Cannabis and the War of 1812

CANNABIS CULTURE – The story of the Napoleonic Wars and the War of 1812 is deeply intertwined with the story of cannabis hemp.

For centuries, Russia was the world’s largest producer of cannabis textiles. Despite Canada’s growing number of cannabis farms and mills, in the early 1800’s Britain’s mighty navy was still mainly dependent on cannabis rope and sails made in Russia.

As Napoleon rose to power in France, Britain blockaded Europe with their superior navy, cutting the whole Continent off from Atlantic trade by controlling the English Channel and the Straits of Gibraltar.

Unable to win at sea, Napoleon tried to beat Britain’s navy by banning all European trade with Britain, to cut off their cannabis supply and isolate them economically.

To get around the trade ban, Britain sometimes captured American ships and forced them to buy Russian cannabis and deliver it to England.

Russia didn’t abide by the embargo for long, because the cannabis industry was too important to their economy. Napoleon needed to stop Britain’s navy from getting their cannabis sails and ropes, so he launched his disastrous invasion of Russia in 1812.

America’s navy was built on domestically grown cannabis processed by slave labour. Annoyed by Britain’s impressment of their ships and their blockade of Europe, and seeing an opportunity to expand their territory, the United States declared war on Britain and tried to invade Canada in 1812, which was still scaling up cannabis production to meet British demand.

Dana Larsen
Dana Larsen

Dana Larsen is the author of "Green Buds and Hash" and "Hairy Pothead and the Marijuana Stone" and a well-known Vancouver cannabis activist, businessman and politician. He served ten years as editor of Cannabis Culture Magazine, is the co-founder of the Vancouver Seed Bank, founder of the Vancouver Dispensary Society, and Vice President of the Canadian Association of Cannabis Dispensaries. Larsen was a founding member of the BC Marijuana Party and the Canadian Marijuana Party. In 2003 he joined the NDP, running as an NDP candidate in 2008. In 2011, he ran for the Leadership of the BC NDP. Larsen is also founder and director of Sensible BC, Canada’s largest grassroots cannabis reform organization.