Religion and Psychoactive Sacraments:
An Entheogen Chrestomathy
Thomas B. Roberts, Ph.D. and Paula Jo Hruby, Ed.D.
Author Index | Title Index
Ganja in Jamaica: The Effects of Marijuana Use.
Rubin, Vera, and Comitas, Lambros.(1976).
Garden City, NY: Anchor.
xxii + 217 pages.
Contents: Foreword by
Raymond Philip National
[US] Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse, preface, acknowledgements,
Jamaica Project Staff, 12 chapters,
8 appendices: A. " Ganja
Smoking as a Danger to the Natives of this Colony," (Editorial
from Daily Gleaner, Jamaica, June 10,
1913); B. Summary
of ganja legislation in Jamaica, 1913-1972; C. Laboratory
Analyses of ganja samples; D. Demographic
profile of clinical sample based on life histories; E. Chromosome
studies, steroid excretion and peripheral thyroid hormone levels;
THC content of cannabis used in the U.S. and other countries;
to questions concerning reaction to first experiences with ganja
to questions concerning subsequent experiences with ganja;
H. Life expectancy table; bibliography.
Note: This book was originally
published in hardcover as Ganja
in Jamaica: A Medical Anthropological Study of Chronic Marijuana
Use in 1975 by Mouton & Co.
Excerpt(s): Dragons in
dark caves, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes
once reminded us, are far more fearsome than when they are seen
in daylight. How refreshing it is, therefore, to have available
an objective study which not only exposes but also demolishes
many emotional and "fright-symbolic" dragons which have
clouded our perspective in recent years with reference to cannabis.
It is refreshing, also, to see the results of so many individuals
and institutions working together, scientifically, separating
"fact from fiction" in an area so important to human
beings everywhere, namely, the use of a psychotropic substance
such as marihuana.
The Jamaica study, sponsored by the Center for Studies
of Narcotic and Drug Abuse, National Institute of Mental Health,
was the first project in medical anthropology to be undertaken
and is the first intensive, multidisciplinary study of marihuana
use and users to be published. (Foreword, Raymond Philip Shafer,
... Almost unanimously, informants categorically
stated that ganja, particularly in spliff form, enabled
them to work harder, faster and longer. For energy, ganja
is taken in the morning, during breaks in the work routine or
immediately before particularly onerous work.
The belief that ganja acts as a work stimulant
and the behavior that this induces casts considerable doubt on
the universality of what has been described in the literature
as "the amotivational syndrome," or
a "loss of desire to work, to compete, to face challenges.
Interests and major concerns of the individual become centered
around marijuana and drug use becomes compulsive." In Jamaica,
and one would suspect other cannabis-using agricultural countries,
ganja is central to a "motivational syndrome,"
at least on the ideational level. Ganja, in the cultural
setting of rural Jamaica, rather than hindering, permits its users
to face, start and carry through the most difficult and distasteful
manual labor. (page 58)
In addition, ganja, unlike alcohol, has special
symbolic attributes. Rastafarian metaphysics, for example, emphasizes
and brings into focus general concepts derived from working-class
views of ganja. For them, it is "the wisdom weed,"
of divine origin, an elixir vitae, documented by Biblical
chapter and verse which over-rides man-made proscriptions. Religious
authority thus validates and fortifies commitment to its use;
... the sacred source of ganja permits a sense of religious
communion, marked by meditation and contemplation. (page 151)
The psychiatric findings do not bear out any of
the extreme allegations about the deleterious effects of chronic
use of cannabis on sanity, cerebral atrophy, brain damage or personality
deterioration. There is no evidence of withdrawal symptoms or
reports of severe overdose reactions or of physical dependency.
The psychological findings show no significant differences between
long-term smokers and non-smokers.
Over the past one hundred years, the ganja
complex has developed and proliferated in Jamaican society and
is extraordinarily well integrated into working-class life styles.
Ganja serves multiple purposes that are essentially pragmatic,
rather then psychedelic: working-class users smoke ganja
to support rational task-oriented behavior, to keep "conscious,"
fortify health, maintain peer group relations and enhance religious
and philosophical contemplation. They express social rather than
hedonistic motivations for smoking.
Ganja as an energizer
is the primary motivation given for continued use. ...
The failure of policy makers to realize the importance
of informal social controls in preventing drug abuse is beginning
to be recognized. Michael Sonnenreich,
Vice-President of the National
Coordinating Council on Drug Education in the United States, observed
that drug-taking is socially controlled "when it is routinized,
ritualized and structured so as to reduce to a minimum any drug-taking
behavior the surrounding culture considers inadvisable. From this
analysis there should follow a new approach." The multidisciplinary
findings reported in this volume highlight the underlying role
of culture in regulating the use of ganja and conditioning
reactions to it-within a structured system of social controls.
(Summary, pages 172-3)
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Compilation copyright © 1995 2001 CSP