Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Take that in your pipe and smoke it!

Cannabis growing in Jersey is illegal, but did you know that tobacco growing is also restricted, even if it is for home consumption.

Reg Langlois, on Facebook, commenting on the recent duty rises in the budget on tobacco, stated:  

“My grandfather grew his own tobacco, what is to stop others from doing the same?”

That must have been well before the Tobacco Duty (Cultivation of Tobacco) (Jersey) Regulations, 1973. This states that:

Except under and in accordance with the provisions of a licence granted by or on behalf of the Committee, no person shall –
(a)     grow tobacco plants;
(b)     make cigarettes or other products for smoking from tobacco grown in the Island;

In “The Rural Economy of England” by Joan Thirsk, she notes that:

“Tobacco growing in England.. began to take hold early in the seventeenth century, and was almost immediately banned by the government. Yet the crop proved to be remarkably tenacious and popular, being taken up with alacrity by large numbers of peasant Cultivators. In fifty years it spread into twenty-two counties in England and Wales, and to the islands of Jersey and Guernsey. Since the government had to fight a long- drawn—out battle, lasting over seventy years, before tobacco-growing was eradicated, its history is unusually well documented. An exceptional opportunity occurs of observing how a novel crop was first introduced, and, more remarkably, how it became firmly established among poor husbandmen, the group normally most reluctant to risk its fortunes on new-fangled ventures.”

So what of the crop in Jersey? "Jersey in the 17th century" (1931),  by A.C. Saunders has this to say about the history  of tobacco in Jersey:

Raleigh had the reputation of having introduced the value of the potato to his fellow countrymen and possibly to Jersey. He certainly brought tobacco into use in the Island, but the people did not take kindly to the new custom. Several years afterwards the Royal Court, by their Order of the 5th February, 1624, forbade the sale of tobacco as injurious to the morals of the people.

Tobacco was evidently grown in the Island, for on 15th September, i6z8, Attorney-General Heath writes to the Council, that there is a great quantity of tobacco planted in Jersey and Guernsey contrary to various Proclamations and having " this further inconvenience of taking away the bread from the inhabitants of this Island if the ground fit for Corn be thus employed," and he recommended John Blanch as a proper person to see the tobacco destroyed.

But Jerseymen still carried on, and on the 1st March, 1631, a Proclamation was issued by the Council forbidding the planting of tobacco-" all plants to be destroyed and none must presume to plant hereafter, and no tobacco is to be brought from these parts into any Port save London."

Sanders does however offer an interesting suggestion for widening the crops grown by farmers in his own day:

“If tobacco could be grown in the Island in those days, then it is a question whether, at the present time when potatoes and tomatoes are sent to an overfed market, the re-introduction of tobacco-growing might not improve the condition of the farmers.”

Of course, given these health conscious times, farmers adding to potatoes, the growing of a crop with notable damage to health might be economically viable, but would not be ethical.

Duty on tobacco has never been popular, and on January 27th 1914, two petitions were presented to the States as follows:

Petition to A N Rochfort, Lieutenant Governor, William H V Vernon, Bailiff and the States of Jersey “from residents and taxpayers of the Island regarding their disapproval about the tax on tea and tobacco, the provision of the increased cost of administration by means of indirect taxation and the growing cost of living. They suggest additional revenue should be obtained more fairly by direct taxation. Presented by J E Pinel, Deputy of St Helier, lodged au Greffe.”

“Petition to A N Rochfort, Lieutenant Governor; William H V Vernon, Bailiff and the States of Jersey from the tobacconists and importers of tobacco in Jersey regarding the bill to be considered by the States regarding imposing additional duty on tobacco, cigars and cigarettes. Request that no further increase of duty is imposed and the disproportinate difference of duty between Jersey and Guernsey is reconsidered to put Jersey on a 'fair footing'. Presented by John Cory, Deputy of St Helier, lodged au Greffe.”

Tobacco Duty (Tobacco Substitutes) (Jersey) Regulations, 1973.

Except under, and in accordance with the provisions of, a licence granted by or on behalf of the Committee, no person shall –
(a)       grow, produce or manufacture any tobacco substitute;

Clearly the cost of a licence makes the enterprise unprofitable, because:

“No Excise Production Licences (which includes tobacco) have been issued over the last three years.”

It is also not that easy to cultivate enough plants. From one plant, the grower might expect 3-5 oz of tobacco per plant, probably closer to 3 oz. That is a lot of plant for very little tobacco!

Lastly, “The Guernsey and Jersey Magazine, Volumes 3-4” of 1837 has this to say about the cultivation of tobacco in nearby France, useful if anyone, including Reg, wants to apply for a licence to grow their own "baccy":

Tobacco in France

This herb, introduced into Europe by the Spaniards, 1560, has become almost a necessary of life in countries, where formerly it was esteemed a luxury. The revenue it produces to governments is consequently very considerable.

In France, its growth is permitted under strict laws and regulations, in several departments, and is, to all intents and purposes, a royal monopoly, guarded by a vigilant police and inspectors, specially appointed to superintend its cultivation and prevent fraud. The scrutiny the plants undergo, manifests the suspicions entertained by the ministers of finance, and of the directors, by their orders to the inspectors of communes, who, although supported by every possible precautions, are often outwitted.

In fact, it may fairly be stated, it produces more crime than benefit to the state; for the tobacco grown in France is inferior in quality and flavour to that imported from America, I presume, from the difference in soil and climate; and if its cultivation was totally prohibited, instead of being partially permitted, which gives rise to discontent among farmers, the revenue of two millions sterling would not be injured j such is the propensity and custom among all classes of society to smoke.

A farmer is only permitted to cultivate a certain portion of land, and must produce, before the bureau, a respectable guarantee to be responsible for his adherence to the rules and regulations under which leave is granted to grow this plant. The field appropriated for this purpose, should as far as possible, be a square, and each hectare should measure from ten to fifteen thousand square feet. Five hundred and eighty hectares are thus measured in eighteen communes, in the arrondissement of St. Malo, but 12,350 square feet is the medium generally adopted for each hectare— and 900,000 kilogrammes, or 1,800,000 lbs. was demanded from this quantity of land, in 1836.

The mode of cultivation is as follows :—The seed is sown in prepared beds, generally in gardens, in the month of March.

The ground is either ploughed deep or trenched into ridges in the winter, or early in spring; in April it is levelled with spades and dug twelve or fourteen inches. Holes, eighteen inches square, three feet distance every way, and one spade deep, are made in regular lines and equal numbers. These are filled with the best rotted manure, and covered with the earth taken out, which gives the field the appearance of a molehill: if the season is favourable, the plants are put in the middle or latter end of April. Six thousand to the journal,* which is about an English acre, and in exposed spots large oyster shells are stuck up to protect the young plants, and Jerusalem artichokes planted all round as a fence. When weeds appear, the ground is dug spade deep, afterwards cleaned and weeded as often as it becomes necessary, until the plants are too large to be interfered with.

In August it is topped, and all off-sets from the stems carefully removed.

Towards the end of September, or in October, it is cut as it ripens, which, is indicated by its yellowness j it is allowed to remain on the ground a few days, and then hung up by the stems under apple trees, or against walls. If the weather is favourable, it is soon ready for pressing, and delivered into the government stores, where it is examined and prices are fixed according to quality. One hundred and twenty francs for 200 lbs., the first quality; ninety francs, the second; sixty-five francs, the third, and all under that valuation is condemned and burnt. In a good year, 2000 lbs. per acre is the produce, which, at the moderate rate of five pence per pound, amounts to one thousand francs, or £40 per journal; but it is a very precarious crop, requires great and expensive labour. One storm of hail at the equinox destroys the grower's hopes.

From the quantity of manure employed, it is not considered injurious to the soil, for good wheat crops succeed it. On examination of the roots they had not extended beyond the hole, but appropriated all the dung for their nourishment.

The inspectors keep regular entries, visit frequently each farm or garden, count the stems in each row, which must be in equal numbers, measure the leaves, and take down how many are on each plant, and finally, superintend the burning of the roots, which are collected and counted for that purpose. Their books are regularly kept, and the tobacco delivered into stores must agree with the size of the leaves entered therein, the medium being the guide for the whole, the large leaf being near the root, the small at the top.

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