31 December 2012


Cannabis, family Cannabaceae; species: Cannabis indica, Cannabis ruderalia, and Cannabis sativa L., has been found on every continent in this hemisphere, it was used long before its first recorded uses. It’s safe to believe, that no historian knows which peoples were first to experience her treasures.

In every society where people discovered Cannabis hemp, they often discovered the five uses for hemp which include; hempen fibers, oil from the seeds, the seeds for food, a medicine, and for its narcotic properties. Cannabis use has existed for over ten thousand years, and is one of the oldest crops used for cultivation. It was cultivated in China as early as 4000 BC. Most cultures viewed hemp as a gift, or treasure, from the Divine Sprit, to be used during ceremonials, at which time it was either burned as incense, ingested for deep meditative and heighten awareness, smoked for pleasure, or worn for clothing during these ceremonies. Hemp has been mentioned in many important documents over its recorded history, The Zend-Avesta, a sacred book used by the peoples of India dating back to 600 BC, spoke of hemp’s intoxicating resin. The Chinese emperor and herbalist, Chen-Nung wrote about hemp’s medicinal uses 5000 years ago, his pharmacoepia recorded its effects on malaria, female disorders, and many other illnesses, hemp was referred to as, Ma-fen “hemp fruit”, said; “if taken in excess, will produce hallucinations”. The Anatomy of Melancholy, published in 1621 recommended hemp for depression. The New English Dispensatory, of 1764 suggested applying hemp roots to the skin for inflammation.

In Africa hemp was used for dysentery, and fevers, today some tribes use hemp to treat snake bites, and women smoke it before childbirth. During the seventeenth century peasants believed in the magical power of hemp, and practiced their traditions. On Saint John’s Eve, farmers would pick flowers from their hemp plants and feed them to their livestock to protect the animals from evil and sickness.

A western physician by the name of W.B. O’Shaughnessey published in 1839 of the benefits of cannabis for the treatment of rabies, rheumatism, epilepsy, and tetanus. He also reported that a tincture of hemp and alcohol taken orally was found an effective analgesic.

Henry VIII required the cultivation of one quarter acre of hemp for every sixty acres of land under tillage, for maritime purposes in England.

The British began cultivating hemp in its Canadian colonies in 1606, cultivation began for Virginia in 1611. The Pilgrims introduced cultivation to New England as early as 1632, they learned about the cultivation of hemp from the Native Americans people.

Hemp Equals Freedom In The New World

Hemp was already in the new world when the first European colonist arrived, thought to have been introduced from China by explorers, migrating birds from across the Bering Strait, or possibly drifting shipwrecks.

It is reported that the colonist were not eager to grow hemp, however the European motherland wanted hemp, and cultivation was deemed mandatory. The Puritans at Jamestown grew hemp, as part of their contract with the Virginia Company. Jean Talon at the order of France Quebec colony minister, confiscated all thread the colonist possessed and forced them to buy it back from him with hemp. Talon supplied the seeds to farmers, which had to be reimbursed after hemp crops were harvested. Mandatory cultivation of hemp continued throughout the New World, the General Court in 1637 at Hartford Connecticut, and the Massachusetts courts in 1639 ordered all families to plant one teaspoon of hemp seed. “that we might in time have supply of linen cloth among ourselves.” Several colonies passed legal tender laws, hemp was so valued it was used to pay taxes.

Until 1776 many colonies passed laws to encourage farmers to produce hemp, Virginia designed laws to compel farmers, fining those who did not comply. Lobbyist were hired to promote, and education the public about the importance of hemp. Books were published that wanted to establish hemp as America’s trademark product.

Colonies under the crown, were banned from spinning and weaving hemp, this fostered dependence to England, which was demanding raw materials from the colonies as a way to increase its labor forces. The exported fibers, were then bought back as finished products from England. As the market was flooded with hemp, immigrant weavers from Ireland arrived in Massachusetts, setting up shop and passing their skills to the peasantry. What may have seem a small movement, grew into self-sufficiency from the British Crown, to the extent of a boycott of English fabric products. These were some of the conditions which lead into the War of Independence from the British. The American paper industry was born of hemp, linen, and cotton rags which provided writing materials throughout the war, essential for communication.

In 1777, Edward Antil wrote in his introduction of Observations on the Raising and Dressing of Hemp, “hemp is one of the most profitable productions the earth furnishes in northern climates; as it employs a great number of poor people in a very advantageous manner, if its manufacture is carried on properly: It … becomes worthy of the serious attention … of every trading man, who truly loves his country.”

The Importance Of Hemp And The War Efforts

In preparation of war, mandatory cultivation laws were passed, and colonist increased their production of hemp, for paper and clothes. Colonist were convinced to take up arms, as they read pamphlets published on hemp paper. Thomas Paine in 1776 encouraged colonist to fight for freedom with Common Sense he writes “in almost every article of defense we abound. Hemp flourishes even to rankness, so that we need not want cordage.”

The founding fathers of this nation George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were both promoters of hemp, as noted in their farm diaries spoke of their experiences as hemp farmers. Throughout Washington’s farm diary he spoke about the quality of seeds, always taking care to sow seeds in best areas on his farm. He documented the importance’s of cultivating seeds at the proper time taking care to pull the male plants from the females. In 1790’s Washington began cultivating “Indian hemp” which he said produced the best quality of plant, and noted its superior quality to common hemp mostly grown during that time. Both Washington and Jefferson disliked tobacco, and on occasion they would exchange gifts of a smoking mixtures, Washington reportedly enjoyed smoking hemp flowers, however there is no hard evidence.

Jefferson, was also a promoter of hemp, and during his tenure as Governor of Virginia he kept reserves of hemp, and in May of 1781 used hemp as currency when money from the government was in short supply.

Jefferson believed hemp to be a superior crop to tobacco, which he said exhausted the soil, used to much manure, provided no nourishment for cattle. Hemp on the other hand “was of the first necessity to commerce and marine, in other words to the wealth and protection of the country.” Around 1815 Jefferson received the first US patent for his hemp breaking machine, which reportedly did the work of ten men.

Kentucky was a large supplier of hemp, primarily because the soil would not sustain a grain crop. In 1792 its legislature levied a tax of twenty dollars per ton on imported hemp, this worked to Kentucky’s advantage and by 1850 domestic hemp crops increased and the amount of imported hemp dramatically decreased.

Hemp Production In The 19th and 20th Centuries

The belief that hemp was one of the most important crops to the common wealth, continued throughout the 19th century. As production increased, more states like Illinois, California, and Nebraska began to grow hemp, with more domestic hemp available, creative ideas for hemp use increased. In 1841, Congress ordered the Navy to buy domestic hemp, and in 1843 they appropriated fifty thousand dollars to purchase American hemp.

Hemp Production was a hard and tedious process, its production was always relegated to the slaves in this countries. After the Civil War when labor was no longer free, there was a great decline in the domestic cultivation of hemp. In 1861 G.F. Schaffer of New York patented the Hemp Dresser, used to prepare hemp for manufacturing. After Schaffer invention, many improvements to his machine followed.

By the early 20th century, industrialization, lead to inventions, of machines that would do the work of many, this was caused by the abolition of slavery. One of the most important inventions to the hemp industry was the Decorticator machine, it was hailed as the invention to revolutionize the hemp industry. In an article from Popular Mechanics magazine dated February 1938 spoke of hemp as a cash crop soon to be worth a billion dollars. [See the Popular Mechanics article “New Billion Dollar Crop.”]

Unfortunately its praises came one year to late, the passage of the Marihuana Tax Act HR 6385 was enacted, this required a $100 transfer tax on the sale of marihuana. The issue for those in opposition of this tax related to the underhanded manner in which this tax was enacted. Those thought to gain the most were Hearst who owned large timber holdings which feed the paper industry. DuPont who dominated the petrochemical market, which manufactured plastics, paints, and other products of fossil fuels and the Secretary of the Treasury and owner of Gulf oil Andrew Mellon who pushed legislation through congress giving tax breaks to oil companies. The Conspiracy was against hemp, it threaten certain vested financial and industrial interest especially those in the paper and petrochemical industries.

Through the Hearst newspaper chains racist propaganda messages were abound, it was Hearst that coined the phase “Marihuana Madness” this was related to Mexicans, African Americans, and jazz musicians, use of marihuana said to caused excessive sex, and violence, and threatened the safety of white women and children. Following this campaign against hemp it was not long before the complete prohibition of hemp was enacted.

As history continues so does this chapter.

Hat tip to GlobalHemp.com for this excellent article.

Truth Theory

06 December 2012

A Guide to Cannabis Law in Australia

"Marijuana Use Most Rampant in Australia,” read a New York Times headline in January 2012. Cannabis – marijuana, weed, pot, hash; whichever other name you prefer – remains the most widely used illicit substance in Australia today by a big margin. Approximately 1.9 million Australians aged 14 years and over have used cannabis at least once during the past year; more than a quarter of a million smoke cannabis every day, according to data compiled by the National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre (NCPIC). Keep in mind, too, that these figures were taken as part of the 2010 National Drug Strategy Household Survey; plenty more users were either unaccounted for, or chose to lie about their drug usage, so the true figures are probably even higher. This reality can be viewed one of two ways, depending on your personal politics.
Either: it’s great that so many Australians enjoy the occasional puff, as its illegality is an arbitrary hangover from conservative generations past, and its negative effects are significantly less serious than those incurred by alcohol abuse or tobacco addiction.
Or: it’s outrageous that so many Australians smoke up, as cannabis is a devil weed whose availability should be pushed further underground lest its psychological and subversive effects further corrupt otherwise sensible citizens.

Illicit drug use is not a topic that attracts moderate views. Weaned on the powerful moralising of media sensationalism, political cowardice, and harsh words from the police force, many Australians are raised to believe that drugs are bad; the province of losers and law-breakers.
Progressive views are slowly prevailing across the Western world, though, as many realise that the Nixon-led ‘war on drugs’ – which celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2011 – did very little to break the cycle of power, violence and addiction that has forever plagued illicit drug culture. (For a succinct primer on the topic, my brother Stuart McMillen recently published a 40-page comic, ‘War On Drugs’, which outlines why drug prohibition hasn’t worked.)

Immediately following the 2012 Presidential Election results in November, cannabis users worldwide rejoiced at the surprising news that two states in the war-on-drugs heartland, Colorado and Washington, had voted to legalise recreational use under state law. Colorado users will be able to grow up to six plants; in Washington, users will buy from state-licensed providers, and the sale of cannabis will be taxed and regulated, much the same as alcohol and tobacco already is. If you’re over 21, the drug will be legal to sell, smoke and carry – as long as you don’t drive while high.
Australian pot smokers wondered whether they might see a similar decision – if not soon, then at least in their lifetimes. TheVine snooped around on your behalf, with a view to determine Australia’s current cannabis laws on a state-by-state basis and look to its future legal status.
Dr Alex Wodak, president of the Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation, points out that Australian states don't have ballot initiatives like the one that led to the recent weed votes; in fact, most US states don't. “Australia will not see ballot initiatives on taxing and regulating cannabis like Colorado and Washington states,” Wodak tells TheVine. “Our cannabis reforms started in the 1980s in South Australia. We have had two decades of creeping liberalisation of our cannabis laws at the state/territory level. I think this process will accelerate now, but that it will still take a couple of decades before Australia taxes and regulates cannabis in all states and territories.”
Legal weed in Australia? “It's now inevitable,” continues Wodak. “There are so many contradictions and issues undermining cannabis prohibition. Sooner or later, the bosses of one or the other major [political] parties will realise that it is in their interest to get there first. But all social policy reform is slow.”
To illustrate, Wodak points out that 2012 is the 40th anniversary of South Australia becoming the first state to begin reducing the emphasis on the criminal law in relation to homosexuality. Jailing someone on the basis of the sexuality is a social policy that looks completely abhorrent and archaic nowadays. “I might be wrong,” he says, “but I think taxing and regulating cannabis will be slow to happen in Australia, and we will first go through many stages of watering down our criminal laws.” 
So what is the current state of Australia’s cannabis possession laws? The answers might surprise you. AsThe New York Times put it earlier in 2012: “The prevalence of marijuana use in Australia is widely accepted, if not openly condoned, and at least three states have moved to decriminalise the possession of small quantities for personal use.”
Decriminalised: Australian Capital Territory, Northern Territory and South Australia. Make no mistake, cannabis possession is still illegal in these three states and territories – like it is in the rest of the country – yet adults caught with a ‘small amount’ of pot will have the option to pay a fine or attend a drug assessment program rather than receiving a criminal conviction.
Source: National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre
The definition of ‘small amount’ varies wildly: in South Australia, the first state to decriminalise minor cannabis offences in 1987, a first-time offender can be found carrying up to 100 grams of plant material, 20 grams of resin, or one (non-hydroponic) cannabis plant, and pay a maximum fine of $150. In the ACT, a ‘small amount’ is up to 25 grams of plant material or two plants, for which you’ll receive a $100 fine. Northern Territory cannabis users can be found with up to 50 grams of plant, 10 grams of resin, 1 gram of oil, 10 grams of seed or 2 plants. The fine is $200. All of these states have a time limit on ‘expiating’, or paying the fine, from 28 to 60 days. If you fail to pay, you may be charged for a criminal offence.

Criminalised: Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania and Western Australia. Cannabis possession in these five states will attract a criminal offence if found guilty. For first-time offenders holding a ‘small amount’ – there’s that phrase again – conviction is unlikely, due to the states’ fondness for education- and treatment-focused ‘diversion programs’, which aim to keep non-violent drug offenders out of prison. (Worth noting: this is the exact opposite of what’s been dubbed the United States’ ‘prison industrial complex’, which was largely born out of Nixon’s ‘war on drugs’.)
The NCPIC points out that police officers are asked to use their professional judgement when deciding whether to ‘divert’ or charge those in possession of pot. This decision might come down to something as simple as your demeanour or attitude upon being stopped by the police.
Put simply: don’t be a dick to cops, because it won’t do you any good. Be polite and courteous, just like your parents taught you, and you’ll likely come out with a caution and/or a date to attend a diversion program. Sure, they’ll confiscate your stash, but that’s a better outcome than being handcuffed.
(To dwell on this point for a moment, it’s well worth reading American author Tucker Max’s detailed guide to dealing with police.  It’s written for an American audience, but many of his points are universal. Key takeaway: “People have this notion that cops have a strict, iron-clad set of legal guidelines they must follow in every circumstance; that’s preposterous. They have a HUGE amount of discretion at the scene. If you didn’t do anything serious and the cop thinks you are a citizen because you treated him with respect and deferred to his power, he has the ability to give you every benefit of the doubt – and most times he will, if for no other reason than to avoid all the monotonous paperwork.”)
Source: National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre
As with the decriminalised states, ‘small amounts’ vary: up to 10 grams of cannabis in Western Australia, 15 grams in New South Wales, and 50 grams in Tasmania, Victoria and Queensland. Offenders may also be cautioned multiple times in some states; three times in ten years for Tasmanians, though only once in QLD and WA. Queensland police must offer diversion to minor cannabis offenders; this is a point of difference from other state police officers, who use their own judgement as to whether or not to offer diversion or to charge the offender. (Worth noting for TheVine’s younger readers: those aged under 18 years are ineligible for the state drug diversion programs, as are those with history of drug offences.)
For more detailed information concerning all of the intricacies surrounding cannabis possession in Australia, the NCPIC has a detailed and up-to-date fact-sheet on their website.
Trafficable quantities of cannabis vary state-by-state, too. Northern Territory has the lowest threshold for cannabis leaf, at 50 grams; in SA and WA, it’s 100 grams; 250g in Victoria; 300g in ACT and NSW; 500g in Queensland, and a whopping 1000g (1kg) in Tasmania.
The number of plants required to constitute a potential trafficking offence range from five (in NSW and NT) to 20 in Tasmania; the remaining states require ten plants, though in Queensland it’s measured in terms of aggregate weight up to 500 grams; theoretically, this could include a hundred cannabis plants weighing five grams each. Oil and resin quantities vary; see the below table, taken from a 2010 report compiled by theDrug Policy Modelling Program at UNSW.
Source: UNSW Drug Policy Modelling Program, 2010
How many Australians are actually charged with cannabis possession and/or trafficking? The numbers are on the rise: according to the Australian Crime Commission (ACC)’s 2010-11 illicit drug data report, cannabis arrests accounted for over two-thirds of illicit drug related arrests in Australia.
 “The number of national cannabis arrests are currently the highest reported in the last decade, increasing from 57,170 in 2009–10, to 58,760 in 2010–11,” the report notes. “‘Consumer’ (as opposed to ‘provider’) arrests accounted for 87 per cent of national cannabis arrests in 2010–11. Cannabis is the main illicit drug seized in Australia, accounting for 72% of the total number and 58% of the total weight of national illicit drug seizures in 2010–11.” Despite the increase in seizures, the overall weight of seized cannabis decreased slightly, from 5,989 kilograms in 2009–10 to 5,452 kilograms in 2010–11 – see the below graph for comparison. (The ACC report also includes a state-by-state breakdown of arrests and seizures; in 2010-11, Queensland topped both.)

Image source: ACC illicit drug data report 2010-11
Clearly, Australians love smoking weed. It's been estimated that the turnover of the Australian cannabis industry is about twice the size of our wine industry. (The estimate was made by University of Western Australia economists Kenneth W Clements and Mert Daryal, in their 1999 paper The Economics of Marijuana Consumption)
“Cannabis wouldn't be used by almost two million Australians every year if they didn’t think there were some benefits for them in using the drug,” says Dr Alex Wodak. “No one is putting a gun to their head. I assume they like getting relaxed and comfortable, and like getting that way with cannabis. It isn't harmless, but the harms are minimal compared to (legal) alcohol and tobacco.” Tobacco accounts for 7.8% of the nation’s disease burden; alcohol for 2.3%, all illicit drugs for 2% and cannabis accounts for 0.2% (ie. one tenth of all illicit drugs). These figures are quoted from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s 2003 report on burden of disease and injury.
According to Wodak, most of the drug’s adverse health consequences are wilfully talked up to help maintain cannabis prohibition. “Yet we ignore the very harmful effects of cannabis prohibition,” he continues. “Its cost (no-one knows); its ineffectiveness (of Australian drug users in 2011, 94% found hydro cannabis and 76% found bush cannabis ‘easy’ or ‘very easy’ to obtain); its tendency to corrupt large numbers of police and who-knows-what other public officials); and the damage it does to so-called ‘cannabis offenders’ (harm to personal relationships, jobs, travel, accommodation, and so on).”    
Despite the work of organisations such as the Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation, legal cannabis in Australia remains out of reach for the time being. Though it’s decriminalised in three states, it’s still a long way from regulation a la Colorado and Washington.
“It will be very interesting to watch what happens in Washington State and Colorado,” says Dr Monica Barratt of the National Drug Research Institute (NDRI). “Their experiences will help shape our understanding of the consequences of moving from prohibition to regulation, and how different countries can optimise the system so it produces less overall harm.” Barratt says that the NDRI is working toward the latter aim through its anonymous survey of cannabis growers, ‘World Wide Weed’; Fairfax Media, publisher of TheVine.com.au, is also currently co-sponsoring a Global Drug Survey.
 “The next questions for Colorado and Washington State are: what will the US federal government do about this, and how will the new laws be implemented?” says Barratt. “If other states in the US also take this action, and especially if the federal US administration changes their approach to cannabis, then I think it is more likely that Australian law may change in the long term. Conversely, if the federal US administration remains firm on cannabis prohibition, I doubt Australia would move. In the short term, I don’t expect any cannabis law reforms supported federally, as I see us living in a fairly conservative era on these issues.”
Disclaimer: this article is provided for educational purposes only. None of the information here is intended to be taken as legal advice applicable to your location or situation. If in doubt, call a lawyer, not TheVine.

6 December 2012