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Legalizing Opium and Marijuana After the - 1861 - Rare Signed Document on Early - 1861. [1275680]
Georgetown, Demerara, British Guiana, 9 October 1861. "An Ordinance to Regulate the Sale of Opium and Bhang." Original Act from the colonial Court of Policy, issued and signed in the original by William Walker, Lieutenant Governor and Commander in Chief of British Guiana, dealing with the legalization of opium, and also of bhang (an edible preparation of cannabis), in terms of importation, duties and taxation, sales, and medical prescription. Featuring also the signature of Magistrate James Ochterlony Lockhard Mure, then Acting Secretary under Walker. Tall 8vo. 4 pages, one double-leaf measuring approximately 19,5 x 31 cm, printed by Robert Short, Georgetown, Demerara. With official paper seal and two original signatures. Vice-Admiral William Walker, was twice Lieutenant Governor and Commander in Chief of the Colony of British Guiana, from 1848-1849 and 1853-1854. He entered British Colonial Service in 1836, becoming Lieutenant Governor and Government Secretary of British Guiana in 1847. He also served as Acting Governor in 1857 and in 1861, during the tenure of Lieutenant Governor Sir Philip Edmond Wodehouse, most likely when the latter took leave for rest or recovery from attacks by civilians opposing his tax laws. In 1867 he was part of a committee preparing for British Guiana's participation in the Universal Exhibition held in Paris. James Ochterlony Lockhard Mure was in British Guiana as early as 1839, working as a stipendiary magistrate for the colony. By 1860 he was Justice of the Peace and in 1862 he served as Administrator-General of Demerary and Essequebo. He died in Georgetown, 28 February 1863. An immensely fascinating document concerning the legalisation of opium and cannabis in British Guiana 1861, making the narcotics available at licensed retail shops or by medicinal prescription, though subject to the autocratic policy of the British Governor himself. This original colonial document represents the direct consequence of the 1860 trade agreement signed in Peking which effectively coerced China to open its country to foreign trade, and also to legalize the opium trade. To legislate and control the trade and usage of opium would generate a sizeable revenue stream for Great Britain, not only in China, but also in her overseas colonies. Immediately after the Second Opium War (1856-1860) concessions were put into place to achieve exactly that. This particular ordinance was enacted on 9 October and to come into effect on 15 November, 1861. In British Guiana, a mild form of marijuana called 'bhang' was included in the newly taxable and regulated popular narcotics. Both opium and bhang are the subject of this Act, which sets forth in painstaking detail and legalese, strict rules for obtaining a retail license to begin with. Once approved and licensed to sell opium or bhang, fees having been paid to the colonial government of course, all sorts of other regulations followed, including mandatory storefront signage, detailed record keeping and inventory control, specific importation procedures which could only be done through the government's authorized warehouse. Duty and taxes are outlined, as are penalties and fines for any breach of obligation. The document specifically mentions that it is unlawful for hospitals to sell their supply of opium, and the penalties that would incur from doing so. To enforce the iron-fisted control over these coveted substances, the Act provides for random inspections, as well as seizures and forfeitures by any commissary of taxation, police officer, or constable. Strict limitations were imposed as to the quantities one could sell or prescribe as medication, within a twenty-four hour period, quantities which, it has been said, were inadequate for any reasonable use. [James Rodway, for example, in his book published in 1902, "The Forest People of British Guiana," discussed "some absurd restrictions... really little better than instruments of oppression." He explains, "For about twenty years a law was in force that, if carried out, would have been absolutely prohibitive, yet at that very time a druggist paid duty on as much as six hundred pounds of opium every month. Every druggist was allowed to import as much as he pleased, and licensed retailers bought from them. But the difficulty was that only five grains could be legally bought by one person. The opium smoker does not use the drug in a crude state, and he must have at least half an ounce to prepare his extract. It followed, therefore, that not a single ounce of the one to two thousand pounds imported monthly was disposed of in a legal manner."] Excerpts from the document: "Whereas the most serious mischiefs have arisen from the pernicious use of Opium and Bhang by many of the Coolie and Chinese immigrants in this Colony... it is necessary to place the sale thereof under stringent regulations... therefore enacted by His Excellency the Lieutenant-Governor of British Guiana..." "It shall not be lawful for any person... to deal in, sell, barter, or otherwise dispose of any Opium or Bhang, unless he shall at the time be possessed of a retail license in manner and form hereinafter provided, or unless he shall sell or dispose of the same to a duly authorised person from and out of the Colonial Bonded Warehouse..." "It shall not be lawful for any Druggist to sell or deliver to any person whatsoever any Bhang, nor any Opium except upon prescription or order in writing of a duly licensed medical practitioner or except bona-fide compounded as a medicine......" "It shall be lawful for the Governor to cause license to deal in Opium and Bhang by retail... subject to such Rules and Regulations as the Governor and Court of Policy shall be pleased... but no Opium or Bhang shall be allowed to be smoked or consumed on the premises of any licensed dealer... nor shall the holder of any license to keep any Retail Spirit Shop or Liquor Store be allowed to take out a license to deal on the same premises in Opium or Bhang by retail. " "Every person licensed... shall affix on the outside of the principal door... painted in plain legible words and figures his name and the words 'Licensed to deal in Opium and Bhang by retail'..." "Every dealer in Opium and Bhang by retail, shall keep a book shewing the stock on hand, and the daily quantities of Opium or Bhang received, sold, or disposed of, with the names and addresses..." "... no dealer... shall sell... within one period of twenty-four hours, to or for the use of one person, any quantity of Opium exceeding Five Grains, or any quantity of Bhang exceeding Ten Grains..." "If any Commissary of Taxation, Police Officer, or Constable shall know or have reasonable cause to suspect that any Opium or Bhang is in the illegal possession of any person... such Justice may... enter the house or place... and to seize the same; and all Opium or Bhang so seized shall be forfeited..." "In case any information, suit, or action shall be brought to trial on account of any detention or seizure made under this Ordinance, and a sentence of judgment shall be for the claimant..." "If any person shall molest, hinder, oppose, or obstruct any Controller, Commissary, or other officer acting in the execution of the powers and authorities granted...shall forfeit and pay a sum..." "If any person shall forge, counterfeit, or altar any permit..." "It shall be lawful for the Governor, with or without the advice and consent of the Court of Policy, to order any Opium or Bhang seized... also to remit or mitigate any fine, penalty, or forfeiture incurred..." "The term Opium shall mean any Opium, whether pure or mixed with any ingredient... not being intended for medicinal purposes only; the term Bhang..." End excerpts. With the Second Opium War (1856-1860) the British Empire sought to legalize the opium trade, to expand and regulate the coolie trade, to open all of China to British merchants, to exempt foreign imports from internal transit duties, and to suppress piracy. France joined Britain in the war while Russia supported the final campaign, port treaties, and so forth. At the conclusion of the war, the Convention of Beijing indeed caused the opium trade to be legalized, the Chinese government levying a small import tax on opium. The agreement also facilitated easier access to China with the opening of five treaty ports, and, for the first time, foreign merchants were also permitted access to the vast hinterland of China beyond the coast. By this time, opium imports to China had reached 50,000 to 60,000 chests a year, which would continue to increase for the next three decades. British Guiana was the name of the British colony on the northern coast of South America, now the independent nation of Guyana. The area was originally settled by the Dutch as the colonies of Berbice, Demerara, and Essequibo, then captured by the British in 1796 and officially ceded in 1814, and consolidated into a single colony in 1831. Slavery had been abolished in Great Britain in 1834, on paper at least. The Chinese community has played an important role in British Guiana since 1853. Nearly fourteen thousand (14,000) Chinese arrived in British Guiana between 1853 and 1879 on 39 vessels from Hong Kong to fill the labor shortage on the sugar plantations engendered by the abolition of slavery. Leaving their homeland under indentured labor contracts, in the early years, many were "the offscourings of Canton - gaol-birds, loafers and vagabonds," who swiftly deserted the plantations and took to bootlegging, burglary and robbery and kept brothels and gambling houses. Eighty-five percent of these immigrants were men, and most returned to China or emigrated to other parts of the Guianas and the Caribbean after completing or escaping their indentures. Those who remained soon turned to trade, competing effectively with the Portuguese and East Indians, who had also entered as indentured laborers, in the retail sector. Look-Lai reports important Chinese import and wholesale traders by the 1880s and that the 1890s saw Chinese "druggists, butchers, hucksters, cart and boat cab owners, barbers, laundrymen and legal sellers of opium and ganja (marijuana)" and holding fifty percent of food shop licenses and ninety percent of liquor licenses. By the end of the 19th century, the Chinese had transcended their early reputation for criminality and come to be regarded as worthy, law-abiding, industrious citizens. The Governor of British Guiana was the Crown representative in British Guiana. The office existed from 1831 when the colonies of Demerara-Essequibo and Berbice united as British Guiana until 1966 when Guyana attained independence. The Court of Policy of Guiana in South America was a legislative body established in 1732 by Dutch authorities, which continued, with some administrative changes when the region came under British rule, until 1928. For most of its existence it formed the Combined Court together with the six Financial Representatives. The Court of Policy and the courts of justice, controlled by the plantation owners, constituted the center of power in British Guiana. The colonists who sat on the Court of Policy and the courts of justice were appointed by the governor from a list of nominees submitted by two electoral colleges. In turn, the seven members of each College of Electors were elected for life by those planters possessing twenty-five or more slaves. Raising and disbursing revenue was the responsibility of the Combined Court, which included members of the Court of Policy and six additional financial representatives appointed by the College of Electors. In 1855 the Combined Court also assumed responsibility for setting the salaries of all government officials. Finally, in the late 1880s, pressure from the new Afro-Guyanese middle class for constitutional reform was increasing.
      [Bookseller: Voyager Press Rare Books & Manuscripts]
Last Found On: 2016-11-28           Check availability:      PBFA    

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