Cannabis Time Capsule, 1908: Egypt's ban of Greek hash makes headlines in Westcliffe

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Egyptians? Yeah, they smoke the herb. Same with Persians, Turks, English, Austrians, French and Italians. But especially Egyptians. They love their hash. Oh, and as for Greeks? They don't smoke it at all.

At least, that was the case in 1908 according to the then-Greek consulate Edward I. Nathan in a report paraphrased in the May 30, 1908, Wet Mountain Tribune, which served the tiny mining town of Westcliffe. We're assuming there was a little bit of bias in what he wrote.

Not just bias, actually -- but plain ignorance. For starters, Nathan is one of several people around this time who began associating the word "hashish" with assassin. He goes on to equate using marijuana with Chinese opium addicts.

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But despite his objection to the plant, he apparently saw no problem with his country growing it and exporting it elsewhere in the world. At the time, cannabis production wasn't illegal in Greece. In fact, it seems to have been thriving -- especially in the Peloponnese region along the southern peninsula, where it was being grown specifically for hash production and distribution far and wide.

How good was the hash? That's debatable, at least judging by Nathan's description:
"The entire plant, stalk and branches, is cut within a few inches of the root and laid out in the sun to dry. The branches are then rubbed to separate the seeds and these in turn are ground into a fine powder, which constitutes the drug."

Of course, hash is really made from the resin glands called trichomes -- so we hope the powdered seeds were not being passed off as hash in Greece. Nathan at least gets the high part (partially) correct: "The drug has the power of inducing sleep and producing pleasant and fantastic dreams."

Sounds great. But then he goes on:

"Continued use of hashish renders its devotees wild and reckless and results in a complete wreck of their mental and physical constitution."

Which is presumably why Egypt banned the importation of marijuana from Greece. But people want their herb, as Nathan realized:

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"It is now exported to the various ports in England, Austria, France and Italy, and from there much, no doubt, ultimately finds its way to Egypt."
Interestingly, the headline ("Drug deadly to its users") is never substantiated anywhere in the article. Not even with lies. The piece literally never mentions how marijuana has killed (or reportedly killed) anyone.

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More from our Colorado Cannabis Time Capsule archive: "1917: Beer made worse thanks to secret ingredient -- marijuana" and "1916: Stoned soldiers on the Mexican border"

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1 comments
Louis Lieb
Louis Lieb

How about the movie "Teach Your Children" (aka Reefer Madness)? It seems to encompass many ridiculous beliefs about the plant: e.g. one puff and you'll go crazy, pot makes people violent, etc.

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