HMJ Classics: Blind Elders 3 — British Empire

We go back in time for this third installment of “Blind Elders.”


The nation of India was called the crown jewel of the British Empire and referred to as “The Raj.” Ganja, or cannabis, is a part of the culture of India, and in time the British colonial overlords wondered if charas — hashish — was making the local population lazy. That might explain things. The Brits were always concerned about getting, at the minimum, a full days work out of each of their colonies. When the Brits took over India the trade in charas was already long established. The charas trade grew under British rule — taxes, you know.

In 1871 the British began an investigation into the place and role of cannabis in the native society. This study concluded that there was no proof that the use of cannabis caused insanity and no proof that using cannabis increased crime rates. Trying to ban the use of cannabis would only cause smuggling and tax evasion. The best way to reduce the use of the drug was to raise its retail price with taxes. This report did not make the anti-cannabis forces of the time happy.

In 1877 a second study was commissioned. It’s findings and results were essentially the same as the 1871 study.

Many of the administrators of the Raj were Indian nationals from the upper and middle classes of Indian society. Cannabis was associated with the lower classes, whom the drug, allegedly, was making lazy. Why can’t we get more work out of these people? The inadequate housing, bad hygiene and poor nutrition endemic in the Raj were considered irrelevant. Must be the charas that was the problem.

In 1891 the British Parliament took up the question of which was more dangerous – charas or opium. This study concluded that the 1871 study was correct and that cannabis was, while not desirable, in no way as dangerous and addictive as opium. By 1894 the official report on this study ran to seven volumes of 3500 pages. This study was non-partisan and objective and to this day is considered the most thorough official study of cannabis even conducted. Part of it’s final summary was:

“the moderate use of hemp drugs produced virtually no evil results and recommends against prohibition; to reduce use impose a hefty tax on cannabis”

No one listened, but you already knew that, didn’t you?

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Author: DavidB

a heathen, but hopefully not an unenlightened one

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