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Hemp History

Hemp History
Read about the rich history of hemp and hemp products:

1854: One Of The First Americans To Write About Cannabis

John GreenleafAmong the first Americans to write about hashish was not a novelist or a physician, but a poet - John Greenleaf Whittier. In "The Haschish", a short poem in his Anti-Slavery Poems (1854), Whittier writes of hashish-induced hallucinations and muddled thinking, but it is improbable that he himself had experienced the effects of the drug at the time he wrote the poem. The point of the poem, in fact, was not to describe the effects of hashish at all.

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1857: Fitz Hugh Ludlow writes The Hasheesh Eater

Fitz Hugh LudlowFitz Hugh Ludlow, or Fitzhugh Ludlow, born September 11, 1836  was an American author, journalist, and explorer. Ludlow became well known  for his autobiographical book The Hasheesh Eater which was first published in 1857. The book was published when Ludlow was twenty-one years old. It described the author's altered states of consciousness and philosophical fantasy's while he was using a cannabis extract. It was a success, going through a few printings in a short time. Although Ludlow published both the book and his earlier article The Apocalypse of Hasheesh anonymously, he could take benefit of the book’s notoriety.

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1876: Hash Reaches America

From the 1860's through the early 1900's, World Fairs and International Expositions featured a Turkish Hashish Smoking exhibit and concession. This exotic foreign activity of smoking hashish was immensely popular with the American public, although extremely new:  it's effects came on quickly. However the smoking of hashish is about a third as potent as the oral ingestion of cannabis extract medicines that US pharmacies were used to distributing, completely legally at this time.

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1890: A cannabis tincture is prescribed to Queen Victoria

In 1890 Sir J. Russel Reynolds, neurologist and physician was the personel phycisian of Queen Victoria the monarch of the United Kingdom. Sir Russell Reynolds, prescribed a cannabis tincture for the menstrual cramps the Queen was suffering from.

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1914: US Congress Passes Harrison Narcotics Act

In the 1800s opiates and cocaine were mostly unregulated drugs. In the 1890s the Sears & Roebuck catalogue, which was distributed to millions of American homes, offered a syringe and a small amount of cocaine for $1.50.

The Harrison Narcotics Tax Act was a United States federal law that regulated and taxed the production, importation, and distribution of opiates. The act was proposed by Representative Francis Burton Harrison of New York and was approved on December 14, 1914.

"An Act To provide for the registration of, with collectors of internal revenue, and to impose a special tax on all persons who produce, import, manufacture, compound, deal in, dispense, sell, distribute, or give away opium or coca leaves
, their salts, derivatives, or preparations, and for other purposes." The courts interpreted this to mean that physicians could prescribe narcotics to patients in the course of normal treatment, but not for the treatment of addiction. In an effort to secure a tax revenue, and reduce the number of the American populace that were addicted to opium (Up to 1 in every 400 individuals [1]), the drafters of the Act  played on fears of “drug-crazed, sex-mad negroes” and made references to Negroes under the influence of drugs murdering whites, degenerate Mexicans smoking marijuana, and “Chinamen” seducing white women with drugs. [2]

Dr. Hamilton Wright, testified at a hearing for the Harrison Act. Wright alleged that drugs made blacks uncontrollable, gave them superhuman powers and caused them to rebel against white authority. Dr. Christopher Koch of the State Pharmacy Board of Pennsylvania testified that "Most of the attacks upon the white women of the South are the direct result of a cocaine-crazed Negro brain". [3]
The use of the word ‘narcotics’ in the title to describe not just opiates but also cocaine, began a pandemic of misclassification that made a lasting impression on the language we use when talking about drugs. Until 1914, no drugs other than opiates could legitimately be referred to as ‘narcotics’. The beginning of the war on drugs also began an era of misinformation.


[1] Edward Marshall: UNCLE SAM IS THE WORST DRUG FIEND IN THE WORLD, New York Times 1911

[2]"How did we get here?". The Economist. July 26 2001. www.economist.com

[3] Cockburn, Alexander; Jeffrey St. Clair (1998). Whiteout: The CIA, Drugs and the Press. Verso.