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The history of the international struggle to ban hemp

As the war against drugs led to the paralysis of an entire industry in the agriculture of the USSR.

The police of North Carolina are burning marijuana, 1942. Photo of the Everett Historical Museum

In the beginning there was a word. And then they drove the other nishtyaks, including hemp.

The issue of legalization or decriminalization of marijuana is increasingly being reconsidered in the world. Somewhere they make positive decisions, and somewhere infinitely argue. Since the beginning of the war against cannabis, just over 80 years have passed, but the history of this struggle still leaves questions.

Before the mass prohibition of the plant, it was actively used in many industries. So active that in 1619 in Virginia issued a law that obliged each farmer to grow hemp. This was the first legal act associated with this plant. In the Russian Empire was about the same decree of Piotr I from 1715 “Decree on the expansion of crops of flax and hemp”

Hemp has become so popular that in the 1930s Henry Ford worked on a car made of hemp plastic (hemp – a coarse fiber obtained from the stems of cannabis). Fuel for the car was to serve hemp bio-diesel.

It’s me in my plastic car from grass, seasoned with grass, food after grass, 1935

We will not talk about how hemp was used from the earliest times, when the feet of dinosaurs trampled the earth. Compare it with alcohol and draw conclusions too, we will not. Let’s talk about the history of the ban and the phased legal regulation of this plant.

We will fasten the imaginary belts and go to the past. But first:

The lesson of botany and semantics

In order to understand the terms and freely use them in the article, we sit at the desks and conduct a lesson. Cannabis, marijuana and hemp are the names of a single plant from the hemp family. The active substance is THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol).

Where THC is less than 1% is called cannabis, since it is considered technical and does not detract from it. The word “marijuana” has many versions of the appearance, but a new life it acquired during the bans, when this plant had a persistent association with the Mexicans. It differs from cannabis in that it has a high percentage of psychoactive substances. Cannabis is several species of the hemp family that have TGKs in their composition and are used in medicine. So: hemp is an agricultural crop and a plant as a whole. Cannabis is for medical purposes. Marijuana – for recreation (Recreation is a complex of health-improving measures, carried out with the purpose of restoring the normal state of health and working capacity of a healthy but tired person). We go further.

Light raid stories

Most often, hemp was used in industry, and its recreational properties became popular only in the middle of the 20th century. In the industry dried parts of the plant were used, as they had long and strong fibers, which were used in the production of clothes, ropes and sails.

In addition, cannabis was used in medicine as an ingredient in medicines, and from 1850 to 1942 it was on the list of US medicines. The cannabis extract was prescribed for migraines, asthma, rheumatism, loss of appetite, as an anesthetic, with nausea, physical exhaustion and so on.

During this period, the cannabis extract was sold in each pharmacy and was actively used as an intoxicant, not a medicine. By 1850, the production of cannabis in the US reached a record 40,000 tons per year. And then everything changed.

The first bells to ban

The use of marijuana for recreational purposes began in the late 19th century. This event had its own prerequisites.

Medicine of the past differed from modern. A popular medicine for all diseases is heroin (from the word Heroic – “heroic”) together with his partner morphine “took out” the situation with the diseases as they could. Namely, they provoked an unconscious dependence. By that time, about 5% of the US population became dependent.

In 1906, the US formed the FDA (Food and Drug Administration – Office for Sanitary Supervision of Food and Drug Administration). Its main goal is to control the quality of drugs and prevent the spread of drug addiction. Soon the FDA passed the law “Pure Food and Drugs” – it did not carry any prohibitions on drugs, but required to indicate the composition of medicines. Before that, the composition of the sleeping pill could include 60% alcohol, 20% opium and 20% cannabis. Licensing also did not exist.

There are several versions of the reasons for banning cannabis. About them in order.

How the war in Mexico hit the market of cannabis in the US

In 1910, a civil war broke out in Mexico , which soon evolved into a major revolution. A huge number of immigrants jumped in the US: they were hired by farmers who were engaged in the cultivation of cannabis for industrial purposes. From their homeland, they brought not only new plant varieties, but also a consumption culture – Mexicans lived poorly and used marijuana for recreational purposes. Meanwhile, the number of crimes related to immigrants was growing, and the government attributed this to the intoxicating effects of cannabinoids.

From this moment, a phased restriction began. The first was Massachusetts in 1911, then California, New York, Wyoming and so on. By 1931, 29 US states had introduced a law restricting the spread of the hemp family. At the same time, the Federal Bureau for Drug Control, led by Garry Anslinger, was preparing a large-scale bill on tax liability for cannabis.

Harry Jacob Anslinger already had experience in such matters. Prior to joining the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, he successfully demonstrated himself as a fighter with alcohol. After the abrogation of the dry law, he headed the Federal Bureau of Narcotics in 1930 and took up marijuana.

Lyrical digression
Harry Anslinger, Photo CBS News
Harry Anslinger, Photo CBS News

The rapid growth of unemployed Americans during the Great Depression led to the fact that the townspeople had to compete with immigrants from Mexico. Unlike the natives of the United States, they were willing to work for less. Gradually, the reputation of the Mexicans deteriorated, as they were constantly using marijuana after a day in the field – for them it was a cheap analog of alcohol.

Paper wars

As stated earlier, the employees of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics were not hanging in the cafeteria with donuts, but were preparing a new law. In the warm summer August day of 1937, the US Congress passed the Law on the marijuana tax .

The legal act prohibited the storage and transportation of plants throughout the United States. The only exception was the use of cannabis for medical and industrial purposes, but not everything is so simple. The law introduced various tax rates for importers and producers of cannabis, as well as for medical and research institutions. Added bureaucratic red tape in the form of maintaining various journals and documents. Non-observance of the law and non-payment of taxes led to fines and imprisonment.

A note on the payment of marijuana tax

The first against the law were medical institutions: it affected doctors, pharmacists and manufacturers of medical hemp. The protests of medical institutions turned out to be pointless, and soon the use of cannabis in the composition of medicines went into decline, and then ceased altogether.

How did the authorities manage to push this law?

The law was promoted by Harry Anslinger, director of the Federal Bureau for Drug Control. To begin with, he operated on dubious research on marijuana – questionable, because at that time there was almost nothing known about the actions of marijuana and its effect on the body. Some sources report that Harry Anslinger addressed 30 scientists with the question of the harm of cannabinoids. Of these, 29 opposed the ban, and one agreed with Harry. The point of view of this scientist also became the “voice of science” at the hearings in the US Congress.

In the autumn of 1933, in the small town of Tampa in the state of Florida, Victor Licata brutally killed his family with an ax. The police found him in his house, curled up in an armchair: he was muttering something about his relatives’ attempt to dismember him. The tragedy could remain only in the memory of the town and not be widely publicized, except for the Anglinger campaign against marijuana.

The director of the government department found out that Likata was using marijuana and stated that drugs and became the cause of anger and atrocity of men. Already after the adoption of the law it was found out that Likata was suffering from schizophrenia, but since this was a completely new disease, this fact was not given importance.

Assistant Anslingera acted and media tycoon William Randolph Herest. He owned a newspaper empire and used it to promote articles that linked crime and marijuana use.

William Randolph Herest
William Randolph Herest

How are newspapers and drugs related?

Good question. In addition to the newspaper business, William Hurst owned a huge amount of land on which there was a forest. He used it to make paper, and paper from wood was required to bleach. Meanwhile, the first industrial decorticator of Spiechten was launched in the US market .

Decortication of cannabis has created a new cheap replacement for wood pulp for paper production. Alternative raw materials could reduce, and, perhaps, completely knock out of the industrial rows of wood as the main element of the paper industry. Gradually decortication of cannabis went into decline after the introduction of the tax on marijuana and became economically unprofitable.

Decoration (cleaning from the bark) is a mechanical method of separating the bark of a plant from stems without preliminary lining. Can be used for the production of cardboard, paper or fiber, or for subsequent fiber extraction by cooking.

Thanks Encyclopedia

Chemistry against eco-products

Since 1802, the chemical company DuPont has been operating in the United States , which began as a powder plant, then the creator of dynamite, military toxic agents, and later chemical, psychotropic and nuclear weapons. The company participated in many developments of everyday things, including polyethylene, nylon and Teflon. In the future, DuPont will revolutionize the female world by releasing nylon stockings, but so far this has been hindered.

The opening of the sale of stockings was accompanied by a 12-meter leg in the stocking, but I was distracted. Let's continue on cannabis
The opening of the sale of stockings was accompanied by a 12-meter leg in the stocking, but I was distracted. Let’s continue on cannabis

In the 1930s DuPont intensively developed nylon yarns and industrial paper bleaches. However, the main problem of entering the market was the cannabis market, which occupied millions of hectares. She made clothes, paper, ropes and much more from her.

DuPont joined William Hirst, who needed chemicals to whiten the paper. Since then, hemp has only been called marijuana, and the press has written about its harmful effects on the body and harm to society, and not as a useful agricultural crop.

Newspaper headlines replicated the link between crimes and the effects of marijuana, serving as a form of “evidence” of its negative effect on the human psyche when the bill was heard in the US Congress in 1937.

As a result, the law was adopted. And then canceled.

In 1969, a psychologist, a psychedelic researcher and a guy who recorded his death on video, and later Celestis sent some of the ashes to Earth’s orbit, Timothy Leary was arrested on the US-Mexico border. In his car they found some marijuana, which, under US law, he had to register with the tax authorities and pay a tax. The court and the appellate court found him guilty, but Liri rested. After filing a lawsuit in the US Supreme Court, he won the case and secured the cancellation of the marijuana tax law.

Timothy Leary. Photos of River City Reunion

In his defense, Liri referred to the Fifth Amendment of the US Constitution , which states that no one is obliged to testify against himself. The detainee explained this by the fact that the appeal to the tax authorities with the purchased hemp before the submission of documents is proof of guilt in violation of the current law on marijuana tax. Thus, he argued that, according to the requirements of the law, he needed to testify against himself, registering and paying the tax for the marijuana he had acquired earlier.

The court sided with the Constitution and Congress abolished the marijuana tax law, and Timothy Leary was acquitted. It seemed that he won the battle, but did not win the war. Instead of the marijuana tax law , the authorities passed a law that included a section on controlled substances that housed amendments to ban marijuana

And we are worse?

Agitation poster, 1930

At the end of the 19th century, the Russian Empire was actively engaged in the cultivation of cannabis, and later the USSR inherited this agricultural culture. According to the Encyclopedia of Brockhaus and Efron, the European part of Russia produced 140 thousand tons of hemp (hard fibers from hemp), which accounted for about 40% of the production of hemp raw materials from the whole volume of Europe. By 1936 plantings of plants occupied 680 thousand hectares, and with each year their volume increased.

There is a version that restrictions on the export of raw materials from cannabis at the international level were necessary to weaken the economic power of the USSR. Targetedly or not, this was facilitated by US authorities, after which the USSR began to surrender positions and revenues from the export of raw materials from cannabis fell.

Fountain “Friendship of Peoples” at VDNKh forever imprinted the role of cannabis in the agricultural industry of the USSR, neighboring with wheat and sunflowers

In 1960, the final ban on plants in the USSR was completed. In the criminal code there were articles prohibiting the acquisition, storage and sowing of cannabis. Prior to that, it was in the public domain and it was hardly used for recreational purposes. Over time, the authorities completely banned the cultivation of all varieties of cannabis, although the cultivation of the plant was carried out in large volumes.

Unlike the United States, a variety of cannabis was produced in the USSR, containing a minimum amount of THC. The Institute of Bast Crops in the city of Glukhov together with Professor Grigoriy Senchenko brought out a grade with a THC content of not more than 0.1%. These varieties received a worldwide calling and even affected the cancellation of the ban on cannabis cultivation in Canada, but not with us. The hemp industry gradually collapsed, then the USSR collapsed and bureaucratic red tape prevented the assimilation of this plant in the homeland.

Typical reward

Gradually, the development of the hemp industry was on the decline. In the USSR, hemp fields occupied up to 800,000 hectares, and in modern Russia in 2000, only 12,000 hectares. Leadership was taken by China, France, Chile and other countries.

international experience

About the United States and Russia remembered, and now briefly about the international ban, which mainly dealt with exports.

In 1925, the first ban on cannabis at the international level occurred in the framework of the opium convention of 1912. The ban included the use of Indian hemp (indicator) in areas not related to medicine, industry and science. Basically, the restrictions apply to crude tar (charas) – this is the substance obtained from the upper parts of the female cannabis plant. In other words, it is the substance from which hashish is made. They were never used for medical purposes – only for intoxication and religious rites, and therefore they were prohibited. India was indignant, but to no avail.

The main lobbyist for amendments related to cannabis was the United States. In 1961, the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs came to replace the opium convention .

What now?

In Russia there is a list of varieties entered in the State Register of Selection Achievements , and they can be grown. However, the law says that this applies only to cannabis varieties without narcotic substances, although any hemp contains them, even in minimal quantities. Because of this, the planting area can be destroyed without warning, and the owner is punished. In court it is not difficult to prove one’s rightness, but the time spent can not be returned.

According to Valerian Serkov, head of the cannabis breeding laboratory of the Penza NIISK, current cannabis crops often fall under the police’s attention.

Crops of technical hemp are often the focus of attention of law enforcement agencies, which, guided by the results of a qualitative analysis of departmental experts, suggest destroying crops, as in plants TGC is found. Modern methods of analytical chemistry are so sensitive that they detect THC even in the stems and roots of cannabis, which are never used by anyone as a raw material for obtaining THC or for narcotization.

Valerian Serkov
Head of the Laboratory of Selection of Cannabis Penza NIISHH

It is difficult to determine how much modern society requires cannabis, because it missed a large layer of technological development. It is not known how profitable this raw material is in modern realities, but its popularity is growing every year.

Now in different parts of the world legalize and decriminalize hemp as a medical product or for recreational purposes. Meanwhile, for the use of marijuana for recreational purposes, the punishment menu in Russia is quite wide. Starting from administrative punishments and up to the prison.

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