Author(s): John Jiggens
Two hundred years ago, hemp - Cannabis sativa - was the most important plant on the planet. As the basis for sail and rope, hemp was as strategic in the Age of Sail as oil is in our era. Today oil supplies and alternatives to oil occupy some of the greatest minds of our time. Two hundred years ago, Sir Joseph Banks - Britains' 'presiding genius' and the 'father of Australia' - was pre-occupied with hemp supplies and alternatives to hemp. Using previously unpublished documents by Sir Joseph Banks on the hemp question, Dr Jiggens argues that the settlement of Australia was for the purpose of hemp, and the convicts were a cover to mislead Britain's rivals. The late eighteenth century saw an extended hemp crisis in Britain, which produced hemp experiments in Canada, India and the Pacific. Banks supervised hemp colonies in the Pacific and India, where his team encountered the Indian hemp plant, Cannabis indica, also known as marijuana. Like twins in a stage farce, these strikingly similar plants would confuse Banks and frustrate his attempt to solve the Question of Hemp.