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HEMP DRUGS COMMISSION REPORT
Indian Hemp and
the Dope Fiends of Old England
Hemp Drugs Commission Report Centennial Volume
I. Policy, Social and Religious Customs
of Contents :
Indian Hemp Drugs Commission: Centennial Thoughts. Tod H.
Indian Hemp and the Dope Fiends of Old England:
A sociopolitical history of cannabis and the British Empire 1840 - 1928. Sean
Blanchard and Matthew J. Atha, M.Sc.
Indian Hemp Drugs Commission Report: Introduction. Tod
H. Mikuriya, M.D.
Chapter XVIII. Summary.
Chapter XIV. The Policy of Hemp Drug Administration
Chapter IX. Social and Religious Customs.
Appendix A. On References to the Hemp Plant Occurring in Sanskrit and
Hindi Literature. Mr. G. A. Grierson,
C.I.E., Magistrate and Collector, Howrah
Appendix B. On
the Origin and History of Trinath Worship in Eastern Bengal.
Hemp Drugs Commission
Tod H. Mikuriya,
It has been a century since the British House of Commons passed a resolution setting up the Indian Hemp Drugs Commission, which resulted in a massive inquiry documented in a nine-volume report. In the ensuing years there have been drastic changes in public policy in the United States and Great Britain.
This monumental study exposes the overriding and pervasive powers of collective denial and moral failure underpinning contemporary policies of cannabis prohibition. Motivated by convenient moralism, questions are repeatedly disingenuously raised concerning the harm of hemp drugs, cannabis, or marijuana. The engine of agitprop bureaucratic ire fires up. Hearings are scheduled, witnesses heard, proceedings transcribed, summarized, presented to the requesting organization, discussed, filed, and forgotten. The prohibition policies go on. Enforcement and corrections systems strain under the demands of magical beliefs in coercive powers of government, promoted by self-serving government misinformation and censorship.
From the Indian Hemp Drugs Commission's policy perspective, today's drug polices would be unthinkable. The British policies for hemp drug regulation in India were explicitly predicated upon optimal and minimal government intervention.
The subsequent century in the United States, Great Britain, and Europe has seen pandemic spread of prohibitionist authoritarian government interference. Income taxes, drug laws, alcohol prohibition, mass conscription, and two world wars have seen regression from utilitarian governance based on enlightened non-interference to intrusive majoritarian autocracy. Authoritative government has become authoritarian. Less and less government justification and demonstrated necessity are required. The principle of non-interference is virtually inoperative. The space of human existence where a person reigns uncontrolled contracts even further. The large departments of individualistic human life are contracted or eliminated by laws, public and corporate policy.
The second intervention by government, that of giving advice and promulgating information, has seen a parallel degradation from legitimate and trustworthy dissemination of factual information through the institutions of science and medicine to censorship, bad advice, dissimulation and deception in the service of coercion and manipulation. The ensuing chaos of ignorance, partial truths, and outright lies has produced a cacophonous toxic confusion surrounding the use of hemp drugs. The font of contemporary knowledge is now a stinking swamp, hopelessly poisoned by the ignorant fantasies, fears, and untruths resulting from prohibitionists' drug propaganda efforts.
In America in 1944, fifty years after the Indian Hemp Drugs Commission Report, the New York Mayor's Committee on Marihuana reported on use of the drug after a five-year study, seven years after national marijuana prohibition. The perspective was based on the premise that departments of human life and individual circle with uncontrolled reign did not include the right to use marijuana. Government intervention through prohibition was now accepted; the non-interference principle of the Millsean Indian Hemp Drugs Administration policy dead – a luxury enjoyed, ironically, by people of India subjugated by the British imperium.
Descriptions of marijuana use were now from the perspective of studying the characteristics of the users of this illicit drug: extent of use, method of distribution, attitude of the smoker toward society and use of the drug, relationship with eroticism, crime, and juvenile delinquency. Discussions of the legitimacy of Government intervention were by implication discussions of the relative dangerousness of marijuana. The legitimacy of prohibition as a social policy was neither justified nor examined. Religious use or freedom was not mentioned:
"I am glad that the sociological, psychological, and medical ills commonly attributed to marihuana have been found to be exaggerated insofar as the City of New York is concerned. I hasten to point out, however, that the findings are to be interpreted only as a reassuring report of progress and not as encouragement to indulgence, for I shall continue to enforce the laws prohibiting the use of marihuana until and if complete findings may justify an amendment to existing laws."
In 1970 the latest revision in Government marijuana prohibition policy generated another report, issued in 1972: Marihuana: a Signal of Misunderstanding – First Report of the National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse. Here individual rights were at least discussed, in order to be heavily discounted:
"So, while we agree with the basic philosophical precept that society may interfere with individual conduct only in the public interest, using coercive measures only when less restrictive measures would not suffice, this principle merely initiates inquiry into a rational social policy but does not identify it. We must take a careful look at this complicated question of the social impact of private behavior. And we must recognize at the outset the inherent difficulty in predicting effects on the public health and welfare, and the strong conflicting notions of what constitutes the public interest."
"Religious freedom" as currently delineated by the Government places the burden on the individual to pass certain "tests" to prove that hemp drugs are being used for sacramental purposes:
"Cases dealing with religious freedom in other contexts have isolated three distinct foci of inquiry when a law is challenged as violative of the ‘free exercise’ clause: (1) Is the claimant's belief and practice really a ‘religion’ within the meaning of the First Amendment? (2) If so, is the practice prohibited by the challenged statute essential to the practice of the ‘religion?’ (3) Even if the answers to (1) and (2) are yes, is there nevertheless a sufficiently compelling state interest to warrant overriding the practice? Only when the proscribed activity is essential to a qualified "religion" and the state's interest is not overwhelming will the courts invoke the First Amendment to invalidate an otherwise permissible legislative proscription."
In 1989 Carl Olsen, a white Rastafarian and director of Iowa NORML, unsuccessfully attempted a religious freedom defense for charges of marijuana selling and importation for distribution to other members of the Ethiopian Coptic Zion Church:
"If the 'compelling interest' test is to be applied . . . it must be applied across the board, to all actions thought to be religiously commanded. . . . Any society adopting such a system would be courting anarchy. . . . The rule respondents favor would open the prospect of constitutionally required religious exemptions from civic obligations of almost every conceivable kind – ranging from compulsory military service . . . to the payment of taxes. . . to drug laws."
Dutifully crafted by Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg, now on the Supreme Court, this opinion did not question that authoritative interference of Government is appropriate public policy. Religious freedom is now restricted to activity that must be asserted and proven rather than assumed. Proof of compelling interest has switched from the Government to the individual. The departments of human life were seen not to be imperiously guarded for the individual, but rather regarded with mistrust as a source of opportunities for dissent against public policy.
At the height of the Vietnam war marijuana use was strongly identified with the growing student antiwar resistance. The non-intervention principle was at least recognized, but the departments of individuality and circle around the individual were routinely stepped over by Government, justified by concern for national security. Militarism preempted any considerations of individual rights of privacy.
Notwithstanding the cautious conclusion of the Commission in 1972 that the policies of marijuana prohibition be critically examined, the report was conspicuously rejected sight unseen by then President Richard M. Nixon to demonstrate his being "tough on crime" in a Presidency struggling to end the Vietnam war.
Twenty-two years later, on the centennial of the Indian Hemp Drugs Commission Report, the principle of Government non-interference is an all but forgotten faded idealistic icon, given hollow obeisance at state ceremonies, a quaint philosophical curiosity of the past. The circle around the individual is reduced to a pale, flaccid, tattered, transparent, and permeable membrane. Intrusion is limited only by the funding available for Government interference. The worsening of the balance of power between the individual and state has increased by an order of magnitude, facilitated by advances in technology.
Toqueville in his prophetic Democracy in America warns of dangerous forms of despotism in democratic, egalitarian America:
“A great many persons of the present day are quite contented with this sort of compromise between administrative despotism and the sovereignty of the people; and they think they have done enough for the protection of individual freedom when they have surrendered it to the power of the nation at large. This does not satisfy me: the nature of him I am to obey signifies less to me than the fact of extorted obedience.”
“Thus it every day renders the exercise of the free agency of man less useful and less frequent; it circumscribes the will within a narrower range and gradually robs a man of all the uses of himself. The principle of equality has prepared men for these things; it has predisposed men to endure them and often to look upon them as benefits.
“After having thus successively taken each member of the community in its powerful grasp and fashioned him at will, the supreme power then extends its arm over the whole community. It covers the surface of society with a network of small complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd. The will of the man is not shattered, but softened, bent, and guided; men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting. Such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence, it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd.”
Attacked by "drug free" oaths, informers (including children), undercover police, drug-sniffing dogs, random and warrantless searches, child snatching, drug testing, forfeiture of property, surveillance of bank, business, electricity, and other records, the departments of human life wither. The parts of human life considered reserved territory are noticeably smaller – and the individual, society and "civilization" suffer the loss.
Review of the Indian Hemp Drugs Commission Report is important for perspective in assessing the legitimacy and direction of contemporary Government drug policy in a democratic society. Froude's theorem of functional governance – "No laws are of any service which are above the working level of public morality, and evasion" – was of importance to feudal England and to the Indian Hemp Drugs Commission in 1894. A century later it points up a public policy issue of prime magnitude.
THM April 16, 1994
 Fiorello H. LaGuardia, Foreword. In The Marihuana Problem in the City of New York: Sociological, Meidcal, And Pharmacological Studies by the Mayor’s Committee on Marihuana. Jacques Cattell Press, Lancaster, PA, 1944, p. v.
A Signal of Misunderstanding – First Report of the
National Commission on
Marihuana and Drug Abuse. U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington,
DC. 2 vols. Stock No. 5266-0001, 5266-0002, 1972, p. 25.
 Ibid., vol. 2 Appdneix page 1130.
 Olsen v. Drug Enforcement Administration. 279 U.S. App. D.C. 1, 878 F. 2d 1458. In High Witness News: Religious Freedom Law Passed. High Times, May 1994, pp. 13-14, 27.
 Toqueville, Alexis de Democracy in America, vol. 2, 1840. Vintage Books, Random House, NY 1990.
 Ibid., p. 320.
 Ibid., pp. 318-319.
Indian Hemp and the Dope Fiends of Old England
A Sociopolitical History of Cannabis and the British Empire 1840-1928
Blanchard & Matthew J. Atha M.Sc.
When the report of the Indian Hemp Drugs Commission (IHDC) reached 1890s England it met official and public apathy. There was no political debate. It went into the “forget about this” file on arrival and has stayed there ever since. There was no publicity; the news that “ganja is not appreciably harmful” was of no concern to the majority of users, who took cannabis products for their medical benefits. The non-medical users were mostly artists who didn't mind a little harm. Prohibitionist sentiment was concentrated on the opium trade between India and China and on alcohol at home. Cannabis use in England was considered negligible, and the authorities were content to have no laws at all controlling it for another thirty years.
When laws were later proposed, the Government paid no attention to the evidence in their possession from the IHDC. In India, the recommendations of the IHDC report for control by taxes rather than prohibition went into force quietly, standardising laws and tariffs on cannabis in all the provinces. In March 1895, the Indian Government passed a resolution after reviewing the report. It said that for the last twenty years their policy had been of “restraining use and improving the revenue by the imposition of suitable taxation” and “imposing as high a rate of duty as can be levied without inducing illicit practices” on the grounds that “the best way to restrict the consumption of drugs is to tax them”; so “to that policy the Governor-General . . . has decided steadily to adhere”
There was never any suggestion that the same rules might be applied in the UK; the Empire didn't work like that. The Governor-General (also known as Viceroy), Lord Landsdowne, was appointed by the UK Government. When they instructed him to commission a report, he did so, then accepted or rejected it, passed any regulations needed, and told the UK what he'd done. His job was to “keep natives in their place” and help the British get on with it, not to give advice on home affairs.
From Mother's Friend to Opium Wars
Cannabis was virtually irrelevant to nineteenth-century England. The drug of the century was opium, freely available to the British population and so popular that the government went to war to prevent the prohibitionist Chinese from disrupting the trade. The opium wars still write their history in the 1990s, as Britain is due in 1997 to hand back Hong Kong, the territory it won from China and those territories leased for 150 years.
Thomas De Quincy in his Confessions of an English Opium Eater gave the first popular account of the “marvellous agency of opium, whether for pleasure or pain.” He may have been the first glamouriser of the psychotropic effects of the drug, but for most people opium was a friend and medicine as indispensable as aspirin or Valium in the twentieth century. Godfrey's cordial, or chemists' home-brewed versions of popular patent medicines, were used to quiet children, while no home would be without laudanum (alcoholic tincture of opium). Opium was first used in the treatment of cholera in the epidemics of the early nineteenth century, and continued to be used for the treatment of diarrhoea and sickness, common complaints in the less than hygienic environment of the day. It was during the Crimean war that the analgesic effects were fully exploited, and it is certain that the widespread use of laudanum, Collis Browne's mixture, or other opium-based medicines, available to the poor for a penny a bottle, enabled ordinary people to cope with the harsh realities of life in Dickensian England. From the government's point of view, it was no doubt preferable to have the poor in a state of comfortable stupor than rioting in the streets.
India was not the main source of opium for the domestic market. Most of this was grown in Turkey or Persia (Iran), as this opium was of generally high quality, and trade flourished in the period following the end of the Napoleonic wars, particularly after the treaty of Balta Limon (1838) granting the Ottoman Empire “most favoured nation” trading status. Indian opium, however, was responsible for the British Government in India becoming the largest drug-trafficking syndicate in the world during the latter part of the century.
Opium and tea were the mainstays of the British East India Company, who had a monopoly on the opium produced in Bengal. In 1772 Warren Hastings, then chief executive of the company, realised the potential for foreign revenue in exporting Indian opium to China. Opium had been known in China for centuries, but imports had been banned in 1729 by decree of the Emperor. All foreign trade was funneled through Canton, opium being smuggled with legitimate consignments in British ships, and sold through corrupt officials to an eager market. Other traders smuggled opium to China overland, and the consumption spread to all levels of society, even to the personal retinue of the Emperor. Exports to China rose from 10,000 chests in 1820 to 40,000 chests in 1840. By 1836, a Chinese official in Canton, Hsu Nal-chi, petitioned the emperor to legalise the trade after witnessing the failure of prohibition: “The severer the interdicts against (opium) become, the more widely do the evils therefrom spread.” He was summarily dismissed from his post and replaced with a committed “war-on-drugs”-minded individual, Lin Tse-hsu.
Lin was determined to wipe out the opium trade by threatening the British merchants with the loss of the tea trade, and in 1839 forced them to surrender 20,000 chests of the drug. Captain Charles Elliot, the British Chief Superintendent, retaliated by ordering all British ships out of the Canton estuary, transferring the tea trade to American ships who would transport their cargoes to Hong Kong – an inconvenience, but not an obstacle, to the trade. Instead of using Canton, smugglers would take opium consignments ashore up and down the coast in boats fast enough to evade the Customs craft. Meanwhile Elliot had ordered an expeditionary force of naval steamships which arrived in 1840 and put direct pressure on Peking. Lin was dismissed and the trade continued uninterrupted following the Chinese capitulation and the end of the First Opium War in 1842. To the domestic audience in the UK, Palmerston, the Prime Minister, had portrayed the war as an attempt to force the Chinese to accept free trade. In reality, the only commodity directly involved was opium, tax revenue from which was becoming increasingly important to the Indian Government.
In Britain, the Conservative opposition was not satisfied with Palmerston's explanations and they opposed the opium trade in the 1840 Commons debate. By the time they took power in 1841 their tune had changed, and the trade continued to expand. The Chinese government was effectively warned that no British ships should be searched. Although fresh edicts against the drug were issued by the Chinese, they were powerless to stop the trade following the treaty of Nanking, which ceded Hong Kong to Britain, allowing a bridgehead for further opium supplies. In 1856, following growing anti-British sentiment, the Chinese gave the British government a further excuse for war by seizing the Arrow, a British vessel with a crew of Chinese criminals anchored off Canton. The fact that the Arrow's registration had expired, technically justifying the Chinese action, was overlooked by Palmerston, once again the Liberal Prime Minister after fighting an election forced by government defeat on an opposition motion condemning the war, and winning on a wave of patriotic fervour.
Lord Elgin was dispatched with an expeditionary force which burned down the Summer Palace in Peking to impress upon the Emperor the need to keep agreements. The main consequence of the Second Opium War was that China was forced to legalise the trade in opium, and were only permitted to tax the product at a level acceptable to the British. Consumption increased from 60,000 chests in 1860 to 105,000 by 1880. The trade generated taxes to the British Indian Government equivalent to over half their total revenue, enough to cover the entire civil service and armed forces budgets. In this climate, financial expediency, as so often is the case, took precedence over the growing moral arguments against the drug trade.
Following increased public pressure to end the trade, and in response to a Parliamentary motion, the Government called a Royal Commission on the production and consumption of opium, which was only to consider prohibition among other options, after full investigation. It was during these manoevres that the IHDC was also established. The Indian Viceroy, Lord Lansdowne, was against anything that might disrupt business. Prime Minister Gladstone was much more pro-trade than he was anti-drug. They packed the opium commission with pragmatists from the Indian Civil Service, with some of the more economically literate abolitionists, and ensured that it would concentrate a good deal on money. It first met in September 1893 and saw 2,500 witnesses by February 1894.
When the report was published in 1895, it said that opium was “generally used in moderation,” and “led to no evident ill-effects.” Even some senior anti-opiumists had been convinced. The fact that Chinese missionaries were overwhelmingly critical of the effects of opium, in contrast to the Indian witnesses who were predominantly favourable towards the drug, was put down to the fact that in India the drug is normally taken orally, whereas in China it was generally smoked. There was only one dissent; Joseph Rowntree, one of the committee members, was later to denounce the Commission's report as a whitewash. By that time there was another election under way. Prohibition had no chance under the Conservatives, and there would be no Liberal government until 1905. The government, despite public opinion, was determined to continue the opium trade.
Lunatic Asylums are Filled with Ganja Smokers."
The question of cannabis occasionally cropped up as an incidental issue in skirmishes during the long legislative battle against the opium business. As early as 1840 the pro-opium banker William Bingham Baring , MP told the Commons that if the opium trade were suppressed then there would be a danger of users turning to drugs “infinitely more prejudicial to physical health and energy than opium.” Baring, one of ten MPs of both parties from the same pro-free-trade family, was particularly concerned about “an exhalation of the Hemp plant, easily collected at certain seasons, which is in every way more injurious than the use of the poppy.” This was another justification for the lucrative opium trade which flourished in a climate of official and unofficial governmental encouragement. However, attitudes were slowly changing, and in 1875 Mark Steward, MP had proposed that the Indian Governor General be instructed to investigate the opium trade “with a view to gradual withdrawal,” and lost by 37 votes. Similar moves were regularly defeated for the next twenty years. By April 1891, a spokesman for the Society for Suppression of the Opium Trade (SSOT) had obtained a 30-vote majority for a motion that the Government’s revenue from opium was “morally indefensible.”
On 16 July 1891 Steward asked a three-part question about ganja:
i. Whether the Secretary of State for India has seen a report in the Allahabad Pioneer of 10 May that ganja, which is grown, sold, and excised in much the same way as opium, is far more harmful, and that “the lunatic asylums of Bengal are filled with ganja smokers.
ii. Is he aware that ganja has been made illegal in Lower Burma and that excise reports say this has been “of enormous benefit to the people?”
iii. Will he call to the attention of the Governor General the desirability of extending the prohibition to other provinces?
The answers to these questions were yes, yes, and that he would “enquire whether further steps should be taken to limit consumption.” On 7 August 1892 those enquiries were answered at some length. The Viceroy's office told London that the whole question had been extensively discussed with provincial administrations in 1871-73. They sent 174 pages of old dispatches from Indian provincial governments to the centre, and from there to London. After considering these, “The Governor General is of the opinion that while ganja may be among the most noxious of all intoxicants commonly used in India . . . . Even if absolute prohibition could be enforced, the result might be to induce the use of more noxious drugs” [e.g. datura]. Apart from which, it would be impossible to enforce a prohibition. It was “our duty to restrict consumption, but unnecessary to do more than persevere in the policy established in 1873.” These papers languished unread in London, perhaps because there was a general election going on.
The 1873 dispatches showed the pragmatism of imperial administrators which was to be repeated by the IHDC, in very similar words. The then Viceroy had said that while the Government should endeavour to restrict the use of ganja, it would be impossible to enforce general prohibition, especially because of religious feelings in some groups and because the plants grew freely some areas. It would be inexpedient to order what could not be enforced: “It does not appear to the Governor-General to be specifically proved that hemp incites to crime more than other drugs or spirits.” There was also some evidence that hemp, “usually so noxious,” might usefully be taken for medical reasons. There was no doubt that habitual use tended to cause insanity, but not in very many cases relative to the numbers of the insane. “General opinion seems to be that the evil effects of Ganja have been exaggerated.”
The dispatches from regional governments were more forthright. The Lieutenant-Governor of the Punjab wrote that considering the practicalities, they should not restrict hemp drug use unless there was proof of connection with crime. Civil, police and medical officers disagreed on the details, but “His Honour is of the opinion that if people were prohibited from using preparations of hemp or opium, they would, in all probability, have recourse to some other stimulant, such as alcohol, the crime resulting from the use of which would be much greater than that resulting from the abuse of these drugs. . . . It seems that the amount of crime, violent or other, incited by ganja, is exceedingly small. . . . If, therefore, these preparations have no effect on crime and only injure the persons who use them, it is difficult to see in what manner the law can restrict their use in a country where opium is a monopoly of the Government, the effects of which are perhaps as injurious when taken in excess as those of hemp.”
The local governments of Mysore, Hyderabad, Oudh, and Burma said that as hemp drugs were little used locally, restrictions were not necessary. Central Provinces sent plenty of data but no opinions. The Northwest Provinces (later Pakistan), one of the main cannabis growing areas, said the evidence on crime was confused, whereas if the situation was as bad as supposed there would surely be a consensus. To stop production would be almost impossible, so they could not recommend attempts to limit or stop consumption. Bombay, Madras, and Bengal said that restrictions and taxes already in place should be preserved. All agreed excessive use to be somehow connected with physical harm and perhaps insanity, but the numbers harmed were very small. Bengal sent the most information. Asked if a particularly popular type of local ganja was more deleterious than others, they submitted a long report on cultivation, uses and profit margins on all hemp products by Dr. Watt, State Reporter on Economic Products. Their local product was popular due to the quality of plants and traditional production skills, rather than sheer strength. A table of samples analysed for “Resinous extracts or Cannabin” ranged from 1.4% (N.W. Provinces) to 12% (Madras), mostly about 4%. All of the legal trade was inside India. The state of Bengal had been making an average 1 million rupees per year through the 1860s in tax on ganja shops and duty at government auctions, about £100,000 – tens of millions in today's money.
When these papers were taken from the files, twenty years after they were written, the August 1892 elections were under way. The Conservatives went out and the Liberals came in. Drug control was not high on their agenda; however, the new Home Secretary, Foreign Secretary, and Secretary of State for India were all known to be anti-opium, and the Prime Minister had spoken out against it in the past. The prohibitionists knew they might get some sort of opium control agreed to if it didn't oppose the Liberals' central Free Trade policy. Believing their moment had come, they began to quarrel among themselves.
Before the development of the hypodermic syringe by Alexander Wood, the main concern about opium was not the threat of addiction, but the danger of poisoning. Only after the 1860s did the risk of dependency start to cause concern among the medical profession. Certainly, people would have been habituated to the drug, but the stereotype of the drug addict had yet to gain acceptance within the UK. Even where individuals wrote of their habit, it was without any sense of stigma – as in the case of a chemist’s wife who had been using morphia for 30 years and who described her experience in a matter-of-fact way, her major concern being the perceived tendency of the drug to cause her to put on weight. Although the dependency syndrome had been described two centuries earlier by Thomas Sydenham, the risk was not taken seriously by most medical practitioners. Following increasing reports of dependency symptoms after 1860, culminating in a series of articles in The Practitioner in 1870, the debate on the wisdom of permitting free access to opium accelerated. In 1878 Edward Levinstein in Germany started the “moral” argument about the effect of opium on the character of the user, and was one of the first to promote abstinence as a cure for the addict.
From the 1840s on, there were several anti-opium organisations, all small and mostly broke. Their memberships overlapped, but the leaders didn't get on well. None of them had ever tried to gain mass support. The first organisation to come out against the trade were the Birmingham Quakers. In 1869, Lord Shaftesbury urged the Indian government to withdraw from its monopoly position in the trade. By 1884 the Society for the Study and Cure of Inebriety, founded by Sir Norman Kerr, aimed “to educate the professional and the public mind to the dangers of intemperance.” At that time, alcohol was the main target for the temperance movement, whereas other, more exotic drugs were not seen as much of a threat to respectable Britons. These drugs were not expected to be a threat to the well-adjusted British gentleman, and habituation among the Chinese and others was regarded as the kind of “filthy foreign habit” that should be stopped for the foreigners' own good. Kerr recognised the dangers of opium with a crusading zeal, and railed against its use, denying any possibility that some persons could be able to restrict their use to a moderate level. The Society for Suppression of the Opium Trade (SSOT), founded in 1874, became the best-known anti-opium organisation, but had always been elitist, controlled by Quaker businessmen with knighthoods, and funded by one family. Their best argument combined economic and humanitarian interest: other exports to China had been damaged by the sleaziness of the opium business. Trade with China had been stagnant between 1860 and 1880 while business with Japan had tripled. The SSOT moved for ending the India-China opium trade, and called for an enquiry into alternate ways of making up the money. They took too long agreeing on a proposal with other lobbyists, but did manage to force the Government to concede the 1893 Royal Commission on Opium.
Meanwhile, in February 1893, William Caine, MP (Bradford East), had the papers on ganja collected the previous year placed in the House of Commons Library. On the 2nd March 1893 he put a public question to the Under-Secretary of State for India: “If he will instruct the Government of India to create a commission of experts to enquire into and report on the cultivation of and trade in all preparations of hemp drugs in Bengal, the effects of that consumption on society, and on the moral condition of the people, and the desirability of prohibiting its growth and sale”; would he also invite written reports on the same matters from all other provinces, and include in the commission non-official natives of India. The Secretary of State would ask the Viceroy to do just that, “and he will be glad if the result of this inquiry is to show that further restriction can be placed upon the sale and consumption of these drugs.” Since the Government seemed so amenable, a secondary question by the Right Hon. Sir Charles E. Schwann, Bart, was then dropped.
The members of the commission were named on 3rd July, and held their first meeting on 2nd August – a month before the Opium Commission began to meet. They continued until April, seeing over 800 witnesses, assembling over 3000 pages into seven volumes, and a confidential extra volume on hemp drug use in the Army; then the Finance and Commerce Department of the Government of India considered the report, and another British election crept closer. It is unclear what Caine and Schwann thought they were up to. Both were Liberals, Temperance campaigners, and probably anti-opium. Schwann had a safe seat, a comfortable merchants' fortune and radical opinions. Caine wrote books, including Young India, Picturesque India, and A Trip Around the World. He had quit the Liberal Party six years earlier over the Irish question, and been readmitted in a new seat after losing as an Independent; he was to lose it again in 1895. The timing, and the request for the commission to include non-official Indians, suggest that they were part of a faction among the anti-opiumists, perhaps trying to stir them into bolder demands or quicker action. Perhaps they were simply trying to get in on what looked like a winning side. Neither is recorded as ever mentioning hemp drugs in public again.
Dope Fiends of Old England
The international drugs trade was quite a different thing from home consumption; for example, although the British Empire produced a great deal of the world's opiates, over 80 percent of the opium used in the UK was from Turkey and Persia.  The economic pressure for international prohibition came from traders and nations with rival products. In the UK drug control was at first part of an increase in medical involvement in social policy. Prescription by professionals had to take over from self-medication before complete prohibition became possible.
There was not much openly recreational drug use in Victorian England, other than alcohol. A few self-consciously unconventional young artists and mystics searched for inner experience, rejecting vulgar materialism, but the majority of drug abusers, then as now, considered themselves to be taking medicines, to help them work or relax. This was an age which demanded refinement, in every sense of the term. They took extracts, tinctures, distillations or the “active ingredients” of traditional medicinal plants like Indian hemp or poppies, in amounts that would kill modern addicts. This was all for the good of their health, so morally impeccable. They didn't do dope to get wasted, or didn't admit to it.
Vulgar materialism provided ever more purified forms of relief from the stresses of righteous life, as opium was dissolved into laudanum, concentrated into morphine, reconcentrated into heroin. Some condemned booze while chewing opium, just as well-known modern anti-drug campaigners have been tranquilliser addicts. In this atmosphere Cannabis indica was just another potentially useful plant, which could be perhaps refined into some sort of medicine but was quite unsuitable in natural form. The distinction between drug use and abuse had hardly been invented. Doctors were expensive and not well trusted, so the poor dosed themselves with whatever remedies they could afford. Pseudo-medical opiate use was decreasing, but still respectable; Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Florence Nightingale had used it, and William Wilberforce, saint of the anti-slavery movement, had eaten twelve grains a day for thirty years. Self-medication blurred into non-medical use. Boozing was low-class and unfeminine, so respectable ladies took “tonics.” Patent medicines were a huge business, often including alcohol, opium, or cannabis.
Sales of pure morphine, cocaine, and barbiturates were supposedly controlled by the 1868 Poisons and Pharmacy Act, but quack nostrums and patent medicines were not, and an attempt to extend the law in 1884 had failed. The Act affected only shops, not users. One especially dangerous popular remedy was Collis Browne’s Chlorodyne, containing chloroform and morphine, which the British Medical Association campaigned through the nineties to have banned.
of the Most Valuable Medicines We Possess"
There had been increasing medical interest in cannabis since William O'Shaughnessy described the use of Indian hemp as medicine and intoxicant, relying on accounts of hashish use from ancient Persian and Arabic sources, as well as on his own observations in India. He described the use of hemp in the treatment of rheumatism, hydrophobia, cholera, tetanus and infantile convulsions, as well as describing the delirium induced by continued use. O'Shaughnessy had written in 1839 that, with a couple of exceptions, “I have been unable to trace any notice of the employment of this drug in Europe.” However, despite his citing Western works by Ainslie and von Estebeck, he managed to overlook one classic account.
The noted medieval herbalist Nicholas Culpepper (1616-1654) listed a variety of medical uses of the common European hemp (Cannabis sativa), including anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and antiparasitic activity. Culpepper made no mention of the psychotropic activity, although the temperate hemp he described would normally be of low drug content and be grown for fibre. Culpepper's work would have owed much to the folk herbalism used by British witches, or wise women, who until the Christian persecutions had provided most primary health care to the rural population, as well as to the monastic healers who replaced them. By the Victorian “age of reason” most traditional use had been suppressed, as the pioneer pharmacologists began to analyse folk medicines to refine and extract the active compounds therein. An unsuccessful attempt had been made in the 1840s to grow hemp for medicine in the London suburb of Mitcham. Experimenters used it for asthma and other chest problems, sleeplessness especially in cases of opiate or alcohol withdrawal, and with opium and bromide of potassium in treating insanity.
One reason why cannabis was not as widely used as opium products or the newer chemical remedies was the difficulty found refining an “active ingredient.” There were problems getting supplies of reliable strength, confusion about apparently different products from the same plant, and uncertainty about its effects in the body. However, it was used to treat many disorders. In 1889, Dr E.A.Birch described in the Lancet the successful use of Cannabis indica in the treatment of chloral hydrate and opium withdrawal, drawing attention to the abolition of craving and the antiemetic (vomit suppressing) effects and the stimulation of appetite in patients who would not normally eat, or keep down, their food. Queen Victoria's personal physician, J.R. Reynolds, described it in 1890 as “one of the most valuable medicines we possess.” In another Lancet article published in 1890, he described the use of Cannabis indica for treating insomnia in the senile, alcoholic delirium, neuralgia, migraine, spastic paralysis, and convulsions. He allegedly prescribed tincture of cannabis to Queen Victoria herself for the treatment of menstrual cramps. Cannabis tincture and an extract made from resin were available from Peter Squire of Oxford Street in 1864, and wholesale through the Society of Apothecaries by 1871. Chemists extracted stuff they called cannabene, cannabin tannin, cannabinnene, etc., but had no idea which, if any, was the “active ingredient” until cannabinol was isolated in 1895.
At the same time some thought of drug-taking as a form of poisoning, and some researchers proposed that it either caused, or was, a type of insanity. W.W. Ireland compared the mental state of cannabis users to delirium, with its alteration of time and space and visual illusions. British doctors' reports from Cairo Asylum in 1894 linked violent insanity with “hashism.” Some of the medical studies would have been considered recreational use in any other context. Walter Dixon must have tried it on himself as well as small furry animals when he showed in 1899 that the effects vary according to type of preparation as well as method of ingestion. He recommended smoking for immediate effect and wrote in the British Medical Journal, “Hemp taken as an inhalation may be placed in the same category as coffee, tea and kola. It is not dangerous and its effects are never alarming, and I have come to regard it in this form as a useful and refreshing stimulant and food accessory, and one whose use does not lead to a habit which grows upon its votary.” He was to be a member of the Rolleston Committee on Morphine and Heroin Addiction in the 1920s, who opposed criminalising narcotics policy.
At the end of the century cannabis tincture became popular again as a cure for cramps, migraine, opium addiction, withdrawal and insomnia, but the fashion faded. In the early 1900s a British Medical Association campaign against “Secret Remedies” got most of the opiates, cocaine, and cannabis out of tonics and non-prescription medicines. Doctors became responsible for most drug distribution as the consumer beverage trade withdrew. As drug dispensing was professionalised, substances used for self-medication were replaced by more refined, more medically controllable drugs. The Indian Hemp Drugs Commission report made no apparent difference to this at all, and it is quite possible that nobody in the medical establishment read it. It held quite a lot of scientific data, but its purpose had been political rather than medical. The political and economic interests of the British Medical Association were quite different from those of the Government of India.
The Cosmopolitan Dope Fiends
It is worth noting that most publications from the time refer to “Hashish,” the Arabic term, Indian Hemp, or Cannabis, rather than Charas, Ganja, or Bhang, the Hindi names. The French empire in North Africa had at least as much effect on European cannabis use as the British empire in India. A certain style of drug use, the Wasted Artist role, as established by the laudanum-swigging Coleridge and De Quincey early in the century, was revived by Dr. Jean Moreau in Paris after 1845. The doctor, who experimented with hashish to treat insanity, founded the Club des Hashishins with the writer Theophile Gautier, for non-medical experiments. Some of the members were quite keen on a little delirium. Gautier was a hack with brilliant friends, an “art-for-art’s-sake” romantic with a taste for macabre fantasy who encouraged the Symbolist poets. Rimbaud and Verlaine shared his drugs. Baudelaire dedicated Fleurs du Mal to him, and wrote an essay that explained their attitudes, “On Hashish and Wine as a Means of Expanding Individuality.” They created strange, sensuous art, struck foreign poses based on their beliefs about the romantic East, and scandalised bourgeois society.
By the nineties the club had imitators in London. If there was no recreational drug use “subculture” in the 1890s, one network came close. This was the circle of poets, psychics, writers, and would-be magicians around the Rhymers Club and the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. They didn't define their connection by shared drug use, but they certainly included drug experiments in their self-definition. Occult studies, drugs, hypnotism, proto-psychiatry, and new styles of arts were all 1890s fashions mingled in overlapping cliques in central London. The Golden Dawn was established in 1888 by some occultist Freemasons, as a society of “Christian practiced magic.” In 1890 Yeats and two others formed the Rhymers Club as a sort of literary wing, drawing inspiration from the French Symbolists. None of the Rhymers Club apart from Yeats ever achieved as much recognition as their French heroes, but they had the style. They were melancholy, self-dramatising, they hoped Byronic. They had doomed love lives and nervous breakdowns, and mostly died young. Their defiance of conventional society included such un-English deviance as drinking black coffee and speaking comprehensible French, as well as attempted magic, sexual permutations not discussed in polite company, and hefty drug use.
Yeats and his lover Maude Gonne tried using hashish to improve their telepathic powers. Others had a more relaxed, recreational approach. Arthur Symons was one Rhymer who survived to be described as “highly strong, over-sensitive” in the 1930s, best known for Confessions: A Study in Pathology, which described his two years in an Italian lunatic asylum and cure by near-fatal pneumonia in 1909. He was the author of “'The Opium Smoker”: “I am engulfed, and drown deliciously / soft music like a perfume, and sweet light / Golden with audible odours exquisite / swathe me in cerements for eternity.” In a biography of fellow Rhymer Ernest Dowson he described one afternoon: a couple of ballet dancers and a poet visiting, the host issuing tea, cakes, cigarettes and then hashish – “That slow intoxication, that elaborate experiment in visionary sensations. . . . he sat awaiting the magic, half shy in the midst of that bright company of young people.” Dowson wrote poems with Latin titles about doomed love affairs, and consorted with the “most degraded” women in dockside dives. He experimented with mescal in 1896, with the sexuality researcher Havelock Ellis. He died of TB in 1900, aged 32. The other poet present at the hash and tea party and the mescal experiment was John Addington Symonds, a historian who studied the criminal mentality; he was part blinded after several breakdowns and TB. One of their associates, Count Eric Stenbock, who wrote The Shadow of Death and Studies of Death, was known for wearing a live snake around his neck; he died aged 35, of either alcohol or opium.
The Wasted Artists were picturesque and dramatic, and their style became a popular image of drug abusers – ethereal and rather unhealthy, possibly creative but definitely pasty-faced. The perception of a difference between drugs suitable for legitimate use, under medical control, and drugs which can only be abused, was extended by their example; anything they took was obviously not doing any good for their health. Still there was no anti-drug panic in the UK. Drugs were still seen as foreign stuff, only used by those who wanted to act like foreigners. The artists were added to an existing mythology of the opium addict and the opium den, spread by popular fiction from Willkie Collins to Oscar Wilde, the addict over-sensitive, hollow-cheeked with torment, the dens gilded in rococo brothel style, populated by vicious Chinese and degenerate aristocrats.
The Respectable Fear Begins
The first demon dope stories came over from the USA in the mid-1890s. There were, apparently, ever-increasing numbers of black men with cocaine, Chinese with opium, and Mexicans with both, plus marijuana. These coloured men were allegedly using their fiendish substances to gain the flesh of white women, and many of them would go crazy with big knives if frustrated in any way. The British media only retold a few of these tales at first. The pathological imagination of the US press kept it up for the next forty years, changing the drug and the villains' colour now and again. Heroin was refined in 1898, but for the first few years it was considered a miracle pain-killer and cure for morphine addiction. The subject of the grossest stories was cocaine, also considered a miracle cure a few years earlier. The medical enthusiasts didn't think it suitable for recreational use. The recreational users disagreed. The alcohol prohibitionists built a mass following and inflicted a huge social disaster on the USA. When the alcohol ban was repealed, drug control was not. The myths were retired for a few years, but similar stories can be found, only slightly less racist, in the mass media today.
Before, during and after Prohibition, the USA lobbied for international drugs laws, mixing economic self-interest with moralism. The Hague Conference in 1912 agreed to the principle of certain drugs being strictly for “legitimate medical purposes.” It was never effective internationally because of obstruction by the British opiate and German cocaine businesses. The conference suggested an investigation of hemp, but it wasn't followed up. The Assam Opium & Ganja Committee of 1913 showed that the IHDC had been forgotten or ignored in that province of India, for instance accepting that ganja causes insanity without citing any evidence. It did say that when ganja prices rose users turned to opium; when opium prices rose they turned to alcohol or, alarmingly, morphine. The number of licensed shops in Assam had fallen from 1116 in 1878 to 347 in 1911, and the committee thought it couldn't be reduced further without provoking unrest.
Recreational drug use in British literary circles in the nineties spread through the next two decades into a wider world. Cocaine use had spread well into the upper class by the First World War. Officialdom grew concerned about officers on leave, who often weren't afraid to wreck their health since their chances of survival were slim. Morale would not be improved, it was felt, by the sight of the upper ranks behaving like beasts, and it would be worse yet if the common soldiers imitated them. There was a press scare about the Germans using drugs and prostitutes, collecting blackmail material. This unlikely tale and other stories of moral degeneracy caught the imagination of the Army Council, who banned the sale of all intoxicants to troops in mid-1916. In July the first UK law against possession of drugs was sneaked through, Section 40B of the Defense of the Realm Act. It covered cocaine and opiates; cannabis was not included, although it had been considered. Section 40B also banned “Malththusian appliances” (contraception) and quack medicines. The same Act established legal closing times for pubs, which caused a lot more fuss.
The Postwar Scandal Boom
Immediately after the Great War the British press got their first US-style dope story. Actress Billie Carelton, age 21, died supposedly from cocaine taken at an alcohol-free Victory Ball. Her supplier was tried for manslaughter but could not be convicted. It was just as likely the sleeping drug Veronal that killed her, but that didn't bother the Daily Express. They included hashish eating in the habits of a circle of degenerates who, they said, had ruined a sweet and innocent girl. In September 1920 a Dangerous Drugs Act was passed, clarifying the wartime possession law and effectively dividing the drug trade into medical versus criminal. It was greeted with such apathy by Parliament that it was hard to make up a quorum in some of the committees. Cannabis was still not banned.
Internationally, the UK government stopped blocking drug controls after several scandals at home and reports that morphine and cocaine addiction were spreading in the colonies. There were more sex, drug, and foreigner stories to keep up the postwar drug scare. In 1922 the death of dancer Freda Kempton gained unwanted publicity for Brilliant Chang, Chinese restaurant owner and alleged dope king since 1917, handling morphine, opium and hashish as well as cocaine. After many raids and mentions in the press he was sentenced to 14 months – not much for such an alleged villain – then deported in 1924. Eddie Manning, Jamaican jazz drummer and alleged dope king, was convicted of dealing opium and cocaine in 1923. Both, it was strongly implied, had used their dealing to get close to English girls. In 1922 three sisters were found half dressed and unconscious in the company of a dead Chinese man, Yee Sing a.k.a. Johnny Hop, in a sealed room full of opium smoke above a Cardiff laundry. The girls never told quite what had happened, so the press made it up, including a Chinese love potion made from hashish used especially to subdue white women, with an antidote made from geraniums. Pulp fiction by the likes of Sax Rohmer helped spread the corrupt-aristocrat and Chinese-dope-plot themes.
Despite all this advertisement, there was still no working-class drug subculture. The upmarket drug users of the twenties continued to be found where the overlap between high society and the arts copied what were seen as American fashions for jazz and cocaine. Aleister Crowley’s 1922 novel, Diary of a Drug Fiend, thinly disguised a real West End scene where cocaine was dealt in the Cafe Royal on Regent Street. Crowley was a former Golden Dawn member who publicised himself as “The Wickedest Man in the World,” and ran a black magic cult largely based on sex. He occasionally kicked his morphine habit cold turkey in front of acolytes, to show the power of his will; he did quite a lot to establish a link in the public mind between heavy drug use and being a dangerous but pretentious creep. Chloroform and morphine were popular with Lady Diana Cooper and Katherine Asquith, models for several wild aristos in fiction. Morphine might be risky and maybe immoral, but boozing was common, which was much worse. Compared to these types cannabis users were sweethearts. Having previously tried smoking it to no effect, the painter Augustus John tried a hashish compote or jam after sardines and wine with friends in Hampstead: “Catching the eye of Iris, we were both simultaneously seized with uncontrollable laughter, about nothing at all.” Despite the publicity, and penalties increasing in 1922, prosecutions under the Dangerous Drugs Act averaged a steady 60 a year for cocaine, 65 for opium.
Cannabis first became illegal in the UK after the country agreed to the 1925 Geneva International Convention on Narcotics Control. It was included in the 1925 Convention with the opiates and cocaine, because Egypt and Turkey proposed it. An Egyptian delegate stirringly denounced “Chronic Hashism,” which he said caused most of the insanity in his country. It also, he said, weakened users, gave them heart and digestive troubles and made them look wild-eyed and stupid. India opposed including cannabis in the Convention, as their delegate said it had been used there since time immemorial, it grew wild, and they doubted that a prohibition could be enforced. The British delegate abstained from the vote but signed in the end. There was hardly any Parliamentary debate before it came into law as amendments to the Dangerous Drugs Act on 28th September 1928. In 1950 for the first time there were more prosecutions for cannabis than for opium and manufactured drugs together – 86 for cannabis, against 41 for opium and 42 for others. That year a series of police raids on jazz clubs produced a new crop of stories about black men with drugs and white women, this time involving marijuana and benzedrine. Cannabis had finally got into the shock horror league.
The Indian Hemp Drugs Commission finally had its moment in Parliament in July 1967, after the Government had established an Advisory Committee on Drug Dependence. J.J.S. Driberg, Chief of Police and Inspector of Prisons for Assam, had given evidence to the IHDC. His son Tom was a Labour MP. According to Tom’s autobiography, the poet Alan Ginsberg asked Tom to “look up for him the report . . . in the House library. I found that my father had given evidence before this commission, putting forward strongly the view that people living in a damp, cold climate needed the traditional consolation of ganja. . . . The climate referred to was that of Assam, rather than England; but I felt it was almost an act of filial piety to sign a full-page advertisement in the Times calling for a liberalisation of the laws on pot.” When it became obvious that there would be no liberalisation, be attacked the government, his own party, in the Parliamentary debate. He said his father had told the IHDC that when insane people were arrested a form had to be filled out saying why they were insane, and the safest thing to say was ganja as the police knew that no further enquiry would be made. When the government spokeswoman asked rhetorically, “What sort of society will we create if everyone wants to escape from reality?” Driberg answered that “they want to escape from this horrible society we have created.” The 1968 Wooton Committee on Cannabis was “in agreement with the conclusions reached by the IHDC . . . that the long-term consumption of cannabis in moderate doses has no harmful effects.” Given wide publicity, the Government couldn't completely ignore this new study; instead they did exactly the opposite of what it recommended, and increased penalties for all cannabis offences in a new 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act. Cannabis use continued to increase dramatically. By 1990 there were 40,194 convictions and cautions for cannabis in the UK, well over 90 percent of all recorded drugs crimes.
Sean Blanchard is a freelance journalist and researcher. From 1981 to 1983 he was coordinator of the Legalise Cannabis Campaign.
Matthew J. Atha B.Sc. M.Sc., was Legalise Cannabis Campaign Secretary from 1983 to 1989. His M.Sc. psychology thesis, “Quantitative Assessment of Illicit Substance Use” (Birmingham University 1987), included analyses of surveys of drug use at pop festivals. He divides his time between advocacy work and performing as a rock musician.
1369, Finance and Commerce Dept. (Separate Revenue), Government of India,
21/3/1895. 23 pp.
Parssinen, Secret Passions, Secret
Remedies - Narcotic Drugs in British Society, 1820-1930. Manchester
University Press, 1980.
 B. Inglis, The Forbidden Game. London: Hodder & Stoughton. 1975.
 Inglis, op. cit.
 Report of the Royal Commission on Opium. Parliamentary Papers, 1895.
 Inglis, op. cit.
 Hansand, Parliamentary Questions.
3773, Finance and Commerce Dept., Government of India, 17/12/1873.
full IHDC report. India
(Ganja) 97 in House of Commons papers 1893-4 LXVI.79.
 Parssinen, op. cit.
Berridge & J. Griffith Edwards, Opium
and the People, Yale, 1982.
 In full IHDC Report. India (ganja) 97 in House of Commons paper 1893-4 LXVI.79.
 Parssinen, op. cit.
W.B. (1839). On the preparations
of Indian Hemp, or Gunjah. Transactions of
the Medical and Physical Society of Bengal, 1838-40 pp 421-461.
 N. Culpepper, Culpepper’s Complete Herbal. London, W. Foulsham & Co.
E.A. Indian hemp in the
treatment of chronic choral & opium poisoning. Lancet 30/3/1989,
 J.R. Reynolds. Therapeutic Uses & Toxic Effects of Cannabis Indica. Lancet, 22/3/1890.
Berridge. Origins of the
English Drug "Scene" 1890-1930. Medical
History 32, 1988. Also J.T.
Walsh. Hemp Drugs and Insanity. Journal
of Medical Science 40, 1894.
 The Hashish Club. Ed. P. Haining. Peter Owen, 1975.
 Berridge, op. cit.
 Marek Kohn. Dope Girls. Lawrence & Wishart, London 1992.
 Tom Driberg. Ruling Passions. Cape, 1977.
Hemp Drugs Commission Report:
Tod H. Mikuriya,
Indian Hemp Drugs Commission Report, comprising some nine volumes and 3,698
pages, is by far the most complete and systematic study of marijuana undertaken
to date. Because of the rarity
and, perhaps, the formidable size of this document, the wealth of information
contained in it has not found its way into contemporary writings on this
subject. This is indeed unfortunate,
as many of the issues concerning marijuana being argued in the United States
today were dealt with in the Indian Hemp Drugs Commission Report.
is both surprising and gratifying to note the timeless and lucid quality
of the writings of these British bureaucrats. It
would be fortunate if studies undertaken by contemporary commissions, task
force committees and study groups could measure up to the standards of thoroughness
and general objectivity embodied in this report. In
the current context of violently polarized attitudes toward marijuana, the
prospect of a study of similar stature would be
improbable if not impossible.
of British Involvement
British government in India had substantial knowledge of intoxicants other
than alcohol because of their active involvement in regulation, taxation
and actual trafficking in these substances for over a hundred years prior
to the Hemp Drugs Commission investigation and report.
1790 duties on alcohol and other intoxicant drugs were first levied by the
British on landlords in India. The
regulation of cannabis preparations was further specified in 1793 in regulation
XXXIV of that year: "No person shall manufacture or vend any such drugs
other intoxicating drugs) without a license from the collector of the zillah."
system of regulation was instituted "with a view to check immoderate
consumption, and at the same time to augment the public revenue."
1800 in a further modification of regulation, the manufacture and sale of
charas was prohibited as "being of a most noxious quality," while
daily rates of duty were declared as the basis for taxing procedures. Curiously,
in 1824 the restriction on charas was rescinded "as this drug was found
on examination to be not more prejudicial to health than ganja or other intoxicating
1849 limits on retail sale of cannabis drugs were fixed "for better
securing the abkari revenue
of Calcutta," and later extended to the whole of Bengal. Four
years later the daily tax method was abandoned and a fee charged on a per
weight basis, and in 1860 an additional set of dealers' fees imposed.
should be noted, however, that the system of the state of Bengal was only
one of several schemes among the many provinces. Variations
on this approach existed in the other states, a function of the differing
local administrations, reflecting the degree of administrative and fiscal
controls exerted by the Imperial government.
had apparently been controversies as to the possible noxious effects of cannabis
drugs, at least from the time of the inception of British controls on these
products, unless we assume that the initial stated reasons for regulation
were merely cynical rationalizations for obtaining additional sources of
revenue. Within a country of
several hundred millions of inhabitants, divided into hundreds of regions,
and with only rudimentary "homogenizing" forces of effective transportation
and mass media, it is perhaps reasonable to infer that wide variations in
opinions and beliefs would be encountered.
of the Commission
2 March 1893 a question was raised in the British House of Commons concerning
the effects of the production and consumption of hemp drugs in the province
of Bengal, India. In response,
the Government of India convened a seven-member commission to look into these
questions, 3 July 1893. Upon
the suggestion of Lord Kimberley the scope of the investigation was expanded
to include all of India.
Commission actually met for the first time in Calcutta 3 August 1893. Between
this date and 6 August of the following year, when the study was finished,
the Commission received evidence from 1,455 witnesses. Field
trips were made to thirty cities in eight provinces and Burma from the end
of October 1893 through the latter part of April 1894. Eighty-six
meetings for examination of witnesses transpired during the inquiry. Actual
participation of the members of the Commission was duly noted and reported – a
custom that it might be worthwhile to revive.
whose evidence was received by the Commission were divided into three categories:
witnesses able to give information regarding hemp drugs, based on their official
and local experience.
witnesses of all ranks able to give information regarding the drugs generally
or in connection with certain classes of the people.
persons or associations having facts or holding opinions which they desired
to communicate to the Commission.
Practitioners (European methods) 34
Practitioners (Native methods) 87
Engaged in Trade 75
facilitate collection of information, seventy questions framed by the Commission
were given to witnesses. The
written answers to these questions constituted the bulk of the evidence before
the Commission. (16) Where appropriate,
witnesses were examined orally for further clarification or explanation. In
addition, witnesses who had not submitted written statements were examined
orally. It was duly noted in
the record which forms of testimony had been provided by the individual witnesses.
excerpts in the present volume discuss evidence received in testimony and
from other sources. Philosophic
premises concerning roles and responsibilities of the individual are outlined
as a prelude to discussing the practical issues of taxation, political policy,
public safety and health. In
applying the principles of English Common Law to peoples in a subcontinent
whose beliefs and customs varied greatly from those of Great Britain, the
issues of feasibility and the common good were of prime concern. If
schemes of regulation of intoxicants followed this rationalistic model today,
the mistakes made then might not require repeating in each generation. Current
technologic advances do not produce progress in the area of human behavior;
they only help to magnify defects and frailties.
Leaves and flowers of wild growing or inferior cultivated cannabis plants.
Flowering tops of the cannabis plant.
Resin from the mature cannabis plant.
A county-sized district or administrative division (India).
Manufacture or sale of intoxicating liquors or drugs; hence, an excise or internal revenue tax on such manufacture or sale. [Abkar: A wine seller; distiller. Also, one whose trade is subject to abkari tax.]
Conclusions arrived at by the Commission
following are the conclusions arrived at by the Commission:
Total prohibition of the cultivation of the hemp plant for narcotics, and
of the manufacture, sale, or use of the drugs derived from it, is neither
necessary nor expedient in consideration
of their ascertained effects, of the prevalence
of the habit of using them, of the social and religious feeling on the subject,
and of the possibility of its driving the consumers to have recourse to other
stimulants or narcotics which may be more deleterious (Chapter XIV, paragraphs
553 to 585).
The policy advocated is one of control and restriction, aimed at suppressing
the excessive use and restraining the moderate use within due limits (Chapter
XIV, paragraph 586).
means to be adopted for the attainment of these objects are:
taxation (Chapter XIV, paragraph 587);
cultivation, except under license, and centralizing cultivation (Chapter XVI,
paragraphs 636 and 677);
the number of shops (Chapter XVI, paragraph 637);
the extent of legal possession (Chapter XVI, paragraphs 689 and 690).
method adopted should be systematic and as far as possible uniform for the
whole of British India, and it is advisable that this method should be suggested
for adoption by certain of the Native States
(Chapter XIV, paragraphs 588 and 590; Chapter XVI, paragraph 639; and Chapter
XVII, paragraph 739).
Government monopoly of production and sale is not recommended for practical
reasons, though there is no theoretical objection to it (Chapter XIV, paragraph
the purpose of adequately taxing consumption, the combination of a direct
duty with the auction of the privilege of vend is ordinarily the best method
(Chapter XVI, paragraphs 634 and 635).
sufficient provision has been made for restricting consumption of the drugs
by the means above detailed, there should be as little interference as possible
on the part of the Government with their distribution (Chapter XVI, paragraph
638, 654, and 678).
export, and transport duties are undesirable as obscuring the real issue
how far consumption needs to be checked by a rise in duty. But
to imports from_Native_States_which_have_not_assimilated_their_system_nbsp.css; to
that in force in British territory, the levy of import duty_may_be_necessary_nbsp.css; (Chapter
XVI, paragraphs 657 and 679).
Suggestions made by the Commission
above mentioned conclusions embody the general principle and procedure recommended
by the Commission. With
a view to bringing the systems in different parts
of India into harmony with these conclusions and generally improving the
administration, the Commission have made the following suggestions:
in Bengal Government warehouses for the storage of ganja should be constructed
in Rajshahi (Chapter XVI, paragraph 643).
subject to this addition, the Bengal system of ganja administration should
be generally followed in the Central Provinces,
Madras, Bombay, Berar, and possibly in Ajmere and Coorg (Chapter XVI, paragraphs
656, 671, 672, and 673).
in the Central Provinces all ganja should pay a direct duty, whether consumed
in the province or exported; that the rule under which ganja is supplied
by wholesale to retail vendors at a fixed price should be abolished; and
that the number of wholesale licenses should be granted more freely and without charge
(Chapter XVI, paragraphs 649, 654, and 655).
in the North-Western Provinces the cultivation and manufacture of ganja should
be prohibited and the system of bonded warehouses introduced for its storage
(Chapter XVI, paragraph 657).
in Madras and Bombay cultivation of the hemp plant should be prohibited except
under license, and that the licensed cultivation
should be restricted to limited areas; also that a fixed duty should be imposed
on ganja, such supervision of the manufacture and storage of the crop being
maintained as is necessary
to its imposition (Chapter XVI, paragraphs 662, 669, and 671).
similar measures should be introduced into Berar and possibly Ajmere and
Coorg (Chapter XVI, paragraphs 672 and 673).
on all charas imported into the Punjab a duty of not less than Rs. 80 per
maund be levied, the drug being stored in bonded
warehouses, and duty paid when it is taken out by the vendors. Inter-provincial
arrangements regarding the crediting of duty to different provinces to be
made under the orders of the
Supreme Government (Chapter XVI, paragraphs 674 and 675).
where possible a duty should be levied on bhang. Where refuse ganja is used
as bhang, the rate may have to be fixed at a higher
figure with reference to this fact (Chapter XVI, paragraph
as a rule separate licenses should be granted for the sale of the different
kinds of drugs.
licenses for retail sale should not ordinarily be granted to wholesale dealers
(Chapter XVI, paragraph 682).
a separate license should be granted for each shop (Chapter XVI, paragraph
(l) That licenses for retail vend should contain a provision prohibiting
the vendor from selling the drugs to children or insane persons (Chapter
XVI, paragraph 684).
when new shops are proposed, municipal bodies, rural notables, zamindars,
or headmen, as the case may be, should be consulted as to the necessity of
opening them and as to their location, and that objections, if made, should
receive the most careful attention (Chapter XVI, paragraph 688).
the limit of legal possession of the hemp drugs should be the same for the
whole of British India, viz:–
and charas, or any preparation or admixture thereof, 5 tolas.
or any preparation or admixture thereof, one quarter of a sér.
that Native States should be invited to adopt this maximum (Chapter XVI,
regards the province of Burma, that the sale of ganja to natives of India
should be licensed under proper control and taxation where there is a demand
for it among such persons, the prohibition of cultivation in Burma, as well
as that of the use by the Burmans being maintained (Chapter XVI, paragraph
Mackworth Young President
H. L. FRASER
J. H. WARDEN
SOSHI SIKHARESWAR ROY
Soshi Sikhareswar Roy and Lala Nihal Chand sign the report subject to a note
THE POLICY OF HEMP DRUG ADMINISTRATION
regarding sumptuary laws and their application to India
question of prohibiting the growth of the hemp plant and the sale of ganja
drugs is one which stands in the forefront of the present inquiry. It
has been remarked by a well known historian that "no laws
are of any service which are above the working level of public morality,
and the deeper they are carried down into life, the larger become the opportunities
of evasion.” If these words
are true as applied to England under a feudal system, they are much more
true in the present day as applied to British India. The Government of
this country has not grown out of the forces contained within it, but has
been superimposed upon them, and the paternal system of government which
may have been suitable in England during the sixteenth century, and in
the initial development of some Indian provinces during the period immediately
following their annexation, becomes purely visionary when public opinion
is in process of formation and the needs of the people are year by year
finding more ready expression. Occasionally, no doubt, the Legislature
in India has anticipated a standard of morality not universally accepted
by the people, as in the case of laws relating to infanticide or the burning
of Hindu widows; but these measures were passed under an overwhelming sense
of the necessity of correcting popular notions of morality in matters coming
well within the sphere of Government, and in the assurance that in the
course of time they could not fail to secure the assent of all intelligent
members of the community. In
the chapter of Mill's Political Economy which treats of the non-interference
principle, a distinction is made between two kinds of intervention by the
Government – the one authoritative interference, and the other giving advice
or promulgating information. And
the following remarks are made regarding the former:
is evident, even at first sight, that the authoritative form of Government
intervention has a much more limited sphere of legitimate action than the
other. It requires a much stronger necessity to justify it in any case,
while there are large departments of human life from which it must be unreservedly
and imperiously excluded. Whatever
theory we adopt respecting the foundation of the social union, and under
whatever political institutions we live, there is a circle around every
individual human being which no Government, be it that of one, or of few,
or of the many, ought to be permitted to overstep; there is a part of the
life of every person who has come to years of discretion within which the
individuality of that person ought to reign uncontrolled either by any
other individual or by the public collectively.
there is, or ought to be, some space in human existence thus entrenched
around no one who professes the smallest regard to human freedom or dignity
will call in question: the point to be determined is where the limit should
be placed; how large a province of human life this reserved territory should
include. I apprehend that it ought to include all that part which concerns
only the life, whether inward or outward, of the individual, and does not
affect the interests of others, or affects them only through the moral
influence of example. With
respect to the domain of the inward consciousness, the thoughts and feelings,
and as much of external conduct as is personal only, involving no consequences,
none at least of a painful or injurious kind, to other people, I hold that
it is allowable in all, and in the more thoughtful and cultivated often
a duty, to assert and promulgate with all the force they are capable of
their opinion of what is good or bad, admirable or contemptible, but not
to compel others to conform to that opinion, whether the force used is
that of extra legal coercion, or exerts itself by means of the law. Even in those portions of conduct which do affect the interests
of others, the onus of making out a case always lies on the defenders of
legal prohibitions. It is not merely a constructive or presumptive injury
to others which will justify the interference of law with individual freedom. To
be prevented from what one is inclined to, or from acting contrary to one’s
own judgment of what is desirable, is not only always irksome, but always
tends, pro tanto, to starve the
development of some portion of the bodily or mental faculties, either sensitive
or active; and, unless the conscience of the individual goes freely with
the legal restraint, it partakes, either in a great or in a small degree,
of the degradation of slavery. Scarcely any degree of utility short of absolute necessity
will justify a prohibitory regulation, unless it can also be made to recommend
itself to the general conscience; unless persons of ordinary good intentions
either believe already, or can be induced to believe, that the thing prohibited
is a thing which they ought not to wish to do.
remarks have been given at length, because the Commission believe that
they contain a clear exposition of the principles which should guide them
in deciding whether the prohibition of the hemp drugs should be authoritatively
enforced by Government.
of entirely suppressing all intoxicants
a certain number of .persons (among whom may in all probability be reckoned
mover of the question in the House of Commons which led to the appointment
of the Indian Hemp Drugs Commission) deem it to be the duty of the British
Government to suppress the trade in all intoxicants in all the countries
under its sway; and there are no doubt special circumstances in India which
render it less impossible than in some other countrioes to consider even
so drastic a policy. These
are notably the general sobriety of the races and the feeling, popular
as well as religious, which prevails against their use among a large section
of the community. Even then no appeal in support of such a measure can be made
to the public morality or practice of civilised nations at large, nor,
so far as the Commission are aware, to any marked success attending the
experiment in particular instances. In
the exceptional cases in which the experiment has been attended with partial
success (as in some of the American States), the reformation of the habit
has become an object of desire to the majority of the people, and the enactment
for promoting such reformation has presented itself less as a restrictive
force than as an auxiliary agency.
Not laid before the Commission
But the Commission are not called upon to pronounce on so wide an issue. It
was not upon the basis of this general principle that the Secretary of
State for India accepted the proposal made in the House of Commons, nor
do the instructions issued to the Commission by the Government of India
cover so wide a field. The
question of prohibiting the production and sale of the hemp drugs in India
has to be considered by the Commission apart from the general question,
and such prohibition must be justified, if at all, on some more special
ground than the mere fact that they are intoxicants
The past history of the case how far to be relied upon
Again, there are a certain number of persons whose evidence before the
Commission points to the assumption that the case for prohibition of the
hemp drugs has already been established in the records of the Government,
and that further enquiry implies a wilful blindness to what has been abundantly
proved by such records. A
reference to Chapter XII of this Report will show how untrustworthy these
records are in regard to the production of insanity by the use of the drugs – an
aspect of the question which is of the utmost importance, and has formed
the basis of nearly all the official opinion heretofore recorded against
such use. And, after availing
themselves fully of every opportunity of consulting the official literature
on the subject, the Commission have arrived at the conclusion that it shows
little originality, and that a very limited amount of personal observation
has been made to do duty as the basis of large conclusions. The want of reliable data has been compensated by annual
reiteration until the stamp of antiquity has secured for the opinions so
expressed a large amount of acquiescence among officials who had neither
the time nor the opportunity to examine the matter for themselves. So
far, therefore, as the effects of the hemp drugs are concerned, the Commission
have had to approach the subject as almost a tabula
rasa, and, while availing themselves of the imperfect data previously
collected, have endeavoured to avoid accepting any conclusions without
a substantial foundation of well ascertained facts. The
attitude, however, of the Government in regard to the question may be briefly
described. So far back as
1798 an inquiry was made in Bengal regarding the quality of ten intoxicating
articles – “opium, madak, ganja, subzi,
bhang, majum, banker, charas, tobacco, and toddy –” with a view to determining whether it might not be advisable
to prohibit altogether the sale of any of them. The
conclusion arrived at, which was stated in a letter of the Board to the
Governor-General in Council, No. 22, dated 29th May 1798, was to the following
appears that the original productions are as follows: Tobacco, opium, ganja,
subzi or bhang, banker, and toddy, and that the three remaining articles
are for the most part compositions of those here recited, as above mentioned.
With respect to the drugs specified in the foregoing schedule, they are
not for the most part represented as producing any very violent or dangerous
effects of intoxication except when taken to excess; and, although the
operation of them may be more powerful in their compound state, we apprehend
it would be difficult to sanction the sale of the original productions,
and to prohibit with effect the use of compositions of which they are susceptible;
to which may be added that most of these articles, both as original productions
and as artificial combinations, appear to be useful either in medicine
or otherwise; for these reasons we do not deem it necessary to recommend
that the sale of any of them be altogether prohibited, but shall proceed
to state what appear to us the best means of restraining the use of them,
and improving the revenue by the imposition of such taxes as are best adapted
to the nature of the case.”
complete inquiry was made in 1871 from all provinces as to the effects
of several preparations of
hemp; and if the result should call for any action in the direction of
restricting them by enhancement of the duty or of limiting, or even prohibiting,
the cultivation of the plant, the advice of the Local Governments was invited
as to the expediency and practicability of such measures. The
result is contained in the Resolution of the Government of India, Finance
Department, No. 3773, dated 17th December 1873. The following passage shows
the conclusion arrived at:
consideration of all the opinions thus collected, it does not appear to
the Governor-General in Council to be specially proved that hemp incites
to crime more than other drugs or than spirits. And
there is some evidence to show that on rare occasions this drug, usually
so noxious, may be usefully taken. There
can, however, be no doubt that its habitual use does tend to produce insanity. The
total number of cases of insanity is small in proportion to the population,
and not large even in proportion to the number of ganja smokers; but of
the cases of insanity produced by the excessive use of drugs or spirits,
by far the largest number must be attributed to the abuse of hemp. In
Lower Bengal the circumstances have admitted of a system under which the
consumption of ganja has been reduced one-half, while the amount of duty
levied on it has been doubled. It
would be very desirable to control the cultivation and preparation of ganja
and bhang elsewhere in the same way. But
it is believed that this would not be easy; indeed, it would probably be
impracticable. Moreover, with
the exception of the Chief Commissioners of British Burma and the Central
Provinces, the Local Governments are not in favour of altering existing
arrangements. His Excellency
in Council, however, trusts that the various Local Governments and Administrations
will endeavour, wherever it may be possible, to discourage the consumption
of ganja and bhang by placing restrictions on their cultivation, preparation,
and retail, and imposing on their use as high a rate of duty as can be
levied without inducing illicit practices. As
regards British Burma, the Chief Commissioner has already been informed
that the Governor-General in Council concurs with him in thinking that
the cultivation and consumption of ganja should be absolutely prohibited,
and it has been prohibited from the beginning of the year 1873-74. “
1877 the Bengal Government appointed a special officer, Babu Hem Chunder
Kerr, to make a full inquiry into the details of the cultivation of ganja,
the sufficiency or otherwise of the present safeguards, and the reforms
which it might be advisable to introduce. Sir Ashley Eden's conclusions
on this officer's report in regard to the effects of ganja and policy to
be followed were as follows:
has himself no doubt that the use of ganja in any form is injurious to
the consumer, and that it is the duty of Government to make the tax on
this article as high as it can possibly bear. Unfortunately
it is habitually used by large numbers of the lower classes of the population,
who would, if deprived of it altogether, apparently find in the
leaves of the wild hemp plant and in other drugs narcotics and stimulants
of equally deleterious character. It
does not seem possible, therefore, to stop the cultivation altogether. The
policy of Government must be to limit its production and sale by a high
rate of duty without placing the drug entirely beyond the reach of those
who will insist upon having it.”
last important utterance on the subject previous to the appointment of
the Commission is contained in the letter of the Government of India, Finance
Department, to Her Majesty's Secretary of
State, No. 212, dated 9th August 1892, in which the following remarks occur
are inclined to believe that ganja is the most noxious of all intoxicants
now commonly used in India. But
even if the absolute prohibition of the use of the drug could be enforced,
the result might be to induce the use of still more noxious drugs. India
abounds with plants growing wild from which drugs can be procured which
are more deleterious in their effects than ganja. One
is the dhatura (Stramonium), the seeds of which are already used to intensify the
narcotic effects of bhang, a liquid preparation of hemp leaves; and we
apprehend that if the use of ganja were suppressed altogether, dhatura
might be largely resorted to by the poorer classes as a means of satisfying
their craving for stimulants. Apart, however, from the objections just
mentioned, we believe that it would be impossible to enforce in India a
prohibition of the use of ganja. That
drug is produced in Native States, and the difficulties in the way of preventing
its import from them, if the supply in British India were cut off, would
be immense. It would not,
moreover, be possible to suppress the supply in British India. The
hemp plant grows readily in India, in many places wild without cultivation
of any kind, and it would be easy for any one addicted to the use of ganja
to grow a plant or two in the enclosure of his own house and in nooks and
corners which would be safe from observation and from the risk of detection. The
question in the House of Commons suggests that as the possession and sale
of ganja has been prohibited for many years in Burma, it is desirable that
the same prohibition should be extended to other provinces of British India. The
analogy of Burma does not, however, apply to India. When
the prohibition was enforced in Burma, the drug was very little used by
the Native Burmese, its consumption being almost entirely confined to coolies
and other immigrants from India; and the cultivation of the plant in Burma,
which had never been extensive, had virtualIy ceased, the consumers being
dependent on importations for their supplies. In
India, on the other hand, the practice of ganja smoking has existed from
time immemorial, and among certain sects of Hindus, ascetics, and religious
mendicants hemp intoxication is habitually indulged in; and, as explained
in the preceding paragraph, it would be impossible to suppress the growth
of the plant. But, although
we consider it impracticable to enforce the absolute prohibition of the
use of ganja, we fully recognise it as our duty to restrict its consumption
as far as practicable, and we have distinctly laid down the policy to be
pursued in respect of this drug in our Resolution of the 17th December
1873 already quoted. The annual reports of Excise Administration show that the
subject has since been continually before Local Governments, who are making
every possible endeavour to minimise the evils and discourage the use of
the drug.wherever it is a source of danger to consumers.”
the use and improving the revenue by the imposition of suitable taxation,” “discouraging the consumption by placing restrictions on the cultivation, preparation,
and retail, and imposing on their use as high a rate of duty as can be
levied without inducing illicit practices,” “limiting the production and
sale by a high rate of duty without placing the drug entirely beyond the
reach of those who will insist upon having it,” “restricting consumption
as far as practicable, minimising the evils, and discouraging the use of
the drug wherever it is a source of danger to consumers” have from time
to time been the watch-words of the Government in the matter of the hemp
drugs, a policy only once definitely abandoned, viz., in
the case of Burma, where total prohibition was introduced in 1873.
Prohibition in other countries
must be made to precedents for the prohibition of the hemp drugs in other
countries in order to complete these general observations. Excepting
British Burma (reference to which will be made further on), the Commission
only know of four cases of prohibition, viz., in
Turkey, Egypt, Greece, and Trinidad. For
the first three of these, the only information at the disposal of the Commission
is contained in the communications from Her Majesty's representatives addressed
to the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in 1892 in consequence of
a requisition made on them by the Earl of Rosebery at the request of Mr.
W. S. Caine, M.P
ground of the prohibition in Turkey is thus stated in a note addressed
by the Grand Vizir to the Ministry of Commerce, Constantinople, on 1st
March 1292 (sic): “From the
reports furnished by the Imperial Medical Council, it appeared that the
use of hashish in the preparation of medicines was extremely rare, and
that, being a narcotic, its use must of necessity be injurious, and that
consequently the suppression of the cultivation of hashish could not fail
to prove highly advantageous.” The
effect of the prohibition is thus described in an enclosure to the Ambassador's
reply: “The importation
and sale in Turkey of hashish, though contraband, is still, I hear, largely
carried on, and is used for smoking, in the composition of various sweetmeats,
and as an opiate in general.
559. In Egypt the cultivation, use, and importation of hashish were first forbidden in 1868, but in 1874 it was allowed to be imported_on_payment_of_duty._span_style_.css"mso-spacerun: yes"> In November 1877 an order was received from Constantinople that all hashish brought into Egypt was to be seized and destroyed, and finally, in March 1879, the importation and cultivation of hashish were prohibited by a Khedivial decree. In March 1884 it was provided that confiscated hashish should be sold by the Customs (for delivery abroad) instead of being destroyed as formerly, and the proceeds of the sale divided amongst the informers and officers who took part in the seizure. “This measure was rendered necessary,” says Mr. Caillard, the Director-General of the Customs, “by the absence of any fund from which rewards could be distributed; while, on the other hand, the profits of smuggling being very great, large sums were paid by the smugglers to insure the silence or complicity of the Customs officers, coastguards-men, and others. A considerable number of persons are employed in the smuggling trade, many of them having no other means of subsistence. Great ingenuity is displayed by the smugglers in this illicit trade, and no sooner has one trick been discovered than another is invented. The great obstacle, however, to the complete repression of the contraband trade is the refusal of some of the European Governments to recognize the right of the Egyptian Government to search suspected shops or warehouses, and to punish the delinquents by fine as well as confiscation. . . . In view of the impossibility of suppressing the contraband trade in hashish under the circumstances described above, I suggested to the Minister of Finance the desirability of removing the prohibition against the importation of the drug, and I proposed to collect a customs duty of P. T. 100 per kilogramme (9s. 3d.per lb.), besides a license-tax on the sale of hashish. It has been abundantly proved that the vice of hashish smoking cannot be suppressed by legislation, whereas by a system of licenses it may be kept under control to some extent.” Mr. Caillard estimates that the quantity of hashish consumed annually in Egypt cannot be less than 50,000 okes (about lbs. 140,000) notwithstanding the prohibition. He states that the hashish appears to be manufactured chiefly in Greece.
Greece there is no law regulating or specially alluding to the production,
manufacture, or export of hashish. The
sale of it as merchandise is allowed, but a Police order of 1891 prohibits
its sale and consumption in the small cafés of Athens and the Pirœus, in
some of which, during the previous ten or fifteen years apparently, the habit
of using this drug had been gradually introduced. The
order was based upon a report of the Sanitary Board at Athens, in which prominent
mention is made of the observations made in India by English doctors, and
the statistics of insanity in Bengal lunatic asylums ascribed to the use
of the hemp drugs are put forward as justifying repressive measures. The
effect of the order passed is not mentioned, sufficient time not having elapsed.
regards Trinidad, the Commission are not sure that the hemp drugs are prohibited. The fact has been stated by the Indian Immigrants Commission,
Natal, 1885-87, and by Dr. Thomas Ireland, Government Medical Officer, British
Guiana, in a paper published in the Alienist
and Neurologist, St. Louis, in October 1893. But, on the other hand, Surgeon-Major
Comins, lately on special duty in British and Foreign Colonies and the Netherlands,
in his Note on Emigration from India to Trinidad, 1893, quotes
a statement of the Protector of Immigrants, who says that in the year 1885
an Ordinance was passed requiring the payment of £100 per acre to obtain
a license to grow ganja, which had previously been grown in large quantities. This
practically put a stop to the growth and consumption for several years, but
immigrants who had left Trinidad two years previous to the writing of his
report had been growing it in Venezuela, and several seizures had been made
by the Customs officers from persons endeavouring to introduce it into Trinidad. The
Protector adds: “With a coast line
such as ours, adjacent to that of the Spanish Main, it will be impossible
to prevent its introduction into this colony if immigrants who go there continue
to grow it.” Dr. Comins
himself says: “I do not know
what are the laws in force here regarding the sale of opium and ganja.
Basis of prohibition and results in these countries
in the case of other countries, where the use of the drugs has been prohibited,
the Commission do not find in the literature available to them many arguments
for prohibition. In Turkey it
rests upon the theory accepted by orthodox Muhammadans that hashish “being a
narcotic its use must of necessity be injurious,” while in Egypt the prohibition
emanated from Turkey. In both
these countries the measure has by no means been attended with complete success. In
Greece the prohibition in the cafés of Athens is based largely upon Indian
experience, which the Commission have had cause in great measure to recast. In
Trinidad, if there has been prohibition, it does not seem of late to have
been effectual. It must be added
that the Commission have no scientific information regarding the strength
of the article of commerce called hashish, and it may differ to some extent
from the Indian products. From
the description of its manufacture even by the Mayor of Orchomenus in Mantinea
in Arcadia, whence the Egyptian supply is mainly derived, it appears to resemble
more the charas of Yarkand than the ganja or bhang of India.
Is prohibition in India justifiable, feasible, and advisable?
Starting, therefore, from the position that what is known of the hemp drugs
in the past is not sufficient to justify their prohibition in India, and
that for such a measure there must be strong justification based on ascertained
facts scientifically and systematically examined, the first question for
the Commission to decide is whether such justification is to be found in
the evidence before them, and the second whether, if this is so, prohibition
is feasible and advisable on other grounds. These will now be considered.
Prohibition of bhang
The effects of the hemp drugs have been treated in Chapters X to XIII of
the Report; and as the first result of these conclusions, the Commission
are prepared to state that the suppression of the use of bhang would be totally
unjustifiable. It is established
to their satisfaction that this use is very ancient, and that it has some
religious sanction among a large body of Hindus; that it enters into their
social customs; that it is almost without exception harmless in moderation,
and perhaps in some cases beneficial; that the abuse of it is not so harmful
as the abuse of alcohol; that its suppression, involving the extirpation
of the wild hemp plant, would in some tracts be a matter of great difficulty;
that such a measure would be extremely unpopular, and would give rise to
widespread discontent; and, finally, that, if successfully accomplished,
it would lead to the use of more hurtful stimulants. The
Commission deem it unnecessary to traverse the evidence further than has
been done in the preceding chapters of this report in support of these propositions. It
is almost unanimous in regard to them. The
utmost that is necessary in regard to this product is that it should be brought
under more effective control, and this matter will be dealt with further
on. But absolute prohibition
is, in the opinion of the Commission, entirely out of the question.
Prohibition of ganja and charas
Though it has been shown that as a rule ganja and charas are used in moderation,
and that the moderate use ordinarily does not cause appreciable injury, yet
it has been established that the excessive use of these forms of hemp drugs
has been more injurious than in the case of bhang. Whether
they should be prohibited or merely controlled is a question which might
be settled merely with reference to their ascertained effects. The
Commission consider that the effects are not such as to call for prohibition,
and on the general principles discussed in the opening paragraphs of this
chapter, such interference would be unjustifiable. Nevertheless,
it. seems advisable to refer to the other evidence with a view to ascertaining
the generally prevailing views on the subject, and considering the grounds
on which prohibition is advocated or opposed.
The evidence regarding prohibition of ganja and charas may be considered together
In reviewing the evidence on these points, it will not be necessary to draw
a distinction between ganja and charas. The effects
of these two drugs have been shown to be similar,
though charas is cœteris paribus the
more potent. They are both ordinarily
smoked, though very occasionally used for eating and drinking usually in
the form of admixtures with other condiments. As
stated by Mr. Lyall (Bengal 1): “Ganja and charas are really one, and in time, if the question be scientifically
followed up, possibly charas will be the only form used.” The
refuse of ganja is used in some provinces as bhang, but this substance more
nearly resembles bhang than ganja properly so called. The
ganja of the different provinces varies in quality. But
these distinctions cannot here be specially observed; it will be sufficient
to bear in mind that the opinions in Bengal, the Central Provinces, Madras,
Bombay, and the smaller Administrations relate to ganja; that those in the
Punjab relate to charas; and that those in the North-Western Provinces and
Sind relate to ganja and charas, both of which are consumed.
Supply of ganja and charas in its relation to prohibition
A few remarks, however, recapitulating the local conditions of ganja and
charas will not be out of place. Charas
is practically a foreign article. Small amounts are imported from Nepal and Gwalior,
but they may be left out of the account. The bulk comes from Yarkand through the Himalayan passes,
or to a much smaller degree from other parts of Central Asia through the
routes on the frontier of Afghanistan. It would not be a very difficult matter
to stop these imports, though the co-operation of the Kashmir Darbar would
be necessary in regard to Yarkand charas. It
may, therefore, be accepted that the supply of charas might be cut off without
much difficulty, though, as this article forms the principal import from
Yarkand, the prohibition of charas would paralyse, if not extinguish, the
trade with this country. In
regard to ganja, the problem is more complex. Ganja
is regularly cultivated in Bengal, the Central Provinces, Madras, Bombay,
and Berar. In Bengal and the
Central Provinces, the cultivation of the hemp plant for its production is
under complete control. In Berar
cultivation is only permitted under license. In
the other tracts of British territory it is not directly controlled. Assuming
that control is possible in these tracts, it does not follow that it would
be equally possible to prevent cultivation altogether. Moreover,
there still remains a considerable amount of production in many of the Native
States all over India. To induce
these States to prohibit cultivation would be a difficult matter, and, even
if this were done, the suppression of illicit cultivation would offer the
most serious difficulties. For,
though ganja of good quality requires some cultivation and tending, the evidence
before the Commission tends to establish the fact that ganja of an inferior
kind can be manufactured from the spontaneous or casual growth which is found
near human habitations and amidst cultivation of other crops in many parts
of India. While, therefore,
it cannot be asserted that the task of preventing the manufacture of ganja
is an impossible one, it would certainly at the present time be attended
with considerable difficulty.
Opinions of the witnesses regarding prohibition of ganja and charas
The question addressed to the witnesses regarding the prohibition of the
hemp drugs (No. 35) was so framed as to elicit in the first place opinions
as to the feasibility of such a measure. The
considerations bearing upon the subject were also set forth in the form of
subsidiary questions. The question
whether the witnesses advocated prohibition was not specifically put, but
it is not difficult, comparing the answers to the questions above mentioned
with those relating to other questions, to decide what the opinion of each
witness is on this question. Those
who hold decided views have no doubt generally stated them in some portion
of their answers, and at all events ample opportunity of doing so was afforded
them. A larger number of the
witnesses have contented themselves with merely giving an affirmative or
negative answer to the questions on the subject. It
is impossible to attach much importance to such answers. The Commission have abstracted them and considered them, but
they feel bound to give far more weight to the opinions of witnesses whose
replies show that they have formulated an opinion on the desirability of
prohibition. Some account will
now be given of these answers.
Opinions regarding prohibition of ganja and charas
of the total of 1,193 witnesses, 575 have expressed a decided opinion on
the question of prohibition. Of
these only 99 advocate it in their answers. The
remainder are against it. The
classification of these witnesses is shown in the following table:
. . .
Bombay & Sind
Coorg, & Quetta-Pishin
not only is there a very large preponderance of opinion against prohibition,
but the preponderance is specially marked among superior Civil officers. The
only witnesses indeed of the latter class who favour prohibition are three
in the Punjab, where charas and not ganja is consumed.
most important of these opinions on either side will now be specified. The
most forcible opinions in favour of prohibition will be quoted at some length
in order that the argument for this view may be thoroughly appreciated. The
opinions against prohibition are too numerous to be quoted, but the witnesses
will be named under headings setting forth the most prominent views expressed.
Bengal: Opinions in favour of prohibition of ganja
The Bengal witnesses in favour of prohibition of ganja consist of a Sub-Deputy
Collector, an Assistant Surgeon, two Medical Practitioners, an Honorary Magistrate,
two zamindars, two pleaders, a delegate from the Indian Relief Society, Calcutta,
the Secretary to the Band of Hope, Faridpur, the Secretary to the Bogra Medical
Society, and two Missionaries. The Commission cannot find much to quote from these opinions,
but the following are the most forcible:
Delegate, Indian Relief Society, Calcutta, Babu Amrita Krishna Mullick,
B.A., B.L.: After
quoting official and medical opinions relating to the injuriousness of
ganja, the Society endeavours to show that the cultivators of the hemp
plant lose largely by their occupation, and maintains that it is the duty
of the Government to come to their rescue by abolishing it. The
Society maintains that the privation to the consumers would not be serious,
and that it is difficult to suggest any drug more deleterious than ganja
to which they could take. The
Society contends that the alleged religious sanction to the use of the
drugs is a fallacy, and refers to the opinions of several pandits in support
of this view. The Society
argues that to meet the deficit in the revenue, which would be about 24
lakhs per annum, the salaries of European officers should be cut down,
the duties on cotton goods re-imposed and the income-tax increased with
an enhanced taxable minimum. Savings
would be effected by reduction of establishment and by decreased cost of
Secretary, Band of Hope Temperance Society, Faridpur, Babu Purna Chandra
Society begs to urge upon the Commission to consider the justice and propriety
of a just, benign, and Christian Government to allow cultivation and sale
of a drug which has been excluded from some countries, and in England doubly
protected in the poison list.” The
witness argues that the drug “has been unreservedly condemned by eminent
doctors as one of the most dangerous poisons known, as the most potent
cause of lunacy, and as the most pernicious and deleterious of all excitants
ever in use in any country.” He
admits that there are a number of jogis, sanyasis, fakirs, and mendicants
addicted to ganja smoking, but states that ganja smoking forms no part
of their religion, and there is not a single Hindu or Muhammadan religious
book which sanctions the use of ganja. “No
real disaffection can under the benign rule of the British Government be
seriously apprehended, and, even in the event of there being such apprehension,
the fact should not be lost sight of that the Government in this case will
have the support of the bulk of the population.” He
alleges that ganja produces crime, and that the taxation, amounting to
22 lakhs, is a drain on the poverty-stricken and half-famished people of
Bengal. He finds it difficult to suggest a substitute for ganja, but
liquor may be one, and a peculiar preparation of strong tobacco may also
serve the purpose.
Secretary to Bogra Medical Society (10 members), Pyari Sanker Dass Gupta,
prohibition will give rise to no political danger. For
the ganja smokers have very little
influence over society. The
Government has faced questions of a greater religious character, as the
Suttee or the Age of Consent Act, with boldness. This
is comparatively a minor question affecting only depraved men.
Rev. W. B. Phillips, Missionary: “What with liquor and opium and hemp drugs of various kinds, all licensed
by Government, it does seem as if the population were terribly exposed
to degrading influences. It
is not my province to face the difficult task of dealing with these evils;
and I sincerely sympathize with the Government in the heavy duty of solving
the grave problems involved. But
I do feel it my duty to set forth as strongly as possible the assurance
that very much mischief is being worked in the country by the various intoxicants
so freely and largely sold. I
hardly care to distinguish between opium, alcohol, and ganja. I
regard them all as bad. My
mind is so impressed with the evil effects of excessive use that I do not
care to consider the moderate use. I would wish Government to begin with
ganja, to proceed with little delay against opium, and then tackle alcohol. I prefer this as a matter of policy, as ganja is easiest dealt
with. I am prepared to prohibit
all three intoxicants on account of the evil which I see done by them.
Kali Das Mukerji, Sub-Deputy Collector: After
advocating prohibition of ganja on the grounds of the evil effects, and
stating that there would be no danger from the discontent caused owing
to the small number of the consumers, the witness proceeds: “The reasons
usually put forward in favour of ganja consumption are as follows: (1)
that Hindu friars and jogis cannot do without it, for it helps them in
their religious contemplation, and sustains them under severe exertion
and exposure; (2) that it is a safeguard against disease in malarious tracts;
and (3) that it serves the labouring classes as a refreshing stimulant,
alleviating fatigue. I do
not think that any of these reasons is conclusive, though plausible. In
fact, none of them stands the test of close examination. If any intoxicating
drug is at all necessary for friars and jogis, alcohol, opium, or siddhi
may serve the purpose. Eight
kinds of intoxicating drugs are prescribed in the Tantras for Hindu devotees,
and it is optional with them to take any if they care to do so at all.
. . . That ganja is a safeguard against disease in malarious tracts
is not necessarily true. . . . Even
as a stimulant and remover of fatigue, ganja has very little to recommend
it to the labouring classes. A
careful observation is sure to establish the fact that any ordinary labourer
whose only stimulant is tobacco is on the whole a better workman than his
ganja consuming brother.
Opinions against prohibition of ganja in Bengal
is impossible to quote the mass of opinion against prohibition of ganja,
but the following analysis of some of the most important opinions will give
an idea of the strength of these opinions
Prohibition impossible or unnecessary, or could not be enforced without
a large preventive establishment.
Hon'ble D. R. Lyall, C.S.I., Member, Board of Revenue.
Mr. Westmacott, Commissioner.
Mr. Price, Collector.
Mr. Skrine, Collector.
Mr. Jenkins, Collector.
Mr. Gupta, Commissioner of Excise.
Ganendra Nath Pal, Deputy Collector.
Mr. H. M. Weatherall, Manager, Nawab's Estates, Tippera
Prohibition would be strongly resented by religious mendicants, or would
be regarded as an interference with religion, or would be likely to become
a political danger.
(1) Hon'ble D. R. Lyall, C.S.I., Member, Board of Revenue.
(3) Mr. Westmacott, Commissioner.
Mr. Manisty, Collector.
Mr. Hare, Collector.
Mr. Marindin, Collector.
Mr. Bedford, Deputy Commissioner.
(63) Abhilas Chandra Mukharji, Deputy Collector.
(62) Kanti Bhushan Sen, Deputy Collector of Excise.
(163) Maharaja Bahadur Sir Jotendra Mohan Tagore, K.C.S.I.
(174) Radhika Churn Sen, Zamindar.
(175) Raghonandan Parsad, Zamindar.
Jogendra Krishna Rai Chaudhri.
(207) Purnendu Narayan Sinha.
(208) Mahendra Chandra Mitra, Chairman, Naihati Municipality.
(92) Mr. Ricketts, Manager, Nilgiri State.
(217) Biprodas Banarji, Pleader, Newspaper Editor,
and Chairman, Baraset
District Board, Monghyr.
(228) Jadubans Sahai, Vice-Chairman, Arrah Municipality
Prohibition might lead to
the use of dhatura or other intoxicants worse than ganja.
Mr. Jenkins, Collector.
(46) Ganendra Nath Pal, Deputy Collector.
(62) Kanti Bhushan Sen, Deputy Collector of Excise.
(161) Maharaja Girijnath, Roy Bahadur.
(164) Raja Surja Kanta Acharjya, Bahadur.
(167) Radha Balav Chaudhri, Rai Bahadur.
(233) Secretary, Rajshahi Association.
(217) Biprodas Banarji, Pleader, &c.
Assam: Opinions in favour of prohibition of ganja
The opinions in favour of prohibition of ganja in Assam are those of a Civil
Surgeon, the Secretary to the Tezpur RaiyatsAssociation, the Secretary to
the Upper Assam Association, a merchant, and a pensioned Overseer, Public
Works Department, and member of a Local Board. There
is nothing especially to note in these opinions.
Against prohibition we have the Commissioner of the Assam Valley, the Commissioner
of Excise, the Director of Land Records and Agriculture, an Officiating Deputy
Commissioner, a Civil Surgeon, an Extra Assistant Commissioner, a medical
practitioner, four pleaders, and four planters.
Driberg, Commissioner of Excise,
says: “It would be useless
to prohibit the use of ganja in a province like Assam, surrounded as it
is by independent hill people, who would cultivate it in their hills and
smuggle it down with little risk of detection. Any
prohibition will only lead to the increase of illicit consumption and to
the secret use of the drug, which would be decidedly bad; of course, stop
cultivation in Bengal, and the prohibition of the use of excise ganja could
be enforced; but there would be serious discontent, though in this province
it might not amount to a political danger, and the prohibition would be
followed by recourse to opium, and in some cases to alcohol.” The
evidence of planters tends generally to show that the use of ganja by the
garden coolies, who (except in the western districts of the Assam Valley
and those of the Surma Valley, all of which border on Bengal) are the principal
consumers, produces no serious effects. There
is nothing in any of the Assam evidence to controvert these views.
North-Western Provinces: Opinions in favour of prohibition of ganja and charas
The advocates of prohibition of ganja and charas in the North-Western Provinces
are as follows: 6 subordinate civil officers, 9 subordinate medical officers
and private medical practitioners, and 18 non-officials. But
few of these witnesses give any reasons for their opinions. And
the Commission are not able to quote any one of them as having any special
weight. The only opinion which
it appears worth while to quote is that of a Collector, Mr. Addis (4), who
does not, however, specifically recommend prohibition. He
says: “It probably would be
feasible to prohibit the use of all these drugs. Public
opinion is against their use, and the people are very obedient to authority. The
prohibition would certainly lead to the increased use of opium and alcohol.”
Opinions against prohibition
On the other hand, the opinions against prohibition are very strong. The
following is an analysis of some of the most important:
Prohibition impossible or unnecessary, or could not be enforced without
a large preventive establishment.
(1) Hon'ble A. Cadell, Member, Board of Revenue.
(5) Mr. Stoker, Commissioner of Excise.
Mr. Brownrigg, Officiating Deputy Commissioner.
Mr. Partridge, Officiating Deputy Commissioner.
(9) Mr. Jackson, Collector.
Mr. Tweedy, Collector.
Mr. Spencer, Officiating Collector.
Mr. Cockburn, Assistant Sub-Deputy Opium Agent.
Mr. Robarts, Joint Magistrate.
Rama Shankar, Assistant Collector.
Mr. Rogers, Assistant Commissioner.
Kanwar Kundan Singh, Zamindar.
Prohibition would be strongly resented by religious mendicants, or would
be regarded as an interference with religion, or would be likely to become
a political danger.
Mr. Brownrigg, Officiating Deputy Commissioner.
(9) Mr. Jackson, Collector.
Mr. Tweedy, Collector.
Mr. Cockburn, Assistant Sub-Deputy Opium Agent.
Mr. Gillan, Assistant Collector.
Rama Shankar, Assistant Collector.
Pandit Bishambar Nath, Deputy Collector.
Mr. Bruce, Assistant Collector.
Pandit Sri Lall, Officiating Joint Magistrate.
Kewal Ram, Zamindar.
Mr. Finch, Planter.
Bas Deo Sahai, Zamindar.
Mahammad Nuh, Zamindar.
Prohibition might lead to use of dhatura or other intoxicants worse than
ganja or charas.
Mr. Stoker, Commissioner of Excise.
(15) Mr. Ferard, Collector.
(28) Mr. Bruce, Assistant Collector.
(51) Thakur Tukman Singh, Deputy Collector.
Punjab: Opinions for prohibition of charas
The advocates of the prohibition of charas in the Punjab are as follows:
3 superior civil officers, 3 subordinate civi1 officers, 2 subordinate medical
officers, and 10 non-officials.
may be noted that Mr. Ogilvie, Financial
Commissioner in charge of Excise (2), records the following opinion: “I
am inclined to hold the opinion, though I am not quite satisfied on the subject,
that the use of charas is so deleterious that it might be permissible, both
on grounds of morality and utility, for its use to be prohibited or for the
price of the drug to be so artificially raised as to confine its consumption
to a very small number indeed. The
reason why I say that I am not quite satisfied on the point is because I
have not sufficiently investigated the facts. All
that I can, therefore, say with certainty is that my opinion tends to the
direction above indicated. . . . I
would observe, however, with regard to the Yarkand trade that the imposition
of a duty so high as to be practically prohibitive would very considerably
injure that trade, because the Yarkand trader in exchange for the charas
takes back the products of the Punjab to his own country or to Kashmir. The extinction or serious injury of the Yarkand trade would,
of course, be a very regrettable circumstance. On
the other hand from my personal
knowledge as Deputy Commissioner of the Dera Ismail Khan District, I would
say no harm would accrue to general trade on the western border from the
prohibition of charas.”
Coldstream, Deputy Commissioner (5), though he does not seem to have formed a definite opinion regarding the
moderate use of the drugs, says: “The gradual stoppage
of import of_ganja_and_charas_might_be_tried._span_style_.css"mso-spacerun: yes"> It
is not as yet a very widely-spread habit, but it might grow. It
would cause great pain and discontent if the prohibition were sudden and
comprehensive, but this would not amount to political danger. A
prohibitory measure regarding ganja and charas would no doubt be followed
at once by a recourse to opium and alcohol. I
can quite believe the moderate occasional use of the drugs may be comparatively
harmless, but I am not aware that they are commonly used occasionally and
in moderation. They may, however,
be so used for all I know.
Wilson, Deputy Commissioner (14), says that he should like to see the experiment made in selected districts
of prohibiting trade in charas (and bhang) altogether. As
regards charas, he thinks the prohibition would be feasible, as it is imported,
and the discontent would be insignificant. He
knows of no class, such as labourers, who take the drug in moderation as
an ordinary stimulant. Among
fakirs and other excessive consumers, he thinks the use produces great
evils, and that there is no more harmful drug which they are likely to
take to. He does not know
anything of the use of dhatura except its administration as a poison. He
thinks sudden prohibition would be cruel. He
would therefore begin by taxation and gradually raise it, leaving the question
of total prohibition to be decided by experience.
evidence of Arjan Singh, Extra Assistant
Commissioner (19), is much to the same effect, but he states that the
use of dhatura is general among the followers of Siva at the Shivratri in
the Dera Ghazi Khan district. He
says it is taken in very small quantities, so that its effect is almost imperceptible.
Millet (69), formerly District Superintendent of Police, would like
to see all intoxicants prohibited which cannot be proved to be actually
necessary. He thinks gradual
prohibition of the hemp drugs feasible, and that educated, intelligent
native public opinion, which to a great extent leads that of the lower
classes, would support prohibition. Discontent
at first among the degraded classes would be inevitable, but there would
be no political danger, though tact and discretion would be needed and
calm-minded European officials at the helm. He
fears that recourse to alcohol would be the result.
Riaz Husain, Zamindar (67), thinks that “having regard for the welfare
and good of the people which the British Government has in view, the prohibition of the hemp drugs (including bhang) is imperatively
necessary. Loyal and intelligent
subjects and well-wishers of the country would welcome the prohibition,
though the unscrupulous habitual consumers would indeed dislike it. But
as it would be for the good of the people, it is not hoped that any class
of persons would resent it. The
enforcement of the prohibition should be effected like other new laws and
regulations, exceptions being made to some extent in the case of the existing
old habitual consumers, because its sudden stoppage would cause them serious
privation. The discontent
resulting would not amount to a political danger. If it were possible to
make charas as expensive as alcohol, that would be one way of dealing with
Sujan Singh, Rai Bahadur, Contractor (59), considers charas as certainly
most injurious, and thinks its use should most certainly be prohibited. It
does no good to anybody. There are not many kahars who
take it. Those who do, go
to the bad. He does not know
of the use of dhatura as an intoxicant. The
use of madak and chandu is more injurious than charas, and they also should
be prohibited as well as liquor. He
would not recommend immediate prohibition, but would put on such a tax,
increasing it gradually, as to make it impossible for the majority of people
to buy them at all.
H. M. Clark, Missionary (46), would
like to see charas prohibited if it were possible. He
thinks. however, that alcohol does more harm than charas. He
cannot believe that a moderate use of charas is possible. Fakirs
and devotees are the chief consumers.
Dayal, Editor of the Kaistha Mitra, Lahore, circulation
300 copies (83), says: “If
charas be called poison (fatal, killing, murdering drug), it is not an
exaggeration of any kind. It
is a great vice to smoke charas. May
God not give this even in the lot of a foe. Only
just people as have bad luck get engaged in this vice. Government
will do their subjects a very great obligation by saving them from early
death and whirlpool of destruction and ruin. My
present belief is that there is no such thing as moderation in the use
of charas, because, when a charsi visits another, he offers him the chillum, and they smoke in company. The
smoke is thus repeated frequently.” Consumers
acknowledge that they would have no complaint; and if Government were to
prohibit the use of charas to-morrow, the bad habit would die out of itself.
Das, Pleader, and President, Sarin Sabha, Hoshiarpur (77): Charas is
consumed by shoemakers, musicians, jogis, sanyasis, and suthra fakirs,
and by some Khatris and Brahmins. The
physical effects are very bad, and most consumers become incapacitated
for work and lead a miserable life. The
subcommittee of the Sarin Sabha appointed to consider the subject recommend
prohibition. Enquiry was not
made from medical experts. Consumers
would not take to other intoxicants, because the intoxication of charas
is not like that of opium or other intoxicants. The
greatest loss would be that of the traders of Hoshiarpur and Amritsar,
who take merchandise to Ladakh and Yarkand and bring back charas.
Opinions against prohibition of charas
The following is an analysis of some of the most important evidence against
Prohibition impossible or unnecessary, or could not be enforced without
a large preventive establishment.
Mr. Rivaz, First Financial Commissioner.
Mr. Thorburn, Commissioner.
Mr. Ibbetson, Deputy Commissioner.
Mr. Maconachie, Deputy Commissioner.
Mr. Drummond, Deputy Commissioner.
Kazi Syad Ahmad, retired Government servant.
Prohibition would be strongly. resented by religious mendicants, or would
be regarded as an interference with religion, or would be likely to became
a political danger.
(3) Mr. Thorburn, Commissioner.
(6) Mr. Ibbetson, Deputy Commissioner.
Mr. A. Anderson, Deputy Commissioner.
(8) Mr. Maconachie, Deputy Commissioner.
Mr. Drummond, Deputy Commissioner.
Mr. Brown, Officiating Deputy Inspector-General of Police.
Thakur Das, Rai Bahadur, Assistant Surgeon.
Bhagwan Dass, Assistant Surgeon.
Muhammad Ikramulla Khan, Khan Bahadur, Honorary Extra Assistant
Muhammad Barkat Ali Khan, Khan Bahadur, retired Extra Assistant Commissioner.
Bahram Khan, Honorary Magistrate.
Gujar Mal, Trader.
Jawala Bhagat, Trader.
Prohibition might lead to use of dhatura or other intoxicants worse than
Babu P. C. Chatterji, Judge, Chief Court.
Mr. A. Anderson, Deputy Commissioner.
Rai Bahadur Bhagwan Dass, Extra Assistant Commissioner.
Thakur Das, Rai Bahadur, Assistant Surgeon.
Muhammad Barkat Ali Khan, Khan Bahadur, retired Extra Assistant Commissioner.
Lachman Dass, Merchant.
Central Provinces: Opinions in favour of the prohibition of ganja
are only two witnesses in the Central Provinces who advocate the prohibition
of ganja. Honorary Surgeon-Major
Harrison (38), on the retired Central Provinces list, employed in the Kalahandi
State, advocatesgradual prohibition, “which would
cause discontent, but not any serious danger. The
prohibition would no doubt be followed by recourse to alcohol and other stimulants.” The
other is a pensioned hospital assistant, who also advocates gradual prohibition.
Opinions against prohibition of ganja
The following is an analysis of some of the most important evidence against
.Mr. Neill, Judicial Commissioner.
Mr. Laurie, Officiating Secretary to Chief Commissioner.
Colonel Bowie, Commissioner.
Mr. Drake-Brockman, Officiating Excise Commissioner.
Dr. Prentie, Civil Surgeon.
Rev. Israel Jacob, Missionary.
Prohibition would be strongly resented by religious mendicants,
or would be regarded as an interference with religion, or would be likely
to become a political danger.
Mr. Neill, Judicial Commissioner.
Mr. Laurie, Officiating Secretary to Chief Commissioner.
Colonel Bowie, Commissioner.
Mr. Anderson, Officiating Commissioner.
Mr. Duff, Deputy Commissioner.
Mr. Lowrie, Officiating Deputy Conservator of Forests.
Batuk Bharthy, Superintendent, Kalahandi State.
Rev. Israel Jacob, Missionary.
Rev. Oscar Lohr, Missionary.
Vinayak Balkrishna Khare, Excise Daroga.
Lall Noorpraj Singh, Zamindar.
Mir Imdad Ali, Honorary Magistrate.
Prohibition might lead to use of dhatura
or other intoxicants worse than ganja.
(1) Mr. Neill, Judicial Commissioner.
(9) Mr. Drake-Brockman, Officiating Excise Commissioner.
(39) Dr. Prentie, Civil Surgeon.
(64) Rao Sahib Balwantrao Govindrao Bhuskute, Jagirdar.
Madras: Opinions in favour of the prohibition of ganja
The Madras witnesses in favour of prohibition are a Civil Surgeon, a subordinate
civil officer, a medical practitioner, a Hindu priest, and six missionaries.
King (85) says: “The restriction of the sale of ganja under conditions
similar to those required for poisonous drugs in Great Britain would be
an unqualified blessing to the country, thus contrasting with the action
taken against opium, which agitation I believe to
be unnecessary and mischievous. I
consider special measures should be taken to restrain the use of ganja
by sepoys, and especially to
prevent the young sepoy from acquiring the habit.” In
oral examination, however, Dr. King stated as follows: “My
opinion of the effect of the moderate use in impairing the moral sense
and inducing laziness, etc., is a general impression and not based on actual
observation. My impression is based on the fact that persons alleged to
have been ganja smokers have presented these characteristics. They
were pointed out as notorious ganja smokers. I
did not discriminate in these cases between the moderate and excessive
Mahmud (122) says: “It is
an unquestionable fact that ganja, bhang, and charas are poisons, and this
fact is admitted by all. In
my opinion their suppression would be an act of virtue deserving of future
reward, but it is not advisable to suppress their use at once. Its
suppression should be regulated under certain rules without any loss to
the State. To the best of
my knowledge and researches, alcohol cannot be safely used as a substitute
for ganja, charas, and bhang.”
Mr. Laflamme (153), speaking
on behalf of the Baptist Missionary Conferences of the Presidency, advocates
prohibition in these terms: “Owing
to the scarcity of shops in these parts, practical prohibition exists. Much that is consumed is consumed illicitly. The
introduction of the license system seems to have had no appreciable effect
on the use of the drugs. The
ganja is nearly all grown by the consumers in their own yards.” “The
drugs should all be so safeguarded as to prevent or minimize any possible
harm resulting from their abuse.” “The general
sense of the people is opposed to the use of the drugs.” So
far as the witness can gather, the members of the Mission are united in
the belief that in these parts hemp drugs are far less injurious than opium and alcohol; thus far that the latter are not only much more
extensively used, but much more baleful in their effects. Two
other missionaries, though neutral in opinion, are worth quoting. Rev.
Mr. Pittendrigh, Missionary (160) says
that he would have ultimate prohibition in view if possible, but there
ground for special interference in anything that he has seen. Another
Missionary, the Rev. Mr. Goffin (145), cannot undertake to criticise the present
or any system of exise administration. His
impression is that Government would be wise to adopt a strictly “let-alone” policy,
leaving it to the spread of education and enlightenment among the people
to prevent and lessen all its effects. The
province of government should be carefully to watch such effects, and wherever
and whenever necessary interfere with prohibitive legislation. Such
necessity, however, in his opinion would not often occur.
Opinions against prohibition
Among those who are opposed to prohibition, the evidence of the following
witnesses may be quoted :
Hon'ble C. S. Crole, Member, Board of Revenue.
Mr. Willock, Collector.
(14) Mr. Bradley, Collector.
(19) Raja K. C. Manevedan, Collector.
(23) Mr. Campbell, Sub-Collector.
(30) Mr. Levy, Acting Deputy Collector, Salt and Abkari.
Prohibition would be strongly resented by religious mendicants, or would
be regarded as an interference with religion, or would likely to become
a politicaI danger.
Mr. Willock, Collector.
(10) Mr. Stokes, Collector.
Mr. Sewell, Collector.
(30) Mr. Levy, Acting Deputy Collector, Salt and Abkari.
(94) Dr. Walker, Civil Surgeon.
(95) Dr. Sarkies, Civil Surgeon.
(38) Buddhavarapu Narayana Murthi Pantalugaru, Assistant
(23) Mr. Campbell, Sub-Collector.
(121) H.S.A.M. Manju Miyyah Sahib, Medical Practitioner.
Prohibition might lead to use of dhatura or other intoxicants worse than
(23) Mr. Campbell, Sub-Collector.
Bombay: Opinions in favour of prohibition of ganja
For the prohibition of ganja or charas in Bombay and Sind, we have the following
advocates: in Bombay two mamlatdars, a hospital assistant, and a medical
practitioner; and in Sind a health officer, two hospital assistants, and
a banker. There is not much
that need be quoted from the evidence of these witnesses. It
may be noted that the Hon'ble T. D. Mackenzie, Commissioner of Abkari, etc.
(1), holds that the policy of Government in relation to the hemp drugs should
be one of restriction, as far as restriction is possible, and that, if absolute
prohibition were possible, he thinks it would be a good thing. Owing,
however, to the fact that the territories of the Bombay Presidency interlace
so extensively with foreign territory, and to the feeling which would be
aroused among the consumers and those who sympathize with them, it would
in his opinion be impossible or undesirable. The
Secretary to the Arya Samaj in Bombay (109) states that while fully sympathising
with the objects of the Commission, which are apparently understood to be
the restriction or prohibition of the drugs, the Arya Samaj “is of opinion
that any Governmental action in the direction of further restricting the
preparation and sale of the drug will be productive of very little good.
The Samaj believes that education of the masses is the only proper and effective
remedy for correcting such baneful habits, and fears that any compulsion
in this matter is likely to drive
the consumers of these comparatively innocuous drugs to the use of more injurious
intoxicants that are plentifully supplied to the people like the various
preparations containing alcohol.” The
Samaj prays that the Government will devise measures for the restriction
of the sale of European liquor in India, and leave the hemp drugs to themselves. The
only thorough advocate of prohibition
whose opinion is worth specifying is Rao Sahib Shesho Krisna Madkavi (41),
who considers such prohibition very necessary and holds that, although there
would be temporary discontent among the consumers, such discontent would
not amount to a political danger, “the people
in this part of the country being loyal and of mild nature, and the proportion
of the persons using bhang and ganja to the general population being too
small to be taken into consideration.”
Opinions against prohibition
On the other hand, the opinions against prohibition are weighty. The
following may be specially quoted:
Hon'ble T. D. Mackenzie, Commissioner of Abkari, etc.
Mr. Vidal, Chief Secretary to Government.
(10) Mr. Monteath, Collector.
(12) Mr. Cumine, Acting Collector.
(53) Mr. Vincent, C.I.E., Officiating Commissioner
(110) Rai Bahadur Vishvanath Keshava Joglekar, Merchant.
(108) Daji Abaji Khare, Honorary Secretary, East Indian
Mr. James, Commissioner in Sind.
Seth Vishindas Nihalchand, Zamindar and Merchant.
Hon'ble T. D. Mackenzie, Commissioner of Abkari, etc.
Mr. Reid, Commissioner.
Mr. Monteath, Collector.
Mr. Lely, Collector.
Mr. Foard, Superintendent of Police.
Mr. Austin, District Superintendent of Police.
Mr. Kennedy, District Superintendent of Police.
Khan Bahadur Dadabhai Dinshaji, Deputy Collector.
Mr. Almon, Assistant Collector of Abkari.
Yashvantrao Nilkanth, Superintendent, Office of Survey Commissioner.
Desaibhai Kalidas, Pleader.
Balkrishna Narayan Vaidija, State Karbhari.
Rai Sahib Ganesh Pandurang Thakur, Mamlatdar.
Bahadur Visvanath Keshava Joglekar, Merchant.
Mian B. Shekh, Municipal Secretary, Surat.
Mr. James, Commissioner in Sind.
Khan Bahadur Kadirdad Khan, Gul Khan, C.I.E., Deputy Collector.
S. Sadik Ali, Deputy Collector.
Seth Vishindas Nihalchand, Zamindar and Merchant.
might lead to use of dhatura or other intoxicants worse than ganja.
Hon’ble T.D. Mackenzie, Commissioner of Abkari, etc.
Mr. Sinclair, Collector.
Mr. Vincent, C.I.E., Officiating Commissioner of Police.
Yashvantrao Nilkanth, Superintendent, Office of Survey Commissioner.
Rao Sahib Pranshankar, Inspector of Police.
Ramchandra Krishna Kothavale, Inamdar.
Secretary, Arya Samaj, Bombay.
General Conclusions in regard to total prohibition of ganja, charas, and bhang
general review of the evidence relating to the question of prohibition of
ganja and charas brings the Commission to the same conclusion as that which
they have framed upon a consideration of the evidence on the ascertained
effects alone. The weight of
the evidence above abstracted is almost entirely against prohibition. Not
only is such a measure unnecessary with reference to the effects, but it
is abundantly proved that it is considered unnecessary or impossible by those
most competent to form an opinion on general grounds of experience; that
it would be strongly resented by religious mendicants, or would be regarded
as an interference with religion, or would be likely to become a political
danger; and that it might lead to the use of dhatura or other intoxicants
worse than ganja. Apart from all this, there is another consideration which
has been urged in some quarters with a manifestation of strong feeling, and
to which the Commission are disposed to attach some importance, viz.,
that to repress the hemp drugs in India and to leave alcohol alone would
be misunderstood by a large number of persons who believe, and apparently
not without reason, that more harm is done in this country by the latter
than by the former. The conclusion of the Commission regarding bhang has been
given in paragraph 564; under all the circumstances they now unhesitatingly
give their verdict against such a violent measure as total prohibition in
respect of any of the hemp drugs.
II. The policy
advocated is one of control and restriction, aimed at
the excessive use and restraining the moderate use
within due limits
(Chapter XlV, paragraph 586).
Policy in regard to hemp drugs
prohibition, the question arises, what should be the policy of the Government
in regard to the hemp drugs? On
this point some important evidence has been recorded, and the Commission
deem it to be within the scope of their duty to state in general terms their
own conclusions. In the first
place, then, they are of opinion that in view of the harmful effects produced
by the excessive use, and in exceptional cases even by the moderate use,
of the drugs, the action of the Government should be directed towards restraining
the former and avoiding all encouragement to thelatter. The
object should be to prevent the consumers, as far as may be possible, from
doing harm to themselves and to lessen the inducements to the formation of the
habit which might lead to such harm. In
aiming at this object, however, other considerations need to be kept in view. There
is in the first place the question of illicit consumption. If
the restriction. imposed by Government is counterbalanced by a corresponding
increase in smuggling, no advantage is gained, but, on the contrary, a moral
wrong is done to the community apart from the annoyance necessitated by such
restrictions. Then, if there is a legitimate use of the drugs, restrictions
should not be such as to make the exercise of this use impossible. The Commission
have formed the opinion that there is a legitimate use of the hemp drugs,
and that it exists generally among the poorest of the population. Again,
if the restrictions lead to the use of more deleterious substances, or even
drive the people from a habit the evil of which is known to another of which
the evil may be greater, they are no longer justifiable. The policy of Government
must be tempered by all these considerations, and the neglect of any one
of them may lead to serious error.
 J. A. Froude’s History of England, 2nd Edition, Chapter I, page 57.
AND RELIGIOUS CUSTOMS
Scope of this Chapter
In the instructions issued to the Commission by the Government of India,
reference is made to the use of hemp drugs among fakirs and ascetics who
are held in veneration by large classes of the people, and to the custom,
which is believed to obtain to a large extent in Bengal, of offering an infusion
of bhang to every guest and member of the family on the last day of the Durga
Puja. The Commission were instructed to ascertain to what extent these and
similar customs prevail in Bengal and other parts of India, and how far the
use of hemp drugs forms a part of social, or possibly religious, ceremonial
or observance. Questions 32
and 33 of the Commission's questions were intended to elicit information
on these points.
In Bengal there is a considerable body of evidence dealing with these customs,
and more particularly with the custom of offering an infusion of bhang on
the last day of the Durga Puja. Some
few witnesses, it is true, state either that no social or religious custom
with which hemp drugs are connected exists, or that they are unaware of any
such custom; but the great majority of the witnesses either give an account
of them more or less full, or allude to them briefly as matters of common
The custom of offering an infusion of the leaves of the hemp plant to every
guest and member of the family on the Bijoya Dasami, or last day of the Durga
Puja, is common in Bengal, and may almost be said to be universal. It
is alluded to by many of the witnesses who refer to its use on this occasion
as well as on other days of the Durga Puja festival. But,
while there can be no doubt as to the existence of the custom, there is considerable
divergence of opinion as to the true nature of it. The
custom itself is a simple one. On
the last day of this great festival the male members of the family go forth
to consign the image to the waters, and on their return the whole family
with their guests exchange greetings and embrace one another. During
this rejoicing a cup containing an infusion of the leaves of the hemp plant
is handed round, and all are expected to partake thereof, or at least to
place it to the lips in token of acceptance. Sweetmeats
containing hemp are also distributed. Opinion
is almost equally divided as to whether the custom is a mere social observance,
or whether it is an essential part of the religious ceremonial of the festival. There
is difference of opinion among the witnesses as to whether there
is any injunction in the Shastras rendering
obligatory the consumption of hemp; but Tantric religious works sanction
the use, and the custom, whatever be its origin, may now be said from immemorial
usage to be regarded by many people as part of their religious observances. From
the evidence of the witnesses it would appear that there is no specific direction
in the Shastras of the manner in
which the drug should be used, but from the references quoted it would appear
that the use alluded to is that of bhang in the form of an infusion. Witnesses
who can speak with authority on the subject, such as Mahamahopadhya Mahesa
Chandra Nyayaratna, C.I.E., Principal of the Government Sanskrit College,
Calcutta, testify to religious sanction for the use of bhang or siddhi, while
many witnesses of high social position, well acquainted with the habits of
the people, as, for example, Maharaja Sir Jotindra Mohain Tagore, K.C.S.I.,
Maharaja Durga Charan Law, Raja Piari Mohan Mukharji, C.S.I., Rai Rajkumar
Sarvadhikari Bahadur, Rai Bahadur Kanai Lall Dey, C.I.E., and others, speak
to the prevalence of the custom, its intimate association with the religious
devotions of the people, and the innocent harmlessness of the practice.
Other occasions on which bhang is used
The custom described above, and which refers solely to bhang as distinguished
from other preparations of the hemp plant, is the most important occasion
on which bhang is used as a part of social or religious ceremonies; but there
is evidence to show that the drug in this form is used at other festivals. For
example, at the Holi festival, which is observed more generally in Behar
than in other parts of the Lower Provinces, bhang is commonly consumed; and,
according to many witnesses, at such festivals as the Diwali, Chait Sankranti,
Pous Sankranti, Sripanchami, Sivachaturdasi, Ramnavami, and indeed on occasions
of weddings and many other family festivities. But,
so far as the evidence shows, the use on those occasions is a matter of social
custom observed more generally in some parts of the province than in others,
and, although no doubt there may be some who consider it essential to their
devotions, partaking but little of the nature of general religious observance. In
Orissa bhang is largely used by the attendants and worshippers at the temple
of Jagannath at Puri; and there appears also to exist a custom, somewhat
similar to that of the Durga Puja in Bengal, of offering siddhi or bhang
in the form of sweetmeats to the god Ganesh, which are then eaten by the
worshippers and their friends and relatives. This
festival, called the Ganesh Chaturthi, occurs in the month of Bhadro (August-September).
Connection of ganja with the worship of Siva
It is chiefly in connection with the worship of Siva, the Mahadeo or great
god of the Hindu trinity, that the hemp plant, and more especially perhaps
ganja, is associated. The hemp
plant is popularly believed to have been a great favourite of Siva, and there
is a great deal of evidence
before the Commission to show that the drug in some form or other is now
extensively used in the exercise of the religious practices connected with
this form of worship. Reference
to the almost universal use of hemp drugs by fakirs, jogis, sanyasis, and
ascetics of all classes, and more particularly of those devoted to the worship
of Siva, will be found in the paragraphs of this report dealing with the
classes of the people who consume the drugs. These religious ascetics, who are regarded with great veneration
by the people at large, believe that the hemp plant is a special attribute
of the god Siva, and this belief is largely shared by the people. Hence
the origin of many fond epithets ascribing to ganja the significance of a
divine property, and the common practice of invoking the deity in terms of
adoration before placing the chillum or pipe of ganja to the lips. There is evidence to show that on almost all occasions of
the worship of this god, the hemp drugs in some form or other are used by
certain classes of the people. It
is established by the evidence of Mahamahopadhya Mahesa Chandra Nyayaratna
and of other witnesses that siddhi is offered to the image of Siva at Benares,
Baidynath, Tarakeswar, and elsewhere. At the Shivratri festival, and on almost
all occasions on which this worship is practised, there is abundant evidence
before the Commission which shows not only that ganja is offered to the god
and consumed by these classes of the worshippers, but that these customs
are so intimately connected with their worship that they may be considered
to form in some sense an integral part of it.
The special form of worship by the followers of Siva, called the Trinath
or Tinnath Mela, in which the use of ganja is considered to be essential,
is mentioned by many witnesses, and deserves more than a passing notice. A
full account of this religious practice given by Babu Abhilas Chandra Mukharji
will be found in Vol. III Appendices of this Report. The
origin of the rite, which it is said sprang up first in Eastern Bengal, appears
to be of recent date, about the year 1867. It
appears to be observed at all times and at all seasons by Hindus and Muhammadans
alike, the latter calling it Tinlakh Pir. When
an object of special desire is fulfilled, or when a person recovers from
illness, or a son is born, or a marriage or other ceremony is performed,
the god Trinath, representing in one the Hindu trinity, is worshipped. Originally
one pice worth of ganja, one pice worth of oil, and one pice worth of betel-nut
was offered to the god. But now ganja – it may be in large quantities – is
proffered, and during the incantations and the performance of the ritual
it is incumbent on all present to smoke. This form of worship is shown to have spread extensively throughout
Eastern Bengal and the Surma Valley of Assam, and, according to one witness,
it has penetrated even to Orissa. On
the other hand, there are a few witnesses who say that the practice is gradually
The use of hemp drugs is as a rule in no way connected with orthodox Muhammadan
observances, whether social or religious. The
Muhammadan religion condemns such practices.
In Assam, where the use of hemp drugs is but little practised by the Assamese
proper, there appear to be no indigenous customs connected with the drugs. But
the customs prevailing in Bengal are also found in Assam. There
is evidence as to the use of bhang or siddhi at the Durga Puja, and of ganja
by the worshippers of Siva. In
Sylhet the Trinath form of worship appears to prevail to a considerable
extent. With reference to this
practice, one witness (Prasanno Kumar Das) observes that “in the
Surma Valley ganja is offered in the name of Pir (Muhammadan saint) for the
benefit of the cattle.”
In the North-Western Provinces, where the celebration of the Durga Puja is
not so generally observed as in Bengal, a considerable number of witnesses
(some fifty in all) state that there are no customs, religious or social,
with which these drugs are connected. But,
on the other hand, there is overwhelming evidence to establish the almost
universal use by the people of bhang at the Holi festival, and some evidence
as to the common use of ganja by certain classes of the followers of Siva
at their festivals and seasons of worship. Of
the witnesses who speak to the use of ganja in connection with religious
observances, 22 state that it is essential and 92 that it is not essential. As
to whether the use of bhang should be regarded as a purely social custom
or as essential to religious observance, the opinion of witnesses who speak
on the point is about equally divided. It
is sufficient to say that the custom is now a general one, and that where
the Holi festival is observed, there the practice of consuming bhang during
its observance is common. On
other occasions, such as the Diwali festival, marriages, and family festivities,
there is evidence to show that among certain classes the consumption of bhang
is common. Allusion is also
frequently made to the habit of using bhang, to which, for example, the Chaubes
of Mathra and Brindaban are notoriously addicted, but how far the habit is
connected with the religious observances at the temples the evidence does
not justify the formation of an opinion. A
custom is mentioned by a Kumaon witness, Dharma Nand Joshi, who states that
a class of people called Kouls, who
worship spirits, meat, fish, etc., have the bhang plant as one of the objects
of their worship.
In the Punjab there is evidence as to the general use of hemp by some of
the followers of Siva, and especially of bhang, at the Holi, Dasehra, Diwali,
and other festivals, and on the occasion of marriages and other family festivities. Among
the Sikhs the use of bhang as a beverage appears to be common, and to be
associated with their religious practices. The
witnesses who refer to this use by the Sikhs appear to regard it as an essential
part of their religious rites having the authority of the Granth or Sikh
Sodhi Iswar Singh, Extra Assistant Commissioner, says:
far as I know, bhang is pounded by the Sikhs on the Dasehra day, and it is
ordinarily binding upon every Sikh to drink it as a sacred draught by mixing
water with it.
“Legend: Guru Gobind
Singh, the tenth guru, the founder of the Sikh religion, was on the gaddi of Baba
Nanak in the time of Emperor Aurangzeb. When
the guru was at Anandpur, tahsil Una, Hoshiarpur district, engaged in battle
with the Hill Rajas of the Simla, Kangra, and the Hoshiarpur districts, the
Rajas sent an elephant, who was trained in attacking and slaying the forces
of the enemy with a sword in his trunk and in breaking open the gates of
forts, to attack and capture the Lohgarh fort near Anandpur. The
guru gave one of his followers, Bachittar Singh, some bhang and a little
of opium to eat, and directed him to face the said elephant. This
brave man obeyed the word of command of his leader and attacked the elephant,
who was intoxicated and had achieved victories in several battles before,
with the result that the animal was overpowered and the Hill Rajas defeated. The
use of bhang, therefore, on the Dasehra day is necessary as a sacred draught. It
is customary among the Sikhs generally to drink bhang, so that Guru Gobind
Singh has himself said the following poems in praise of bhang: ‘Give me,
O Saki (butler), a cup of green colour (bhang), as it is required by me at
the time of battle (vide 'Suraj
Parkash,' the Sikh religious book).’
"Bhang is also used on the Chandas day, which is a festival of the god
Sheoji Mahadeva. The Sikhs consider it binding to use it on the Dasehra day. The
quantity then taken is too small to prove injurious."
Sikhs are absolutely prohibited by their religion from smoking, the use of
ganja and charas in this form is not practised by them.
unique custom of dispensing bhang at a religious charitable institution is
that mentioned by witness Baba Kirpa Singh. The
institution, as a relic of old Sikh times, is annually permitted to collect
without interference a boat load of bhang, which is afterwards distributed
throughout the year to the sadhus and beggars who are supported by the dharamsala.
The evidence as to social or religious customs in the Central Provinces is
somewhat discrepant, but on the whole points to the existence of customs
akin to those existing in the North-Western Provinces. The
use of bhang at the Holi and Diwali festivals and at marriages and such occasions,
and of ganja or bhang in connection with the worship of Siva, is frequently
mentioned by the witnesses. A
few local customs are also mentioned by some witnesses. Regarding a custom
of the Chamar caste, the Rev. Mr. Jacob says: “At
Chanda, the Chamars use ganja dust in the preparation of a beverage called gulabpani, which
is drunk at a ceremony called dadhi (the
first shaving of the beard), when no liquor is permitted.” Among
the Gonds, Cowasjee Nusserwanjee Hattidaru describes the following custom
as existing: “In the funeral
ceremony amongst the Gonds of these provinces, kalli or
flat ganja is placed over the chest of the dead body of the Gond, and when
the funeral party returns home, a little of the ganja is burnt in the house
of the dead person, the smoke of which is supposed to reach the spirit of
the dead.” Another Satpura witness,
Hosen Khan, mentions a custom of offering “a little
ganja at the Chitarai Debis, or collections of stones with rags tied to some
tree above. They offer either
a cock or a cocoanut or some ganja. It
is a custom among travellers. These
Chitarai Debis are in the open, and the travellers have a smoke at the same
time.” One witness states that
he has heard of the hemp plant being worshipped in the Berars, but this is
not corroborated by any of the witnesses from these districts. Another
has heard that the Gonds in their hill homes are worshippers of the plant.
In the Madras Presidency, where the use of hemp drugs is less common than
in most other provinces, many witnesses assert that there are no customs,
social or religious, with which they are connected, and the evidence as a
whole fails to establish the prevalence of any customs so general as those
connected with the Durga Puja and the worship of Siva in Bengal or the Holi
festival in the North-Western Provinces. But
there is evidence as to the existence of customs of a less general or widespread
nature. In Ganjam, the witnesses speak to the common use bhang on
the Mesha Sankranti day in honour
of Siva and Anjanayya, and also in the worship of Durga. Several also allude to a custom of offering a confection
or draught containing bhang to the image at the temples of Hanuman. At
the festival of Kama, the Indian Cupid, bhang is freely made and drunk according
to several witnesses. The Rajputs
or Bondilis are particularly referred to in connection with this custom. On
occasions of holidays or gala-days, and at the Mohurram, a number of witnesses
say it is usual for Muhammadans as well as Hindus to take bhang. It
is also said that various intoxicants, including ganja, are sometimes offered
to the gods in worship, and then swallowed by those offering them. Witness
M. Sundaram Iyer, Deputy Tahsildar (60), says: “Some of the lower orders make use of ganja as an offering, like cocoanut,
plantains, liquor, and such other articles, for certain deities, such as
Mathuraveeran, Muniappan, etc., according to the vow taken by each person.
This cannot be considered as essential, but is only a practice observed in
very rare cases. Such practice
is not followed by many people, and it is not injurious.” Others allude to the offering of ganja to Karuppannam, Kali,
Mathuraveeran, Muniappan, Karuannaswami, and Aiyaswami, more particularly
in the south of the Presidency. Mr.
Azizuddin, Sahib Bahadur, Deputy Collector, says: “Neither the Musalman nor the Hindu religion requires the use of these drugs
on religious occasions. On the
other hand, it is prohibited. Nevertheless,
in the maths of bairagis, such
as at Tripati, and of Muhammadan saints, such as at Nagore, Conjeveram, Arcot,
and other places, the manager of the shrine distributes ganja to all the
fakirs who assemble during the festival. In
none of these places, religiously speaking, ganja should be distributed,
but, according to custom among the fakirs, its distribution is essential.” The
Rev. Mr. Campbell says that ganja is used in connection with the funeral
ceremonies observed by certain classes, but that the use is not essential. Mr.
Merriman alludes to a custom of offering and consuming bhang at the funeral
of bhang consumers.
An interesting note, entitled “The Religion of Hemp,” by Mr. J. M. Campbell,
C.I.E., will be found in Vol. III Appendices. In
the Bombay Presidency the use of hemp in connection with the worship of Siva,
Mahadev or Shankar appears to be very common. It is referred to by many witnesses. The
following description of this custom as prevailing in part of Gujarat, Kaira,
and probably Ahmedabad has been furnished to the Excise Commissioner by Mr.
B. E. Modi, Deputy Collector:
“On the Shivratri day (the last day but one of the month of Magh), sacred
to the god Mahadev or Shankar, bhang water is freely poured over the lingam. Mahadev
is an ascetic, and is fond of bhang, and on this day it is considered a religious
duty to offer him his favourite drink. From
this day to the 11th day of Ashad, on which day gods go to sleep, water is
kept constantly dripping upon the lingam of
Mahadev from an earthen pot kept above it.”
similar accounts varying in detail are given by many witnesses coming from
different parts of the province, of whom some also refer to the habit which
ganja smokers have of invoking the deity before placing the pipe to their
lips. Others also refer to hemp
as required in the worship of Baldeo and to its use at the Shimga or Holi
festival. The Marwaris and some
other classes appear to use bhang at marriages and other festivities. Mr.
Charles, Collector of Belgaum, says that among Musalmans and Marathas the
ganja plant is offered to dead relatives who used it in their lifetime at
the time of the anniversary ceremonies of their death. There
appears to be no special custom of worshipping the hemp plant itself. R. K. Kothavale, of Satara district, says the hemp plant is worshipped
by one sect only, namely, by people from Northern India and Nepal, while
Mr. Lamb, Collector of Alibag, remarks that some of the Kunbis who make offerings
to the local divinities of their fields at the harvest season include a small
quantity of ganja in the offerings.
444. In Sind the customs, both religious and social, appear to
be much the same as in Bombay. In
Karachi and some other places bhang is generally offered to all comers on
occasions of marriages, panchayats, and other gatherings; and the custom
of freely distributing bhang as a charity to all who care to partake is common
both at temples and at other places of resort.
In Berar there is evidence as to the use both of ganja and bhang at the Shivratri
and Holi festivals and at social gatherings. The
hemp plant itself is not worshipped, but, according to one witness, when
a consumer dies, the plant is kept near his corpse during the funeral ceremony.
At the Holi and the Shivratri and at family festivities the drugs, especially
bhang, are used.
Major Gaisford, Deputy Commissioner, states that among the Hindu sect called
Bam Bargis the consumption of bhang is regarded as essential.
From Native States there is but little information regarding customs, either
social or religious, with which these drugs are connected. No
purely local or indigenous customs have been brought to the notice of the
Commission, but there is sufficient information to show that practices similar
to those existing in British provinces at the Holi and Shrivratri festivals
and on occasions of family rejoicings are observed by certain classes of
the people in many Native States.
Worship of the hemp plant
The custom of worshipping the hemp plant, although not so prevalent as that
of offering hemp to Siva and other deities of the Hindus, would nevertheless
appear from the statements of the witnesses to exist to some extent in some
provinces of India. The reason
why this fact is not generally known may perhaps be gathered from such statements
as that of Pandit Dharma Nand Joshi, who says that such worship is performed
in secret. There may be another
cause of the denial on the part of the large majority of Hindu witnesses
of any knowledge of the existence of a custom of worshipping the hemp plant
in that the educated Hindu will not admit that he worships the material object
of his adoration, but the deity as represented by it. The
custom of worshipping the hemp plant, though not confined to the Himalayan
districts or the northern portions of India alone, where the use of the products
of the hemp plant is more general among the people, is less known as we go
even far south, in some of the hilly districts of the Madras Presidency and
among the rural population, the hemp plant is looked upon with some sort
of veneration. Mr. J. H. Merriman (witness No. 28, Madras) says: “I know
of no custom of worshipping the hemp plant, but believe it is held in a certain
sort of veneration by some classes.” Mr.
J. Sturrock, the Collector of Coimbatore (witness No. 2, Madras), says: “In
some few localities there is a tradition of sanctity attached to the plant,
but no regular worship.” The Chairman of the Conjeveram Municipal Board,
Mr. E. Subramana Iyer (witness No. 143, Madras), says: “There
is no plant to be worshipped here, but it is generally used as sacrifices
to some of the minor Hindu deities.” There
is a passage quoted from Rudrayamal
Danakand and Karmakand in the report on the use of hemp drugs in the
Baroda State, which also shows that the worship of the bhang plant is enjoined
in the Shastras. It
is thus stated: “The god Shiva
says to Parvati: ‘Oh, goddess
Parvati, hear the benefits derived from bhang. The worship of bhang raises
one to my position,’ etc.” In Bhabishya
Puran it is stated that “on the 13th moon of Chaitra (March and April)
one who wishes to see the number of his sons and grandsons increased must
worship Kama (Cupid) in the hemp
In summing up their conclusions on this chapter, the Commission would first
remark that charas, which is a comparatively new article of consumption,
has not been shown to be in any way connected with religious observance. As
regards Northern India, the Commission are of opinion that the use of bhang
is more or less common everywhere in connection with the social and religious
customs of the people. As regards
ganja, they find that there are certain classes in all parts, except the
Punjab, who use the drug in connection with their social and religious observances. The
Commission are also of opinion in regard to bhang that its use is considered
essential in some religious observances by a large section of the community,
and in regard to ganja that those who consider it essential are comparatively
very few. The Commission have
little doubt that interference with the use of hemp in connection with the
customs and observances above referred to would be regarded by the consumers
as an interference with long established usage and as an encroachment upon
their religious liberty. And
this feeling would, especially in the case of bhang, undoubtedly be shared
to some extent by the people at large. Regarding
Southern India, the same remarks apply with this reservation, that the difference
between ganja and bhang as materials for smoking and drinking respectively
is much less marked there, and the distinction between the two forms of the
drug is much less clearly recognised, although by the term “bhang” is generally meant the drug as used for drinking, and by “ganja” the
drug as used for smoking.
TO THE HEMP PLANT OCCURRING IN
AND HINDI LITERATURE
Mr. G. A.
Grierson, C.I.E., Magistrate and Collector, Howrah
have the honour to state that I have searched through all the Sanskrit and
Hindi books accessible to me, and to forward the accompanying note on the references
to the hemp plant occurring in the literatures of those languages.
have met the hemp plant in Sanskrit and Hindi literature under various names. The principal are:
earliest mention of the word ganja which I have noted is dated about the year
the word vijaya is used, it is doubtful whether the hemp plant is meant, or
the yellow myrobolan, as the word means both.
name bhanga occurs in the Atharvaveda (say, B.C. 1400). The
hemp plant is there mentioned simply as a sacred grass. Panini (say, B.C. 300) mentions the pollen of the hemp flower
(bhanga). In the commencement
of the sixth century we find the first mention of vijaya which I have noted. It
is a sacred grass, and probably means here the hemp plant.
first mention of bhanga as a medicine which I have noted is in the work of
Sucruta (before the eighth century A.D.),
where it is called an antiphlegmatic. During
the next four centuries bhanga (feminine) frequently occurs in native Sanskrit
dictionaries in the sense of hemp-plant.
the tenth century the intoxicating nature of bhang seems to have been known: and
the name Indraçana, Indra's food, first appears, so far as I know, in literature. Its
intoxicating power was certainly known in the beginning of the fourteenth century. In
a play written in the beginning of the sixteenth century, it is mentioned as
being consumed by jogis (Çaiva mendicants). It
is there named “Indra's food.”
later medical works it is frequently mentioned under various names.
append a more detailed account of the passages in which I have noted the uses
of the Indian hemp.
may add that I have not traced in literature any difference between the uses
of the word ganja and the word bhanga, though modern kavirajas tell
me that they are distinct plants.
Cir. B.C. 1400
the Atharvaveda (cir. 1400 B.C.) the bhang plant is mentioned (11, 6,
15) once: “We tell of the five
kingdoms of herbs headed by Soma; may it and kuça grass,
and bhanga and barley, and the herb saha release
us from anxiety.” Here reference
is evidently made to the offering of these herbs in oblations.
grammarian Panini (5, 2, 29) mentions bhangakata,
the pollen of the hemp flower, as one of his examples. The
fact that the pollen of this special flower was quoted is worth noting.
in his Brihatsamhita (XLVIII, 39),
mentions vijaya as used with other
grasses in the rotes of the Pusya,
this passage certainly means some plant or other. The word may mean either the Indian hemp-plant or be a synonym
of haritaki (the yellow myrobolan). Dr.
Hoernle informs me that in the oldest medical works the word is explained by
commentators in the latter sense. It
is doubtful what meaning we are to adopt here. The
word may mean the hemp-plant bhanga. In
the passage from the Atharvaveda, already quoted, amongst the five plants special
honoured as oblations, bhanga is
closely connected with the herb saha. So also in the Brihatsamhita, vijaya is
mentioned as one of a long list of plants to be used in the offering, and the
very next plant mentioned is saha,
which is apparently the same as saha. This
would encourage the theory that the vijaya of
the Brihatsamhita was more probably the same as the bhanga of
Before the eighth century
Suçruta (Ut. XI, 3) Bhanga is recommended
together with a number of other drugs as an antiphlegmatic.
mentioned in the same work as a remedy for catarrh accompanied by diarrhea
(Ut. XXIV, 20, and Ut. 39, page 415, 20), as an ingredient in a prescription
for fever arising from an excess of bile and phlegm. In these two passages, however, vijaya is probably an equivalent of haritaki, the yellow myrobolan, and does not mean hemp.
the various kosas, or dictionaries, bhanga is
frequently mentioned as meaning the hemp-plant. Thus,
(1) Amarakosa, 2, 9, 20.
A. D. 500 (2) Trikandacesa, 3, 364.
or eleventh century (3) Hemacandra's
Anekarthakosa, 2, 37.
Twelfth century (4) Hemakandra's
The Sarasundari (date
not known to me), a commentary on the Amarakosa mentioned above, by Mathureça,
and quoted in the Çabdakalpadruma, mentions that the seed of the bhanga plant is the size of that of millet (kalaya).
Cir. 1050 A.D
Cakrapanidatta is said to have flourished under Nayapala, a prince who reigned
in the eleventh century A.D. In
his Çabdacandrika, a medical vocabulary,
he gives the following Sanskrit names for bhang:
(1) Vijaya (victorious), (2) Trailokyavijaya (victorious
in the three worlds),
(3) bhanga, (4) Indraçana (Indra's food), (5) Jaya (victorious).
names seem to show that its use as an intoxicant was then known.
The Rajanighantu of Narahari Pandita adds the following names to those given by
Cakrapanidatta in the Çabdacandrika above mentioned:
(6) Virapattra (hero-leaved or the leaf of heroes),
(8) Capala (the light-hearted),
(9) Ajaya (the unconquered),
(10) Ananda (the joyful),
(11) Harsini (the rejoicer),
and adds that the plant possesses the following qualities:
(1) Katulva (acridity); (2) kasayatva (astringency);
(3) Usnatva (heat); (4) tiktatva (pungency);
(5) vatakaphapahatva (removing wind
and phlegm); (6) samgrahitva (astringency);
(7) vakpradatva (speech-giving);
(8) balyatva (strength-giving); (9) medhakaritva (inspiring
of mental power); (10) çresthadipanatva (the
property of a most excellent excitant).
Say A.D. 1500
The Çarngadhrasamhita, a medical work by Çarngadhara, the date of which
is unknown, but which must have been compiled during the Muhammadan period
of Indian History, specially mentions (1, 4, 19) bhanga as
an excitant (vyavayin). In the same passage it mentions opium.
The Dhurtasamagama, or “Rogues' Congress,” is the name of an amusing
if coarsely written farce of about the year 1500 A.D.,
the author of which was one Jyotiriça. In the second act two Çaiva mendicants come before an unjust
judge, and demand a decision on a quarrel which they have about a nymph of
the bazar. The judge demands payment
of a deposit before he will give any opinion. One
of the litigants says:
“Here is my ganja bag; let it be accepted as a deposit.”
The Judge (taking it pompously, and then smelling it greedily): “Let me try what it is like (takes a pinch). Ah! I have just now got by the merest chance some ganja which is soporific and corrects derangements of the humours, which produces a healthy appetite, sharpens the wits, and acts as an aphrodisiac.”
word used for ganja in the above is Indraçana (Indra's
Cir. A.D. 1600
The Bhavaprakaça, another medical work written by Bhavadevamiçra (cir.
has as follows:
ganja matulani madini
vijaya jaya |
kaphahari tikta grahini
pacani laghuh |
Tiksosna pittala moha- -mada vag vahni vardhini ||
is also called ganja, matulani, madini (the
intoxicating), vijaya (the victorious),
and jaya (the victorious). It
is antiphlegmatic, pungent, astringent, digestive, easy of digestion, acid,
bile-affecting; and increases infatuation, intoxication, the power of the voice,
and the digestive faculty.
“The Rajavallabha, a materia medica, by Narayanadasa kaviraja, the date of which I do
not know, but which is quoted in the Çabdakalpadruma,
and is believed to be ancient, has the following:
tu tiksno-’snam moha-krit
mandara-manthanaj jala-nidhau piyusa-rupa pura |
vijaya-prade’ti vijaya çri-devaraja-priya ||
hita-kamyaya ksiti-tale prapta naraih kamada |
yaih sevita sarvada. ||
food (i.e., ganja) is acid, produces infatuation, and destroys leprosy. It
creates vital energy, the mental powers, and internal heat, corrects irregularities
of the phlegmatic humour, and is an elixir vitae. It
was originally produced, like nectar, from the ocean by the churning with Mount
inasmuch as it gives victory in the three worlds, it, the delight of the king
of the gods, is called vijaya, the
victorious. This desire-fulfilling
drug was obtained by men on the earth, through desire for the welfare of all
people. To those who regularly
use it it begets joy and destroys every anxiety.”
The Rasapradhipa, a work, the date of which is unknown to me, and which is quoted in the Çabdakalpadruma mentions jaya as a remedy for indigestion:
idam cubham |
tulya jaya bhrista tad-ardha
cigruja jata ||
saltpetre and borax, mercury and sulphur, and the prosperous five spices (long
pepper, its root, piper chaba, another
pepper, and dry ginger). To these
add an equal amount of parched jaya and
half of that amount of horse-radish (moringa)
is not certain whether jaya here
means bhang or Haritaki (yellow myrobolan). The
word has both significations. The
latter, perhaps, suits the formula best.
the Rasaratna-samuccaya, a work written in the south of India, jaya is
classified as a semi-poison:
visamustiç ca karaviro
jaya tatha |
kanako rkaç ca vargo
hy upavisatmakah. ||
spinosa), the root of the Nerium odorum, jaya (Symplocos racemosa) kanaka and ak (a
kind of Euphorbia), are semi-poisonous.
is frequently mentioned by vernacular poets. The
oldest instance with which I am acquainted is the well-known hymn by Vidyapati
Thakur (1400 A.D.), in which he calls Çiva “Digambara
bhanga,” in reference to his habit of consuming that drug. According
to an old Hindu poem, on which I cannot now lay my hands, Çiva himself brought
down the bhang plant from the Himalayas and gave it to mankind. Jogis
are well-known consumers of bhang and ganja, and they are worshippers of Çiva.
folk-songs, ganja or bhang (with or without opium) is the invariable drink
of heroes before performing any great feat. At
the village of Bauri in Gaya there is a huge hollow stone, which is said to
be the bowl in which the famous hero Lorik mixed his ganja. Lorik
was a very valiant general, and is the hero of numerous folk-songs. The
epic poem of Alha and Rudal, of uncertain date, but undoubtedly based on very
old materials (the heroes lived in the twelfth century A.D.), contains numerous
references to ganja as a drink of warriors. For
instance, the commencement of the canto dealing with Alha's marriage describes
the pestle and mortar with which the ganja was prepared, the amount of the
intoxicating drink prepared from it (it is called sabzi)
and the amount of opium (an absurdly exaggerated quantity) given to each warrior
in his court.
the consumption of bhang is not considered disreputable among Rajputs may be
gathered from the fact that Ajabes, who was court poet to the well-known Maharaja
Bishwanath Singh of Riwa, wrote a poem praising bhang and comparing siddhi to
the "success" which attends the worshipper of "Hari." Here
there is an elaborate series of puns. The
word siddhi means literally “success,” and hari means
not only the god Hari, but also bhang.
ON THE ORIGIN
AND HISTORY OF TRINATH WORSHIP
Chandra Mukerji, Second Inspector of Excise,
of origin. In 1867 Babu
Ananda Chandra Kali or Kailai, of Dhamrai, a village in thana Sabhar of the
Dacca district, first started the worship at the house of his father-in-law
at Fattehpur in the Atia pargana of the Mymensingh district (sub-division
Antecedents of the originator. Dhamrai is an important village in the Dacca district noted for its car festival, which is annually held in honor of a local idol named Madhab Thakur, and which is witnessed by a large gathering of people.
Ananda Chandra received education at the Dacca Normal School. After leaving school he served for some time as a pundit (schoolmaster), and then entered the Police Department, but was there only a short time. He is a Barendra Brahman and belongs to a respectable family. He learnt to smoke ganja when he was only a boy. His present age is 60 years. He has the reputation of being a versifier. He smokes two pice worth of ganja every day.
He married at Fattehpur in the Mymensingh district. There he introduced Trinath worship 27 years ago. A panchali (poem) reciting the praises and exploits of Trinath was first published at Dacca in 1871 and the first edition (1,000 copies) was sold in a few months.
The circumstances under which the worship was first started. Ananda Chandra Kali was at the time living in the house of his father-in-law. He was thinking of introducing the worship of a common god, who might be worshipped by all classes, rich and poor, Brahman and Chandal, and by all creeds, Saktas, Baishnavas, and Shaivas, and the idea occurred to him of having the present worship at which ordinary and inexpensive things, such as ganja, oil, and betel-leaf, were alone to be used.
Trinath (from Sanskrit Tri, three, and Nath, lord) is represented to be Brahma, Bishnu and Shiva, the Hindu Trinity in one.
Being a ganja-smoker himself, Ananda Kali may have also thought that by introducing the worship he would be able to save the ganja-smokers from disrepute, as then ganja could be consumed in the name of a god and under colour of doing a religious or pious act.
aspect of the worship. The
following translation of the Introduction to the Trinath Mela Panchali gives some idea of the subject
“The universe consists of the earth, the heaven, and the nether world, and Trinath is the lord of these three worlds.
was an incarnation of God in the form of Gour (Chaitanya), who delivered the
sinners by preaching the name of Hari, but the Lord was not satisfied with
this, and became concerned for the created, and soon he became incarnate again. Brahma,
Bishnu and Shiva, gods in three forms, manifested themselves in one form. The
one God, the Lord of the universe, seeing the miseries of mankind, came to
their deliverance. Ananda (Ananda
Chandra Kali, the originator) declares that the true and sincere worshippers
of Trinath are sure to obtain salvation. Brahma, Bishnu, and Shiva met together and expressed their
desire to come to this world in one form to receive worship
“He is a truly pious man who worships Trinath, and blessings are showered on the worshipper.
“The worship should be made in a form in which the rich and the poor may equally join and may perform it easily.
“Only three things, each worth one pice, are required for this puja (form of worship). The things which please all must be selected. The offering should consist of siddhi (ganja), pan (betel-leaf), and oil, each worth one pice.
“The votaries should assemble at night and worship with flowers. The ganja should be washed in the manner in which people wash ganja for smoking. The worshipper must fill three chillums with equal quantities of ganja, observing due awe and reverence. When all the worshipers are assembled the lamp should be lit with three wicks, and the praises of Trinath should be sung. As long as the wicks burn, the god should be worshipped and his praises chanted. The god should be reverentially bowed to at the close of the puja. When the reading of the Panchali is finished, those that will not show respect to the Prasad (the offering which has been accepted by the god), i.e. chillum of ganja, shall be consigned to eternal hell, and the sincere worshippers shall go to.
How the worship spread. Ananda Kali commenced the puja with the aid of some ganja-smokers in the village of Fattehpur. A large number of people consume ganja in the Dacca and Mymensingh districts, and the worship soon became popular. In fact it spread like wildfire from one village to another among the ganja-smokers. Those that were not in the habit of consuming ganja also followed their example.
The following circumstances assisted the spread of the worship.
I. The puja is open to all classes from Brahmans to Chandals and to the rich and the poor. Caste does not stand in its way, and it may be performed almost every day and in all seasons.
II. The puja is a Majasik Puja (made in pursuance of a vow on the fulfilment of the object desired). People have been led to believe that Trinath possesses the power of healing the sick and fulfilling desires, and that those who neglect his worship meet with disgrace, while those who observe it attain success in life. There are several stories in the Panchali narrated in illustration of this statement. It is also popularly believed that in the house where Trinath is worshipped cold, fever, and headache do not appear.
III. This is a cheap form of worship. The puja can be performed by even the poorest; only three pice being required.
IV. Ganja can be consumed by all in the name of a god, and the practice cannot be looked down upon, because it is done under certain forms and religious ceremonies. It is also popularly believed that those who mock the worshippers of Trinath shall be ruined and shall be the victims of misfortune.
The worship prevails not only among the poor, but also among the well-to-do. The latter often entertain their friends after the puja.
Women do not take any active part in the worship, but they often listen to the reading of the Panchali.
The worship is more or less general in the following districts: (1) Dacca, (2) Mymensingh, (3) Faridpur, (4) Backergunge, (5) Noakhali, (6) Tippera, (7) Chittagong, (8) Bogra, (9) Sylhet, and (10) Pabna (Serajganj side.
The worship is on the decline. It is almost dying out among the educated bhodrolokes, but among the masses it still exists.
have ascertained the above facts from Dr. Chandra Sekher Kali (brother of the
originator, Ananda Chandra Kali) and many other respectable persons, and also
from personal inquiries in the
Dacca, Chittagong and Rajshahi divisions.
ON THE RELIGION
Mr. J. M.
Campbell, C.I.E., Collector of Land Revenue
and Opium, Bombay
To the Hindu the hemp plant is holy. A guardian lives in the bhang leaf. As the wife of Vishnu, the preserver, lives in the hysteria-curing tulsi, or Holy Basil, and as Shiva dwells in the dysentery-scaring bel, Ægle marmelos, so the properties of the bhang plant, its power to suppress the appetites, its virtue as a febrifuge, and its thought-bracing qualities show that the bhang leaf is the home of the great Yogi or brooding ascetic Mahadev.
So holy a plant should have special rearing. Shiva explains to his wife, Parvati, how, in sowing hemp seed, you should keep repeating the spell “Bhangi, Bhangi,” apparently that the sound of that guardian name may scare the evil tare-sowing influences. Again, when the seedlings are planted the same holy name must be repeated, and also at the watering which, for the space of a year, the young plants must daily receive. When the flowers appear the flowers and leaves should be stripped from the plant and kept for a day in warm water. Next day, with one hundred repetitions of the holy name Bhangi, the leaves and flowers should be washed in a river and dried in an open shed. When they are dry some of the leaves should be burnt with due repeating of the holy name as a jap or muttered charm. Then, bearing in mind Vagdevata, or the goddess of speech, and offering a prayer, the dried leaves should be laid in a pure and sanctified place. Bhang so prepared, especially if prayers are said over it, will gratify the wishes and desires of its owner. Taken in the early morning such bhang cleanses the user from sin, frees him from the punishment of crores of sins, and entitles him to reap the fruits of a thousand horse-sacrifices. Such sanctified bhang taken at daybreak or noon destroys disease. Before the religious user of bhang stand the Ashtadevata or Eight Guardians with clasped hands ready to obey him and perform his orders. The wish of him who with pure mind pours bhang with due reverence over the Ling of Mahadev will be fulfilled.
Such holiness and such evil-scaring powers must give bhang a high place among lucky objects. That a day may be fortunate the careful man should on waking look into liquid bhang. So any nightmares or evil spirits that may have entered into him during the ghost-haunted hours of night will flee from him at the sight of the bhang and free him from their blinding influences during the day. So too when a journey has to be begun or a fresh duty or business undertaken it is well to look at bhang. To meet someone carrying bhang is a sure omen of success. To see in a dream the leaves, plant, or water of bhang is lucky; it brings the goodness of wealth into the dreamer's power. To see his parents worship the bhang-plant and pour bhang over Shiva's Ling will cure the dreamer of fever. A longing for bhang foretells happiness: to see bhang drunk increases riches. No good thing can come to the man who treads under foot the holy bhang leaf.
So evil-scaring and therefore luck-bringing a plant must play an important part in the rites required to clear away evil influences. During the great spirit time of marriage in Bombay among almost all the higher classes of Gujarat Hindus, of the Jain as well as of the Brahmanic sects, the supplies sent by the family of the bride to the bridegroom's party during their seven days' sojourn includes a supply of bhang. The name of the father who neglects to send bhang is held in contempt. Again, after the wedding, when the bridegroom and his friends are entertained at the house of the bride, richly-spiced bhang is drunk by the guests. The Gujarat Musalman bride before and after marriage drinks a preparation of bhang. Among the Pardeshi or North Indian Hindus of Bombay bhang is given not only at weddings, but the Pardeshi who fails to give his visitor bhang is despised by his caste as mean and miserly. Another great spirit time during which bhang plays an important part is the time of war. Before the outbreak of a war and during its progress the Ling of Mahadev should be bathed with bhang. Its power of driving panic influences from near the god has gained for bhang the name of Vijaya, the unbeaten. So a drink of bhang drives from the fighting Hindu the haunting spirits of fear and weariness. So the beleagured Rajput, when nothing is left but to die, after loosing his hair that the bhang spirit may have free entrance, drinks the sacramental bhang and rushing on the enemy completes his juhár or self-sacrifice. It is this quality of panic-scaring that makes bhang, the Vijaya or Victorious, specially dear to Mahadev in his character of Tripur, the slayer of the demon Tripurasur. As Shiva is fond of bel leaves, as Vishnu is fond of tulsi leaves, so is Tripuresvar fond of bhang leaves. He who wishes to obtain his desires must constantly offer bhang to Tripuresvar.
Bhang the cooler is a febrifuge. Bhang acts on the fever not directly or physically as an ordinary medicine, but indirectly or spiritually by soothing the angry influences to whom the heats of fever are due. According to one account in the Ayurveda, fever is possession by the hot angry breath of the great gods Brahma, Vishnu, and shiva. According to another passage in the Ayurveda, Shankar or Shiva, enraged by a slight from his father-in-law Daksha, breathed from his nostrils the eight fevers that wither mankind. If the fever-stricken performs the Vijaya abhishek, or bhang-pouring on the Ling of Shankar, the god is pleased, his breath cools, and the portion of his breath in the body of the fever-stricken ceases to inflame. The Kashikhanda Purana tells how at Benares, a Brahman, sore-smitten with fever, dreamed that be had poured bhang over the self-sprung Ling and was well. On waking he went to the Ling, worshipped, poured bhang and recovered. The fame of this cure brings to Benares sufferers from fever which no ordinary medicine can cure. The sufferers are laid in the temple and pour bhang over the Ling whose virtue has gained it the name Jvareshwar, the Fever-Lord. In Bombay many people sick of fever vow on recovery to pour bhang over a Ling. Besides as a cure for fever bhang has many medicinal virtues. It cools the heated blood, soothes the over-wakeful to sleep, gives beauty, and secures length of days. It cures dysentery and sunstroke, clears phlegm, quickens digestion, sharpens appetite, makes the tongue of the lisper plain, freshens the intellect, and gives alertness to the body and gaiety to the mind. Such are the useful and needful ends for which in his goodness the Almighty made bhang. In this praise of the hemp the Makhzan or great Greek-Arab work on drugs joins. Ganja in excess causes abscess, even madness. In moderation bhang is the best of gifts. Bhang is a cordial, a bile absorber, an appetiser, a prolonger of life. Bhang quickens fancy, deepens thought, and braces judgment.
As on other guardian-possessed objects, the cow, the Vedas, or the leaf of the bel tree, oaths are taken on the bhang leaf. Even to a truthful witness an oath on the bhang leaf is dreaded. To one who foreswears himself the bhang oath is death.
So holy a plant must play a leading part in temple rites. Shiva on fire with the poison churned from the ocean was cooled by bhang. At another time enraged with family worries the god withdrew to the fields. The cool shade of a plant soothed him. He crushed and ate of the leaves, and the bhang refreshed him. For these two benefits bhang is Shankarpriya, the beloved of Mahadev. So the right user of bhang or of ganja, before beginning to drink or to smoke, offers the drug to Mahadev saying, Lena Shankar, lena Babulnath: Be pleased to take it Shankar, take it Babulnath. According to the Shiva Purana, from the dark fourteenth of Magh (January-February) to the light fourteenth of Asbadh (July-July), that is, during the three months of the hot weather, bhang should be daily poured over the Ling of Shiva. If not every day, bhang should be poured at least during the first and last days of this period. According to the Meru Tantra on any Monday, especially on Shravan (July-August) Mondays, on all twelfths or pradoshs, and on all dark fourteenths of shivratris, still more on the Mahashivratri or Shiva's Great Night on the dark fourteenth of Magh (January-February), and at all eclipses of the sun or moon, persons wistful either for this world or for the world to come should offer bhang to Shiva and pour it over the Ling. Not every devotee of Shiva makes offerings of bhang. Such rites in Bombay are seldom performed except in the Bhuleswar and Babulnath temples and there only on special occasions. The bhang offered to Mahadev is without pepper or other spice. It is mixed with water, water and milk, or milk and sugar. It is poured over the Ling. According to some authorities the offerer should not touch the offered bhang. Temple ministrants Atits, Tapodhans, Bhojaks, Bhopis, Bharadis, Guravas alone should drink it. If there are no ministrants the remains of the offering should be poured into a well or given to cows to drink. Other authorities encourage the offerer to sip the bhang, since by sipping the bhang reaches and soothes the Shiva-Shakti or Shiva-spirit in the sipper. On certain special occasions during failures of rain, during eclipses, and also in times of war libations of bhang are poured over the Ling.
Vaishnavas as well as Shaivas make offerings of bhang. The form of Vishnu or the Guardian to whom bhang is a welcome offering is Baladev, Balaram, or Dauji, the elder brother of Krishna. Baladev was fond of spirits, not of bhang. But Banias, Bhatias, and other high class Hindus, not being able to offer spirits, instead of spirits present bhang. In Bombay the offering of bhang to Baladev, unlike the special offerings to Shiva, is a common and everyday rite. Without an offering of bhang no worship of Baladev is complete. Unlike the plain or milk and sugared bhang spilt over the Ling, Baladev's bhang is a richly-spiced liquid which all present, including the offerer, join in drinking. Such social and religious drinking of bhang is common in Bombay in the temple of Dauji in Kalyan Kirparam lane near Bhuleshwar. As in the higher class worship of Baladev the liquor offering has been refined into an offering of bhang so it is in the worship of Devi, Shiva's early and terrible consort. On any Tuesday or Friday, the two weekdays sacred to Devi, still more during the Navratra or Nine Nights in Ashwin or September-October, those whose caste rules forbid liquor make a pleasing spiced bhang. And as in the worship of Baladev all present, worshipper and ministrant alike, join in drinking. Shitaladevi, the Cooler, the dread goddess of small-pox, whose nature, like the nature of bhang, is cooling, takes pleasure in offerings of bhang. During epidemics of small-pox the burning and fever of the disease are soothed by pouring bhang over the image of Shitaladevi. So for the feverishness caused by the heats especially to the old no cure equals the drinking of bhang. Unlike spirits the tempter to flesh bhang the craver for milk is pleasing to the Hindu religion. Even according to the straitest school of the objectors to stimulants, while to a high caste Hindu the penalty for liquor-drinking is death, no penalty attaches to the use of bhang, and a single day's fast is enough to cleanse from the coarser spirit of ganja. Even among those who hold stimulants to be devil-possessed penalty and disfavour attach to the use of hemp drugs only when they are taken with no religious object and without observing the due religious rites.
At the other extreme of Hindu thought from the foes to stimulants, to the worshippers of the influences that, raising man out of himself and above mean individual worries, make him one with the divine force of nature, it is inevitable that temperaments should be found to whom the quickening spirit of bhang is the spirit of freedom and knowledge. In the ecstasy of bhang the spark of the Eternal in man turns into light the murkiness of matter or illusion and self is lost in the central soul-fire. The Hindu poet of Shiva, the Great Spirit that living in bhang passes into the drinker, sings of bhang as the clearer of ignorance, the giver of knowledge. No gem or jewel can touch in value bhang taken truly and reverently. He who drinks bhang drinks Shiva. The soul in whom the spirit of bhang finds a home glides into the ocean of Being freed from the weary round of matter-blinded self. To the meaner man, still under the glamour of matter or maya, bhang taken religiously is kindly thwarting the wiles of his foes and giving the drinker wealth and promptness of mind.
In this devotion to bhang, with reverence, not with the worship, which is due to Allah alone, the North Indian Mussalman joins hymning the praises of bhang. To the follower of the later religion of Islam the holy spirit in bhang is not the spirit of the Almighty. It is the spirit of the great prophet Khizr or Elijah. That bhang should be sacred to Khizr is natural. Khizr is the patron saint of water. Still more Khizr means green, the revered colour of the cooling water of bhang. So the Urdu poet sings: “When I quaff fresh bhang I liken its colour to the fresh light down of thy youthful beard.” The prophet Khizr or the Green prophet cries: “May the drink be pleasing to thee.” Nasir, the great North Indian Urdu poet of the beginning of the present century, is loud in the praises of his beloved Sabzi, the Green one: “Compared with bhang spirits are naught. Leave all things thou fool, drink bhang.” From its quickening the imagination Musalman poets honour bhang with the title Warak al Khiyall, Fancy's Leaf. And the Makhzan or great Arab-Greek drug book records many other fond names for the drug. Bhang is the Joy-giver, the Sky-flier, the Heavenly-guide, the Poor Man's Heaven, the Soother of Grief.
Much of the holiness of bhang is due to its virtue of clearing the head and stimulating the brain to thought. Among ascetics the sect known as Atits are specially devoted to hemp. No social or religious gathering of Atits is complete without the use of the hemp plant smoked in ganja or drunk in bhang. To its devotee bhang is no ordinary plant that became holy from its guardian and healing qualities. According to one account, when nectar was produced from the churning of the ocean, something was wanted to purify the nectar. The deity supplied the want of a nectar-cleanser by creating bhang. This bhang Mahadev made from his own body, and so it is called angaj or body-born. According to another account some nectar dropped to the ground and from the ground the bhang plant sprang. It was because they used this child of nectar or of Mahadev in agreement with religious forms that the seers or Rishis became Siddha or one with the deity. He who, despite the example of the Rishis, uses no bhang shall lose his happiness in this life and in the life to come. In the end he shall be cast into hell. The mere sight of bhang cleanses from as much sin as a thousand horse-sacrifices or a thousand pilgrimages. He who scandalises the user of bhang shall suffer the torments of hell so long as the sun endures. He who drinks bhang foolishly or for pleasure without religious rites is as guilty as the sinner of lakhs of sins. He who drinks wisely and according to rule, be he ever so low, even though his body is smeared with human ordure and urine, is Shiva. No god or man is as good as the religious drinker of bhang. The students of the scriptures at Benares are given bhang before they sit to study. At Benares, Ujjain, the other holy places yogis, bairagis and sanyasis take deep draughts of bhang that they may centre their thoughts on the Eternal. To bring back to reason an unhinged mind the best and cleanest bhang leaves should be boiled in milk and turned to clarified butter. Salamisri, saffron, and sugar should be added and the whole eaten. Besides over the demon of Madness bhang is Vijaya or victorious over the demons of hunger and thirst. By the help of bhang ascetics pass days without food or drink. The supporting power of bhang has brought many a Hindu family safe through the miseries of famine. To forbid or even seriously to restrict the use of so holy and gracious a herb as the hemp would cause widespread suffering and annoyance and to the large bands of worshipped ascetics deep-seated anger. It would rob the people of a solace in discomfort, of a cure in sickness, of a guardian whose gracious protection saves them from the attacks of evil influences, and whose mighty power makes the devotee of the Victorious, overcoming the demons of hunger and thirst, of panic fear, of the glamour of Maya or matter, and of madness, able to rest to brood on the Eternal, till the Eternal, possessing him body and soul, frees him from the haunting of self and receives him into the ocean of Being. These beliefs the Musalman devotee shares to the full. Like his Hindu brother the Musalman fakir reveres bhang as the lengthener of life, the freer from the bonds of self. Bhang brings union with the Divine Spirit. “We drank bhang and the mystery I am He grew plain. So grand a result, so tiny a sin.”
 I quote the MS. in the Library of the A.S. B.
 According to Dutt “not before 1535 A.D.”
 Nectar was produced in this fashion.
 The name of several plants; I do not know which is meant here.
 The name of several plants, Jussiaeca Repens, Hemionitis cordifolia, Rubia munjista, Hedyssrum Lagopodioide.
 Said by a kaviraja to mean dhatura.