Addiction Volume: 98 Issue: 2 Dated: February 2003 Pages: 143-151
This paper reviews the history of how cannabis came to be criminalized under international narcotics legislation.
The study examined the records of the 1925 League of Nations' Second Opium Conference, the 1894 Report of the Indian Hemp Drugs Commission, and other contemporary documents. Hashish, which was referred to in all formal documents as Indian Hemp rather than cannabis, was first mentioned at the fifth meeting of the Second Opium Conference of 1924-25. The Egyptian delegate, Dr. Mohamed Abdel Salam El Guindy, a physician and Secretary of the Royal Egyptian Legation at Paris and Brussels, described Indian Hemp as "at least as harmful as opium, if not more so;" and he asked for it to be included "in the list of narcotics the use of which is to be regulated by this conference." No one questioned El Guindy's description of the dangers of hashish, and he was supported strongly by both the Chinese and American delegates. No formal evidence on the dangers of hashish was presented, and conference delegates had not been briefed about cannabis. The only objections came from Britain and other colonial powers. Although they did not dispute the claim that cannabis was comparable to opium regarding its adverse effects on users, they wanted to avoid a commitment to eliminating its use in their Asian and African territories. Currently, none of the claims made about the dangers of hashish in the mid-1920's would be accepted without serious qualification. Police experience in the contemporary western world, as in 19th century India, suggests strongly that cannabis is much less likely to be associated with violence than alcohol. There is also a consensus of expert opinion that the health and psychological hazards of cannabis are almost certainly less serious than those of opiates and cocaine, as well as the legal drugs of alcohol and tobacco. This paper reviews in some detail the history of Egyptian, British, and Indian attitudes toward cannabis. 29 references