Indian Hemp Drugs Commission (1893-94) 100th Anniv
Published on 06/13/04 at 00:47:30 MST by Dan
NATIONAL ORGANIZATION FOR THE REFORM OF MARIJUANA LAWS (NORML) 1001 CONNECTICUT AVENUE NW * SUITE 1010 * WASHINGTON, D.C. 20036 PHONE 202-483-5500 * FAX 202-483-0057 * E-MAIL NATLNORML@AOL.COM
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First Large-Scale Marijuana Commission Report Turns 100 Years Old CONTACT: Tod Mikuriya, M.D., marijuana researcher/historian...................... ......510-843-0279 Matthew Atha, M.Sc., British drug abuse research consultant............. 011-44-942-522-946 Mike Goodman, Release (British anti-prohibition organization) director.. 011-44-71-729-5255 Lester Grinspoon, M.D., Harvard Medical School professor................ ......617-277-3621 Eric Sterling, Criminal Justice Policy Foundation president............. ......202-835-9075
November 1, 1994, marks the 100th anniversary of the Report of the Indian Hemp Drugs Commission (1893-94). This 3,281-page British government-commissioned report on marijuana consumption in India was the first large-scale study of the marijuana phenomenon. The commission's purpose was to discover the actual effects of marijuana consumption on individuals and society and to determine the most appropriate governmental response. (Marijuana was legal at the time.) The study was perhaps the most extensive marijuana fact-finding mission to date. Evidence was collected from more than 1,000 witnesses, including medical officers, missionaries, and cultivators. The study was unique in another regard as a pre-prohibition study, the effects of the drug were not confounded by the subjects' involvement with a criminal subculture. The conclusions in no way justify the current War Against Marijuana Consumers. The report's conclusions included the following: * Physical, Mental, and Moral Effects -- "[T]he moderate use of these drugs is the rule, and ... excessive use is comparatively exceptional. The moderate use produces practically no ill effects. In all but the most exceptional cases, the injury from habitual moderate use is not appreciable. The excessive use may certainly be accepted as very injurious, though it must be admitted that in many excessive consumers the injury is not dearly marked." [Volume I, page 264, emphasis added.] * Societal Effects -- "[E]ven the excessive consumer of hemp drugs is ordinarily inoffensive. ... [F]or all practical purposes it may be laid down that there is little or no connection between the use of hemp drugs and crime. The injury done by the excessive use is ... confined almost exclusively to the consumer himself; the effect on society is rarely appreciable. ... [Facts] combine to show most clearly how little injury society has hitherto sustained from hemp drugs." [Volume I, page 264,emphasis added.] * Policy Recommendations -- "Total prohibition ... is neither necessary nor expedient. ... The policy advocated is one of control and restriction, aimed at suppressing the excessive use and restraining the moderate use within due limits." To these ends, the commission recommended taxationand licensing.
Interestingly, the commission also warned of the possibility that prohibition may lead to the consumption of harder drugs, specifically by "driving the consumers to have recourse to other stimulants or narcotics which may be more deleterious." [Volume I, page 360, emphasis added.] Sadly, this prediction has come true, as Marijuana Prohibition has indeed increased hard drug abuse.
Significance of the Anniversary PAGE 2 OF 2
"The centennial of the Indian Hemp Drugs Commission Report is an occasion to seriously re-examine contemporary marijuana policy," explains Dr. Tod Mikuriya* "The conclusions reached predate by 100 years what we now consider to be model harm-reduction policies." Indeed, every major commission study of the past 100 years has also made recommendations against the complete prohibition of marijuana. Examples include: The Panama Canal Zone Military Investigations (1916-1929); Mayor's Committee on Marihuana, The Marihuana Problem in the City of New York ("The LaGuardia Report," 1944); and National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse, Marihuana: A Signal of Misunderstanding ("Nixon-Shafer Report," 1972). Nevertheless, governments around the world have consistently ignored the wisdom of the report and have instead opted for the counterproductive policy of Marijuana Prohibition. Ironically, another major commission study is set to commence next year. The recently enacted federal crime bill establishes a commission to be known as the "National Commission on Crime Control and Prevention." One of its task forces shall evaluate current drug control policies and make recommendations regarding necessary improvements. [Congressional Record, Sunday, August 21, 1994, pages H8851-H8852.] NORML believes that it is time for society to stop ignoring the evidence. According to NORML National Director Richard Cowan, "The centennial of this report reminds us of two very important points: (1) Marijuana has not always been illegal. This is a 20th century aberration like its contemporary -- communism. (2) When marijuana is freely available, as it is in Holland today, there will be benefits to society -- not just to marijuana consumers -- while prohibition costs everyone." Matthew Atha, M.Sc., a British drug abuse research and information consultant, expressed a similar frustration. "Governments should start looking at the facts rather than exploiting emotions and myths," he said. It is noteworthy that even the British government continues to ignore its own report. "Regrettably, the government is not prepared to take action to stop the criminalization of millions of British cannabis smokers," said Mike Goodman, director of Release (the 27-year-old British anti-prohibition organization).
Medicinal Marijuana Implications ... The Indian Hemp report also concluded: "[T]he occasional use of hemp in moderate doses may be beneficial; but this use may be regarded as medicinal in character." [Volume I, page 264.] Yet one hundred years later, the U.S. government rigidly adheres to its policy of arresting patients who use marijuana for medicine. This must stop!
November 15, 1994, is National Medical Marijuana Day. Patients, doctors, health care providers, and other concerned citizens will demonstrate in front of the White House and other government offices throughout the nation to make the simple plea for compassion, "Stop Attesting Sick People!" (Contact NORML for more information about the event, and contact Dr. Lester Grinspoon for more information about medicinal marijuana. [Dr. Grinspoon is an Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and author of Marihuana, the Forbidden Medicine.]) * Tod Mikuriya, M.D., is a private practice psychiatrist and marijuana researcher/historian. A former marijuana program director for the National Institute of Mental Health (1967), Dr. Mikuriya has studied the entire 3,281-page Indian Hemp Drugs Commission Report. Dr. Mikuriya will chair an Indian Hemp Drugs Commission Report Centennial panel at the Drug Policy Foundation's 8th International Conference on Drug Policy Reform. The panel will feature marijuana historian Michael Aldrich, Ph.D., economics and drug policy specialist Dale Gieringer, Ph.D., and CityUniversity of New York pharmacology professor John Morgan, M.D. The panel will convene on Saturday, November 19, 1994, from 2:15-3:45 p.m., at Loews L'Enfant Plaza Hotel, Washington, D.C.