A Hindi and Nepali name for hemp, which is derived from the Sanskrit ‘gañjā’, refers to a “powerful preparation of cannabis sativa”. Its one of the oldest and most commonly used names for cannabis and dates back to 1689. Nowadays, its most well-known for being a commonly synonym in Jamaica. But what’s interesting is how it got its fame over nine thousand miles away from home.
Whilst the British had gained strategic control of India in the late 18th Century, labourers to work in plantations were required in the colonies so over 40,000 Indian slaves were brought over from India to Jamaica between 1845 and 1917.
Throughout this period of time, there was a mingling of cultures and the term ‘ganja’ became commonplace. It was within these indentured slaves that the black-power, pan-African message of Rastafarianism found prominence among this disenfranchised population. As the movement grew, Jamaican elites felt threatened and in 1948, made ganja illegal. By the mid-20th century, ganja had become an integral facet of the anti-establishment movement that forms part of what we know as Rastafarianism.
For a lot of people, it’s not always clear what the difference between Hemp and Marijuana is. The most defining factor is its internal composition. Both can have high levels of CBD, but hemp can only have up to 0.3% THC (by dry weight), whereas marijuana can have levels upwards of 30% THC. Hemp is believed to be one of (if not the) first crop that humans cultivated, over 10,000 years ago. It can be used for so many different things including food, fibres, fabrics, building materials, paper, jewellery, cordage, weed control and biofuels. The list of applications and uses is so long, it’s almost unbelievable.
On top of this, Hemp is very easy to grow. It’s tough and doesn’t require much attention, which is why it’s usually grown outside. It doesn’t need much water, is frost tolerant and is stronger and softer than cotton, for example, which take up more space, requires more care and more particular climates. This means its actually much better for the environment too!
As the first president of the US famously said, “Make the most of the Indian hemp seed… and sow it everywhere!” – George Washington
Indian Hemp Drugs Commission
The Indian Hemp Drugs Commission was a report commissioned by the British Government into the use of cannabis in India in 1893.
The report stated that “the occasional use of hemp in moderate doses may be beneficial; but this use may be regarded as medicinal in character”, but decided to look into three potential effects to consider its use in a more recreational capacity.
Physical effects – the commission came to the conclusion that the moderate use of hemp is “practically attended by no evil results at all” and that there were even cases in particularly malariaous climates, or in “circumstances of hard work and exposure, people attribute beneficial effects to the habitual moderate use of these drugs”. They even suggested, “moderate use of hemp appears to cause no appreciable physical injury of any kind”.
Mental effects – the commission came to the conclusion that moderate use of hemp caused “no injurious effects on the mind”, but that excessive use may intensify mental instability.
Moral effects – The same is true for this effect in that the commission found that there is no adequate ground to believe that it “injuriously affects the character of the consumer”, but that excessive consumption indicated and intensified moral weakness or depravity.
Now, obviously this report was completed over 125 years ago, and medical research and science has come on leaps and bounds (understatement of the year) since then, but the IHDC is still one of the most involved, well-rounded and exhaustive studies on the matter, coming in at 3,281 pages long and including testimony from over 1000 “doctors, coolies, yogis, fakirs, heads of lunatic asylums, bhang peasants, tax gatherers, smugglers, army officers, hemp dealers, ganja palace operators and the clergy.”
Don’t you think it’s about time our experts took another look into things?
Psychedelics encyclopedia By Peter G. Stafford, Jeremy Bigwood, Ronin Publishing, 1992 ISBN 978-0-914171-51-5