series event

The Indian Hemp Drugs Commission, 1893-1894 and the uses of history in policy

The Indian Hemp Drugs Commission report (1894) continues to be cited over a century after its publication, most often in laudatory terms by those who approve its recommendation in favour of the regulation and taxation of cannabis.

This paper describes historical scholarship on the context in which the Commission was established and produced its report, summarises the Commission’s reasoning about the health and mental health effects of cannabis, and outlines the reasons that the Commission gave for recommending that cannabis be regulated and taxed rather than prohibited.

It also discusses some interesting echoes of the Commission’s reasoning and conclusions echoes in contemporary debates about cannabis policy, such as the importance given to the causal role of cannabis use in psychosis in deciding upon cannabis policy; the use of double evidential standards in appraising the harms and medical benefits of cannabis use; and conflicts of interest in cannabis policy debates.


Wayne Hall is a Professor at the Centre for Youth Substance Abuse Research at the University of Queensland and a Professor at the National Addiction Centre, Kings College London.  He has Professorial appointments at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, UNSW.  He was: an NHMRC Australia Fellow at the University of Queensland Centre for Clinical Research and the University of Queensland Brain Institute (2009-2014); Professor of Public Health Policy, School of Population Health, UQ (2005-2009); Director of the Office of Public Policy and Ethics at the Institute for Molecular Bioscience (2001-2005), UQ; and Director of the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, UNSW (1994-2001).

He has advised the World Health Organization on: the health effects of cannabis use; the effectiveness of drug substitution treatment; the contribution of illicit drug use to the global burden of disease; and the ethical implications of genetic and neuroscience research on addiction.         


Please note that this session will NOT be live-streamed and recorded. 




Please note that the main entrance of our Keppel Street building will close from Saturday 5 October until Monday 28 October for essential repairs. Alternative access will be provided on Malet Street, including an accessible route for visitors with a disability and wheelchair users. There will be signage to guide you to these entrances.


Open to all, seats available on first come, first served basis.


LSHTM Centre for History in Public Health