ALL ABOUT MARIHUANA
mk95528 at navix.net
Sat Nov 2 12:16:27 EST 1996
ALL ABOUT MARIHUANA
New and lurid words are no mystery to those who invent them. What are
gates, reefers, greeters, muggles, mooters, Indian-hay or goof-butts?
And just what is marihuana only the last is in Webster, but all these
words are known to millions.
This gutter jargon of New Orleans and New York is merely a crop of new
words for a very old plant, long and correctly known as Indian hemp.
It was even properly christened, by Linnaeus, in 1753 as Cannabis
sativa. But few ever heard of Cannabis or Indian hemp, although the
Greeks had a word for itand so did the Persians, Arabs, Hindus, and
In whatever language, the words an apply to a single species of
Planta tall, decidedly weedy annual herb, first cousin to the fig
tree and the hop, and having more than a bowing acquaintance with the
stinging nettle. But botanical affinities matter less than what the
plant has meant to uncounted millions. For every race and creed from
ancient China to Harlem, has used it in some form. Before the current
crop of slang, the literate knew, perhaps a little vaguely, that
hashish came from Indian hemp, but few cormected hashish with
marihuana, and no wonder. For the latter is a Mexican-Spanish word
first used for a poor grade of tobacco, only laterand much more
widelyapplied to this plant which antedates Greece or Rome.
When the Indian hemp, under its new name of marihuana, appeared in
Texas and New Orleans, it immediately sprang into prominence because
of the vituperation poured upon it. It would have been an old story to
the Hindus, the Chinese, and the Narcotics Commission of the United
Nations. They knew, as we did not, that the history of Indian hemp
goes back three thousand years before Christ, and that the plant has
survived all wars, many famines, and every attempt to exterminate
iteven our own.
The plant has suffered more from its friends than its enemies. One of
its greatest exponents has left his name fantastically linked with one
of the chief products of Indian hemphashish. The story is a bit
legendary, for it deals with the time just before the First Crusade.
And it is not very pretty, for its hero was neither gentle nor polite,
nor Christian, and almost certainly he could not
read. Such handicaps mattered less then than now, and any story of
marihuana would be no story at all without him.
The Old Man of the Mountain
Far below lay the frozen sea of a salt desert, terrible by day, but
soon to be drowned in the opalescent splendor of moonlight. Long
shadows were already creeping up the side of the fortress as
Hasan-i-Sabbah made Alumut safe for the nightsafe, if a fortress can
be by merely bolting the door.
Quiet reigned within, but not peace, for the peace of Allah does not
come readily to the uneasy. And to Hasan and his band of fanatics much
had happened and was to happen.
They were, of course, brave men. No others could have taken this
mountain fortress, so near Baghdad and Basra. Why be uneasy? Had they
not won a haven just where Hasan wanted it, right on the caravan route
to Mecca? And wasn't there a beautiful mosque nearby, built by the
great Haroun al-Raschid? Even before Mecca became a shrine the
caravans from the magical east passed close by, the long strings of
camels plowing through the frosty blindness of the desert.
But Hasan was uneasy and so were the more specuative of his followers.
They had no fear of the desert, or of mountains still higher than
Alamut. Had they not been born in faroff Khurasan, close up to the
immensity of the Himalayas? And hadn't all of them roamed the awful
desert between, where nothing grows in the salt sand but tamarisk and
the manna bush? Perhaps they scarcely knew why they were uneasy, but
they should have known. For into that fortress they carried, with
their courage and their arms, something far more serious than
Now, ideas are apt to be dangerous, especially to fierce men who, like
Hasan, have long known the peace of the mountains and the isolation of
the desert. Not the kindly sands of Arabia or Morocco, but the
blinding salt sands where the date palm grows only in the oases, and
the bleached bones of camels mark the track. Hasan knew this desert
perfectly, knew its curious crescent shaped ripples and dunes, and the
storms of dust for weeks on end. And upon this desert, in the year
1090, came his idea.
At first it was wholly religious. Like all good Moslems he had fumed
at the dominance of Arabian and Turkish caliphs. And he would have
naught to do with those weak Moslems who followed Fatima, or worse
still, the bastard spawn of those caliphs who succeeded Mahomet.
Already the Moslem world was split by these sects. But Hasan decided
there was room for another, and he founded one dedicated to his idea.
This split the Moslem world so that the Christians won Jerusalem on
their first crusade, which happened to coincide with the rise of
While the Christians couldn't keep the Holy City, they carried back
to Europe a host of Moslem lore. Only three concern us here. one was
the brand-new -idea of Hasan's which was secret assassination. The
second was the name of his bandthe Assassins, a term unknown before
that. The third was the product of a strange plant from China or
India, which was hashish.
Many, including Marco Polo, have implied that Hasan's technique of
secret murder could only have been accomplished by men well stoked
with hashish.. But this ignores the fact that Hasan invented the
method A from the loftiest motivesto purge the Moslem world of false
prophets. He did considerable purging until Genghis Khan killed off
twelve thousand of the Assassins in one session, toward the end of the
Long before that, when Hasan was in his prime, his most dastardly deed
was the secret murder of his friend Nizam-al-Mulk. That the latter was
educated, a statesman and author, a founder of observatories,
hospitals, and universities, did not spare him from the Assassins who,
to make doubly sure, subsequently murdered his son.
At this late date it may be impossible to separate fact from fiction.
It does seem reasonably certain that the it terms Assassin and hashish
are either derived from or are corruptions of Hasan's full name, which
was Hashishin. He is, with a little more certainty, credited with
being the Old Man of the Mountain. There we must leave him, with the
reservation that the connection between hashish, assassin, and the
wicked Hasan seems to be more than an etymological accident.
The evil reputation of hashish was fanned by lurid tales of the
Assassins. They were credited with decorating their revolting deeds of
atrocity with the debauchery assumed to be inherent in hemp. It is
this, fortified many years after by the effusions of Baudelaire,
Gautier, Dumas, not to mention our own Bayard Taylor, and Fitz Hugh
Ludlow, that have made hemp a symbol of
Is it necessarily and always so? For centuries before basal and ever
since, the plant has been used by unounted millions. They find it a
very pleasant assassin ndeed, for it kills care, gloom, and
apprehension. They think of itand many of them are by no means
ignorantas the least harmful flight from reality. Naturally they have
little patience with those, usually knowing Far less, who are only
able to make of hemp some monster of evil. Where the truth lies
depends a little on some imponderables.
While Hasan was holding his fortress, long caravanspassed below it,
laden with the spoils of the East. They were then near the end of an
all but incredible journey, having survived the passes of Afghanistan,
the frozen steppes of Pamir, and the salty deserts of Transcaspia. If
Allah were good, and only the sanctioned prayers were omitted, they
would soon be in Baghdad, unpacking their fantastic freight.
To Baghdad nothing was improbable. Ever since its founding, had it not
been the very threshold of Asia, the last remote outpost of Europe?
Marco Polo had not yet told his tales about it, but when he did they
turned out to be no more fantastic than the facts. Center of the
luxury and teaming of the Moslem world, it was a princely city,
fabulously rich, the very navel of the Arabian Nights. But, like
Hasan, it lacked peace, and was ripe for any messenger who brought it.
Such a messenger arrived one day, very long ago, just when will
probably never be known, and perhaps it does not matter. His message,
to a population to whom Mahomet had forbidden wine, was one of the
most welcome in the world. What he brought was a little packet of
rather crumbling, blackish-yellow resin, magical beyond the dreams of
Allah. It was far more potent than our marihuana for it was hashish,
derived from Indian hemp, and it came almost certainly from beyond the
Himalayas. To Moslems no song of India was so sweet. To understand
why, and to appreciate why it has since gone around the world, we must
go back to China, very far back, where hemp was used centuries before
the Christian era.
Males and Females
The ancient Chinese, especially the Emperor Shen Nung, were
startlingly modern about drugs and medicines. They gave us ephedrine,
which they called mahuang, and about 2737 B.C. Nung wrote a pharmacy
book. In it he was far more observant about Indian hemp, knew its love
life, and had more understanding about its use than, most of us.
Today only a handful of botanists know that Cannabis sativa grows in
two forms. One is a tall and comparatively colorless male plant, which
yields in its stem a cordage fiber known as hemp. The other, and
shorter form of the hemp plant, is the quite dynamic female. It never
bears male flowers, but among the female clusters there lurks a resin
which has worried some and pleased others ever since an inquisitive
native first discovered its extraordinary properties. No one knows
when that was, but it must have been long before the intelligent Shen
Nung wrote his pharmacopoeia. He seems to have guessed that female
Indian hemp was destined to bring a kind of euphoric happiness to
countless millions from that day to this. This troubled him, for
China, even then, had its stern moralists. To them, as to so many
today, to be a little happy is suspect, and to be very happy is quite
certainly sinful. Hence they were soon calling this resinous female
the "Liberator of Sin."
There seems little need for those ancient Chinese to have smirched
female hemp with its first recorded stigma. For they could easily have
grown only the males plants and hence produced more rope than sin.
What females they did grow, however, were mostly devoted to producing
a medicine which we still use. Shen Nung prescribed this for "female
weakness, gout, rheumatism,
malaria, beri-beri, constipation, and absent-mindedness." Today, after
five thousand years of trial and error, modern medicine confines its
use "to relieve pain, especially headache, encourage sleep and to
soothe restlessness." The drug, known to doctors as Cannabis indica,
is produced exactly as it was in ancient China, for our pharmacopoeia
says it must come from the "dried flowering tops of the distillate
(female) plants of Cannabis sativa.
Centuries after the Chinese were calling the female of Indian hemp
"The Delight Giver," the plant crept into India. It was certainly
known there before 800 B.C., but where it acquired the name "Indian"
hemp will probably never be known. Dr. W. H. Camp of the University of
Connecticut points out that it was not originally wild there, and it
may never be possible to say where it first grew. There is some
evidence that it originated in Pamir. This is near enough to Hasan's
fortress so that science may yet bolster medieval surmises as to the
origin of the term hashish.
Regardless of hemp's nativity, it is the history of India that reveals
the real story of the plant. The kaleidoscopic facets of its culture,
use, and abuse, together with a close intertwining of religion and
philosophy, are recorded in everything from the Vedas to a modern
bazaar. In India the culture of hemp became almost a science and its
use very close to epicurean.
Actually, growing male and female hemp plants is no mystery. To
produce seed the sexes must be grown in sufficient proximity so that
reproduction may be given a chance. Pollination is easy, for it
depends upon the wind. All males, except those grown for fiber, or
needed for fertilization, are cut down. For it is only the female
flower cluster that produces enough resin to be beguiling, and quite
special skills have been developed to promote its secretion. When
fully ripe, and in the presence of great heat, the female flower
clusters, and even the top of the plant, are covered by a sticky
golden yellow resin, with an odor not unlike mint. Yellow at first, it
ultimately turns blackish. It is this which contains that distillation
of nature which disturbed the Chinese moralists, while the more
tolerant and thoughtful Hindus called it "The Heavenly Guide," "Poor
Man's Heaven," and the "Soother of Grief." The plant can be grown in
any region with hot summers.
This sticly resin, closely allied to the substance on hops which makes
beer a little soporific, is so precious that growers have made its
horticulture and harvesting almost as fantastic as the effects of
hashish itself. In Nepal, where the finest hemp was formerly grown,
the plants were set out in long rows, spaced so that mature flowering
tops would just touch. Some resin develops even before the tiny
greenish flowers are ready to bloom. To prevent its loss would be easy
by simply cutting off the tops of such precocious plants. But that
would mean losing the resin of the main crop. To overcome
this.dilemma, and capture all the resin, completely naked men and
wemon were driven at intervals pell-mell through the hot steaming rows
of hemp, and what stuck to them was scraped off. If this seems a
little exhausting, under a tropical sun, it was scarcely improved by
the fact that the workers were forced to thrash their arms about so
that every inch from the waist up would have its dinging coat of
These amenities of hemp culture seem to have developed at least the
rudimentary germs of hygiene, for later on the naked runners were made
to catch the resin on large leather aprons. But even this refinement
did not satisfy the more fastidious Hindus who demanded a product a
little less mixed with the effluvia of the workers. And so something
like modern methods of collection
became general. Resin is now coaxed out of the cut flower clusters
with all the care that the most finical could demand. Spread between
snowy cheesecloth, it is pressed out and then scraped off the coth.
This resin, wrung from the reluctant females with so much care, is the
pure quintessence of the Indian hemp, known for centuries to the
Hindus as charas (also churus, or churrus). Ever since the days of
Hasan we know it only as hashish.
Bhang and Garija
So potent is hashish that its continued and excessive use leads
straight to the lunatic asylum, as some believe it did for Baudelaire.
But since he also suffered from syphilis, hemp may have an alibi in
his case. But not in many others, for hashish is admittedly dangerous.
It is also so expensive that only the rich and debauched can afford
it. If it were the only hemp product, its use would be confined to
this minority. But Nature and man's ingenuity have provided far
cheaper and safer flights from reality than hashish; it is these that
have sent hemp all over the world.
Two other hemp products seem, in comparison to charas, absurdly easy
to produce. Uncultivated or dooryard plants are cut without extracting
the resin and from the cut tops a decoction in milk or water is
brewed. This is the celebrated bhang of India. When tobacco pipes were
brought from the New World, bhang was of ten dried and smoked, in
which form it is a little more potent than as an infusion. Bhang is
about the cheapest method of using hemp, and is still scorned by all
the very poorest in India. It is, under the name of marihuana,
practically the only hemp product used in America.
To the more reflective Hindu, bhang is a crude substitute, a little
like the difference between flat beer and fine old bourbon. Hindus
have known a finer product for centunes. Somewhere in the early
history of hemp, they set out to find something better than bhang.
Very carefully selected plants were cultivated and their tops
harvested. The quality and amount of the resin is much greater than in
bhang, and to this improved product the term gala was applied. The
word is known throughout the world, except in America where we seem to
be content with the second-rate bhang.
Ganja is so much better than bhang that its use became popular with
everyone except those who could only afford the cheaper product. It,
too, is made into an infusion, but more generally smoked; and it
enters into a lot of popular feminine sweetmeatsdelectable dainties
generally known as majun or maroon Ganja palaces sprang up in Calcutta
and Bombay, every bazaar sold
it, the government finally taxed it, and its use spread, westward. It
crept along both sides of the Mediterranean and ultimately reached
Paris, where, however, hashish (charas) was preferred by the coterie
of writers who first became articulate about hemp to the modern world.
Their reputation for excess and their ecstatic praise of hashish,
quite as much as modern American propaganda against marihuana,
inevitably led to anxious inquiry it into the "morals" of hemp.
Before attempting to answer the moral question, it is only fair to try
and understand the motives of those responsible for the present
perfection of hemp products. For centuries nearly every system of
Indian philosophy or religion is inextricably bound up with Indian
hemp. At least sixteen hundred years ago cultivated Hindus set out to
explore the emotional and fantastical properties of hemp. Nothing that
has happened since has improved upon those researches, although we do
know a little more about the chemistry of the various products. Their
object was to produce some flight Tom reality, less harmful than most
others, and to produce an eflect different from any other.
It is scarcely surprising that such a quest should arouse violent and
emotional thinking, especially in America. The worst possible
interpretation was heaped upon it by those who think of hemp only in
terms of "vice." one Pacific Coast publishing company went to town on
the subject. And even some men of science came perilously near to
substituting emotion for thought. Dr. Robert P. Walton's book on
marihuana has the first three chapters devoted only to this phase of
the long saga of hemp. To those who prefer to let judgment wait upon
evidence, let us attempt a dispassionate appraisal of the Indian hemp.
And because it will make that appraisal somewhat easier to follow, it
is well to recapitulate:
#Indian Hemp: Named Cannabis sativa by Linnaeus in 1753. A tall,
annual weedy herb; the male and female flowers on separate plants.
Stems of the male plants yield hemp. The resinous exudation from the
female flower clusters, and from the tops of female plants, yield
products below. The plant is often called simply hemp.
#Bhang: A decoction or a smoking mixture derived from the cut tops of
uncultivated female plants. The resin content is usually low.
Sometimes the word bhang is also a applied to these inferior plants.
#Marijuana: A Mexican-Spanish name for bhang. The term was originally
confined to Mexico, and is the only one used for Indian hemp in
America, except the vernacular of the streets.
#Ganja: A specially cultivated and harvested grade of the female
plants of Indian hemp. The tops are cut and used in making smoking
mixtures, beverages, and sweetmeats without extraction of the resin.
The plants grown for ganja} which was a licensed agricultural
industry in India, are those from which it is derived.
#Charas (also called churns or churrus): The pure, unadul terated
resin from the tops of the finest female plants of Indian hemp,
usually those grown for ganja. But in charas the resin is always
extracted. It is known to us only by the name of hashish, and from it
is derived the drug known as Cannabis indica.
There are hundreds of other terms for hemp, in all languages.
Pedantry could dig up scores from almost any reference book, but these
few are all that are necessary to discuss the question of addiction,
and of whether or not hemp is really dangerous; to determine whether
or not this undeniable assassin of care, gloom, and apprehension is
tied up with crime and vice.
Concerning the effects of no other plant is there such a mass of
written evidence, and the most important of this.originated with the
English. At Simla, in 1894, there was published the Report of the
Indian Hemp Drug Commission, in seven volumes comprising over 3,000
pages. This will probably always be the classic work on hemp. The
inquiry, which lasted nearly two years, was carried through with
typical British impartiality. They found teeming millions growing the
plants, smuggling of charas was rife, and the licensed dealers in
ganja were evading the tax. But far more important than these
administrative details, the commission, after meticulous examination
of eight hundred doctors, coolies, yogis, fakirs, heads of lunatic
asylums, bhang peasants, tax gatherers, smugglers, army officers, hemp
dealers, ganja palace operators, and the clergy, admitted three
1. Cohere is no evidence of any weight regarding mental and moral
injuries from the moderate use of these drugs.
2. Large numbers of practitioners of long experience have seen no
evidence of any connection between the moderate use of hemp drugs and
3. "Moderation does not lead to excess in hemp any more than it does
in alcohol. Regular, moderate use of ganja or bhang produces the same
effects as moderate and regular doses of whiskey. Excess is confined
to the idle and dissipated."
What the report didn't say, and what some Indians thought was the real
motive for the inquiry, was that the cost of hemp products, except
charas, was one-twentieth that of good Scotch whiskey, from which a
large tax revenue was derived. The commission's proposal to tax bhang
was, however, abandoned. Practically, it would amount to our attempts
to tax moonshiners if they were as common all over the country as they
are in the Tennesee mountains. One of the commissioners, invited by
the Englishmen to sit with them, a certain Oxford graduate, Raja Soshi
Sikhareswar Roy, objected to the proposed tax on grounds that would
raise only an incredulous smile at the U.S. Treasury. His argument was
that Moslem law and Hindu custom forbade "taxing anything that gave
pleasure to the poor. So do the Vedas."
More recent evidence on the effects of hemp has been collected by
Professor Walton. He concludes that "the development of any specific
fundamental organic change resulting from the chronic use of these
drugs has yet to be demonstrated."
That was written in 1938. Still more recent and a much more complete
study of the "marihuana problem was issued by the New York Academy of
Medicine at the request of the mayor of New York. That report, issued
in 1944, is an exhaustive study of the medical, sociological and
addiction problems of marihuana by a corps of experts. It is not
without significance that their conclusions are almost precisely
similar to those of the Indian Hemp Drug Commission issued fifty years
ago. The Academy's main points may be briefly summarized thus:
1. Smoking marihuana does not lead directly to mental or physical
2. The habitual smoker knows when to stop, as excessive doses reverse
its usually pleasant effects.
3. Marihuana does not lead to addiction (in the medical sense) and
while it is naturally habit forming, its withdrawal does not lead to
the horrible withdrawal symptoms of the opiates.
4. No deaths have ever been recorded that can be ascribed to
5. Marihuana is not a direct causal factor in sexual or criminal
6. Juvenile delinquency is not caused by marihuana smoking, although
they are sometimes associated.
7. "The publicity concerning the catastrophic effects of marijuana
smoking in New York is unfounded."
8. It is more of a nuisance than a menace.
Only a year before this, Colonel J. M. Phalen, editor of the Military
Surgeon, in response to frightened inquiries about our soldiers using
marihuana in Panama, headed his editorial, "The Marihuana Bugaboo." He
wrote, in part, "that the smoking of the leaves, I flowers and seeds
of Cannabis sativa is no more harmful than the smoking of tobacco or
mullein or sumac leaves." He then went on to warn the anxious that
"the legislation in relation to marihuana was ill-advised it branded
as a menace and a crime a matter of trivial importance."
The uproar over these two reports was prodigious. Harried feature
writers for the newspapers and magazines saw one of their most juicy
and lurid topics snatched away from them-if the Colonel and the
Academy were right. Gone were the linking of marihuana with sex
perversion, gang wars, rape, theft, murder, juvenile delinquency and
whatever sensational nonsense they could dream up. Even the staid
Journal of the American Medical Association hurled a few invectives at
the Academy warning that "Public Officials will do well to disregard
this unscientific study and continue to regard marihuana as a menace
wherever it is purveyed." We have done so ever since, and Mr.
Anslinger, former U. S. Commissioner of Narcotics, in his book, The
Traffic in Narcotics, issued in 1953, writes of the Academy's report,
"The Bureau immediately detected the
superficiality and hollowness of its findings and denounced it."
Where the error appears to lurk is that marihuana smoking by weak and
maladjusted youths is sometimes or even often associated with crime,
but not the cause of it. Mental and spiritual maladjustment, neurotic
or psychopathic individuals, poverty, over-crowding and the slum
conditions of Negroes and Puerto Ricans in Harlem provide an ideal
environment for nursing crime. And the Academy found that a large
proportion of marihuana smokers were Negroes or Puerto Ricans. They
also found that a lot of smokers were perfectly respectable
individuals who, through boredom, wanted to become "high," preferably
in one of their "tea-pads" which in some cases are reasonably innocent
if rather crude clubs. They almost never mix hard liquor with
marihuana as alcohol tends to destroy the effects of the drug.
As to being a sex-excitant, marihuana appears to be just the
reverse. These denizens of "tea-pads" appear to know this quite well.
If they had ever heard of Theophile Gautier, the most literate
hashish-eater in the world, they would heartily agree with his
statement, "A hashish-eater would not lift a finger for the most
beautiful maiden in Verona."
But the marihuana problem still plagues us. Reformers listen less to
unpalatable facts than to their inner |urge to justify their quite
often ignorant zeal. It is thus, in spite of the evidence, as
difficult to curb reformers as to pull up all hemp. They keep harking
back to the past, especially to Fitz Hugh Ludlow and Bayard Taylor.
"The Lullaby of Hell"
Fitz Hugh Ludlow, friend of Mark Twain, used hashish for years and
wrote a book about it. He there quotes the phrase which titles this
section. It was bequeathed to
him by a couple of fiends conjured up during one of his protracted
bouts of hashish-eating. Similar and more awful terrors are strewn
through the literature of hashish, from a Hindu who wrote in the first
century of our era to the effusions of Gautier, Baudelaire, Dumas, and
the clique that formed "Le Club des Hachichins" in Paris of the
1850's. Such distortions have little to do with the age-old moderate
use of hemp, for hashish is a dangerous drug to whose-excessive
addiction only the dissipated or debauched are devoted.
It is quite otherwise with bhang and ganja. Statistically, it might be
proved that the ganja-using Orient is not particularly crowded with
lunatics; in this country the much berated marihuana has not
noticeably filled our asylums. What hemp offers as a flight from
reality is best understood from those who use it. One of them, writing
very long ago, put the matter clearly:
To the Hindu the hemp plant is holy. A guardian lives in the bhang
leaf... To see in a dream the leaves, plant or water of bhang is
lucky... A longing for bhang foretells happiness...It cures dysentery
and sunstroke, clears phlegm, quickens digestion, sharpens appetite,
makes the tongue of the lisper plain, freshens the intellect, and
gives alertness to the body and gaity to the mind. Such are the useful
and needful ends for which in his goodness the Al-mighty made
bhang...It is inevitable that temperaments should be found to whom the
quickening spirit of bhang is the spirit of freedom and knowledge. In
the ecstasy of bhang the spark of the Eternal in man turns into light
the murkiness of matter... Bhang is the Joy-Giver, the Sky-Flier, the
Heavenly Guide, the Poor Man's Heaven, the Soother of Grief.... No god
or man is as good as the religious drinker of bhang. The students of
the scriptures at Benares are given it before they sit to study. At
Benares, Ujjain and other holy places, yogis, bairagis and sanyasis
take deep draughts of bhang that they may center their thoughts on the
Eternal... By the help of bhang ascetics pass days without food or
drink. The supporting power of bhang has brought many a Hindu family
safe through the miseries of famine. To forbid or even seriously to
restrict the use of so holy and gracious an herb as the hemp would
cause widespread suffering and annoyance and to large bands of
worshipped ascetics deep-seated anger. It would rob the people of a
solace in discomfort, of a cure in sickness, of a guardian whose
gracious protection saves them from the attacks of evil influences...
So grand a result, so tiny a sin.
A somewhat different interpretation, obviously more in harmony with
American marihuana reformers, is quoted by Oman. He cites a
missionary whose Christian zeal prompted him to write, "A great
number of Hindu Saints [sic] live in a perpetual state of
intoxication, and call this stupefaction, which arises from smoking
intoxicating herbs, fixing the mind on God."
To the modern man, perhaps disenchanted with the impact of reality,
such ecclesiastical quibbling merely befogs the issue. He may wonder
how four hundred million people can be wrong for such a long time.
It is, of course, impossible to describe a sensation if one has never
felt it, any more than one can be really lucid about the odor of a
perfume. But in spite of the essential futility of words, millions
have been written on the effects of hemp. From among those who have
used the plant, one of the better attempts at description is by Bayard
Taylor, the translator of Faust. Mostly in a spirit of inquiry and to
relieve his curiosity, he decided to try hashish. He wrote:
The sensations it then produced were those, physically, of exquisite
lightness and airiness-mentally of a wonderfully keen perception of
the ludicrous, in the most simple and familiar objects. During the
half-hour in which it lasted, I was at no time so far under its
control that I could not with the clearest perception, study the
changes through which I passed. I noted, with careful attention, the
fine sensations which spread throughout the whole tissue of my nervous
fibres, each thrill helping to divest my frame of its earthly and
material nature, till my substance appeared to me no grosser than the
vapors of the atmosphere, and while sitting in the calm of the
Egyptian twilight, I expected to be lifted up and carried away by the
first breeze that should ruffle the Nile. While this process was going
on, the objects by which I was surrounded assumed a strange and
whimsical expression... I was provoked into a long fit of laughter.
The hallucination died away as gradually as it came, leaving me
overcome with a soft and pleasant Is drowsiness, from which I sank
into a deep, refreshing sleep.
For ganja and bhang, too, the descriptions inevitably mention this
feeling of lightness and gaiety, of perfect consciousness during the
waking moments, and final sleep only when too much is used. Moderate
users of marihuana cordirm this.
W. B. O'Shaughnessy quotes a retiring young Scottish student who tried
hemp. 'He became like a rajah for three hours, talked as he never
had... about everything he never had or expected to have. It
terminated nearly as suddenly as it commence . and no headache,
sickness or other unpleasant symptoms followed."
All competent observers agree that this quality of bringing euphoric
happiness to the harassed is preeminent in hemp. Nothing else except
alcohol and perhaps the peyotl can approach it in this respect.
Some have charged hemp with being an aphrodisiac, but there is no
scientific warrant for this. It is quite true that certain ganja
smoking mixtures and some of the more delectable feminine sweetmeats
had other things added to them. But this stimulation of waning ardor
can scarcely be charged against hemp. Needled ganja is in precisely
the same category as cantharides, yohimbine, and the
not-too-well-disguised euphemisms of modern glandular therapy. The
plain fact seems to
be that pure ganja has the reverse effect, and is taken by Indian
priests to quell libido.
Bhang and ganja in the Old World, marihuana in the New, will never be
put down by all the propaganda against them, whether true or false.
Exhilaration of spirit, the flights of pure imagination, the feeling
of ascending as though one floated above reality, the freedom from
serious after-effects, and most of all the lack of permanent damage-it
is these that make the extermination of hemp seem quite hopeless, even
to those dedicated to that enterprise.
Prohibition or Realism?
Doubts do not deter those who feel that all aspects of hemp are
inherently wicked. No one can defend its wholesale and deplorable
abuse by thoughtless and excitement-craving schoolchildren, any more
than one can condone their abuse of tobacco and alcohol. But adult and
moderate use is just as intolerable to the true reformer. Yet one of
the more reasonable of these, Professor Walton, says that hemp "still
flourishes in every country in which it has once been established.
This is despite the fact that, in some of these countries, attempts
have been made for almost a thousand years to stamp out the practice."
In spite of this, hemp has been attacked hopefully by doctors, the
police, and hosts of self-appointed reformers. To an intelligent
Hindu, this seems the crudest of nonsense. Even the British government
authorities in India ended their report on hemp by saying, "It is
neither practicable nor desirable to depart from the traditional
policy of tolerating the moderate use of... ganja and bhang even for
non-medical purposes, whilst taking every possible measure to prevent
That was written a few years before the cohorts of American
weed-pullers really began to put on stearn. Now there are marihuana
laws in most states, with penalties ranging from heavy fines to ten
years in jail (Oregon). But those who wish to enjoy the plant react to
such laws as though they well knew the story of the Djoneina Garden in
Egypt. The Mohammedan ladies of that gorgeous pleasure retreat were
fond of growing hemp and feeding its products to their clientele. How
long this had been going on no one knew. But in 1402 there came a
reformer, and he ordered that all hemp must be rooted out of the
garden. To fortify the law he ordered that any damsel "caught with
ganja would be subjected to the extraction of her teeth." This seems
drastic enough, but the old chronicle relates, without comment, that
in a few years "the custom came back with renewed vigor."
If this is to be the fate of hemp in America, and all signs suggest
that it is, the solution is obvious. It is far better to be realistic
about it, as the British were in India, where ganja palaces were taxed
and ganja growers licensed. Then we could get rid of criminal
purveyors, spend no money for enforcement, tax the business, and so
avoid the worst excesses of Prohibition. Hemp would then, like tobacco
and alcohol, become another measure of character, not a cockpit of
Meanwhile, as the controversy rages, one likes to think of some
Mexican peon twanging a plaintive guitar up in the free doudless air
of his desert mountains. He will, likely as not, be singing of that
still more plaintive cockroach who wouldn't walk without ...
Guitar-playing boys on Mexican mountains do not offhand seem to have
much affinity with jazz leaders in any big city. But all authorities
agree that jam sessions and even more serious music are often spiked
by marihuana. Nor are other forms of creative art free of this taint
even movie stars. One of the best "box-office" men in the business has
served a jail term for the possession of marihuana-and he is still one
of the highest paid actors!
According to Mr. Anslinger, we are thoroughly reprehensible for not
shunning every movie in which he stars. In his The Traffic in
Narcotics, the former U.S. Commissioner of Narcotics wntes, "But,
consider how the public reacts respecting glamourous entertainment
characters who have been involved in the sordid details of a narcotic
case. Is there a spontaneous reaction which drives them out of the
show business as might have been done a generation ago? Not at all.
seems to be some sort of public approval of these degenerate
practices. The character is not ostracized. Instead he or she
immediately becomes a box-office headliner."
This was written long after the Federal Bureau of Narcotics boasted
that, cooperating with state and city authorities, there had been
destroyed a good many tons of marihuana. But the plant is still with
us for such zealous and continuing destruction of hemp has not stopped
marihuana smoking. In fact, the attempt at eradication has provoked
the derisive comments of those who think the British plan in India and
the report of the New York Academy of Medicine make more sense than
pulling up weeds.
One of the most percipient of these skeptics is Dr. Robert S. deRopp,
who, in his Drugs and the Mind, quotes the opinion of many "that
marihuana never hurt anybody and that the Narcotics Bureau would do
better to devote its time and energies to the control of the really
dangerous drugs, morphine, heroin and cocaine, instead of chasing
after a relatively innocuous weed."
While the United Nations Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, 1961,
does not, of course, condone the use of marihuana, it appears to
realize that its worldwide popularity will not make its eradication
either easy or speedy. On page 31 it says that "The use of Cannabis
(hemp) for other than medical and scientific purposes must be
discontinued as soon as possible, but in any
case within twenty-five years." That is a rather optimistic timetable,
matched against three thousand years of use by untold rnillions.
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