Indian Hemp Report Centennial

by Chuck Thomas, NORML Publications Director

October 31, 1994

Many people talk about the prospect of "studying drug legalization" as if this were something that had never been done before. Not true.

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 largescale study of the matter -- and its conclusions in no way justify the War Against Marijuana Consumers.

The commission was formed in response to questions raised in the British House of Commons concerning the effects of the production and consumption of hemp drugs in the British province of Bengal, India. Some regulatory taxes had been in place since the late 1700s, primarily to check immoderate consumption and to raise revenue, but consumption of the drug was not prohibited by law. On July 3, 1893, the Indian Hemp Drugs Commission embarked upon a year-long study to discover the actual effects of marijuana consumption on individuals and society and to determine the most appropriate governmental response.

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 report's conclusions included the following:

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).

Thanks to NORML for providing this article in advance of their own printing of it. See National Medical Marijuana Day: Organizing Groups, above, for NORML's contact information.

From The Activist Guide, Issue #4, November '94, DRCNet Publications section, A Guided Tour of the War on Drugs home page.

The next article is: Marihuana, The Forbidden Medicine