The Hidden History of Cannabis

The Hidden History of Cannabis

Chris Rice (2018)

Film Review

This documentary traces the medical, textile and spiritual use of cannabis from its first discovery in ancient China. It’s use for 100 different medical conditions is listed in the first Chinese “materia medica” in 2,800 BC. Archeological evidence suggests it was in wide use for cloth, paper and rope for centuries before that. It has long been one of the 50 herbal remedies used in traditional Chinese medicine.

Archeologists believe that Caucasus tribes known as Aryans spread cannabis use to India and Persia along primitive trade routes that pre-dated the Silk Road. In India it was used in Hindu sects devoted to Shiva, in Buddhism and Sikhism. According to legend, Siddhartha Gautama (Buddha) subsisted on cannabis alone for six years prior to his enlightenment.

In 500 BC, when the Persian empire (Iran) extended from the Indian border to Egypt, it played an essential role in Zororastianism. There is also good evidence Egyptians used it for medicinal purposes 700 years prior to their conquest by Persia (in  552 BC).

Following the unsuccessful Persian attack on Greece (in 492 BC), Greek physicians began using it to treat a variety of medical conditions. Both Pythagoras and Socrates refer to its mind enhancing properties. Cannabis would make its way to Rome by way of Greece.

Use of Cannabis in Judaism and Christianity

Rice also traces how Kaneh Bosm (which English Biblical scholars have mistranslated “calamus”) was used extensively along with frankincense and other psychoactive herbs to anoint ancient Jewish priests. Christ (which means “the anointed one”) used similar holy oils to anoint his twelve disciples. Some scholars believe Kaneh Bosm may have played a role in his healing miracles – due to its medicinal properties. Early gnostic gospels, which were banned by Emperor Constantine in 325 AD, cover the subject far more extensively than the New Testament.

Cannabis was also widely used by Muslim physicians, Sufi sects and by assassins (derived from the word hashish) of the secret 11th century Islamic sect Nizari Ismailis.

Cannabis Spreads to Europe and the New World

Cannabis cultivation spread from Rome to northern Europe via Germanic tribes who used the seeds as a food source. Prior to the conquest of the Americas, Europeans used it mainly as a source of fiber. When the New World tobacco trade made pipe smoking popular in Europe, a growing middle class also began smoking cannabis and opium.

Queen Elizabeth initiated the legal requirement that the North American colonies grow hemp to help supply the British Navy with rope and sails. Shakespeare, James Madison and James Monroe all smoked it, and Washington used it for toothache.

During the 18th century, it became widely available in various patent medicines – until the American Medical Association began a state-by-state campaign to ban it. Its ready availability and effectiveness for pain relief  posed a major threat to the fledgling medical profession.

The advent of alcohol Prohibition in 1919, caused a surge in the use of cannabis, which was still legal surged.

The Corporate Conspiracy to Suppress Hemp Production

In 1936, a corporate conspiracy to suppress hemp production in favor of wood fiber and synthetic fibers (see The Politics of Hemp) would lead to the controversial 1936 Marijuana Tax Act.

Psychodelic guru Timothy O’Leary would initiate the first legal challenge to the Act, leading a federal court to overturn it in 1969. Nixon’s response was to ban cannabis altogether, under the 1970 Controlled Substances Act.

 

 

The History of Medical Marijuana Research

A Life of Its Own: The Truth About Medical Marijuana

Helen Kapalos (2016)

Film Review

A Life of Its Own profiles the parents movement behind the 2016 Australian law allowing doctors to legally prescribe marijuana for their patients. The grassroots movement began with a policeman and his wife who obtained black market cannabis (on a doctor’s advice) to treat their son for severe side effects of cancer chemotherapy. It came to include dozens of other parents who had to break the law to treat children with intractable epilepsy and other severe disabilities.

Cannabis has been used to treat a variety of medical conditions for over 5,000 years. American doctors first used cannabis resin to treat children’s seizures in 1841. In the 1930s, shortly before the paper, plastics and petroleum industry conspired to have hemp (and cannabis) taxed out of existence (see The Politics of Hemp), US doctors wrote more than 3 million prescriptions for cannabis tincture for a variety of conditions.

There are few (roughly 100) randomized controlled trials of marijuana’s effectiveness as a medical treatment. This relates partly to strict laws in most countries prohibiting the cultivation of cannabis and partly to the unwillingness of the pharmaceutical industry to fund medical marijuana research.

I was very surprised to learn that most of this research occurs in Israel, funded by US foundations. The world pioneer of marijuana research is Raphael Mechoulom, professor of medicinal chemistry. Mechoulom, who first began studying the medical effects of cannabis in the 1960s, was the first to identify tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), its main therapeutic ingredients. In addition to identifying the presence of CBD1 receptors in the brain and CBD2 receptors in the immune system, he has also developed dozens of cannabis strains specific for different illnesses.

Israel has conducted the largest number of cannabis trials in the world, involving 20,000 patients at four hospitals. In addition to epilepsy, conditions studied include Parkinsonism, Tourette’s, multiple sclerosis, chronic pain, PTSD and terminal cancer.

Richard Heinberg: How Fast Can We Transition to Renewable Energy?

Our Renewable Future

Richard Heinberg (2016)

In this 2016 presentation, Richard Heinberg talks about his new book (with David Fridley) Our Renewable Future. Both the book and talk focus mainly on the ease with which renewable energy can replace fossil fuels in our current industrial economy. He argues the transition is essential, not only to reduce the impact of catastrophic climate change and ocean acidification, but to address growing global economic and political instability (ie resource wars in the Middle East over dwindling oil and natural gas reserves).

  • Electric power generation – coal and gas-fired power plants are fairly easy to replace with wind and/or solar generation. However Heinberg also argues that homes need to be made more efficient (in terms of heating and cooling) to reduce peak load demand. Renewable technologies are not good at ramping up at short notice. We have had the technical know-how for decades to produce buildings requiring 1/20th of the energy we presently use to heat them. Up until now, we have lacked the political will to change local building codes accordingly.
  • Personal transportation – Heinberg argues that electric cars aren’t a panacea. Because they are so energy intensive to produce, only fairly wealthy people will be able to afford them. He feels there needs to be more focus on increasing public transport and adapting our communities to facilitate active transport, such as walking and cycling.
  • Mass transit – he strongly advocates increased use of rail, by far the most efficient form of transit for both people and freight. For transcontinental travel, high speed trains are much more energy efficient than air travel and are easily electrified.
  • Shipping – ocean freighters are already quite energy efficient compared to air transport. Using kite sails to propel them can reduce their energy consumption by 60%
  • Food production – at present we expend 12 fossil fuel calories for every calorie of food produce. In additions to our chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides (all derived from fossil fuels), we also use fossil fuels in food processing and packaging, to run farm machinery and to transport food halfway around the world. The transition in food production has already begun, with strong organic and buy local movements worldwide. Heinberg also supports the growing movement to use sustainable agriculture to sequester carbon ((carbon farming, aka the 4 per 1,000 initiative – see The Soil Solution to Climate Change).
  • Construction – most of our commercial buildings are made of concrete and steel, which both require intensive fossil fuel input in production. Here he recommends a transition to recycled and more natural building materials and a conscious effort to design buildings to human scale. The splurge in high rise construction of the 20th century was only possible due to a glut of cheap fossil fuel.
  • Manufacturing – most manufacturing has already been electrified.
  • Consumer electronics – Heinberg argues we need to make Smartphones more easily upgradable – enabling each of us to purchase one per lifetime. The pressure to replace Smartphones every year is deliberate “planned obsolescence” to increase profits.
  • Plastics, paint, synthetics – natural ingredients (hemp can be used for all three) tends to be cheaper, more durable and less harmful to the environment.

Work Sucks: The Case for Quitting Your Job

The Great Everything and the Nothing

The Oumun Group (2016)

Film Review

The Great Everything and the Nothing is a semi-satirical documentary elucidating the philosophy of the Oomun Group. The latter is a loosely knit organization in the UK which advocates the formation of a new society devoid of the corrupting influence of government and money. The film is cleverly constructed by interspersing clips of group members doing random interviews on the street with those of Prince Charles, John Lennon, Ricky Gervais and other comic figures.

The video is divided into 5 parts:

Part 1 is the trailer.

Part 2 asks why human beings have created a system causing “shitloads” of unnecessary suffering. It proceeds to propose an alternative system based on self-governance.

Part 3 outlines the various crises (debt, climate, energy, food, etc) that presently confront humankind. The first half of Part 3 is excerpted from the film Money as Debt and explains how private banks create money out of thin air (ends at 13:00).

Part 4 focuses on the food and energy crises, exploring various technological innovations that could potentially resolve these crises in a society unfettered by government or money.  Specific innovations include aeroponic food production, distributed energy and the use of hemp and cannabis to replace timber, plastics, paper, leather and the poisons used in cancer chemotherapy.

Part 5 advances the premise that politicians who make war and torture people are mentally ill and should be required to undergo psychiatric treatment (in a secure facility where they can’t hurt anyone). The filmmakers believe all human beings are capable of “grotesque” actions of this nature. They also maintain that people are soft wired for engagement, belonging and attachment, needs which are easily manipulated to create phony empathy based on religion and nationalism. They assert this systematic manipulation has created a “veil” between us and reality that allows us to accept barbarism such as war, homelessness and malnutrition.

This final section also explains how the Ouman Group proposes for our current society to transition to one based on self government. Above all, they advocate for people to quit jobs that suck to actively explore other ways of meeting their basic needs (eg squatting and producing their own food and water).

The Politics of Hemp

3-types-cannabis2

The farm bill Obama signed in February 2014 included an amendment to legalize industrial hemp production for research purposes. The amendment allows State Agriculture Departments, colleges and universities to grow hemp (defined as the non-drug oilseed and fiber varieties of Cannabis) for academic or agricultural research purposes. However it only applies only to states where industrial hemp farming is already legal under state law.

As of September 15, 2014, nineteen states had passed laws to provide for hemp pilot studies and/or for production as described by the Farm Bill stipulations.

Six states (Colorado, Oregon, Washington, Vermont, Tennessee and South Carolina) have gone even further, with legislation nullifying the longstanding federal ban on hemp cultivation. All six states allow farmers to produce hemp for the commercial market.  A year ago, the Obama Justice Department quietly signaled that they wouldn’t prosecute marijuana use in states that had legalized the drug for recreational and/or medical use. Thus far the same hands-off policy seems to apply to states that have legalized hemp production.

The Fiber Modern Synthetics  Replaced

Hemp cultivation is big business. Even though it hasn’t been grown in the United States for decades, America is one of the fastest-growing hemp markets.  In 2011, the U.S. imported $11.5 million worth of legal hemp products (mainly from China), up from $1.4 million in 2000. With the recent anti-smoking movement and declining tobacco exports, hemp is high on the list replacement crops for tobacco farmers.

Industrial hemp is one of the most versatile plants known to man. Hemp fiber is used in the production of paper, textiles, rope, sails, clothing, plastics, insulation, dry wall, fiber board and other construction materials; while hempseed oil is used as a lubricant and base for paints and varnishes, as well as in cooking and beauty products.

Hemp: Proven Alternative to Petroleum-Based Synthetics

hemp

Hemp-based paper, textiles, rope, construction materials and plastics are the tried and true low tech alternative to modern synthetics that consume large quantities of fossil fuel during manufacture. Prior to the industrial revolution, the vast majority of textiles, clothing, canvas (the Dutch word for cannabis), rope and paper was made of hemp.

Before the invention of the cotton gin in the 1820s, 80% of the world’s textiles, fabrics, and clothing were made of hemp. During the nineteenth century, hemp was the main ingredient of 75% of the world’s paper. Until the US government passed a crippling hemp tax in 1937, most bank notes and archival papers were made of hemp (owing to its greater durability) and most paints and varnishes were made from hemp seed oil.

The Conspiracy to Kill Hemp

Hemp first began losing ground in 1850 to cheaper substitutes made of cotton, jute and sisal. Prior to 1917, hemp had to be processed by hand, involving huge labor costs incompatible with mass commercial production. After George W Schlicten automated hemp processing in 1917 with a new machine called the hemp decorticator, Henry Ford set up the first biomass fuel production plant in Iron Mountain Michigan. His intention was to run his Model T on hemp-based ethanol.

ford_quote_about_use_of_hemp_product_smart_marijuana_use

All this was happening at the precise moment that the munitions company DuPont was patenting synthetic fibers (nylon, rayon, Dacron, etc) and plastics derived from petroleum. Hemp posed a major threat to DuPont’s ability to market these synthetic fibers for fabrics, rope and other products because hemp was so cheap and readily available. The chemical giant also had a commercial interest in replacing hemp-based paper with paper produced from wood chips (they held the patent on the sulfates and sulfites used to produce paper pulp) and in replacing ethanol with gasoline as the major fuel source in automobiles (they held the patent on tetraethyl lead, which allowed gasoline to burn more smoothly in the internal combustion engine Ford designed to run on ethanol).

The main co-conspirators in the plot to kill hemp included DuPont, William Randolph Hearst (who owned a logging company and a paper manufacturing plant) and Andrew Mellon, president of Mellon Bank and DuPont’s major financier.

In 1930, Mellon, as US Secretary of the Treasury, created the Federal Bureau of Narcotics and appointed his nephew Henry Anslinger to run it. Between 1935 and 1937, Anslinger and a handful of DuPont’s cronies in Congress secretly wrote a bill to tax hemp production.

Meanwhile Anslinger and Hearst orchestrated a massive media campaign demonizing a dangerous new drug called marihuana that supposedly turned Mexicans and black jazz musicians into crazed killers. Anslinger and his cronies rushed through the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 on a Friday afternoon before any lawmakers had a chance to read it. Only a handful realized the crippling effect the new law, which would also tax hemp, would have on the hemp industry.

In 1970 the 1937 Marihuana Tax Act was declared unconstitutional and replaced with the Controlled Substances Act. The latter official equated hemp with the drug marijuana (even though they come from very different plants*) and enacted an official prohibition against hemp cultivation.


*Industrial hemp (Cannabis sativa, variety sativa) is a tall, skinny plant with few major branches below the primary branches at the top. It has seven long thin leaflets and is grown in rows a foot apart. It produces good quality fiber and has a tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) concentration of 1% or less. Marijuana plants (Cannabis sativa, variety indica), in contrast, are short and bushy and must be spaced six feet apart for optimum growth. They have five leaflets, with three of them nearly twice the width of hemp leaflets. They produce negligible usable fiber and have a THC concentration of 4-20%. See image above.

photo credit: arbyreed via photopin cc

Also posted at Veterans Today

The Global Hemp Renaissance

John and Charles

Taranaki hemp farmer John Earney with organic enthusiast HRH Prince Charles

Where the people lead, the leaders will follow – Ghandi

Nothing honors Ghandi’s vision more stunningly than the citizens movement to legalize marijuana and industrial hemp. At the time former Congressman Ron Paul introduced his 2011 Industrial Hemp Farming Act Bill, five states (North Dakota, Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine, Oregon, California, Montana, West Virginia and Vermont) had enacted laws authorizing industrial hemp cultivation. Without Obama’s support, the bill died in committee. Fast forward to November 2012, when Colorado voters passed Amendment 64 to legalize hemp cultivation.Last week the Denver Post reported on the Colorado farmer who made history by harvesting the first commercial hemp crop in the US in 56 years.

Growing industrial hemp is still illegal under the 1970 federal Controlled Substances Act. The law makes no sense whatsoever – scientifically, environmentally, or economically. First the hemp plant contains no psychoactive substances. Although genetically related to marijuana, hemp contains only trace amounts of THC, the compound that gets weed users high. Secondly hemp-based paper, textiles, rope, construction materials and even plastics are the tried and true low tech alternative to modern synthetics based on fossil fuels. Thirdly the US is the world’s largest importer of hemp (from Canada and China), for use in construction, clothing, paper, rope, pressed oil, and cooking.

Given Obama’s response back in August to the 34 states that have decriminalized marijuana use, he’s not expected to go after Colorado hemp farmers. On August 29, 2013, the president notified 94 US attorneys that states with recreational and medical marijuana (and hemp) laws can now let people use it, grow it under license, and purchase it from retail facilities — so long as possession by minors is prohibited and it doesn’t end up on federal property or in the hands of gangs and criminal enterprises.
New Zealand’s Hemp Renaissance 

In New Zealand, hemp cultivation has been legal, under license, since 2006. We have two hemp farms here in Taranaki. I presently serve as secretary of the Douglas farm, run by John Earney, owner of Avonstour Rare Breeds organic farm.

It’s the goal of New Plymouth businessman Greg Flavall to create the word’s first hemp industrial village here in Taranaki. It would center around a $500,000 hemp processing facility that would use a decorticator and process hemp from all over New Zealand. Flavell envisions hemp as a major export industry to meet growing world demand. Once the long fibers are extracted, the rest of the plant can be used for pressed oil, flour, animal bedding, garden mulch, paper making, and food.

Greg Flavell – www.hemptechnologies.co.nz

Flavall, co-founder of Hemp Technologies, is a builder specialized in constructing homes made of hempcrete – a hemp-lime compound that is a carbon-neutral thermal insulator, as well as being non-toxic, waterproof, fireproof and insect and mold resistant.

Hemp’s 12,000 Year History

Hemp, first used in 10,000 BC Taiwan, is one of the most versatile plants known to man. Hemp fiber is used in the production of paper, textiles, rope, sails, clothing, plastics, insulation, dry wall, fiber board, and other construction materials; while hempseed oil is used as a lubricant and base for paints and varnishes, as well as in cooking and beauty products. Hemp is also carbon neutral. Hemp-based paper, textiles, rope, construction materials, and even plastics are the tried and true low tech alternative to modern synthetics based on fossil fuels.

At the time of the industrial revolution, most textiles, clothing, canvas (the Dutch word for cannabis), rope, and paper were made from hemp. It was only with the industrial revolution and the proliferation of machinery run on cheap fossil fuels that more sophisticated alternatives, such as cotton, wood-based paper, and eventually petroleum-based plastics became cheaper alternatives. Before the cotton gin was invented in the 1820s, 80% of the world’s textiles, fabrics, and clothing were made of hemp. By 1883, hemp was still the primary source of 75% of the world’s paper. Up until 1937, when the US government passed a crippling hemp tax, most bank notes and archival papers were made of hemp (owing to its greater durability) and most paints and varnishes were made from hempseed oil.

Hemp has always been such a vital community resource that a long series of laws, dating back to Henry VIII (1535) required farmers to grow hemp or be fined. In 1619 Jamestown Virginia enacted a law requiring residents to plant hemp. Massachusetts and Connecticut passed similar laws in 1631 and 1632. Betsy Ross’s flag was made of hemp. The Declaration and Independence and Emancipation Proclamation are printed on it.

Henry Ford Grew Hemp

Hemp first began losing ground in 1850 to cheaper substitutes made of cotton, jute, sisal, and petroleum. Prior to the 1920s, hemp had to be processed by hand, involving huge labor costs incompatible with mass commercial production. Henry Ford, one of the first modern conservationists, remained a strong hemp advocate and had his own hemp plantation on his estate in Dearborn Michigan. After George W Schlicten automated hemp processing in 1917 with a new machine called the hemp decorticator, Ford set up the first biomass fuel production plant in Iron Mountain, Michigan. Ford ran the first Model T on corn-based ethanol (alcohol), but was quick to recognize hemp as a cheaper and more efficient fuel source. His engineers in Iron Mountain developed processes to extract ethanol from hemp, as well as charcoal and other industrial chemicals, including tar, ethyl acetate and creosote.

The Corporate Conspiracy to End Hemp Cultivation

All this was happening at the precise moment that the munitions company DuPont was patenting synthetic fibers (nylon, rayon, Dacron, etc) and plastics derived from petroleum. Schlicten’s hemp decoricator and automated hemp processing, posed a major threat to DuPont’s ability to market their new synthetic fibers. DuPont also had a commercial interest in promoting wood-based paper production (they held the patent on the sulfates and sulfites used to produce paper pulp and gasoline). As well as the patent on tetraethyl lead, which allowed gasoline to burn more smoothly in the engine Ford intended to run on ethanol.

The main co-conspirators in the plot to kill hemp included DuPont, William Randolph Hearst (who owned a logging company and paper manufacturing plant in addition to his American newspaper empire), and Andrew Mellon, president of Mellon Bank and DuPont’s major financier. In 1930, Mellon, as US Secretary of the Treasury, created the Federal Bureau of Narcotics and appointed his nephew Henry Anslinger to run it. Between 1935 and 1937, Anslinger and a handful of DuPont’s congressional cronies secretly wrote a bill to tax hemp production. Meanwhile Anslinger and Hearst orchestrated a massive media campaign demonizing a dangerous new drug called marihuana that supposedly turned Mexicans and black jazz musicians into crazed killers. Congress was deliberately tricked into believing marihuana was a totally new drug. The Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 was rushed through on a Friday afternoon before lawmakers had a chance to read it. Only a handful realized marihuana was the same as hemp, which was still viewed as an essential crop and vital to the paint and varnish industry.

Overseas Bans on Hemp Cultivation

Strongly influenced by DuPont, Mellon, and Hearst, in 1925 the League of Nations passed the Geneva International Convention on Narcotics Control. The British passed a law outlawing marijuana and hemp cultivation the same year. New Zealand banned it in 1927 under the Dangerous Drugs Act.

Flavell, a dual citizen,  operates an American subsidiary of Hemp Technologies (http://www.hemp-technologies.com/) out of North Carolina. They build permitted hemp homes across the US, as well as holding workshops on the technical processes involved.

Originally published at The Fifth Estate and Veterans Today