Slaves have been growing marijuana since the beginning of slavery until today, in the 21st century
The Portuguese and British slavers encouraged the use of marijuana among slaves to keep them calm and complacent
The first African slaves arrived in America in the late fifteenth century, when the Crown of Castile granted the first license to take 4000 Africans to the colonies of the Americas.
From that moment on, the phenomenon of slavery spread throughout the Americas until, in the year 1863, President Abraham Lincoln abolished slavery through the famous Proclamation of Emancipation.
As the consumption of cannabis was a custom deeply rooted in many African cultures, British slavers knew it because of their possessions in West Africa and Portuguese slavers were aware of this fact by their colonies in Angola.
Because, indeed, cannabis and its use has been part of the culture of many African tribes for thousands of years. It is believed that many Africans trapped to be sent to America to end their days as slaves, brought with them seeds of cannabis sativa that they cultivated to obtain plants that they later consumed. The masters, seeing that the effect of cannabis among their slaves was a peacemaker, accepted it without any problem.
It is curious that prohibitionism is so strong in the current Britain, because the British were the biggest promoters of the use of marijuana in their colonies for centuries. The British made a lot of money selling cannabis in Jamaica until at the beginning of the 20th century they stopped doing so when pressured by the United States. The British had a huge business with cannabis. In fact there is a direct relationship between the British Empire and cannabis.
To understand the reasons why those slave masters allowed the use of marijuana among their slaves, it is interesting to see the role that cannabis has played in the history of mankind.
Its first origins are found in the steppes of Mongolia, Siberia and China. About 40000 years ago (Upper Palaeolithic), the consumption of cannabis began to spread throughout the planet. In effect, there is much evidence of its use among the main cultures. It was used for textile, food, spiritual, medicinal and recreational purposes. But never in history, it had been used to control the mood of the slaves.
The English had their first contact with the plant of cannabis sativa and its many uses during the colonization of India. And from there, through different means, he arrived in the Americas. Upon arriving in the Americas, the Indians began to smoke the grass instead of eating hashish, which was what was done in India. With the passage of time, the fact of smoking cannabis was considered as despicable among the settlers. Its use spread among the tribes of the Amazon and came to be known as “the opium of the poor.”
But with the passage of time, cannabis began to be seen as a good business. The English promoted the cultivation of hemp to obtain textile materials and to reduce their dependence on the import of these products from Russia. In fact, during the Victorian era, Queen Elizabeth ordered that all landowners of the British Empire who had more than sixty acres of land, would have to grow hemp or pay a large fine.
The English settlers in North America knew how to value the importance of hemp. In fact, they wrote a Constitution about hemp. Hemp production increased in response to the high costs in import taxes. The settlers created an important center of production in Kentucky. Of course, the production of hemp and all agricultural products depended on the labor of African slaves.
The Portuguese and British colonialists used the narcotic and pacifying effect of cannabis as a means of pacifying their slaves in the Americas, Brazil and Jamaica
In his book “Social and medical aspects of the use of cannabis in Brazil,” the historian Álvaro Rubim de Pinho tells that those slaves brought from Angola brought their cannabis seeds with them to the sugarcane plantations of Brazil. The owners promoted the cultivation of cannabis among their slaves, thinking that during their time of rest, those slaves would devote their time to growing marijuana and thus avoid thoughts of rebellion. On the other hand, those slave owners believed that the use of marijuana left their slaves in a state of stupidity that made them incapable of thinking.
And the same happened in the Caribbean during the British Empire. The British brought more than 1.5 million workers hired from India to the Caribbean. These workers brought their ganja with them to the islands of Barbados and Jamaica after the abolition of slavery on the islands in 1834. The landowners allowed them to use cannabis on the condition that the production of sugarcane did not decrease.
Precisely this was the reason why marijuana and its philosophy of peace was introduced among the most oppressed peoples. A good example is the use of cannabis among the Rastafarian culture of Jamaica.
Slaves continue to grow marijuana in the 21st century
The British police have dismantled numerous marijuana cultivation farms where children were exploited, especially from Vietnam, to carry out all farming tasks.
Since 2016, police have discovered 314 illegal cannabis farms in the London area. However, what is really worrying is that these factories occupy thousands of children victims of human trafficking from Southeast Asia.
The agents assigned to these operations say that they are trafficking on a large scale with thousands of children, especially from Vietnam, to force them to work in these illegal cannabis farms. Experts are very concerned because they believe that what has been discovered up to now is only the tip of the iceberg.
The Australian organization Walk Free says that in Britain there are more than 136,000 slaves. Only in the year 2017 more than 2000 children were discovered by the British police.
According to Jakub Sobik, spokesperson for Anti-Slavery International, the number of cannabis farms that use the exploitation of Vietnamese slaves to work as slaves is alarming. Every year thousands of children are trafficked by unscrupulous criminal organizations.
Last year, the British government was criticized for not accepting a Vietnamese boy who had been brought by the mafias to work on a cannabis farm.
The London police officer, Catherine Baker, gave a press conference in which she said it was very important that the government consider these children victims and not delinquents. These children are exploited because they do not receive any salary and, moreover, they are often sexually abused.
In any case, it seems that the use of slaves to grow marijuana is not a custom of the past. Unfortunately, it remains a common practice in the 21st century.