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5 Cannabis Talking Points for Chinese President Xi Jinping

September 24, 2015

China’s President Xi Jinping arrived in Seattle earlier this week for his first official state visit as president and head of the Chinese Communist Party. The talks are expected to be dominated by the topics of trade, cybersecurity, and the South China Sea. But while Mr. Xi is in the cannabis-friendly state of Washington, will his country’s long history with the plant find its way into bi-lateral talks? Here are five talking points Mr. Xi could use if pressed on the topic by Washingtonians.


History’s Earliest Cannabis References Come from China

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Multiple historical instances of cannabis use can all be traced back to China, from the use of cannabis seeds and oil around 6000 B.C. to hemp textile production around 4000 B.C. But the world’s first officially recorded use of cannabis takes place around 2900 B.C., when Chinese Emperor Fu Hsi references cannabis as a popular medicine amongst China’s people. Emperor Hsi, who Chinese historians credit with bringing civilization to China, highlighted cannabis as a medicine that possessed both yin and yang, meaning that he thought of it as a dynamic, well-balanced plant.

In 2008, an excavation in the Gobi Desert uncovered a tomb which included, amongst other things, a nearly two-pound stash of cannabis which was quite similar in chemical makeup to the cannabis we consume today. Scientists first believed that the material could have been coriander, but after extensive testing, it was found to be cannabis.


Ancient China Scheduled Cannabis Alongside Ginseng, Not Heroin


While the U.S. federal government categorizes cannabis in a group with heroin, LSD, and MDMA, Chinese Emperor Shen Nung, considered by many as the father of Chinese medicine, first placed it next to ginseng for its healing and medicinal qualities. This heralded the beginning of China’s longtime use of cannabis as a medicinal plant. A Chinese medical text published in 1578 described how cannabis was used to treat vomiting, parasitic infections, internal bleeding, diarrhea, and dysentery, as well as to stimulate the appetite.


A Beijing Cannabis Bust Today Can Be a Fairly Arbitrary and Draconian Process

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China’s acceptance of cannabis has not extended into the 21st century. A 2014 report from an Australian journalist caught in a cannabis raid makes for a terrifying read, with Chinese police issuing on-the-spot urine tests, applying random assessment of test results, then arresting and deporting people with little to no evidence of any cannabis possession or usage. This particular incident coincided with a crackdown on all illegal drugs in Beijing.


Even Jackie Chan’s Son Got Caught Up in the Heavy-Handed Approach

jackie chan,leafly

In February of this year, martial arts legend and actor Jackie Chan welcomed the release of his son Jaycee Chan from a six-month jail sentence for letting people consume cannabis in his apartment. The younger Chan was arrested as part of the same 2014 Beijing crackdown; he tested positive for cannabis, and authorities found around 3.5 ounces of cannabis in his apartment.


Despite the Laws, Chinese People Still Like to Have Fun with Cannabis


Despite its recent restrictions, Chinese citizens still have a playful relationship with cannabis. Recently, a pun started circulating on the internet around the term “dama,” which means “marijuana.” A 2014 affectionate song dedicated to Mr. Xi and his wife, first lady Peng Liyuan, termed the two as “Daddy Xi and Mama Peng.”

Here's a rough translation of the song lyrics (hat tip to The New York Times):

China produced an Uncle Xi,
He dares to fight the tigers.

Not afraid of heaven, not afraid of earth,
Dreamers all look to him!

China also has a Peng Mama,
Give her the most beautiful flowers.

Protect and bless her,
Flourishing family, flourishing country, flourishing under heaven!

Xi Dada loves Peng Mama,
This sort of love is legendary,

Peng Mama loves Xi Dada,
The realm with love is the strongest!

Men should study Xi Dada,
Women should study Peng Mama,

Love like they do,
Love can warm everyone!

Men should study Xi Dada,
Women should study Peng Mama,

Love like they do,
People with love can win everything!

Brave love is called Xi Dada loves Peng Mama,
Together, he’s always smiling happily at her.

Brave love is called Peng Mama loves Xi Dada,
Hand in hand, her smile is the most beautiful flower.

The first character in Daddy, “da,” paired with the first character in Mama, “ma,” make “dama,” a homonym for marijuana. Internet users immediately labeled China as entering the Dama, or marijuana, era. The government immediately came out with a plan to crack down on the pun, and puns in general.

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