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Marijuana Australiana : cannabis use, popular culture and the Americanisation of drugs policy in Australia, 1938-1988

By John Lawrence Jiggens


The word 'marijuana' was introduced to Australia by the US Bureau of Narcotics via the Diggers newspaper, Smith's Weekly, in 1938. Marijuana was said to be 'a new drug that maddens victims' and it was sensationally described as an 'evil sex drug'. The resulting tabloid furore saw the plant cannabis sativa banned in Australia, even though cannabis had been a well-known and widely used drug in Australia for many decades. In 1964, a massive infestation of wild cannabis was found growing along a stretch of the Hunter River between Singleton and Maitland in New South Wales. The explosion in Australian marijuana use began there. It was fuelled after 1967 by US soldiers on rest and recreation leave from Vietnam. It was the Baby-Boomer young who were turning on. Pot smoking was overwhelmingly associated with the generation born in the decade after the Second World War. As the conflict over the Vietnam War raged in Australia, it provoked intense generational conflict between the Baby-Boomers and older generations. Just as in the US, pot was adopted by Australian Baby-Boomers as their symbol; and, as in the US, the attack on pot users served as code for an attack on the young, the Left, and the alternative. In 1976, the 'War on Drugs' began in earnest in Australia with paramilitary attacks on the hippie colonies at Cedar Bay in Queensland and Tuntable Falls in New South Wales. It was a time of increasing US style prohibition characterised by 'tough-on-drugs' right-wing rhetoric, police crackdowns, numerous murders, and a marijuana drought followed quickly by a heroin plague; in short by a massive worsening of 'the drug problem'. During this decade, organised crime moved into the pot scene and the price of pot skyrocketed, reaching $450 an ounce in 1988. Thanks to the Americanisation of drugs policy, the black market made 'a killing'. In Marijuana Australiana I argue that the 'War on Drugs' developed -- not for health reasons -- but for reasons of social control; as a domestic counter-revolution against the Whitlamite, Baby-Boomer generation by older Nixonite Drug War warriors like Queensland Premier, Bjelke-Petersen. It was a misuse of drugs policy which greatly worsened drug problems, bringing with it American-style organised crime. As the subtitle suggests, Marijuana Australiana relies significantly on 'alternative' sources, and I trawl the waters of popular culture, looking for songs, posters, comics and underground magazines to produce an 'underground' history of cannabis in Australia. This 'pop' approach is balanced with a hard-edged, quantitative analysis of the size of the marijuana market, the movement of price, and the seizure figures in the section called 'History By Numbers'. As Alfred McCoy notes, we need to understand drugs as commodities. It is only through a detailed understanding of the drug trade that the deeper secrets of this underground world can be revealed. In this section, I present an economic history of the cannabis market and formulate three laws of the market

Topics: Narcotics, Control of�Australia, Narcotics and crime�Australia, Cannabis use�Australia, Popular Culture�Australia, Drugs policy�Australia, Organised crime�Queensland, New South Wales, Cannabis prohibition�Australia, Police corruption�Queensland, New South Wales, the counter-culture�Australia, Reefer Madness�Australia, the War on Drugs�Australia, Woodward Royal Commission (the Royal Commission into Drug Trafficking), the Williams Royal Commission (Australian Royal Commission into Drugs), the Fitzgerald Inquiry, the Stewart Royal Commission (Royal Commission into Nugan Hand), Chlorodyne, Cannabis� medical use, cannabis indica, cannabis sativa, Gough Whitlam, Richard Nixon, Donald Mackay, Johannes Bjelke- Petersen, Terry Lewis, Ray Whitrod, Fast Buck$, Chris Masters, John Wesley Egan, the Corset Gang, Murray Stewart Riley, Bela Csidei, Maurice Bernard 'Bernie' Houghton, Frank Nugan, Michael Jon Hand, Sir Peter Abeles, Merv Wood, Sir Robert Askin, Theodore (Ted) Shackley, Fred Krahe, James (Jimmy) Bazley, Gianfranco Tizzoni, Ken Nugan, Brian Alexander.
Publisher: Queensland University of Technology
Year: 2004
OAI identifier:

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