Editor’s Note: This is the second installment in our new Hidden Figures of Drug History series, with more to come in the future. Next week Points will feature more exciting news about drug and alcohol history in the media, as well as a great recap of LSD use in New York City in the 1960s. Enjoy this post and come back next week for more!
There are few subjects I like writing about more than the National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse’s 1972 report, “Marihuana: A Signal of Misunderstanding.” Also known as the Shafer Commission, the group’s report enlivened my book Grass Roots, and I’ve continued to mine it for material on how we can understand the Trump administration’s response to the opioid overdose epidemic today.
But there’s something of particular interest for those who want to understand the role gender has long played in American drug history within this report as well. And that’s a name that appears within the list of the commission’s thirteen members, nine of whom were appointed by President Richard Nixon, and four of whom were senators and members of Congress.
And that name is Mrs. Joan Ganz Cooney.
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Editor’s Note: Discussing the history he wrote about in Tuesday’s post, “From Calcutta in 1890 to Canada Today: Exercises in Cannabis Legalization,” Peter Hynd explores more on this topic in a video taken at the Cannabis: Global Histories conference, held at the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, from April 19-20, 2018. Video by Morgan Scott, Breathe Images. Enjoy!
Editor’s Note: Today’s post comes from Peter Hynd, a PhD candidate in history at McGill University in Quebec, based on the paper he presented at the Cannabis: Global Histories conference held at the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, on April 19-20, 2018. In it, he explores how Calcutta legalized the sale of cannabis in the 19th century, and shows how the Indian government sought to implement legalization in the most effective (and profitable) way. Enjoy!
Imagine strolling up to a licensed cannabis shop and purchasing a few grams of the finest Government stamped and sealed ganja, no questions asked.
In your mind, where are you? Denver, Colorado in 2015? Montreal, Quebec, later this year?
How about Calcutta in 1890?
Although probably not the time or place you associate with government licensed cannabis shops, during the second half of the nineteenth century the colonial government of Bengal (modern day Bangladesh and West Bengal, India) regulated and taxed the sale of cannabis drugs in a manner that appears remarkably similar to many present day models and proposals.
Peter Hynd 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
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Editor’s Note: We hope you enjoyed Thembisa Waetjen’s article that we published on Tuesday on how cannabis, or dagga in local parlance, became a “drug” in South Africa. Today you can see Prof. Waetjen discuss her work at the Cannabis: Global Histories conference. Enjoy!
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’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.