In Praise of Cannabis
According to archaeologists, evidence exists proving that hemp has been cultivated since about 8,000 BC: it was used for human consumption, and for making fabrics. About 2700 BC we find the first written reference to the use of cannabis in the work of Shen Nung, the father of Chinese medicine.
Almost a decade ago the first cannabis-derivatives fair was held in Germany; since then many such fairs have emerged, based on cannabis in all its uses, be they direct or derivative. In the last two years there have been two Spannabis fairs in Barcelona, and a few days ago, for the first time, the La Cubierta cultural center in the southern Madrid district of Leganés hosted Expocannabis, a trade exhibition aimed at bringing the public closer to the world of cannabis and alternative technologies. Gathered in Leganés were almost 100 national and foreign exhibitors: from cultivation-based product manufacturers, to firms that supply products derived from the plant: food, clothing, footwear, cosmetics, furniture, construction materials.
One aim of the fair is to become a forum for reflection about cannabis. A group of noted cannabis activists and medical and legal experts debated themes such as therapeutic uses, new home-growing methods and the present legal situation regarding cannabis, in an attempt to encourage the legalization of its social use, as well as more active participation in the development of a prosperous industry exploiting all the possible uses of the plant. Expocannabis enjoys the precedent of the two previous fairs held in Barcelona, in the Palau Sant Jordi, which were attended by about 15,000 people - a success which suggests the social and economic potential of this plant in the 21st century.
The medicinal and therapeutic properties of marijuana, which have been employed for thousands of years, are now being rediscovered. In 10 US states the law now permits its medicinal use for those in a "debilitated clinical situation," which includes cases of cancer, glaucoma and AIDS. But at the same time there has been an increase in the orchestration of campaigns against the use of cannabis by the ill. In April 2005, Canada became the first country to approve the use of Sativex, a cannabis extract, which has been available there since June 20, under medical prescription, for the treatment of neurological pain in adults with multiple sclerosis. In Spain, the Health Department of the regional government of Catalonia, with the approval of the Spanish Health Ministry, will be the first official agency to try a pilot plan of treatment with cannabis, using a spray containing extracts of the plant, made by GW Pharmaceuticals and distributed by the firm Bayer.
Apart from the therapeutic uses of cannabis, a revolutionary plastic is now being made of hemp and of recycled materials, as an alternative to petroleum-based plastics - hemp based products tend to be stronger and lighter, with a renewable annual harvest and a more sustainable future. This plastic is already used, for example, to make biodegradable cases for CDs and DVDs. Hemp oil, too, is used in diet and cosmetic products, in energy drinks, wines and beers, and in food products such as pasta, candies, cookies and chocolate. Hemp can be used to make paper, furniture, cloth, shoes, bags, wallets, bracelets and other complements. That is, hemp is an interesting and necessary alternative solution to a number of ecological problems.
But we cannot ignore the fact that its use as a recreational substance is extremely widespread and normal in society. The law should recognize this, and cease to harass its cultivation and consumption. You can see how widespread its use is in virtually any bar or at any meeting of people of any class, or at any party. Princess Margaret, the sister of Elizabeth II, who died in 2001, liked to smoke joints. The de-criminalization of its use would merely lift the flimsy veil of a useless and outmoded hypocrisy.