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The Marihuana Tax Act of 1937


MR. WOLLNER: Mr. Chairman, my name is Herbert J. Wollner; I am consulting chemist in the office of the Secretary of the Treasury.

MR. CULLEN: You may proceed.

MR. WOLLNER: The acttive principle in marihuana appears to be associated with an element which is located or found in the flowering tops and on the under side of the leaves of the plant. Until relatively recently the lack oof refined chemical tests has built up the traditional conception that it was only found in the co-called female plant. But that is untrue. We have discovered that it is present both in the male and female plant.

To iluminate the matter I have brought with me some slides, if you care to look at them through the lenses, which I will be glad to submit for your examination.

(The slides referred to were examined by the members of the committee.)

Those are the flowering tops, and the plant is covered with a tremendous number of very fine hairs. You will notice that at the base of these hairs are little pockets, liike apertures, where little sacks of resin are located. The resin contains an ingredient which the chemical technologist referes to as cannabinone or cannabinol, alternatively. It is the invariant experience that this material contains the active principle which does the job.

MR. VINSON: How do they get this into commercial use? I am talking about the flowering plantt. Do they have to take it in its natural state?

MR. WOLLNER: There are a variety of ways. In the early days, when they used hashish, they would jounce the flowering tops up and down in bags and then the resin would collect on the surface of the cloth and was scraped off and mixed with sweets and eath. At the present time in reefers and muggles there is no separation. They smoke the stuff in toto, the leaves, the flowering tops, and everything.

MR. VINSON: They use the whole thing?

MR. WOLLNER: Yes. In the laboratory we extract this resin and then identify it.

MR. MCCORMACK: After that it is dried quicker?

MR. WOLLNER: Yes, It goes through a process which is simlar to the process through which tobacco goes. They are similar in that respect.

MR. REED: As to this ingredient at the root of this hairlike substance, is that in the nature of oil?

MR. WOLLNER: Yes and no. This active substance will be extractible from the resin. It is on the border line between resin and oil. If you raise the temperature slightly, it becomes fluid.

The identification problems have been worked out very clearly from the botanical and from the purely laborattory approach, and that is in such shape right now that the transmission of that information to police officers throughout the country would be perfectly possible.

MR. CROWTHER: Is that the oil that the manufacgtureres used to produce in considerable quantities?

MR. WOLLNER: That is a different oil. That oil derives its source from the seed of the marihuana plant. The seed of hte plant contains a drying oil which is in a general way similar to that of linseed. Those seeds contain a small amount of that resin, appparently on their outer surface according to quite a number of investigators depending upon the age of that seed.

The oil in the seed or the seed itself only contains the active principle, apparently, where derived from an immature plant. However, cerain investigators have found active principles in smaller amounts even in mature seeds.

MR. VINSON: It has been testified that the common manner of use is tthrough cigarettes. Is anyone manufacturing those cigarettes for sale, or do you just roll them?

MR. WOLLNER: As I understand it from our law-enforcment officers, both procedures are in common usage.

It is also sold in the form of loose tobacco, either mized or straight.

MR. VINSON: Do you know of any concern that is manufacturing cigarettes with the marihuana content?

MR. WOLLNER: I would not know of such a concern in the course of my own experience.

MR. VINSON: The addicts can roll their own?

MR. BUCK: Does the oil from the seed contain any of this deleterious matter?

MR. WOLLNER: That would in a large measure depend upon the condition of the seed and the condition of manufacture, bit I would say in any event the oil would not contain a large amount of this resin.

It may be that that quantity active principle which is in the oil was derived through contact with other parts of the plant.

MR. BUCK: Would it contain enough to have any harmful effect on anyone, if taken internally?

MR. WOLLNER: I would say no; it would not contain such an amount.

MR. FULLER: As I understand it, you say the oil dos not contain much, if any, of the drug?

MR. WOLLNER: It does contain some fo the drug, but not much. It woudl appear, offhand, to be rather difficult to spearate, but processes might possibly be developed for that purpose.

MR. FULLER: It would not be useful for the purpose for which they are using marihuana.


MR. FULLER: So, so far as the oil from the seed is concerned, it is harmless, as far as human use is concerned.

MR. WOLLNER: That is right.

MR. CULLEN: We thank you for your statement.

Mr. Hester, who is your next witness?

MR. HESTER: Mr. Chairman, we have one other witness, Dr. Dewey, who was formerly chief of the fiber investigation of the Bureau of Plant Industry in the Department of Agriculture. He is a botanist, and while he is noe in retirement, officials of the Department of Agriculture have referred us to him as the foremost expert on the botanical aspect of this plant.

MR. CULLEN: Is he now connected with the Department of Agriculture?

MR. HESTER: No, he is not, he is now in retirement.

MR. CULLEN: We will be glad to hear Dr. Dewey. Will you give your full name to the reporter?

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