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Holy Smokes!

23 September 2019

With the explosion of shipping between old and new Spain, by 1530 there was already a need to resupply ships arriving in Mexico. Sailcloth was in huge demand. Hernan Cortés ordered Juan Cuadrado to begin planing hemp. Although there had always been some medicinal uses for hemp as well, by 1531 Cuadrado was starting to worry that the indigenous workers were finding some ritual or other use for the plant. taking the leaves home to burn or … perhaps to smoke. Something strange was cetainly going on, and the workers were rather cagey about it, and it seemed to be something of a joke to them. Whatever it was, it seemed rather “pagan” to Cuadrado and he brought his concerns to Bishop Zummaraga, who generally tolerated the customs of the “new Christians” as long as they didn’t directly contract Catholic teachings. As long as whatever those indigenous people were doing wasn’t some religious act he wasn’t soo concerned, but he recognized a business opportunity. The monks were better suited to keep an eye out for “unchristian” practices than Juan Cuadrado’s overseers, and besides, the missions needed a regular cash crop to support themselves. That the monks expected the “mission Indians” to start dressing in European style clothes (or, in some places, at least start wearing clothes), there was a need for cheap cloth anyway. Growing marijuana could be God’s work, and as an added bonus, ease the indigenous farmers into the cash economy. Zummarga dispatched marijuana seeds by the thousands to the missions, laying the groundwork for a still thriving industry, albeit one depending less on the needs of what was at the time the world’s largest navy, and having more to do with what it was that made Cuadrado’s field hands giggle.

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