History And Anatomy Of A Silly Drug Ban

Sometimes, politicians think it’s somehow rational to ban plants. This article is about one such plant, which has mild effects on the human psyche when ingested, and could therefore be regarded as a drug. The drug plant in question, one that looks like any ordinary plant with leaves and flowers, was banned for political and powerplay reasons in Sweden.

The fact that the ban of this drug was railroaded through in a political powerplay didn’t mean that the drug lacked actual antagonists and demonizers, though. The plant was never ascribed to “use”, only “abuse” by these people, and it would even be claimed to devastate the national economy.

In a famous presentation from a major authority, the drug in question is described as being a gateway drug to heavier drug abuse, and its abuse is described in detail, as well as the disasters it brings to national economy. These were the facts on the table at the time – or at least claims, unopposed claims, regarded as facts.

Large parts of the population chose to ignore the ban of this plant and its consumption, and special shops with the drug’s name were set up where people could enjoy it in secret. Many met in the privacy of people’s homes to enjoy the drug, and still do.

In response to this, the Swedish government employed special sniffers that would patrol the streets of the capital and smell for the characteristic scent of the drug in order to catch the “abusers” of the plant in their private homes.

During the last period of the drug ban, and likely in a reaction to the sniffers, guilds were set up to enjoy the drug in the woods, far from housing and urban areas.

It would take long after the first ban before people started realizing how utterly absurd the whole idea of banning a plant was, and even so, how absurd it was that people who proclaimed that the plant could be a “gateway drug” were even taken seriously.

The ban against the plant in question, coffee, was enacted on November 4, 1756 in Sweden. The ban was as ridiculous as it sounds, and it was intermittently suspended until finally replaced by regulation and taxation in 1823. Still, many wanted a complete ban to be re-enacted after 1823, again using the “gateway drug” silliness. Trade of the popular drug, coffee, has been unregulated since 1951.

Rick Falkvinge

Rick is the founder of the first Pirate Party and a low-altitude motorcycle pilot. He lives on Alexanderplatz in Berlin, Germany, roasts his own coffee, and as of right now (2019-2020) is taking a little break.


  1. morr

    Nice one 😉

    1. Caleb Lanik

      Indeed, posts like these are what started me checking this site daily for new articles. Truly beautifully written, thank you Rick.

  2. harveyed

    That’s indeed a nice one 🙂

  3. griff

    bam! right to the point.

  4. Antony Goddard (@d4maths)

    And I always thought the ‘Tea Party’ people were rather silly. I did not know they have been silly for so long 🙂

    The current USA ‘Teaparty’ is a misnomer.

    The ‘Boston Teaparty’ was a protest against Patents granted by the British Monarchy to one monopoly which was meant to control all world trade in a particular commodity.

  5. morr

    Makes you wonder what our society would look like if they would have kept the ban. Positive or negative effects?

    1. Rick Falkvinge

      If the world was deprived of its morning coffee, combined with radically increased work and stress levels since the mid-1700s? Do a Google Image search for “zombie apocalypse”, I imagine that would come close enough. 🙂

      1. morr

        Yeah, I guess that’s the natural reaction to the question. But I who never drinks coffee has no problems what so ever to handle my mornings (even if I hate them just like anyone else). People trying to (or forced) out of an addiction would behave like you described but that would pass. I honestly don’t think that the addiction is inheritable and would accumulate over the centuries 😉

        I wonder i a coffee-free nation would have any advantages 😉

        1. Daniel

          A nation with no coffee? That’s crazy talk!

        2. buglord

          the main advantage I could think of is less money spent on coffee, other than that you have less farm space used for it, so that space could be used for potentially better things.

        3. Mowgly

          Except PEOPLE do not decide what is grown where, and “potentially BETTER” is extremely subjective.

  6. […] ämnen: Hemimamma, Svante, Johan Kant, Gertie, Helena von Schantz, Hanna, Christer, Anna Troberg, Rick Falkvinge, Henrik Alexandersson, Enligt min Humla och Anne Kekki. Share this:TwitterFacebookGillaGillaBe the […]

  7. RayJoha

    #brilliantmind strikes again! One of the foremost demagogue of our times.

  8. Alex

    I’m gonna print this article and shove it in the faces of many people. If only I could walk into those responsible for example for the ‘U.S war on drugs’..
    Amazing article, I never realized they were handling coffee that way back then! The more you know, thank you for this!

  9. Viktualiebrodern

    The swedish coffee habits must in any case be seen as a great improvement to the copious amounts of liquor that the swedes ingested before coffee was made available for the common people.

    Um cafezinho faz bem – a cup of coffee does good as they say in Brazil.

    I’d like to quote Raymond Chandler on this: Coffee – the heartblood of tired men. So true.

  10. Calle Rehbinder

    I just love it! Another of your historical references…
    Very good!

  11. Joshua_Tree

    Good one!

  12. Den sjuka knarkpolitiken - gothbarbie's blog

    […] om hur det utopiska samhället ska se ut, vilket är fallet i dagsläget. Andra om detta: Falkvinge, Aftonbladet, TV4, Petzäll själv på […]

  13. Sam Zodiac

    Striking similarities with a certain other plant that also has been banned in this northern country (and more or less the entire world). I hope the outcome will eventually be about the same as that of coffee in Sweden!
    However this will probably not happen unless hemplovers make it happen!

  14. Jeremy Daw, J.D.

    Indeed, some people never learn. King Henry VIII of England banned hops, while his policy toward cannabis (which is in the same family) fined any English farmer who didn’t grow enough. (Booth 2004)

    Here in the U.S., some states in the southwest banned tobacco, and some commentators in the early twentieth century regarded it as a gateway drug, too. (Abel 1980) Still, no plant ban can compare in absurdity to the modern U.S. prohibition of marijuana, which not only has never killed anyone but even has the potential to save lives, as in cases of ischemia or severe asthma attack. (Grotenhermen et al, 2002)

    1. Anthony

      Impressive research and your citations look quite interesting to follow up on. Is this from a textbook? I’d like to read more.

      1. Anonymous

        Hey Anthony,

        All of my facts come from my history of U.S. marijuana policy, Weed the People: From Founding Fiber to Forbidden Fruit – due to be released next month.

        If you’d like to learn more, the first two chapters are already available for free download from my blog, http://www.weed-the-people.net

        -Jeremy Daw, J.D.

        Full citations:

        Martin Booth, Cannabis: A History – 2004.

        Ernest Abel, Marihuana: The First Twelve Thousand Years – 1980

        Grotenhermen et al, eds., Cannabis and Cannabinoids – 2002

      2. Jeremy Daw, J.D.

        All facts cited are from my forthcoming history of U.S. marijuana policy, Weed the People: From Founding Fiber to Forbidden Fruit – due out next month! In the meantime, you can access a free download of the first two chapters at http://www.weed-the-people.net

        My citations:

        Martin Booth – Cannabis: A History – 2004.

        Ernest Abel – Marihuana: The First Twelve Thousand Years – 1980

        Grotenhermen et al, eds. – Cannabis and Cannabinoids – 2002

    2. Colin

      Long after Henry VIII banned hops, the British government in about 1914 required hops be used in brewing beer to give it a bitter taste that would discourage people from drinking beerand getting drunk. This, the powers that be reasoned, would increase productivity in the armaments factories.

      English ‘bitter’ beer is now a national institution, quite distinct from lager, and much consumed all over the UK. To judge from the many Saturday night fights and brawls in British towns, the government’s plan to discourage beer drinking had ‘unexpected consequences’ 😉

  15. aspekt

    hej rickard. det är uppenbart att du skapat flera konton och kommenterar din egen artikel under andra alias än ditt eget.. kan du vara vänlig att sluta med detta då det tar ner trovärdigheten på vad du skriver i övrigt.. och om du nu ändå måste använda troll-konton, kan du göra det lite mindre uppenbart i t.ex. namnsekvenser? morr, griff etc.. att dessutom du under “rickard falkvinge” svarar på deras kommentarer inom 4 minuter är bara för löjligt.

    1. Rick Falkvinge

      Dear Aspekt, (responding in English for the benefit of the global audience)

      As obvious as you think this is, you are also completely wrong, as in “so far out you don’t even reflect sunlight anymore”.

      They say, that if you can show that somebody’s interpretation is wrong in poetry reading, then it says a lot more about the interpreter’s preconceptions than it does about the piece of poetry.

      What does it say about you that you think it’s obvious that the people commenting here don’t exist?


      1. aspekt

        men rickard.. det syns ju… om det bara går entalet minutrar från en kommentar till en annan, då är det ju riggat.. (i normala fall tar det liksom tid att både läsa och formulera sig, att man dessutom ska anta att svararen satt och väntade på kommentaren i fråga) jag blir riktigt besviken på att du håller på med fabricerad opinionsbildning på din egen sida.. debatten om cannabis behöver inte falskhet – den talar nämligen redan för sig själv. skärp dig. nu ska ja rulla en fet.

        1. Scary Devil Monastery

          Is that a fact now?

          Last I checked none of Ricks articles go for longer than five minutes without being commented on.

          It could be because he ended up in TIME magazines top 100 nominees for most influential people in the world?
          The man has a following and judging by the number of people who attend his meetings he has fans as well.

          Or it could be because quite a number of the responding netizens are what is commonly known as “subscribers” which means when Rick posts an item it shows up in our smartphones with a subtle *ding*.

          I usually respond within a minute or two when someone I subscribe to posts something worth the answer. And even then I have to stand in line because people have beaten me to it.

          He also isn’t stupid so if he had used one-man army nicks (like the good old anti-pirate troll Nejtillpirater) he probably wouldn’t have wasted risky astroturfing on what appears to be some rather trivial inanities adding nothing to his topic.

          And finally…he has no need of astroturfing for himself. That we can safely leave to Per Strömbäck and Pontén who don’t have some 20% of the european youth as sympathizers.

    2. george

      i dont know if what you say is true,but i want to share the fact that i really liked the article and i am not the author…..:):)

  16. Patrikh76

    This is one of my favorit subjects. I have watched just about all of the documentarys and read a lot of the scientific reports of the plant in question It has amzing medical and preventive properties. The prohibition of it is absloutely ridicoulus. I am so glad to see people having the balls to put the ban under question. people are SOO indotrinated by false knwoledge that it will be a hard battle to win, I am however very glad that it is beginning. Gatewaydrug, yeah right…..If you smoke cannabis you get addicted to heroine. So darn unscientific it makes me wanna puke. Thanks Rick. Love all your work and fighting spirit 🙂 🙂

    1. Tobias Brox

      Do you know of any heroin addicts that didn’t start their career with coffee?

      1. patrikh76

        Exactly, and most alcoholics start out with milk… Lets ban coffee and milk…. Oh wait…i like those things so,.. Lets legalize cannabis 😉

  17. Patrikh76

    I want to make clear…I do realize that the post is about coffe, however, It´s hard not to draw paralells. 🙂

  18. L

    Fantastiskt välskrivet 🙂 Det värmde lite i magen när jag läste det här!

    *går och hämtar en kopp*
    Skål! 😀

  19. @adlwalrus

    Rick, you are a fucking GOD, plain and simple.

    1. Rick Falkvinge

      Thank you for the kind words, good sir (ma’am!)


  20. Igor

    Great one! 😀

  21. harveyed

    Just got my breakfast-fix of this horrible gateway-drug. =)

  22. Droger « The weblog of Inscius

    […] om droger här och här. Tänkte mest bara här länka till en tankeväckande och rolig post av Rick Falkvinge från […]

  23. […] Text: Rick Falkvinge […]

  24. asdklfj

    Interesting. I thought that this article was about how the laws regulating tobacco companies (as soon junk-food companies) were a bad idea — but then all the pot-heads started responding to it.

  25. Nioniosmeg

    Rick, this is the first time I read one of your articles, and seriously, this shit is incredible.
    I feel the urge to print this article and post it around the city I live in, as it is both quite informative and kind of amusing and comical. As in my case, I was caught off-guard by the last paragraph, then burst out laughing. I am eager to read more of your work. Keep this up please 😉

  26. daniel

    A background story of
    Gustav III of Sweden’s coffee experiment

    The king ordered the experiment to be conducted using two identical twins. Both of the twins had been tried for the crimes they had “committed” and condemned to death. Their sentences were commuted to life imprisonment on the condition that one of the twins drank three pots of coffee, and the other drank the same amount of tea, every day for the rest of their lives.
    Two physicians were appointed to supervise the experiment and report its finding to the king. Unfortunately, both doctors died, presumably of natural causes, before the experiment was completed. Gustav III, who was assassinated in 1792, also died before seeing the final results. Of the twins, the tea drinker was the first to die, at age 83; the date of death of the surviving coffee drinker is unknown.

  27. george

    niceeee….you really threw me off course there….propably because of my habits….anyways,nicely put!!!!i like you more with every article i read..:):)

  28. El Café: La historia de una ridícula prohibición - VeoVerde

    […] History and anatomy of a silly drug ban […]

  29. TK

    The idea that the government can stop adults from self-administering a drug by law is so absurd. This analogy is completely natural to me, there is absolutely no difference in how ridiculous somebody should think banning coffee is compared to banning marijuana.

    I’ve had arguments with people about the concept of a gateway drug (surely all heroin users encounter marijuana before heroin). And also people on prescription drugs trying to say that they are different from somebody who achieves the same thing in an illegal way.
    Especially when it’s illegal because of politics, they just lack the gift of thought.

    At the same time, I don’t see much difference in somebody having coffee to wake themselves up in the morning to a line of speed.
    I’ve been through Sydney CBD in the morning with everybody holding their coffee out in front of them walking fast as if they are being magnetically pulled towards the coffee it is rather creepy that these people need drugs to get going in the morning.

    But that’s their business and choice. The perfect society has no laws, not more laws.

    Legalise drugs (they’re going to be taken anyway) and tax them to the degree that those drugs create costs. Everybody wins and we remove such ridiculous stigma and politics from what is just natural human behaviour.

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