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Marihuana Conference

in the UNITED STATES Bureau of Internal Revenue Building (Room 3003)
Washington D. C.
Part 2


Commissioner Anslinger:
I assume the press will be after us. The Treasury Department has not as yet publicly announced this meeting. The Department will do this subsequently. I hope therefore, that none of you will be drawn into discussions with reporters until the meeting is concluded. The Treasury Department will issue a statement on the meeting. I want all of you to freely express your opinions on every phase of the subject under discussion; and if you differ on any point, we hope you will not hesitate to present your side of the picture.
I want to give you a brief review of what took place at Geneva, Switzerland, last spring at a meeting of the Sub-Committee on Cannabis, of the Advisory Committee on traffic in opium and other dangerous drugs of the League of Nations. I think this a fitting way to open the Conference. It will illustrate the international significance of the Cannabis problem and show the current status of some of the excellent work that is being done by other nations on the question.
This work I think was very important, and I want to give you the reports of the experts of the various countries which will give you an idea as to the points on which the authorities still remain in doubt.

The Secretariat of the League referred to various points submitted to the Experts in a questionnaire drawn up for their use in January, l936, and used as a basis for the Sub-Committees work. He described the research work being undertaken. The Sub-Committee endeavored to indicate on what phases of the Marihuana problem agreement exists, and on what points there is a divergence of views which has formed the subject of exchange of information between the Experts whether on chemical and agricultural questions, or on the medical and pathological questions.

Since the Advisory Committee's last session, Mr. J. V. Collins, Government Analyst, Ceylon, on January 12, l938, notified the Committee of his acceptance of the Advisory Committee's invitation to act as an Expert on Cannabis in place of the late Dr. Symons. The Committee received important documents from two of its Experts, Dr. Bouquet and Dr. de Myttenaere.Dr. Bouquet has for many years done a vast amount of work on Cannabis. He is the Inspector of Pharmacies in Tunis.

Dr. Bouquet submitted reports on the following points:

I Vegetable products wrongly designated as hemp.

II Microscopic examination of samples of Cannabis.

III Physiologically active resin in the staminate Cannabis plant.

IV New variety of Cannabis.

V Influence of drought on the growth of Cannabis.

VI Medical uses of Cannabis and drugs with a Cannabis base.

VII Use of animal charcoal.

VIII Dr. James C. Munch's Reaction.

IX Is light petroleum the only solvent of the active element of Cannabis and its preparations?

X Addiction by certain solanaceae.

Then the report is supplemented by Dr. Bouquet regarding the following points:

I Are the light petroleum extracts of Cannabis the only ones that are physiologically active?

II Observations on document O.C.1542 (z) (Report on the research conducted by the Treasury Department of the United States of America, in cooperation with the Department of Agriculture, in connection with studies on the chemical identification of Cannabis Indica (Cannabis Sativa).

III Identification test for Cannabis resin, proposed by Dr. de Myttenaere.

IV Method of identifying resin, proposed by Dr. H. J. Wollner.

V Procedure for experiments.

VI Observations on the causes of Cannabis addiction in North Africa.

Dr. de Myttenaere submitted to the Secretariat a supplement to the third note on Indian hemp, and a fourth note on Indian hemp, including a study of the published work which has appeared since May, 1937, giving observations of Mr. Wollner's experiments in the United States. Apart from these contributions from Experts of the Sub-Committee on Cannabis, the Secretariat received a “Study of the Chemical Identification of Marihuana (Cannabis Indica)" by Dr. Rafael Plasencia, Government Chemist of Cuba, and a reply concerning the same subject from the United Kingdon Representative. It also received information regarding experiments on the chemical identification of Cannabis indica communicated by the United States Government. This is the report covering the investigation conducted by the Treasury Department in cooperation with the Department's Agriculture.

The United Kingdom also submitted to the Secretariat a communication concerning the question as to whether Cannabis stalks used commercially for the production of fibre still contained resin. That point was also discussed.

As to the American documents, we usually summarize all work that has been done on Cannabis, incorporate it into one document and submit it to the League of Nations.

As to Dr. Plasencia's experiment; he has followed up Beam's experiments and elaborated a new method which he states is absolutely and specifically suitable for Cannabis and constant for all the varieties tested, even Merck's extract of Cannabis indica with which Beam's reaction gave no result.

Our Government has submitted observations on this paper.

The United Kingdom Representative also transmitted an opinion by the Government Chemist who suggests certain modifications in this method. These modifications consist of an attempt to separate the substances responsible for the characteristic color in Beam's test on the assumption that it is a phenol.

All of these documents are available in the United States Treasury Department for anyone who would like to study them. It would seem that Dr. de Myttenaere and Mr. Wollner have different opinions on the point as to whether light petroleum is the best solvent for Cannabis. Dr. de Myttenaere considers that so far as is known at present, light petroleum is the best solvent for the extraction of the active principles of Cannabis, and hence the only one suitable for Beam's test; and he has carried out experiments as to whether ethyl acetate should be substituted, or is preferable as a solvent for petroleum ether.

In the report there is also given the list of vegetable products wrongfully designated as hemp, We have a little trouble with that in this country, as it is frequently designated as Cannabis, New Zealand hemp, hemp of the Americas, Bombay hemp, African hemp, etc.

It has been found that these were all wrong designators used by various persons interested in the problem.

NOTE.--Until very recently. the definition of Cannabis sativa (marihuana) was based upon the traditional conception that the active principle of the drug, technically known as cannabinol or cannabinone, is present only in the female or pistillate plant and present there only in the flowering tops. Since the development of more refined chemical tests, it has been discovered that the active principle is contained in the leaves of the pistillate plant as well as the leaves of the staminate plant. This brought about the advisability of makihg the definition all inclusive in laws for control of the drug found in the male as well as the female plant. It will therefore be necessary to change the definition in the League of Nations Treaty of 1925.

Dr. Bouquet, while investigating this question, found that it always has been acknowledged that intoxicating resin could be obtained from male Cannabis plants but in such small quantities that for practical purposes this source of production is not utilized at present. He realized, however, that it might become worthwhile for traffickers to turn their attention to it, and recommended that the free handling of the vegetative parts of both male and female Cannabis plants should be prohibited. That work was started in America by the laboratory of Parke-Davis some years ago.

Then the question of the production of the fibre, the condition of development, depending on the meterological factors of the crop area was discussed. In this respect differences have been noted between the height of the plant, and the length, consistency and toughness of the textile fibres.

The growing conditions of the plant also affect the output of its resin, which depends directly on the degree of temperature; on the dryness of the soil; and probably on the amount of sunshine encountered. In the annual report for Turkey for 1937, there is brought to the attention of the Committee data concerning a variety of Cannabis sativa having long stalks. It is grown for industrial purposes in various parts of Anatolia; the fibre is used for manufacturing ropes and sacks; and its resin content is so slight it could not be used for the extraction of a narcotic drug.

That seems to be the answer to our prayers, if true. As to the psychical and psychopathic effects of Cannabis, the literature on this phase of the subject tends to confirm the analysis as to the psychic effects of hashish made as long ago as 1845 by Dr. Moreau de Tours in his book, which incidentally is still the standard work on the subject. Also, Dr. Brottaux in his book on Hashish published in 1934, which I think is considered a veritable "bible" on the subject today, has followed up and in the main confirmed Dr. Moreau's analysis.

Then there was discussed the relation between Cannabis and insanity. There was reference to the work of Dhunsiboy, the Director of one of the Hospitals for Insane in India in which he points out that the prolonged use of Indian hemp leads to insanity.

The work of Dr. Bouquet was discussed; and also the work of the British Indian hemp Commission which carried out an inquiry in 1893 and 1894 into the relationship of Indian hemp and lunacy. Colonel Chopra did some work in India which was discussed. He found that in India a special form of mental disease classed as toxic insanity had direct relation to the excessive use of hemp drugs. All of these experts laid stress on "excessive use."

Then there was a proposal discussed to authorize the sale of ganja to the Indian population in Burma.As you probably know, in India. the Government maintains a Monopoly, and various narcotic products are sold across the counter tax-paid. The League of Nations wanted to point out to the Committee the various points that were raised in connection with the proposal to sell hemp.

To meet the allegation concerning the increase in insanity due to the use of ganja, a table prepared by the Inspector General of Civil Hospitals in Burma has been added showing that as far as the mental hospital at Tagadale was concerned, the percentage of mental cases attributable to the use of ganja and its derivatives varied during the years between 1928 and 1937 from 0.87 to 4.35; and that in 1936, out of a total of 296 admissions there were ten such cases, the corresponding figures for 1937 being 356 and ten respectively.

The Sub-Committee was urged to examine the still-controversial question of the relationship between addiction to hemp drugs and the spread of insanity.

The work of Dr. Stringaris on Hashish was discussed. He is an authority on insanity due to the use of Hashish in Russia. He maintains that a further increase can be expected in the ravages caused by Hashish in Asiatic Russia.

Then the question of the relationship between the abuse of narcotic drugs and alcoholism arose. It is still a mixed question, and considerable recommendations were furnished.In Algeria, Dr. Bouquet has noted that Heroin addicts were recruited from the Hashish addicts, and Dr. Stringaris in Asiatic Russia has found that to be the case there also.

In conclusion the Secretariat pointed out that, as a result of concurrent investigations, progress has been made on chemical studies and research, while fresh information has been gathered in other spheres; at the same time, certain points still require clarification, especially in connection with the physiological, psychological, and psychopathic effects of Cannabis and with the relationships between Hashish-addiction and insanity, and between Cannabis-addiction and crime.

After considering all of the recommendations furnished by the League of Nations, the Sub-Committee then made the following report, which is very pertinent in the light of the points we want to discuss here.

"In discussion of the matter before it, the Sub-Committee divided consideration of the subject as follows:

  1. Commercial uses of Cannabis
  2. Medical uses of Cannabis
  3. Effects of the abuse of Cannabis
  4. Methods of detecting the presence of Cannabis
  5. Legal definition of the term "Cannabis."
  1. The discussions developed the fact that the Committee still lacks complete information concerning the commercial uses of Cannabis. The Sub-Committee would welcome further information concerning the physiological, psychological and psychopathic effects of abusive use of Cannabis and the relation between Cannabis-addiction and crime.
  2. Dr. Bouquet pointed out that percentages of resin content in the hemp plant raised in different countries should be ascertained with a view to deciding whether it is necessary to prohibit or merely to control the cultivation of Cannabis for industrial purposes. The value of the Beam test for detecting the presence of Cannabis appears to have been confirmed by a further series of experiments, the results of which are before the Committee, including those attained by the employment of several different modifications of that text. Dr. de Myttenaere said that his experience enabled him to state that the Beam alkaline reaction and its modifications indicated the chief element in the various components of Cannabis resin which was the cause of Hashish addiction, i.e.the alcoholic group. Dr. Bouquet informed the Sub-Committee that a test based upon new principles had recently been devised which will form the subject of a thesis to be presented by Messrs. Duquenois and Hassan Negm Mustapha at the University of Strasbourg in July, 1938, a brief description of which will be circulated to the Opium Advisory Committee.
  3. The question of modifying the incomplete definition of Indian hemp in the Geneva Convention of 1925 was discussed, but no definite conclusion was arrived at. It appeared upon examination that such modification would affect not only Article 1 of the Convention, but also Articles 4 and 11 and would necessarily involve complicated adjustments in the Convention itself. It was therefore decided to postpone further consideration of this matter until the next session of this Sub-Committee when it is hoped that more time will be available for the work.
  4. Up to the present time, the work of the Sub-Committee has consisted almost entirely of collecting information in regard to the various phases of the Cannabis problem, and, until the Sub-Committee has before it more data than it has at present, it would scarcely be considered advisable to undertake definite recommendations."
  5. We would like to take inventory of our research and see what is needed.
  6. The Federal Government did not get into this picture until after all 48 states had adopted legislation controlling Marihuana in greater or less degree. The Marihuana Tax Act went into effect a little over a year ago, and since that time we have destroyed some 16,000 acres of the plant throughout the various States; most of it in the Middle West. About l,000 violators have been arrested by the Federal Government.
  7. I am not trying to sell this book, but I want to call your attention to the work on "Marihuana'a written by Dr. Robert P. Walton, Professor of Chemistry, University of Mississippi, with a foreword by Dr. Geller who is a distinguished pharmacologist connected with the University of Chicago.I would like to start with the agricultural phases of this problem, which will also include the industrial and economic phases.I am therefore going to call on Dr. Wright of the University of Wisconsin and ask him to discuss some of the questions that seem to be troubling us.


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