If all of this hysterical talk over the past week about marijuana being a contributing factor in the deaths of two people in Denver seemed familiar to you, dear cannabis historian, it's because it should be. This isn't the first time Colorado news outlets have latched onto the myth that cannabis causes violence.
For some perspective, we're offering up a classic Colorado Cannabis Time Capsule blog post that originally ran in 2013 detailing a 1910 article claiming cannabis brought on great violence and was the root of the word "assassin."
According to legend, hash-stoned mercenaries carried out murders for their blood-thirsty ruler in exchange for more ganja.
So is it true? Partly -- but it's not what you'd describe as "accurate."
Here's the vintage clip:
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Oh, the horrors. Marijuana leads to people becoming hypnotized, desensitized murderers! Only that wasn't the case (just as it isn't the case today). As we wrote last May:
The real tale centers around al-Hassan ibn-al-Sabbah, leader of a Persian sect of Ismailians called the Nizaris. There are tales of him giving a hash drink to drug young soldiers he would then drag into his palace. When the soldiers awoke in splendor, Hassan would tell them that if they wanted to stay in paradise, they would have to kill for Hassan. This account has subsequently passed through several xenophobic filters of history, leading up to what we "know" today.
The problem with this Western version of the story is that the primary source comes from a biased Marco Polo, who visited the area nearly 150 years after al-Hassan's reign. Caucasian historians were the ones who wrote the history the Western word has been taught and they haven't always been the kindest to other groups. As we understand it now, Hassan was a fundamentalist, and in addition to alcohol, he prohibited hash use among his Muslim followers. If the tale of the young soldiers being drugged is true, it was most likely with something much stronger than hash.
But based on the tale, the Arabic term "hashishiyya" (one who uses hash) became used for the Nizari. And around that, the legend grew until it became the false-history of today.
So while a sadly large number of people in this state continues to believe that marijuana caused a college student to violently run amok and fall to his death and that candy containing THC was responsible for a man killing his wife while on pain killers, keep in mind that we've seen this type of crap before.
For more cannabis history told through the pages of our state's old news reports, check out our Colorado Cannabis Time Capsule archive.