OPINION | John Dee | Hemp, History, Happy 4/20!
Dr John Dee is back and ready to party, as we look at 4/20, once again, only emerging from his haze of smoke long enough to write this article for you, the gentle reader.
Hemp. Before 1937, hemp was the world’s biggest, global crop, with a myriad of resourceful uses. It is an easily grow crop that could have been used, arguably, as an alternative to the petrochemical industry’s stranglehold on this planet, as well as a source for food, textiles and even clothes.
Hell, the first drafts of the American Constitution were written on paper made from the stuff! It was insidious and omnipresent at one time.
But, as theorised by the infamous handbook on all things marijuana related, The Emperor Wears No Clothes by Jack Herer, it was a crop that couldn’t be allowed to survive. Not when plastics were emerging from the self same petrochemical industry that stood to lose billions should hemp be allowed to carry on.
With the aid of William Randolph-Hearst’s newspaper empire (he himself had huge investments in timber; a direct competition to hemp) hemp – or rather marijuana and its THC content and side-effects – was demonised until, finally, the US government banned it. They’d lost the war on alcohol during prohibition, I assume they thought they’d win this one too.
Well, fast forward to the 21st century and even America – or rather some states such as Colorado – has been progressively, selectively lifting the ban on bud.
For those people, 4/20 and the day dope smokers around the world celebrate the ‘wicked weed’, it will be an open air affair; celebrating a lifestyle choice that, for those who do partake, will also be hailed as a miracle cure for all sorts of ailments.
Even the research in this field is still out on this one, with people picking and choosing their ‘alternative facts’ to suit whichever side of the argument they believe. And, this is not the place to go into that particular argument.
In Birmingham, however, it will be somewhat of a more clandestine affair, one imagines.
Smokers will spark up all around the city (and the suburbs; after all, a drug problem is only a problem when it hits the middle classes, right?) at 4:20pm on April 20th, wherever they are. Well, maybe not wherever they are, as some secret smokers will still be at work.
After all, your nose would have to be bunged up not to notice the skunky smell of weed wherever you go in Birmingham. I’ve never known a city that is so laid back and ‘open’ about their smoking habits, as noted in my previous mumblings on this subject.
“Your nose would have to be bunged up not to notice the skunky smell of weed wherever you go in Birmingham.”
Still, it would be nice to think it’s because the police may have better things to worry about as their public funding is depleted more and more each year. Maybe they should be going after the bankers that brought us to our knees? I don’t think it was dope that brought us us to this sad state of affairs. And, when we think of bankers, we don’t think of them doing Mary-Jane, now do we?
Still, I digress.
The undeniable fact is that people, old and young, rich or poor, will set aside some time this Thursday, for a puff or two. Or more. But, how many people actually know of the history of this plant?
Well, sit back, spark up and read on, as I speed through a very brief, potted history (geddit?) of Snoop-Doggy-Dog’s favourite appetizer, main meal, and dessert.
As a resource, then, and according to Herer, 90% of all sailing ships’ sails were made of hemp. Indeed, he records that the word ‘canvas’ is a derivative of the ancient Greek word Kannabis (a 6,000 year old word!), so you know it’s been around a while.
Hell, if Adam and Eve had taken a toke on a joint, maybe they’d have been too stoned to even bother with the Tree of Knowledge. Or, come to think about it, maybe that’s exactly why they took to eating it; they had a bad case of the munchies!
Hashish; a word itself deriving from a misunderstanding, as we learn from the travels of Marco Polo from Cathay (modern day China, to us colonialists) to Persia in the 13th century. Polo heard tell of a Muslim in a remote mountainous area, who partook in the drug before entering into bloody battle.
This group of elite warriors (imagine the SAS waking and baking before a military skirmish), allegedly, were called the Hashshashins, as led by Hasan ibn-Sabah, from which we received the word, ‘assassin’. By the late 18th century even Napoleon Bonaparte’s own expeditions into Egypt, had then acquire a taste of hash and subsequently bring it back to France.
“Hashish; a word itself deriving from a misunderstanding… as Marco Polo heard tell of a Muslim [Hasan ibn-Sabah] in a remote mountainous area, who partook in the drug before entering into bloody battle…”
A story repeated across the globe, including the Chinese labourers exporting it into America in the 19th century when they brought in to build the railroad infrastructure across the country. Chinese, you see, were cheaper labour than the recently freed slave communities.
Not for the first time was a country dependent on immigration to boost their standing. And, not for the first time would intolerance of immigration become a nasty side of society when these selfsame immigrant communities had served their purpose.
With both the UK and US governments having banned marijuana by the start of WWII, it may well come as a surprise to find that, secretly, these self-same governments in dire need of a cheap, renewable resources to help fuel the war machine turned to farmers across the land to grow it for them. Hemp, then, helped win the war!
Of course, here in the UK, as much as smokers dream of the day that marijuana is decriminalised, at least, with such a government as we currently have, it is just that: a smoke induced dream. And so, these people and their ‘reefer madness’ will celebrate annually in secret. Or, if you live here in Birmingham, quite openly really.
Whatever way you celebrate – if at all – do it sensibly?