuPont, their chief munitions manufacturer. DuPont bought out small TNT and dynamite producers until they controlled two-thirds of industry output.
Around the time when the Harrison Narcotics Act became federal law, Harvard chemist Wallace Carothers synthesized the natural cellulose fibers found in hemp, while working from German patents, under a DuPont grant (Clark 27). DuPont, which had largely taken control of hemp output to harvest its cellulose for weapons production, now had what it needed to make weapons without cannabis hemp. It patented the first synthetic fiber, and developed synthetic plastics under the guise of conserving natural resources! Coal tar and petroleum-based chemicals were employed, and different devices, spinnerets and rocesses were patented. This new type of textile, nylon, was to be controlled from the raw material stage, as coal, to the completed product; a patented chemical product. The chemical company centralized the production and profits of the new “miracle” fiber. The introduction of nylon, the introduction of high-volume machinery to separate hemp’s long fiber from the cellulose hurd, and the outlawing of hemp as “marijuana” all occurred simultaneously. (Clark 27)
Ironically Wallace Carothers, the Harvard chemist who worked to synthesize cellulose, committed suicide one week after he House Ways and Means Committee held hearings on cannabis and created the bill that would outlaw hemp (Clark 27). In 1997 Dupont was still the largest producer of man-made fibers, while no American citizen has legally harvested a single acre of textile grade hemp in over 60 years (except during the period of WWII). The next question one might naturally ask is, what type of public relations extravaganza was needed to wean America from this sturdy, cash crop? The answer lies in blatant discrimination, and the repetition of severely twisted facts that continues in public service announcements to date.
The marijuana portion of the hemp prohibitionist movement found it all too easy to integrate its agenda with racial and ethnic discrimination that was a prevalent part of US culture at the time. The first cannabis prohibition law in the U. S. was passed in 1903 in Brownsville, Texas. The law applied only to Mexicans, and targeted them based upon a heavy cannabis smoking tradition that remained a part of their culture, while immigrating to the US (Herer 87). The next group to be targeted by anti-marijuana legislation were Blacks in the Storyville section of New Orleans, therwise known as the birthplace of jazz.
“Sailors from the islands took their shore leave and their marijuana there” (Herer 87). Town officials tried to use marijuana as a vehicle to pass blame on a city that had grown increasingly full of cabarets, brothels, In fact, marijuana was being blamed for the first refusals of black entertainers to wear blackface [a requirement for any black entertainer who wanted to sneak onto a Louisiana stage, in violation of “Jim Crow” laws] and for hysterical laughter by “negros” under marijuana’s influence when told to cross a street or go to the back of the trolley, etc (87)
American newspapers, politicians, and police, had virtually no idea, for all these years (until the 1920s, and then only rarely), that the marijuana the “darkies” and “Chicanos” were smoking in cigarettes or pipes was just a weaker version of the many familiar concentrated cannabis medicines they’d been taking since childhood, or that the same drug was smoked legally at the local “white man’s” plush hashish parlors. (Herer When Harry Anslinger, Federal Bureau of Narcotics chief, testified before Congress in 1937, he boasted many of the bogus, racist claims of the movement, even calling jazz music “satanic” (88).
California, Utah, and Colorado had already passed “Jim Crow” legislation targeted at Blacks and Mexicans in their communities, and the Harrison Narcotic Act, which swept many useful drugs into restriction, was already in effect on the federal level. What started out disgraceful remains so today, as the United States continues to imprison innocent people because of victimless crimes. “African Americans comprise 12% of the nation’s population, and 13% of its drug users, yet they account for one third of all drug-related arrests and nearly two thirds of all convictions” (http://www. drcnet. org/gateway/poc. tml).
In his September 1989 drug policy speech, President Bush promised to double the federal prison population. He did, and so did President Clinton in 1996 (Herer 91). Now, “On any given day in the U. S. , more than one out of every three Black males between 18-29 are either incarcerated, on probation, on parole or under warrant for arrest. The figure for Latinos is one in six. For Whites, it is one in twenty” (http://www. drcnet. org/gateway/poc. html). As US leaders continue to lock up America’s youth, discretionary funds seep away from areas of hope and improvement, like education.
Billions have been spent creating, upholding, and expanding the multibillion-dollar Drug War. The government has quietly resurrected old seizure laws that date back to the 1800s, and has made disturbing use of them to take property and money from citizens who are caught with cannabis. The War on Drugs, especially cannabis, is un-American in every way. Born out of ignorance and greed, laws against marijuana have served to help business make more money, and to suppress minority groups. How can crime really be a crime if “Benjamin Franklin started one of America’s first paper mills with cannabis.
This allowed America to have a free colonial press without having to beg or justify the need for paper from England” (Herer 1). In a time when farmers are being paid millions to plow under their harvests, we ignore the cash crop that once defined our nation. It is time that we take back our crop. It is time that the economy should flourish with new production, while we effortlessly watch the black market for pot fade away. It’s time that we free our prisoners of war. It’s time that we enjoy God’s truly beautiful gift without shame. It’s what Ben would have wanted.