Editor’s Note: Today’s post comes from Thembisa Waetjen, professor of history at the University of Johannesburg, and is derived from her presentation at the Cannabis: Global Histories conference, which was held from April 19-20, 2018, at the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow. In it, she argues that international cannabis criminalization was, in part, the result of an appeal made by the South African government in 1923. But what lay behind that appeal? And what were its consequences, locally?
On 31 March last year, the Western Cape High Court of South Africa, in the case of Garreth Prince, ruled as constitutional the personal use of cannabis by an adult in a private dwelling, along with the possession, purchase or cultivation associated with such use. Reflecting liberalizing trends in other parts of the world, this outcome signaled a shift in South Africa’s punitive drugs policy.
Thembisa Waetjen presents at the Cannabis: Global Histories conference. Photo by Morgan Scott, Breathe Images
Jan Christiaan Smuts, 1919. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.
Many people don’t know that African countries, specifically Egypt and South Africa, played a crucial role in international cannabis criminalization in the early 20th century. In 1923, the office of Prime Minister Jan Christiaan Smuts requested that the League of Nations include Cannabis Sativa and Cannabis Indica on the list of ‘dangerous drugs’, to be regulated by global narcotics law. He explained:
“… from the point of view of the Union of South Africa, the most important of all the habit-forming drugs is Indian Hemp or ‘Dagga’.” 
What was the local story behind this appeal?
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Editor’s Note: Today we bring you a video of Chris Elcock discussing his work on the early years of cannabis legalization activism at the Cannabis: Global Histories conference held at the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, in April 2018. Enjoy!
Chris Elcock – Global Histories: Cannabis from Points ADHS on Vimeo.
Editor’s Note: Today’s post comes from Dr. Chris Elcock, an adjunct professor at the Université Jean Moulin Lyon 3 in Lyon, France. His dissertation on the history of LSD in New York City is currently being expanded into a monograph. Here, his post deals with the early days of cannabis activism in the 1960s, and expands on the work he presented at the Cannabis: Global Histories conference held from April 19-20, 2018, at the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow. Enjoy!
It’s only a matter of time before the United States fully legalizes cannabis use on a federal level. More than thirty states now authorize medical marijuana and a handful have decriminalized it altogether, creating a lucrative business in the process. For the most part, this has been the result of popular initiative.
Chris Elcock presents his work at the Cannabis: Global Histories conference at the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, on April 19, 2018. Photo by Morgan Scott, Breathe Images
The right to smoke pot not should be solely equated with the right to have fun, however. For many Americans, accessing marijuana for a variety of medical reasons seems like a fundamental right after decades of harsh penalties for possession of a plant that many Americans view as quite innocuous. Others believe that pot should be altogether decriminalized on libertarian grounds: the government should not tell them what they can and what they can’t put in their bodies. Still others think that states should remain sovereign and legislate on pot without the interference of the federal government.
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Editor’s Note: Want more history about cannabis eradication in the United States? Good news – Sarah Brady Siff was interviewed during the Cannabis: Global Histories conference, and the video is available below. Enjoy!
Sarah Brady Siff – Global Histories: Cannabis from Points ADHS on Vimeo.
Editor’s Note: Today’s post comes from Dr. Sarah Brady Siff, a visiting assistant professor of journalism at Miami University in Ohio. Siff’s post elaborates on the research she presented at the Cannabis: Global Histories conference held April 19-20, 2018, at the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow. Enjoy!
Recently, like so many others, I found myself searching on YouTube for reggae songs about cannabis. It did not take long to stumble across the age-restricted content of Marlon Asher’s “Ganja Farmer.” I feel I was able to understand this song much better because I participated in the recent conference Cannabis: Global Histories.
Sarah Brady Siff presents her work at the Cannabis: Global Histories conference at the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow. Photo by Morgan Scott, Breathe Images
Asher was raised Southern Baptist in Trinidad but converted to Rastafari, whose million-odd adherents smoke cannabis as a spiritual ritual. Originating in colonial Jamaica and said to be inspired by black nationalists such as Marcus Garvey, Rastafari is native to the Caribbean. The tropical climate there is ideal for the outdoor cultivation of cannabis, which Rastas call ganja. Thus the lyrics to “Ganja Farmer”’s refrain*:
Yes I’m a ganja planter
Call me di ganja farmer
Deep down inna di earth where me put di ganja
Babylon come and light it up on fire
Babylon refers literally to the ancient Middle Eastern kingdom under which the Jews were said to have been taken captive and to have suffered. Rastas often use it as a metaphor for oppressive Western institutions. In the first verse of “Ganja Farmer,” a helicopter appears “spitting fire” from the sky, and the farmer points out that the eradicators have waited to strike until after his long labors watering and fertilizing the crop. He fantasizes about using a rocket launcher to “dispense the helicopter” in mid-air.
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Editor’s Note: Did you hear? Yesterday, Canada’s Senate passed legislation legalizing recreational marijuana use for adults. Legalization will officially take place in October 17, 2018, in an effort to “take market share away from organized crime and protect the country’s youth,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said. Do you think Canada passed the law because they read Matthew DeCloedt’s post, published on Tuesday, about human rights arguments that advanced the passage of Canadian medical marijuana laws years before? Probably! Here’s more from DeCloedt in a video taken at the Cannabis: Global Histories conference, so you can hear the man himself explain his research and work. Enjoy!
Matthew DeCloedt – Global Histories: Cannabis from Points ADHS on Vimeo.
Editor’s Note: Today’s post comes from Matthew DeCloedt, a law student at Central European University and a participant in the Cannabis: Global Histories conference held from April 19-20, 2018, at the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow. DeCloedt brings a legal lens to the conversation surrounding medical marijuana in Canada, with a specific focus on human rights. Enjoy!
To understand how Canada went from limited access to cannabis for therapeutic purposes to the impending legalization of recreational pot, it is crucial to understand the impact of human rights discourse on the erosion of impediments to accessing medical cannabis.
From the early 2000s, Canadian courts were a crucial forum for taking issue with the federal government’s restrictive cannabis law and policy.
Section 7 of the Canada Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which gives “Everyone…the right to life, liberty and the security of person,” was the most important of the rights invoked by litigants.
The success and failure of human rights claims depended on Canadian litigants’ ability to convince the courts that the threat of criminal sanctions for possessing and cultivating cannabis for therapeutic purposes violated their right to life, liberty and security of person. In other words, they asked whether prohibition was a proportional response to the supposed harms of using cannabis?
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