The Death Penalty for Cannabis: Which Countries Are Enforcing Right Now

The case of a man sentenced to death for smuggling two pounds of cannabis into the Southeast Asian city-state of Singapore has focused global attention on the disturbing reality that there are still countries on Earth where you can get sent to the gallows for a substance that legal fortunes are now being made from. The news from Singapore, alas, is not the first such case in recent years. And despite an international outcry each time, nothing seems to change in these intransigent regimes. 

Hanged for Two Pounds in Singapore?

The case of Omar Yacob Bamadhaj percolated into the international news on Oct. 12, when the Apex Court of Singapore turned down his appeal — which means that the 41-year-old man faces death by hanging. The sentence was handed down this February, after he was convicted of bringing 1 kilogram (about two pounds) of cannabis into the city-state in 2018. 

As Channel News Asia reports, Omar and his father crossed from Singapore into Malaysia on July 11, 2018 to buy groceries and attend evening prayers at a mosque. While at a car wash, he met two acquaintances, who offered to pay him to bring three bundles wrapped in newspapers into Singapore. In a statement to the police after his arrest, he reportedly said the deal was for S$500 per bundle (about US$370). He said he knew the “green” was marijuana and wrestled with it for 20 minutes before accepting the deal—because he was “desperate for money.” 

At trial, he pleaded innocent, and said he didn’t know what was inside the packages. But this contradicted his initial reported statement to the police, and he was convicted.

Amnesty International’s death penalty adviser, Chiara Sangiorgio, told the media after the Apex Court decision, “By dismissing Omar Yacob Bamadhaj’s appeal, the Singapore authorities have violated international safeguards and sentenced yet another person convicted of drug trafficking to death by hanging.”

Others have taken note as well.

Reggae superstar Ziggy Marley took to social media to blast the Apex Court decision. As DanceHallMag notes, Marley wrote on Instagram, “So the government of #singapore is going to kill a human being for two pounds of cannabis. Is that just or moral?”

Escaping the Gallows in Malaysia

There is, unfortunately, as sense of déjà vu to all this. There was a similar global outcry in Oct. 2018 over a man sentenced to death in Malaysia for providing medical cannabis oil to epileptics and cancer patients. Malaysia’s government actually responded to the international protests by pledging to abolish the death penalty.

But the brief media spotlight moved on, and three years later—nothing has happened. It was only this Feb. that the hash oil producer, Muhammad Lukman, formally escaped the gallows after the Federal Court allowed his appeal of the death sentence, Free Malaysia Today reported. However, the court confirmed his guilt under Malaysia’s harsh Dangerous Drugs Act, and sentenced him to five years on each of two counts of possession. The terms are to run concurrently, meaning he will serve five years. 

And the death penalty is still on the books—including for drug offenses. This month, a 55-year-old single mother of nine was given a death sentence on a methamphetamine charge. Free Malaysia Today reports that Hairun Jalmani, a fishmonger in the rainforest province of Sabah, was convicted of possessing 113.9 grams—or four ounces—of methamphetamine in 2018.

And the political opposition is still pressuring the government to, at least, lift the legal pressure on medicinal cannabis. In Sept., lawmaker Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman of the Malaysian United Democratic Alliance (MUDA), stated on the floor of parliament, amid budgetary debates, that the country may get left behind in the global cannabis boom if it doesn’t lighten up. 

“I hope the government can table a working paper that is transparent, sincere, which is driven by data and science concerning the pros and cons of sanctioning the hemp and medical marijuana industry,” Saddiq stated, according to the Malay Mail. “I say this because there are more than 40 countries today where approval for hemp or medical marijuana has been given… We do not want Malaysia to lag behind anymore.” 

Flight From Burma

Southeast Asia has some of the worst laws in this regard, and a case from another country in the region also won brief attention from the international press two years ago—partially because an American was involved. 

In April 2019, US citizen John Fredric Todoroki was among a trio arrested in Burma for running a 20-acre cannabis plantation in a Mandalay industrial park—and potentially faced the death penalty. 

In March 2020, Todoroki, 63, fled the country while out on bail and is now back in the United States, Burmese news site The Irrawaddy reported. Todoroki spent nearly four months in Myingyan prison until he was granted medical bail, set at 325 million kyats (about US$230,000), in light of respiratory problems he’d developed behind bars. When he jumped bail, a court had just turned down his appeal of the charge, rejecting his claim that he had a permit for the plantation from local authorities.  

Things did not work out so well for Todoroki’s Burmese partner and co-defendant. The same month that Todoroki fled the country, U Shein Latt was sentenced to 20 years in prison, The Associated Press reported. Charges were dropped against the third person arrested in the raid, Shunlei Myat Noe, a young Burmese woman who served as a hired worker at the plantation. A photo in Myanmar Now showed her being led by police to a court hearing in Jan. 2020, seemingly in tears.

Political Games in China

China—the world’s biggest executioner, by far—has ambitions to get in on the cannabis boom, providing hemp for the global CBD market. But cannabis is more harshly proscribed in China than just about any other country in the world, and the People’s Republic continues to execute thousands every year for drug crimes. And some recent cases concerning foreigners have become clearly politicized.

Recently in the news was the very blatant case of Robert Lloyd Schellenberg, a Canadian who was initially sentenced to 15 years in prison for methamphetamine trafficking by a court in the northeast city of Dalian, Liaoning province, in December 2018. But the following month he was ordered to stand retrial as prosecutors said that his sentencing had been too light. In a one-day retrial, he was given a death sentence.  

Schellenberg’s retrial was widely seen as retribution for Canada’s arrest of Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of the Chinese technology company Huawei. Meng had been arrested in Vancouver that same December at the request of US authorities, who accused her of helping the company evade sanctions against Iran. Shortly after Meng’s arrest, China had also detained former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig and Canadian business owner Michael Spavor on spurious and secretive grounds of “endangering state security.”

More such cases followed. In April 2019, Canadian citizen Fan Wei was sentenced to death for meth trafficking by the Jiangmen Intermediate People’s Court in Guangdong province. In August 2020, the Guangzhou Intermediate People’s Court sentenced Canadian citizen Xu Weihong to death for methamphetamine trafficking. That same month, the Foshan Intermediate People’s Court, also in Guangdong province, sentenced Canadian citizen Ye Jianhui to death on charges of bringing 217 kilograms of MDMA into the country. 

China dismissed Canadian appeals for clemency in these cases, with the Foreign Affairs Ministry saying in a statement: “Drug-related crimes are considered serious crimes worldwide. Chinese law retains the death sentence and controls its application strictly.”  

In August 2021, the Liaoning Higher People’s Court upheld Schellenberg’s death sentence. 

The very next month, the US Justice Department reached an agreement clearing the way for Meng Wanzhou to return to China after admitting some wrongdoing in the sanctions violation case. (Meng had spent the past nearly three years out on bail of about $8 million at her two luxurious homes in Vancouver.) 

Within hours of the deal’s announcement, China reciprocated, releasing Kovrig and Spavor.  

But there has been no clemency for Robert Schellenberg, Xu Weihong, Ye Jianhui and Fan Wei, who still face the firing squad (that’s how it’s done in China). Whether they will receive a reprieve has been a subject of much speculation in the Canadian media. And they are among 115 Canadians detained in China, mostly on drug charges.

Amnesty International’s most recent report on global executions found that they actually declined in 2020, continuing a trend in recent years. But China was not even included in the groups’ worldwide tally of some 475 executions carried out last year, because the People’s Republic makes no statistics available. As the Al-Jazeera report on Amnesty’s findings notes, China is believed to carry out thousands of executions every year—many for drug offenses. And while meth, sadly, seems to be more widely available in China than cannabis, we may assume that some of those thousands of annual executions are for the herb. 

25 years for CBD in UAE

Nearly all of the executions that Amnesty recorded last year were in the Middle East, and this region vies with East and Southeast Asia for the world’s harshest drug laws.

Currently making news in England is the case of a British man sentenced to 25 years for bringing CBD oil into the United Arab Emirates. As BBC News reports, 24-year-old West London football coach Billy Hood was arrested this February in Dubai after four bottles of vape liquid containing CBD oil were found in his car. He claims he was forced to sign a false confession to trafficking the cannabinoid, which is legal to vape in the UK. The “confession” he signed was in Arabic, a language he cannot read.

UAE’s The National reports that the General Directorate for Drug Control (GDDC) received a tipoff that Hood possessed quantities of synthetic cannabis oil with the intention of selling. He is currently appealing his conviction.

Death Penalty in the USA?

No global survey of the death penalty should overlook the United States, which carried out 17 executions last year. And while none of these were for drug offenses, the country once known as the “leader of the free world” actually does have a death penalty for cannabis on the books—in sufficient quantities. Large-scale cannabis cultivators and traffickers—meaning at least 60,000 plants or kilos—may indeed be sentenced to death under the “Kingpin” provision of the Federal Death Penalty Act, which was an amendment to the 1994 Violent Crime Control & Law Enforcement Act.

After then US Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a memo in March 2018 urging prosecutors to seek the death penalty for those “dealing in extremely large quantities of drugs,” even mainstream media outlets began raising the alarm that this could actually be used against large-scale state-legal cannabis cultivators in places like California.

President Joe Biden calls his strategy for restoring US global leadership after the Trump era “The Power of America’s Example,” and it has much to say both about respecting human rights and challenging China’s appalling violations. But the United States clearly has work to do getting its own house in order before it can challenge others on rights abuses related to the war on drugs.

The post The Death Penalty for Cannabis: Which Countries Are Enforcing Right Now appeared first on Cannabis Now.

The Death Penalty for Cannabis: Which Countries Are Enforcing Right Now

The case of a man sentenced to death for smuggling two pounds of cannabis into the Southeast Asian city-state of Singapore has focused global attention on the disturbing reality that there are still countries on Earth where you can get sent to the gallows for a substance that legal fortunes are now being made from. The news from Singapore, alas, is not the first such case in recent years. And despite an international outcry each time, nothing seems to change in these intransigent regimes. 

Hanged for Two Pounds in Singapore?

The case of Omar Yacob Bamadhaj percolated into the international news on Oct. 12, when the Apex Court of Singapore turned down his appeal — which means that the 41-year-old man faces death by hanging. The sentence was handed down this February, after he was convicted of bringing 1 kilogram (about two pounds) of cannabis into the city-state in 2018. 

As Channel News Asia reports, Omar and his father crossed from Singapore into Malaysia on July 11, 2018 to buy groceries and attend evening prayers at a mosque. While at a car wash, he met two acquaintances, who offered to pay him to bring three bundles wrapped in newspapers into Singapore. In a statement to the police after his arrest, he reportedly said the deal was for S$500 per bundle (about US$370). He said he knew the “green” was marijuana and wrestled with it for 20 minutes before accepting the deal—because he was “desperate for money.” 

At trial, he pleaded innocent, and said he didn’t know what was inside the packages. But this contradicted his initial reported statement to the police, and he was convicted.

Amnesty International’s death penalty adviser, Chiara Sangiorgio, told the media after the Apex Court decision, “By dismissing Omar Yacob Bamadhaj’s appeal, the Singapore authorities have violated international safeguards and sentenced yet another person convicted of drug trafficking to death by hanging.”

Others have taken note as well.

Reggae superstar Ziggy Marley took to social media to blast the Apex Court decision. As DanceHallMag notes, Marley wrote on Instagram, “So the government of #singapore is going to kill a human being for two pounds of cannabis. Is that just or moral?”

Escaping the Gallows in Malaysia

There is, unfortunately, as sense of déjà vu to all this. There was a similar global outcry in Oct. 2018 over a man sentenced to death in Malaysia for providing medical cannabis oil to epileptics and cancer patients. Malaysia’s government actually responded to the international protests by pledging to abolish the death penalty.

But the brief media spotlight moved on, and three years later—nothing has happened. It was only this Feb. that the hash oil producer, Muhammad Lukman, formally escaped the gallows after the Federal Court allowed his appeal of the death sentence, Free Malaysia Today reported. However, the court confirmed his guilt under Malaysia’s harsh Dangerous Drugs Act, and sentenced him to five years on each of two counts of possession. The terms are to run concurrently, meaning he will serve five years. 

And the death penalty is still on the books—including for drug offenses. This month, a 55-year-old single mother of nine was given a death sentence on a methamphetamine charge. Free Malaysia Today reports that Hairun Jalmani, a fishmonger in the rainforest province of Sabah, was convicted of possessing 113.9 grams—or four ounces—of methamphetamine in 2018.

And the political opposition is still pressuring the government to, at least, lift the legal pressure on medicinal cannabis. In Sept., lawmaker Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman of the Malaysian United Democratic Alliance (MUDA), stated on the floor of parliament, amid budgetary debates, that the country may get left behind in the global cannabis boom if it doesn’t lighten up. 

“I hope the government can table a working paper that is transparent, sincere, which is driven by data and science concerning the pros and cons of sanctioning the hemp and medical marijuana industry,” Saddiq stated, according to the Malay Mail. “I say this because there are more than 40 countries today where approval for hemp or medical marijuana has been given… We do not want Malaysia to lag behind anymore.” 

Flight From Burma

Southeast Asia has some of the worst laws in this regard, and a case from another country in the region also won brief attention from the international press two years ago—partially because an American was involved. 

In April 2019, US citizen John Fredric Todoroki was among a trio arrested in Burma for running a 20-acre cannabis plantation in a Mandalay industrial park—and potentially faced the death penalty. 

In March 2020, Todoroki, 63, fled the country while out on bail and is now back in the United States, Burmese news site The Irrawaddy reported. Todoroki spent nearly four months in Myingyan prison until he was granted medical bail, set at 325 million kyats (about US$230,000), in light of respiratory problems he’d developed behind bars. When he jumped bail, a court had just turned down his appeal of the charge, rejecting his claim that he had a permit for the plantation from local authorities.  

Things did not work out so well for Todoroki’s Burmese partner and co-defendant. The same month that Todoroki fled the country, U Shein Latt was sentenced to 20 years in prison, The Associated Press reported. Charges were dropped against the third person arrested in the raid, Shunlei Myat Noe, a young Burmese woman who served as a hired worker at the plantation. A photo in Myanmar Now showed her being led by police to a court hearing in Jan. 2020, seemingly in tears.

Political Games in China

China—the world’s biggest executioner, by far—has ambitions to get in on the cannabis boom, providing hemp for the global CBD market. But cannabis is more harshly proscribed in China than just about any other country in the world, and the People’s Republic continues to execute thousands every year for drug crimes. And some recent cases concerning foreigners have become clearly politicized.

Recently in the news was the very blatant case of Robert Lloyd Schellenberg, a Canadian who was initially sentenced to 15 years in prison for methamphetamine trafficking by a court in the northeast city of Dalian, Liaoning province, in December 2018. But the following month he was ordered to stand retrial as prosecutors said that his sentencing had been too light. In a one-day retrial, he was given a death sentence.  

Schellenberg’s retrial was widely seen as retribution for Canada’s arrest of Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of the Chinese technology company Huawei. Meng had been arrested in Vancouver that same December at the request of US authorities, who accused her of helping the company evade sanctions against Iran. Shortly after Meng’s arrest, China had also detained former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig and Canadian business owner Michael Spavor on spurious and secretive grounds of “endangering state security.”

More such cases followed. In April 2019, Canadian citizen Fan Wei was sentenced to death for meth trafficking by the Jiangmen Intermediate People’s Court in Guangdong province. In August 2020, the Guangzhou Intermediate People’s Court sentenced Canadian citizen Xu Weihong to death for methamphetamine trafficking. That same month, the Foshan Intermediate People’s Court, also in Guangdong province, sentenced Canadian citizen Ye Jianhui to death on charges of bringing 217 kilograms of MDMA into the country. 

China dismissed Canadian appeals for clemency in these cases, with the Foreign Affairs Ministry saying in a statement: “Drug-related crimes are considered serious crimes worldwide. Chinese law retains the death sentence and controls its application strictly.”  

In August 2021, the Liaoning Higher People’s Court upheld Schellenberg’s death sentence. 

The very next month, the US Justice Department reached an agreement clearing the way for Meng Wanzhou to return to China after admitting some wrongdoing in the sanctions violation case. (Meng had spent the past nearly three years out on bail of about $8 million at her two luxurious homes in Vancouver.) 

Within hours of the deal’s announcement, China reciprocated, releasing Kovrig and Spavor.  

But there has been no clemency for Robert Schellenberg, Xu Weihong, Ye Jianhui and Fan Wei, who still face the firing squad (that’s how it’s done in China). Whether they will receive a reprieve has been a subject of much speculation in the Canadian media. And they are among 115 Canadians detained in China, mostly on drug charges.

Amnesty International’s most recent report on global executions found that they actually declined in 2020, continuing a trend in recent years. But China was not even included in the groups’ worldwide tally of some 475 executions carried out last year, because the People’s Republic makes no statistics available. As the Al-Jazeera report on Amnesty’s findings notes, China is believed to carry out thousands of executions every year—many for drug offenses. And while meth, sadly, seems to be more widely available in China than cannabis, we may assume that some of those thousands of annual executions are for the herb. 

25 years for CBD in UAE

Nearly all of the executions that Amnesty recorded last year were in the Middle East, and this region vies with East and Southeast Asia for the world’s harshest drug laws.

Currently making news in England is the case of a British man sentenced to 25 years for bringing CBD oil into the United Arab Emirates. As BBC News reports, 24-year-old West London football coach Billy Hood was arrested this February in Dubai after four bottles of vape liquid containing CBD oil were found in his car. He claims he was forced to sign a false confession to trafficking the cannabinoid, which is legal to vape in the UK. The “confession” he signed was in Arabic, a language he cannot read.

UAE’s The National reports that the General Directorate for Drug Control (GDDC) received a tipoff that Hood possessed quantities of synthetic cannabis oil with the intention of selling. He is currently appealing his conviction.

Death Penalty in the USA?

No global survey of the death penalty should overlook the United States, which carried out 17 executions last year. And while none of these were for drug offenses, the country once known as the “leader of the free world” actually does have a death penalty for cannabis on the books—in sufficient quantities. Large-scale cannabis cultivators and traffickers—meaning at least 60,000 plants or kilos—may indeed be sentenced to death under the “Kingpin” provision of the Federal Death Penalty Act, which was an amendment to the 1994 Violent Crime Control & Law Enforcement Act.

After then US Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a memo in March 2018 urging prosecutors to seek the death penalty for those “dealing in extremely large quantities of drugs,” even mainstream media outlets began raising the alarm that this could actually be used against large-scale state-legal cannabis cultivators in places like California.

President Joe Biden calls his strategy for restoring US global leadership after the Trump era “The Power of America’s Example,” and it has much to say both about respecting human rights and challenging China’s appalling violations. But the United States clearly has work to do getting its own house in order before it can challenge others on rights abuses related to the war on drugs.

The post The Death Penalty for Cannabis: Which Countries Are Enforcing Right Now appeared first on Cannabis Now.

China and Cannabis: Stigmatization and Continued Crackdown

Cannabis in China remains a complicated issue. Cannabis faces stigmatization, and the Chinese government continues to crack down on usage. The Chinese government’s attempts to stamp out perceived social ills are nothing new. Just recently, the government implemented new policies that restrict gaming time for youths. Policies around cannabis are similarly strict, so let’s start […]

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Origins of Cannabis: Plant Was First Domesticated 12,000 Years Ago

Researchers investigating the first domestication of cannabis have determined that the plant was originally cultivated in what is now northwestern China, according to a recently released study published in the journal Science Advances. The team of researchers investigating the origins of cannabis analyzed the genomes of more than 100 cannabis plants from around the world to conduct the study.

“It confirms it is one of the oldest cultivated plants,” said Luca Fumagalli, a biologist working at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland, who led the study. “We think it was a multipurpose plant. It was exploited for fiber, food and oil, and possibly medical and recreational purposes,” he said.

The research contradicts the commonly held belief that cannabis originated in Central Asia, perhaps in valleys of the Hindu Kush mountain range. The study determined that there are four genetically distinct categories of cannabis including a primordial group, a hemp group, and two groups bred for drugs. The researchers concluded that the first domestication of cannabis occurred in northwest China about 12,000 years ago, and that the plants cultivated likely had multiple uses.

“We show that cannabis sativa was first domesticated in early Neolithic times in East Asia and that all current hemp and drug cultivars diverged from an ancestral gene pool currently represented by feral plants and landraces in China,” the study reads.

A Global Sample of Cannabis Strains

To conduct the research, Fumagalli and investigators from Britain, China, India, Pakistan, Qatar and Switzerland analyzed the genomes of 82 plants collected for the study and genomic data for 28 more plants that had been previously collected. The 110 plants included landrace strains, feral plants, historical cultivars and modern hybrids.

The researchers determined that the wild ancestor of modern cannabis is likely extinct, but strains growing in northwest China are its closest living relatives. The genomic dating of about 12,000 for the first domestication of cannabis is consistent with archaeological evidence, including pottery with hemp cord markings from about the same time.

“Our genomic dating suggests that early domesticated ancestors of hemp and drug types diverged from Basal cannabis [around 12,000 years ago], indicating that the species had already been domesticated by early Neolithic times,” the study adds.

The study into the origins of cannabis also determined that farmers began breeding distinct strains of cannabis for drug or fiber production only about 4,000 years ago. The researchers identified several changes brought about by selective breeding, including a number of mutations that inhibit branching in hemp strains. These mutations cause the plants in the hemp genetic group to grow taller and produce more fiber in the stem.

The first domestication of cannabis cultivars for drug production took advantage of mutations that increase branching, resulting in shorter, bushier plants with more flowers and boosted resin production. Plants in the drug groups also showed several mutations that increase the production of THC, the primary psychoactive cannabinoid in cannabis.

Previous research into the origins of cannabis cultivation has been limited due to the difficulty in obtaining a wide range of samples from around the world. The new study included samples collected by researchers from the wild, as well as strains being cultivated by farmers around the globe. But geographic challenges were not the only obstacle to collecting plants for the genetic research – investigators also had to keep the legal implications of possessing cannabis in mind.

“You can’t just go and collect samples because you go to jail,” Fumagalli said.

Research Implications

The study contradicts the belief that cannabis originated in Central Asia, which is based largely on the fact that the plant can often be found growing wild in the region, which also has a cannabis culture dating back thousands of years. But Fumagalli said that the plant readily adapts to growing conditions found all over the world, adding “That’s why it’s called weed.”

The researchers determined that the genomic study and other evidence suggests that the origins of cannabis lie farther east and discounted the commonly held belief.

“Contrary to a widely-accepted view, which associates cannabis with a Central Asian center of crop domestication, our results are consistent with a single domestication origin of cannabis sativa in East Asia, in line with early archaeological evidence,” the authors of the study wrote.

The authors wrote that the study provides an “unprecedented” base of genomic information for ongoing breeding, as well as functional agricultural and medical research. They added that the study “provides new insights into the domestication and global spread of a plant with divergent structural and biochemical products at a time in which there is a resurgence of interest in its use, reflecting changing social attitudes and corresponding challenges to its legal status in many countries.”

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Growing Pot is Your Patriotic Duty

Clammy mists clung bitterly to the rolling hills of a brisk autumn morning, but the panting grower ignored them as he hurried on. His employer, one of the top cannabis growers in the region, would be devastated by the news the man so hurriedly carried that crisp fall morning, but he was also a man who should not be kept waiting. In an unfortunate turn of events, this dutiful gardener had learned that an unaccounted male plant had popped off, pollinating an entire field of sinsemilla in the process. This grower didn’t think his employer would be pleased.

It’s a scene that could have occurred countless times in the U.S., in any state or during any year. This particular occasion, however, would prove historic. Indeed, modern historians know about the incident because of the personal diary of the man’s employer, a very imminent farmer of his time, written in 1765: the diary of George Washington.

These days, standard history textbooks no longer mention that the man who would go on to become the first president of the United States began his career as a “gentleman” farmer of some of Virginia Colony’s top cash crops, including cannabis. The fact is hardly controversial; Washington wrote extensively about his cannabis crop in his own handwriting – especially in the period before the Revolutionary War when his career was primarily focused on cash crop agriculture. The entry dated Aug. 7, 1765, in which the future president bemoans the fact that he began to “separate the male and female plants… rather too late” has been the focus of much debate.

Not much doubt exists as to what kind of “male and female plants” Washington referred to, because the same journal includes another entry later that same August in which he reflects that he had “pull[ed] up the [male] hemp. Was too late for the blossom hemp by three weeks or a month.” Rather, the controversy is over what strain of cannabis the Founding Father was trying to grow, what exactly he meant by “hemp” and “blossom hemp,” and above all why he was so bummed out that he hadn’t pulled his males in time.

An 1800’s photograph shows workers harvesting a hemp field, when industrial hemp was thriving in the United States.

Some historians acknowledge that Washington grew cannabis but maintain that he exclusively grew pure Sativa strains imported from northern or eastern Europe — a variety which, even in the 18th Century, would have yielded strong fibers but very little medical effect. To make their case, they point out that the economy of Virginia Colony, in general, was dominated by the cultivation of cannabis strains for industrial purposes like rope, sails and textiles. And indeed, Washington’s own agricultural records from Mount Vernon confirm that the production of industrial hemp was a core pillar of his operations.

But some historians go further than that, pointing to entries in Washington’s records that seemingly cannot be explained by the standard narrative. One provocative clue — Washington’s oblique reference to “blossom hemp” — stands out in particular. The curious reference, so incongruous in a time in which the majority of hemp farmers concerned themselves exclusively with the plant’s fibers, begs the question of what interest Washington could have had in his plants’ flowers. It could be that the future president was breeding for seed, as many farmers of his time did. But if that is the case, why did he bemoan the fact that he separated his males and females “too late”? Such an entry suggests the opposite of the seed theory — that in fact, George Washington was trying to grow sinsemilla.

Thus, while many have claimed that Washington’s only interest in “hemp” was for its valuable fibers, the historical record suggests he, like many early Americans, took a broader view. In fact, the first president apparently saw the plant’s diversity of uses as one of its most valuable virtues.

An Incomplete Independence

The point was quickly proved, because only a few years later the fledgling colonies began using the power of hemp in their war for independence from the British Crown. Hemp textiles provided clothing and outfitting for Colonial troops; hemp sails helped American privateers run the British blockade designed to starve Washington’s army of needed supplies. Tradition holds that even the first American flag, used to rally those troops against foreign occupiers, was woven from hemp. Thus, the cannabis cultivation of George Washington and so many others transformed from a vital economic activity to an urgently patriotic act.

Nor was Washington alone among the Founding Fathers in his admiration for the crop.

“When President Thomas Jefferson wrote (March 16, 1791) that hemp ‘is of first necessity to the commerce and marine, in other words to the wealth and protection of the country,’ his words were prescient,” says Chris Conrad, author of “Hemp: Lifeline to the Future.”

Conrad, who also edited the seminal hemp history “The Emperor Wears No Clothes” and curated museums on hemp history in both Oakland, Calif. and Amsterdam, has devoted a significant portion of his career to understanding the prodigious plant’s past, yet his greatest concern today is for the hemp industry’s future. And not without good reason: almost 225 years after Jefferson’s famous words, the American hemp industry is suppressed and true American independence remains elusive.

The first century of the nation’s history saw vast economic expansion, but it came at the expense of slavery — wages stolen, not earned. The second century, too, was characterized by astonishing financial growth (punctuated by regular financial crises) — but these gains, taken at gunpoint from indigenous tribes and global empire, were likewise ill-gotten. Over the past 50 years, the American economy has been strong — but at the cost of massive imports of oil from the Middle East, unsustainable environmental practices and mounting household bills which threaten to squeeze the American dream out of reach.

“It’s been very strange working on behalf of hemp reform over the past 25 years,” says Conrad. “It begins with a legal conundrum because industrial hemp is not a drug, it’s agriculture — a farm crop — and the laws against hemp are irrational and anti-American, in the sense that they are designed to favor and corporations that are environmentally destructive over sustainability for the nation or designed to generate corporate profits from criminal policies which suppress personal freedom — or both. Unfortunately, many of the environmental and social harms that I predicted in ‘Hemp: Lifeline to the Future’ — desertification, water pollution, atmospheric contamination, loss of topsoil — have continued unabated as family farms and small businesses have suffered to subsidize the industries that have flourished thanks to the Drug War. We should have made the transition back to a healthy hemp economy decades ago, yet this year is the first time that Congress has even authorized research crops here in the U.S., let alone the kind of national and international hemp development policies that are critical to restoring our economy and society to a pro-survival and pro-citizenry stance.”

Faced with an unfinished battle for independence, suppressed under the thumb of a government opposed to freedom, a select few Americans have taken up the same weapon that our Founding Fathers used: cannabis.

“I believe America’s economic problems started,” says Ryan Loflin, “as soon as we outlawed hemp farming. We stopped one of the greatest economic booms before it ever happened.”

Loflin, a clean-cut father of two from Crested Butte, Colo., espouses a view held by millions of Americans — and yet very few have gone so far as he has to put their money where their mouth is. In June of 2013, he crossed the principal Rubicon of his life and sowed 60 acres of his family alfalfa farm with industrial hemp  — enough to make him, under outdated federal laws, a felonious kingpin trafficking in a Schedule I crop. The harvest came in last October — the first large industrial hemp harvest in the United States since 1958, when the last Wisconsin farm folded under federal persecution.

Loflin typifies the word “patriot” in one of its oldest senses: just as the patriots who pillaged crates of overtaxed tea at the historic Boston Tea Party risked the consequences of defying unjust laws to make a political point, so did Loflin plant his fields of cannabis in defiance of indefensible clauses in the federal Controlled Substances Act which still, as of this printing, prohibit the cultivation of industrial hemp by private individuals. The latest farm bill, signed by President Obama in 2013, allows universities to grow industrial hemp, but only for research purposes.

Even though not a single one of his plants is capable of causing any high, federal law would still subject him to extreme prison sentences under archaic sentencing guidelines based on the number of cannabis plants, regardless of variety. Indeed, the DEA has occasionally destroyed up to 500 million plants of the variety ruderalis — AKA “ditchweed” — in a single year, as a convenient way to inflate its numbers in Congressional reports. The fact that such sentencing guidelines defy all common sense don’t shield Loflin from the threat of arrest and imprisonment, however. The only thing doing that is the heretofore unwillingness of the federal justice system to file charges. And that could change tomorrow.

Yet Loflin, who has yet to face any charges for his actions, sees the risk to his freedom as minor compared to the criminal hoodwinking of the American people that led to the prohibition of industrial hemp, an event which he calls “not an accident. A small, very greedy, wealthy group of Americans filled their pockets instead of helping our country.”

The historical record agrees with Loflin’s assessment. Although American public opinion was thoroughly against intoxicating strains of cannabis — swayed by propaganda films like “Reefer Madness” and the reliably racist talking points of the nation’s first drug czar, Harry Anslinger — no outcry by the American people was ever raised against any U.S. variety of industrial hemp. It already grew in countless innocuous acres in states like Kentucky and Wisconsin and became so intertwined with the U.S. economy that it came to be known as Cannabis Americana. Indeed, as a late-1930s Popular Mechanics article made famous by historian Jack Herer points out, hemp was on the verge of becoming the next “billion-dollar crop,” already responsible at such an early date for over 25,000 industrial and consumer products. Yet the best was still to come, as early experiments at the Ford Motor Company showed that the domestic automotive industry could work hand in hand with small family farms, sourcing industrial hemp to make both the chassis and even the fuel of a new “hemp car” built out of renewable products which literally spring from the ground.

Against a backdrop of such economic promise, the actions of Loflin’s “small, very greedy” group stand out as especially suspicious. Transcripts of meetings called by Anslinger to hash out the details of the new federal Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 clearly show that the group was aware that their proposed language would criminalize an industry which made many useful products; nevertheless, Anslinger was adamant that no cultivation of any variety of cannabis could be allowed. Despite strenuous objections from industry and the American Medical Association, Congress passed the Act in an 11th-hour session, bringing over 300 years of continuous American hemp farming to a violent, crashing halt.

Cannabis may be an annual plant, but the industry is perennial. Despite the best efforts of Anslinger and his ilk, farmers like Loflin have kept one of the most quintessentially American activities alive, by sowing the industrial strains favored by Thomas Jefferson and George Washington. Ryan Loflin could do nothing else.

Finally, a Sustainable Future

Despite the brave efforts of these patriots, the United States is falling behind. The U.S. market for hemp products is one of the largest in the world, but American hemp production lags far behind that of China and Canada, the world’s top two producers. Although hemp ethanol presents the opportunity to wean American cars off Middle Eastern oil, the U.S. still lags far behind Brazil in the production of such fossil fuel-free alternatives. And even though American schools lead the world in most medical research, in the realm of medical cannabis research the U.S. has far to go before it catches up with the pioneering work of Great Britain-based GW Pharmaceuticals and Israel’s medical cannabis research program, which has produced more patents for medical marijuana than any other institute on Earth.

Clearly, we have work to do. To complete, finally, the long struggle for independence for which our Founding Fathers fought and died, all Americans must rally around the effort to rebuild the industry which proved so vital in building the country in the first place: cannabis. Just as hemp provided the sailcloth and rope necessary to facilitate trade between the early colonies in the 18th century, so can it fulfill the same function today – by replacing the nation’s dependent relationship on foreign petroleum producers with ethanol from the homegrown annual harvest. Just as tincture from Cannabis Americana provided early Americans with the medicines they needed from their nation’s own heartland, so can the hybrid strains of today stave off the nation’s coming health crisis by helping to prevent crippling diseases like diabetes, arthritis and cancer. From paper to textiles to high-grade industrial lubricants, cannabis can provide thousands of products America needs – but only if the American people make it happen.

“My concern,” says Conrad, “is the timidity with which the government’s roll out of hemp agriculture will seek to slow down mass production and progress rather than stimulate growth. It’s taken 20 years since the states first began to pass laws enabling hemp cultivation, and here we are with the federal government just now catching up to allow research crops. In the meantime, continued reliance on the old economy of fossil fuels and non-sustainable agriculture has continued to degrade the environment. What we need is a large scale industrial development project along the lines of the Manhattan Project or the Space Race in the race to put society back on a sustainable footing.”

A black and white image of a bundle of dried hemp fibers.

Photo Arby Reed

Conrad cautions against any unplanned, headlong rush to pre-prohibition days.

“The initial roll-out of product development,” he prescribes, “should be the seedlines for the changing climate and economic projects that require the least processing from field to finished product — such as genetic development, seeds and seed oil products, soil remediation and other horticultural uses, hempcrete, onsite pulping and extrusion equipment for prototype products, maybe through 3-D printers, and so on. You don’t want to get bogged down in transportation and large-scale production until the production levels soar and economy of scale kicks in. That way we can intelligently develop the crops and products side by side for maximum economic and environmental benefit. Remember that the hemp industries have essentially been robbed of almost 80 years of engineering and commercial development. They need to be reintroduced and to grow in a planned but organic process.”

That, in a hempseed, is Ryan Loflin’s plan. At the end of another hard day working to revive the seed-line that changed the world history — Cannabis Americana — Loflin turns back toward home.

“For me,” he explains, “being a patriot means standing up for what you believe in and fighting for a greater cause. We can get our country back on track, and put thousands of Americans back to work. Hemp farming will do this. I believe it is our only way.”

His gaze sweeps his hemp fields, bending with the weight of new seeds, past the wind turbine turning humming rapid swirls against a vermillion sunset and toward an uncertain future.

Originally published in the print edition of Cannabis Now. LEARN MORE

TELL US, would you think industrial hemp can help restore our economy?

The post Growing Pot is Your Patriotic Duty appeared first on Cannabis Now.

Friday, March 13, 2020 Headlines | Marijuana Today Daily News

Marijuana Today Daily Headlines
Friday, March 13, 2020 | Curated by host Shea Gunther

// Cannabis Companies See Boosted Sales in L.A. to ‘Ease Minds’ About Coronavirus (Hollywood Reporter)

// During Coronavirus, Pandemic Weed Is ‘Vice of Choice’ for People in Solitude (Merry Jane)

// Buying weed in the age of coronavirus: Dispensaries tell recreational customers not to put medical patients at risk (Chicago Tribune)


These headlines are brought to you by Green Worx Consults, a company specializing in project management, workflow mapping and design, and Lean & 6 Sigma process. If you could use help making your business better at business, get in touch with Green Worx Consults.


// Hash Bash postponed amid University of Michigan mandate to cancel large events (Detroit Free Press)

// How coronavirus exposed fragility in the marijuana vape supply chain (Marijuana Business Daily)

// Veteran Affairs Employees Are Also Prohibited From Using Cannabis (Merry Jane)

// US House panel approves medical marijuana bills to help veterans (Marijuana Business Daily)

// Medicine Man Becomes First Publicly Traded Company Approved By Colorado (Green Market Report)

// Alabama Senate Approves Medical Marijuana Bill (Marijuana Moment)

// DC Campaign To Decriminalize Psychedelics Delays Signature Gathering Amid Coronavirus Outbreak (Marijuana Moment)


Check out our other projects:
Marijuana Today— Our flagship title, a weekly podcast examining the world of marijuana business and activism with some of the smartest people in the industry and movement.
Marijuana Media Connect— A service that connects industry insiders in the legal marijuana industry with journalists, bloggers, and writers in need of expert sources for their stories.

Love these headlines? Love our podcast? Support our work with a financial contribution and become a patron.

Photo: Marketeering Group/Flickr

Archaeologists Discover Ancient Society That Smoked Weed to Get High 2,500 Years Ago

Cannabis advocates like to argue that weed has been used in society for thousands of years. But there has always been some level of contention about just how far back cannabis consumption actually goes.

Some swear tokers have been indulging for 4,000 years or so, while others believe the plant was a gift brought to Earth by one Jerry Garcia and popularized back in the 1960s. But it turns out that the earliest known use was actually around 2,500 years ago, according to a paper published this week in the journal Science Advances.

A research team consisting of archaeologists and chemists from the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing recently discovered significant traces of THC at the Jirzankal Cemetery, an ancient burial ground located in the darkest regions of the Pamir mountains in western China. Although cannabis remnants have been found before, the latest find is the only one to this day where THC, the stoner component of marijuana, was part of the uncovering. None of the others showed signs of ancient societies using the plant to get high.

“Modern perspectives on cannabis vary tremendously cross-culturally, but it is clear that the plant has a long history of human use, medicinally, ritually and recreationally over countless millennia,” Robert Spengler, an archaeobotanist at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena, Germany, told the New York Times.

It appears this particular Chinese community was partial to smoking the herb with a bowl. Not exactly the same kind that many of us are used to seeing being whipped out at 420 — these were wooden receptacles containing small stones that were apparently exposed to high heat. Although some of these artifacts were used for incense and other herbs, the residue found on 10 of the 17 bowls tested positive for THC.

So, this tribe was most likely hotboxing cannabis and inhaling the smoke as it filled the tombs. Researchers believe they were likely using cannabis to summon the dead, just as Greek historian Herodotus described in the Scythian mourner’s rite.

The Scythians have taken some seed of this hemp, they creep under the cloths and put the seeds on the red hot stones; but this being put on smokes, and produces such a steam, that no Grecian vapour-bath would surpass it. The Scythians, transported by the vapour, shout aloud.

Interestingly, the weed the Chinese tribe used in its rituals was apparently relatively decent bud. Researchers said that wild strains of cannabis grown in higher altitudes pack a much stronger THC potency than those growing in lower elevations. They do not know whether these potent strains were produced intentionally or if they occurred naturally. But it appears that this ancient society was serious about producing herb solely for the effect.

“The findings support the idea that cannabis plants were first used for their psychoactive compounds in the mountainous regions of eastern central Asia, thereafter, spreading to other regions of the world,” co-author Nicole Boivin told USA Today.

Researchers believe that the spot where they found the artifacts were located relatively close to the Silk Road, which was crucial in ancient times when it came to global distribution. There is speculation that this is how the cannabis plant found hybridization and made its way to other parts of the world. “The exchange routes of the early Silk Road functioned more like the spokes of a wagon wheel than a long-distance road, placing Central Asia at the heart of the ancient world,” Spengler said.

“Our study implies that knowledge of cannabis smoking and specific high-chemical-producing varieties of the cannabis plant were among the cultural traditions that spread along these exchange routes,” he added.

Dr. Mark Merlin, another researcher involved with the study, told the New York Times that other burial sites from around the same time containing marijuana show just how much cannabis was revered as a “plant of the gods.”

There is no denying that marijuana has been around for a while, but it appears to have taken a minute to catch on. Research published last month in the journal Vegetation History and Archaeobotany indicates that the cannabis plant originated in Tibet around 28 million years ago. Although it was eventually used for fiber and food, people soon figured out that the plant could also be ingested for a variety of therapeutic reasons.

These days, it is still mostly illegal all around the globe.  

TELL US, are you surprised that cannabis was used for its psychoactive properties 2,500 years ago?

The post Archaeologists Discover Ancient Society That Smoked Weed to Get High 2,500 Years Ago appeared first on Cannabis Now.

The funny ways we beat our boredom during COVID-19

We’ve all been surviving a global pandemic by staying inside and getting baked. It’s not hard to imagine that many people were very bored. Take a stoner, ask them to stay home, give them money, make weed available… what do you get? Pure hilarious shenanigans! Thanks to smartphones, it’s all on camera! Here’s a look […]

The post The funny ways we beat our boredom during COVID-19 appeared first on Latest Cannabis News Today – Headlines, Videos & Stocks.

Friday, March 13, 2020 Headlines | Marijuana Today Daily News

Marijuana Today Daily Headlines
Friday, March 13, 2020 | Curated by host Shea Gunther

// Cannabis Companies See Boosted Sales in L.A. to ‘Ease Minds’ About Coronavirus (Hollywood Reporter)

// During Coronavirus, Pandemic Weed Is ‘Vice of Choice’ for People in Solitude (Merry Jane)

// Buying weed in the age of coronavirus: Dispensaries tell recreational customers not to put medical patients at risk (Chicago Tribune)


These headlines are brought to you by Green Worx Consults, a company specializing in project management, workflow mapping and design, and Lean & 6 Sigma process. If you could use help making your business better at business, get in touch with Green Worx Consults.


// Hash Bash postponed amid University of Michigan mandate to cancel large events (Detroit Free Press)

// How coronavirus exposed fragility in the marijuana vape supply chain (Marijuana Business Daily)

// Veteran Affairs Employees Are Also Prohibited From Using Cannabis (Merry Jane)

// US House panel approves medical marijuana bills to help veterans (Marijuana Business Daily)

// Medicine Man Becomes First Publicly Traded Company Approved By Colorado (Green Market Report)

// Alabama Senate Approves Medical Marijuana Bill (Marijuana Moment)

// DC Campaign To Decriminalize Psychedelics Delays Signature Gathering Amid Coronavirus Outbreak (Marijuana Moment)


Check out our other projects:
Marijuana Today— Our flagship title, a weekly podcast examining the world of marijuana business and activism with some of the smartest people in the industry and movement.
Marijuana Media Connect— A service that connects industry insiders in the legal marijuana industry with journalists, bloggers, and writers in need of expert sources for their stories.

Love these headlines? Love our podcast? Support our work with a financial contribution and become a patron.

Photo: Marketeering Group/Flickr

Coronavirus Outbreak Impacts Cannabis Industry

The scope of the crisis now facing China is truly staggering, and clearly poses a threat to the country’s generation-long thrust of prodigious economic growth and that includes one industry that has close ties to cannabis, vaping. 

By the Chinese government’s own count as of Feb. 17, a total of 72,436 people are confirmed to be suffering from the COVID-19 coronavirus, while 1,868 people have died. The Lunar New Year holiday, originally set to run over a long weekend at the end of January, was extended more than two weeks in a bid to contain the virus. Now, factories are starting to come to life again, but with so much of the population under lockdown, at severely diminished capacity

Moody’s Investors Service on Feb. 18 lowered its growth forecast for China from 5.8% to 5.2% for 2020, predicting “a severe but short-lived economic impact, with knock-on effects for economies across the region.” 

Moody’s cited supply chain disruptions due to slow-down of industry as a key factor threatening the economy. And the global cannabis business definitely stands to be impacted by such disruptions. 

Vapes Especially Vulnerable 

According to a Feb. 14 analysis by Reed Smith, the Pittsburgh-based global law firm: “The outbreak of a new strain of the coronavirus has impacted in one way or another many businesses across the United States and around the world. Cannabis- and vaping-related businesses are no exception. According to recent media reports, those businesses have experienced — or may experience — interruption in their supply chains as a result of the viral outbreak.” 

Almost all the world’s vaping hardware is produced in southern China’s factory zones. That includes the cartridges that hold the cannabis extract or other vaping products, the batteries that heat them, and the actual vaporizers.

Local inventories have already felt the pinch in places as far away as the Canadian prairies.

“It’s really hard to get your hands on the 510 batteries manufactured in China right now because of the coronavirus,” Mack Andrews, owner of the local Aylmer Nelson Cannabis store, told the Calgary Herald on Feb. 16. “Suppliers are having a hard time meeting demand.”

Andrews said his store ordered a sizable stock of the batteries before the crisis struck China, but was quick to add: “I’m not sure every store would have had that luck.”

And this comes at a particularly bad time, as Alberta Gaming Liquor & Cannabis (AGLC) just approved the sale of cannabis vape pens on Feb. 7. All eyes in the industry are watching how sales and supply roll out in the western province.

“There’ll be some stores able to sell the cartridges but won’t have batteries,” predicted Andrews.

And provincial regulators agree. “We expect retailers will be able to begin ordering products as early as this coming week and there may be limited product from the onset,” AGLC representative Angelle Sasseville said in seemingly guarded comments to CBC News

Use of extracts, including for vaping, became legal for the adult-use market under Health Canada regulations that took effect last year. Sales of vape products began in Ontario in December 2019, but there the online store run by the provincial government maintains a monopoly. In Alberta, they are to be available in privately owned brick-and-mortar dispensaries, making the province a key testing ground for what is being called Canada’s “Cannabis 2.0” economy. 

China’s Cannabis Contradiction 

An irony is China’s ambition to get in on the “cannabis boom,” providing hemp for the global CBD market — despite the fact that marijuana is more harshly proscribed in China than just about any other country in the world. The People’s Republic continues to execute thousands every year for drug crimes, including for cannabis. 

The southern province of Yunnan and the northern province of Heilongjiang are the country’s two top hemp producers, with Yunnan especially a seat of China’s burgeoning cannabis industry. These are both outside the zone most impacted by the virus, in central China — with the very epicenter notoriously being Wuhan in Hubei province. As a New York Times page tracking the outbreak notes, Yunnan and Heilongjiang have seen comparatively few cases, and are also not under the harsh lockdown conditions being imposed in central and eastern China.

However, the impacted zone largely overlaps with China’s industrial heartland. So some of the cannabis operations in Yunnan and Heilongjiang are controlled by companies based in impacted areas. For instance, large operations in Yunnan are under Conba Group, a pharmaceutical company based in Zhejiang province, which has been very heavily impacted both by the virus itself and the lockdown measures.

China’s share in the global CBD market may not be significant enough for the crisis in the country to have an impact there. However, CBD producers in North America and elsewhere relying on Chinese-grown hemp could also mean impacts on the industry.

Before the current health crisis, there were fears that Trump’s trade war with China could hurt the global cannabis industry. The first sign of a thaw in the dispute that has sent tariffs soaring came on Jan. 15, as Washington and Beijing signed an initial pact to regulate trade relations. That this came just a week before the lockdown was imposed in Wuhan is perhaps the bitterest irony of all.

TELL US, how concerned are you about the Coronavirus?

The post Coronavirus Outbreak Impacts Cannabis Industry appeared first on Cannabis Now.