Sunday, 11 March 2012

The Weed Controversy: Questions

The festival of Holi was celebrated  in India just couple days ago. It has been traditional in India to consume Bhaang (Indian Hemp, Cannabis Sativa) on the occasion of some festivals like Holi and Shivaratri, especially in rural village areas. I read some articles about Bhaang and other drugs. 

I came across this interesting article

Some excerpts from this article:

Marijuana was intentionally introduced to North America in Jamestown (1611) as a fiber plant, used primarily for ropes and canvas sails and for paper to print Bibles (the Gutenberg Bible and many others were published on hemp paper; what would Rev. Falwell say about marijuana Bibles?), and in many states marijuana occasionally grows as a weed, spread by birds. Many famous documents, including early drafts of the Declaration of Independence and writings of Thomas Paine, were scribed on cannabis paper. Hemp farming was done by Thomas Jefferson and many other famous individuals of colonial times, our domestic hemp industry helped our ancestors become economically independent of Mother England, and hemp was at the center of debate between the North and the South in fights by Webster and Clay over tariffs. Regardless of that legacy, in the United States the first marijuana laws were enacted in 1900, presumably because the liquor lobby did not want competition, even though from 1840-1900 more than 100 papers had been published in Western medical literature for using marijuana to treat various illnesses and discomforts. The League of Nations opposed the drug in 1925. The great blow to U.S. use of marijuana as a medicine came with the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937, which became law following a massive campaign by Harry Anslinger, head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, who accused marijuana to be an addictive drug, causing violent crimes, psychosis, and mental deterioration. The film Reefer Madness was part of that campaign. That law levied a tax of $1 per ounce for industrial or medical purposes and $100 per ounce for other uses, and tax evasion was punishable by stiff fines or prison terms. That legislation made marijuana a major financial liability for anyone dealing with the plant, and all legitimate uses of marijuana and hemp were essentially stopped economically.
Several books have chronicled the legal and political actions that followed passage of the 1937 law against the use of marijuana. Early on Major LaGuardia of New York City established a commission of physicians to investigate claims made by Anslinger against marijuana; in 1944, that commission published its findings that there is no proof of links between marijuana and crime, antisocial behavior, sexual overstimulation, etc., but the U.S.F.B.N. denounced that report. The U.S. government staunchly defended its policy while later secretly giving contracts to companies to identify military uses of cannabis. In 1970, under President Nixon the Congress passed the Controlled Substances Act, which assigned psychoactive drugs to five schedules, and cannabis was assigned to the most restrictive one, Schedule I, meaning that it has no medical use, a high potential for abuse, and cannot be used safely even under doctor's supervision. Remarkably, drugs like cocaine and many opiates were placed on schedules with less restrictions, even though many of those are both deadly and highly addictive. Beginning in 1972, legal challenges began against the 1970 Controlled Substances Act, basically to reclassify Cannabis as a Schedule II drug, so that marijuana could be used for some medical uses. To date, the U.S. government through its agencies has blocked and avoided hearings and sidestepped judgments favoring the reclassification of marijuana, while many states, beginning in 1978 with New Mexico, have attempted to decriminalize possession for medical or personal use.

The United States government has refused to accept testimonials and anecdotal evidence for cannabis, insisting that none have been scientific studies, done with large samples and acceptable placebos, while the government has during the same period broadly blocked attempts by researchers to conduct the necessary research that undoubtedly would show that many claims are authentic. One group of individuals fights any legitimate use of marijuana from the standpoint of stopping use of all psychoactive drugs, which is, in general, deleterious to modern society. List here many millions of frustrated or angry adults whose children or relatives have been forever changed by the drug culture. One foe to marijuana is the pharmaceutical industry, which stands to lose billions of dollars in annual income if cheaper alternatives are prescribed, on the hemp plant which cannot be patented. Other foes to marijuana are those who insist that patients should not be taking a medicine that creates a high and is addictive, suggesting that the medical use of marijuana is a veil covering attempts by victims to have a good time. The simple fact is that most patients who use marijuana or other narcotics to relieve chronic pain or sickness do so without ever experiencing hallucinations, those associated with recreational drug use. It is not true that marijuana is fatal, there being only a couple cases of death by ingestion in the world (India), none in the United States, unless you include vehicular manslaughter and suicide committed under the influence of marijuana (a minute fraction as compared with alcohol).

My questions are:

In spite of having many proofs that tobacco and liquor are more (or at least equally) dangerous to health than Cannabis, why they're allowed whereas the latter is banned?

Why any research showing that cannabis is good for health meets outright rejection?

How something which was not dangerous started getting so heavily opposed in the twentieth century? 

Is it a grand plot of pharmaceutical agencies and liquor mafias?