By Farayi Mungoshi
A FEW of years ago, a friend of mine by the name of Simba Jenje, also a film-maker, approached me with the idea to write a document advocating the legalisation of cannabis.
At first I laughed; while I knew about the medicinal benefits of cannabis I did not really know about the technical industrial benefits, so you can imagine my reaction!
However, I was not quick to dismiss him. Instead, I listened to what he had to say, which was to me, at that time, not very convincing — it all sounded made-up.
Maybe Jenje noticed he wasn’t getting through to me just like most people still seem a bit confused about the legalisation of cannabis, so he instructed me to watch a video on Youtube titled The Hemp Revolution.
The video was an eye-opener.
Over and above that, it revealed the truth that indeed there was more to the plant than we know or have been led to believe.
For about 5 000 years, the plant was grown and used across different cultures till the 1900s when steps were taken to criminalise it.
According to Wikipedia even King James 1 encouraged cannabis cultivation in 1619.
He made a decree that would see Jamestown’s land owners grow and export 100 hemp plants to help support England’s cause.
Cannabis cultivation also played a central role in the establishment of the US, with cannabis appearing on the 10-dollar bill as late as 1900.
In Africa and locally, cannabis has been used by traditional healers to ward off evil spirits, according to a report by one Fortune Moyo.
A traditional healer from Bulawayo, who preferred to go by the name Ndlovhu, said he had effectively used cannabis to cast out evil spirits and heal people with mental challenges.
In SA, cannabis, also known as dagga, a word commonly used even here in Zimbabwe, which comes from the Khoikhoi word dacha, is also traditionally used to ease childbirth. We can go on and on about what cannabis can be used for and divert from the reason I have decided to write another article on the topic. The story behind cannabis; Why it was criminalised?
It was first criminalised in California, US, in 1913.
In 1914, Utah followed suit with the rest of the other States after that. By 1930, 30 States had outlawed cannabis. In 1937, the law was passed throughout the whole of America.
In Canada, it was criminalised in 1923, and so did SA around the same time.
All of this is very suggestive that for thousands of years, it was legal, meaning our ancestors used it freely, but something happened and it was criminalised.
The question is: What happened?
Why was it criminalised?
Why after thousands of years of growing and using it?
How did a plant that was once deemed as less harmful than alcohol all of a sudden become more harmful?
Would you believe it if I were to say that the finger points back to the same people who are after world domination?
The racist capitalists in America made the move to criminalise cannabis.
In the early 1900s, following the Mexican Revolution and lots of Mexicans were migrating to America, they would take along with them cannabis.
For the Mexicans, it was a cultural tradition to smoke cannabis for recreational and medicinal purposes.
They called it marihuana, which was later changed to marijuana by Americans.
Not everybody was happy with the heavy influx of Mexican immigrants into town, especially the American media.
Led by newspaper boss, William Randolph Hearst, the media falsely launched an attack on the herb, saying it caused Mexican immigrants to be violent and disruptive.
Along with Federal Bureau of Narcotics, Harry J. Anslinger said that the plant was not good for people of colour and it caused them to be violent towards white women.
The real reason behind this move was two faced.
Hearst was not happy because cannabis was posing a threat to his newspaper business.
Hearst also had lumber and paper holdings and with cannabis now being used to produce paper, wood pulp, formerly used to produce paper, was now also under great threat monetarily.
He was not the only one who wanted the competition brought by cannabis thwarted — there was also the Du Pont family that was in the nylon business and also Andrew Mellon, the wealthiest man in America at the time.
Mellon had invested heavily in Du Pont’s nylon business but once again cannabis was standing in the way of their success as the synthetic fibre could easily be substituted by cannabis fibre.
Now, when you add a newspaper mogul busy demonising cannabis in his newspapers saying it caused violent crime in America plus America’s wealthiest man, about to lose lots of money due to the same ‘stubborn’ plant and then you top it all up with the involvement of the head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, then what would naturally follow were law amendments.
The Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 effectively made possession or transfer of marihuana illegal throughout the US.
And like clockwork, the rest of the world followed in criminalising cannabis.
So yes, I can understand when some parents in Zimbabwe today say what will happen to our children now that mbanje has been legalised. It is because they are not fully educated on the issue of cannabis. We are still living a lie that even America has since decided to ignore by legalising marijuana.
It was never about the fact that it can make you go ‘mental’, but about money and racism.