The History of Marijuana Part III: The Opium Wars...1839-1860
Two of the bloodiest wars of their time period were the Opium Wars. The first one took place between the United Kingdom and China from 1839 and lasting until 1842. After this conflict was resolved, a second one rose up in 1856 and lasted until 1860(1). Again, this took place between Great Britain and China. As the titles of the wars may suggest, they were fought primarily over Opium, however; Opium was not the only product worth fighting for around that time. Other products with roles of importance during the wars included spices, gunpowder, and Marijuana. In the early to mid 1800s, conflicts arose between China and the United Kingdom due to the fact that China had valuable resources which they would only give the United Kingdom at a very high price, or not trade with them at all. This angered Great Britain, who wanted to pay fair price for the resources. This led to the outbreak of war in 1839, where the British invaded Chinese lands in order to try and cultivate resources, which caused the Chinese to strike back, trying to force British troops off of their land(2). Eventually, peace agreements were reached and the war ended in favor of the British. A few years later, China and Britain found themselves in the exact same situation, causing another war to break out. Again, the British won, allowing for the trade of goods such as Cannabis, Opium, and Gunpowder to be opened to a more globally-friendly market(3).
Despite Opium and gunpowder being the main causes for the war, Marijuana did not play a small role in the reasoning behind the first war and the uprising of a second war. At the time, China wanted to keep any drugs native to their lands within their borders, thus allowing their own people to consume it at an increased rate, making it less expensive than in other parts of the world. It was part of the Chinese culture to promote recreational drug usage. When the British saw what China was doing, they wanted in on the action. When China declined their offers, they needed to find a way to force themselves into the action. In essence, Marijuana literally caused two powerful nations to go to war against each other for a period of nine years. The Opium wars were said to be fought by two nations whose leaders were each addicted to Marijuana, among other narcotics.5 Overall, it is clear to see that this substance has had a clear impact on international history, including the Opium Wars.
(1) "Opium Wars." Wikipedia. December 9, 2015. Accessed December 11, 2015. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opium_Wars.
(2) "First Opium War." Wikipedia. December 9, 2015. Accessed December 11, 2015. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Opium_War.
(3) "Second Opium War." Wikipedia. December 8, 2015. Accessed December 11, 2015. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Opium_War.