Marijuana - the first 12,000 years - Earnest Abel

Marijuana - The First Twelve Thousand Years

Ernest L. Abel
The complete history of the cannabis plant and it's relationship with mankind

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9. Hashish in America

Although hemp had been a valuable and commonplace agricultural staple in the United States from the time of the first settlement in Virginia, the early Americans were totally unaware of the kaleidoscope of sensations lurking within the sticky resin that covered the plant. In fact, it was not until they read the exploits of their own Marco Polo, Bayard Taylor, that Americans learned of the existence of drugs such as hashish. But even then, they failed to make the connection between this exotic drug and the hemp weeds that grew in the vacant lots of their neighborhoods. Yet, because of Taylor's popularity, many of his impressionable thrill-seeking readers were prompted to try some of this strange electuary for themselves to see if they too could experience the bizarre sensations described by one of the country's favorite writers. So fashionable did the hashish habit become that even foreigners began to remark on the growing popularity of the drug in America.

Hashish in American Poetry

Among the first Americans to write about hashish was not a novelist or a physician, but a poet - John Greenleaf Whittier. In "The Haschish", a short poem in his Anti-Slavery Poems (1854), Whittier writes of hashish-induced hallucinations and muddled thinking, but it is improbable that he himself had experienced the effects of the drug at the time he wrote the poem. The point of the poem, in fact, was not to describe the effects of hashish at all.

Although hashish is more potent in its ability to induce hallucinations than opium, and makes "fools or knaves of all who use it," says Whittier, when it came to enslavement hashish had to take a back seat to cotton. Whereas hashish enslaved the individual, cotton had enslaved a whole race of man.

The American Marco Polo

Whereas Whittier had written about hashish to emphasize his feelings about slavery, American writers and poets who followed him were more interested in hashish as a plot device and therefore something to be sensationalized. Among the first to write about hashish in this way was one of the best known literary figures of the mid-nineteenth century - Bayard Taylor. Poet, novelist, translator, music lyricist, war correspondent, world traveller, secretary to the American legation to Russia, ambassador to Germany - Taylor was ever in search of recognition. Yet, except for his translations of German classics such as Faust, for which he was awarded the position of nonresident professor of German literature at Cornell University, his writings were never regarded as anything beyond mediocre by the nation's critics. Parke Godwin, editor of the New York Evening Post, for instance, said that Taylor had "travelled more and seen less than any man living." [1] The reading public, as is often the case, ignored the critics and Taylor became rich and famous as a writer.

In 1851, heartbroken over the death of his wife of three months and exhausted from overwork, Taylor left the United States to travel in the Middle and Far East. It was during this time that he first became acquainted with hashish, an experience he described for his readers in two of his books, A Journey to Central Africa (1854) and The Land of the Saracens; or, Pictures of Palestine, Asia Minor, Sicily, and Spain (1855). [2]

Taylor's initiation to hashish took place in Egypt. The "exquisite lightness and airiness", the "wonderfully keen perception of the ludicrous", and "the fine sensations which spread throughout the whole tissue of my nervous fiber, each thrill helping to divest my frame of its earthly and natural nature", are briefly mentioned in Journey to Central Africa. In Land of the Saracens, he delves more deeply into the hashish experience, cloaking it in a sensationalistic wrap calculated to entertain his readers.

Taylor begins by introducing the legend of the Assassins, a ploy used by most writers to arouse in their readers' mind an anticipation of uncontrollable passions and violence unleashed by this mysterious unguent of the Arab world. The theatrics are then carried one step further as he tells of "a dark Egyptian", sent to obtain some of the drug with the admonition: "And see that it be strong and fresh."

Amid friends, Taylor retires to a quiet room. He swallows one teaspoon of the mixture, the amount being roughly equal to that he had previously taken in Egypt. The lozenge is more bitter than he previously remembered - an intimation that it may also be more potent than that which he took in Egypt. But after an hour, none of the group felt any different.

When some of those present "loudly expressed their conviction of the humbug of hasheesh," Taylor advised a second teaspoon, "though not without some misgivings, as we were all ignorant of the precise quantity which constituted a dose, and the limits within which the drug could be taken with safety."

Not long after this second helping, Taylor senses "the same fine nervous thrill" that he had previously experienced in Egypt. But this time the sensation comes on suddenly and far more intensely. Now, he feels a kind of astral projection taking place: "The walls of my frame were burst outward and tumbled into ruin; and, without thinking what form I wore - losing sight even of all idea of form - I felt that I existed through a vast extent of space."

The sensation was too much for Taylor. His curiosity is satisfied. He wants to stop. But, instead, the "thrills which ran through my nervous system became more rapid and fierce..." He loses control of his sensibility and bursts out in "an agony of laughter."

His senses are hurled into a rampage of conquest. "The spirits of height, color, odor, sound, and motion were my slaves; and, having these, I was master of the universe." Time has no meaning. "Though the whole vision was probably not more than five minutes long in passing through my mind, years seem to have elapsed... One set of nerves was thrilled with the bliss of the gods, while another was convulsed with unquenchable laughter at that very bliss."

Next comes the second wave of intoxication. He begins to feel "a painful tension throughout my nervous system - the effect of over-stimulus." Illusions became "grotesque". A burning sensation smolders in the pit of his stomach and his mouth and throat feel "as dry and hard as if made of brass." Although he frantically pours water into himself, he can find no relief. The nightmarish illusions continue for several hours more. Taylor convulses uncontrollably and finally falls into a stupor.

The next day he is so incapacitated he cannot even dress himself and he crawls back into bed. On the morning of the second day, having slept about thirty hours, he is able to remain awake but "with a system utterly prostrate and unstrung, and a brain clouded with the lingering images of my visions. I knew where I was, and what had happened to me, but all that I saw still remained unreal and shadowy."

A servant prepares him a hot bath, and while he is relaxing he is brought a glass of "very acid sherbet", which he claims, brings him "instant relief", although for the next two or three days he continues to experience "frequent involuntary fits of absence, which make me insensible, for the time, to all that was passing around me..."

"Fearful as my rash experiment proved to me, I did not regret having made it," he confesses to his readers. "It revealed to me depths of rapture and of suffering which my natural faculties never could have sounded. It has taught me the majesty of human reason and of human will, even in the weakest, and the awful peril of tampering with that which assails their integrity." [3]

Bayard Taylor's description of his experience with hashish was, for most Americans, their first introduction to the drug. Written intentionally for an audience that sought vicarious adventure and enjoyed reading about the customs of far-off peoples, Taylor's books were entertaining and extremely popular. Taylor gave America its first impression of the hashish experience. It was an impression that would last for quite some time.

Fitz Hugh Ludlow

Among the many readers to be captivated by The Land of the Saracens and Taylor's experience with hashish was a young resident of Poughkeepsie, New York, Fitz Hugh Ludlow. Born in 1836 the son of an Abolitionist minister, Ludlow read extensively as a boy and was profoundly influenced by De Quincey's book and he deliberately patterned his own book, The Hasheesh Eater: Being Passages from the Life of a Pythagorean, which he anonymously published in 1857, on De Quincey. "I am deeply aware that, if the succeeding pages are read at all," he tells his readers, "it will be by those who have already learned to love De Quincey." [4]

Ludlow was only sixteen years old when he first came under the spell of cannabis. Intrigued by the smells of medicines, he used to loiter about the apothecary shop of a pharmacist friend, a man named Anderson. The smells in the shop, he says, were "an aromatic invitation to scientific musing." Ludlow did more than muse, however. Not content merely to inhale the odors of the various concoctions that stood on the shelves, "with a disregard for my own safety, I made upon myself the trial of the effects of every strange drug and chemical which the laboratory could produce." Among those he sampled were chloroform, ether, and opium.

"In all these experiences," he tells his readers, "research and not indulgence was my object, so that I never became victim of any habit in the prosecution of my headlong investigations. When the circuit of all the accessible tests was completed, I ceased experimenting..." [5]

One day, some time after his sampling of these medicinal wares, his pharmacist friend directed him to a new drug, Cannabis indica by name, which the pharmacist described as "a preparation of the East Indian hemp, a powerful agent in cases of lockjaw," manufactured by the Tilden Company.

Without giving it a second thought, Ludlow prepared to sample some of this new drug when the pharmacist suddenly shouted, "Hold on, do you want to kill yourself? That stuff is deadly poison." Shaken by this warning, Ludlow returned the bottle to its place on the shelf.

But Ludlow was not one to be deterred for long. An examination of the pharmacist's dispensatory informs him that large doses of the drug are indeed lethal, but moderate doses are rarely so. This extract, he concludes, is the hashish mentioned by Bayard Taylor whose experience with it "had moved me powerfully to curiosity and admiration."

So as not to alarm his friend, Ludlow surreptitiously removed some of the drug when the pharmacist was out of sight. The dose produced no effect, however, and several days later he took some more, but again experienced no effects. Finally, several days later still, he took a much larger dose and when nothing happened immediately thereafter, he concluded that he was "unsusceptible of the hasheesh influence."

Disappointed, he went to visit a friend. About three hours later, he suddenly began to experience unusual sensations. His first reaction was "one of uncontrollable terror - a sense of getting something I had not bargained for."

Following this unpleasant response, Ludlow resolved never to take cannabis again: "The glimpse which I had gained in that single night of revelation of hitherto unconcerned modes of uncharted fields of spiritual being," he says, "seemed enough to store the treasure-house of grand memories for a lifetime."

But his resolve was fainthearted. A little more than a week later, he was back at Anderson's. "Censure me not harshly, ye who have never known what fascination there is in the ecstasy of beauty," he entreats his readers. "There are baser attractions than those which invited me." [6]

Among the effects he now experiences are depersonalization, hallucinations, altered time perceptions, anxiety, and panic. Particularly interesting to him is the sensation of synesthesia, "the interchanging of the senses... the hashish eater knows what it is... to smell colors, to see sounds, and, much more frequently, to see feelings." The uncontrollable laughter, the rapid flow of ideas, the feeling of unquenchable thirst, the "awakening of perception which magnifies the smallest sensation till it occupies immense boundaries" - all are duly noted and recorded. [7]

Ludlow continued to take cannabis on a regular basis until he became psychologically dependent on it. Much of his youth, he says, was spent in a state of perpetual cannabis intoxication. Although he attempted to give up his habit, he found that abstinence caused him considerable suffering. Unable to give it up "cold turkey", he tried reducing the amount he took gradually, but this did not help. He finally did kick the habit with the help of a physician, but not without difficulty.

Ludlow states that his motivation for writing his book was De Quincey's description of the sufferings that writer had experienced with opium and the fact that no such warning was available for cannabis. To alert the others of the dangers of habitually using cannabis, it was necessary to do for cannabis what De Quincey had done for opium.

Ludlow was not solely an altruist, however. In September 1856, Putnam's Magazine carried an article entitled "The Apocalypse of Hasheesh", which bore more than a superficial resemblance to parts of Ludlow's book. Ludlow acknowledged his familiarity with this anonymous article and says he came across it in a bookstore in Niagara Falls. The article contained "such startling analogies to... [my] own past experience that cold drops started upon... [my] forehead." Unbeknownst to one another, both "had walked the valley of awful shadows side by side." The fact is, Ludlow wrote the anonymous magazine article "to give credence to his own exaggerated report and to bolster sales of his soon-to-be published work..." [8] and actually plagiarized portions of Taylor's book in doing so!

Ludlow graduated from Union College in 1856, one year before he published The Hasheesh Eater, and he settled for a short time in Watertown, New York, to teach high school. He stayed at this job for only a short time and then resigned to study law. But the legal profession also held little interest for him and he abandoned that as well, seeking instead to earn his living as a drama critic, artist, and music writer. He did rather well as a writer and became friends with some of the well-known writers of his time, among them the man whose books had so influenced his early years, Bayard Taylor.

In 1863, he moved to California for health reasons, but by this time he was a sick man. In 1870, he left the United States for Switzerland, hoping that he might yet regain his health in a sanatorium in that country. It was too late. He died that same year, one day after his thirty-fourth birthday. Although his death was attributed by many to his indulgence in hashish, the actual cause was tuberculosis.

Ludlow's The Hasheesh Eater still remains the best known book on hashish by an American, and contains many valuable insights into the peculiar effects of the drug. Besides pointing out the pharmacological relationship between dose and response, Ludlow also called attention to the importance of the conditions under which the drug might be taken, and the particular feelings of the user as bearing significantly on his reaction to the drug: "At two different times, when body and mind are apparently in precisely analogous states, when all circumstances, exterior and interior, do not differ tangibly in the smallest respect, the same dose of the same preparations of hasheesh will frequently produce diametrically opposite effects," he told his readers. [9] Even more so in individuals of differing personalities. "Upon persons of the highest nervous and sanguine temperaments hasheesh has the strongest effect; on those of the bilious occasionally almost as powerful a one; while lymphatic constitutions are scarcely influenced at all except in some physical manner, such as vertigo, nausea, coma, or muscular rigidity." [10]

Ludlow also called attention to a phenomenon known as "reverse tolerance". The characteristics of this condition is that the more one uses a drug such as hashish, the more sensitive one becomes, so that each time it is taken, less and less is needed to obtain the sought-after effect. "Unlike all other stimuli with which I am acquainted," Ludlow notes, "hasheesh, instead of requiring to be increased in quantity as existence on it proceeds, demands rather a diminution, seeming to leave at the return of the natural state... an unconsumed capital of exaltation for the next indulgence to set up business upon." [11] (This phenomenon has been reported by many cannabis users and has intrigued scientists due to its pharmacological uniqueness. However, when subjected to rigid test conditions, the phenomenon disappears.)

Although The Hasheesh Eater is now recognized as a minor classic, and has earned the author the honor of having the Fitz Hugh Ludlow Library in New York named after him, during his own era his book was generally unknown to the American reading public. A critic who reviewed it in 1857 for Harper's Magazine was less than enthusiastic. Although he did express his dismay at the effects of cannabis as described by Ludlow, nevertheless, he took considerable comfort in declaring that Americans were fortunately "in no danger of becoming a nation of hasheesh eaters". [12]

Hashish Comes to America

In 1857, the same year that Ludlow's book appeared on the booksellers' shelves, a physician named John Bell noted in the Boston Medical and Surgical Journal that "the various periodicals of this country have abounded, during the last few years, with accounts of hashisch; every experimenter giving the history of the effect it has had upon himself." [13]

Unfortunately, Bell did not mention any of the periodicals he had come across so there is no way of knowing what he meant by "abounded". It seems, however, that, at least in Bell's mind, a growing number of Americans were beginning to experiment with hashish.

Another comment from Bell's article is also worth noting. According to the learned doctor, specimens of hashish that he had obtained from Damascus contained about 25 percent opium! It is likely, therefore, that many of the effects attributed to hashish by American writers like Taylor and Ludlow, or French writers like Baudelaire, were in large part due to opium and not hashish.

One of the Americans Bell may have had in mind when he alluded to the growing use of hashish in the United States was a medical quack from Philadelphia, Frederick Hollick. Hollick claimed that his research had taught him that the central ingredient in all known aphrodisiacs and exhilarants was none other than hashish. Accordingly, readers of his Marriage Guide (1850) were advised to use hashish as a sexual stimulant if their marriages were in trouble.

Hollick was not only an author and lecturer, he also manufactured aphrodisiacs as a sideline. In one of his advertisements, he told potential customers:

The true aphrodisiac, as I compound it, acts upon the brain and nervous system, not as a stimulant, but as a tonic and nutritive agent, thus sustaining its power and the power of the sexual organs also, which is entirely dependent upon the nervous power.

For convenience, I have it [the aphrodisiac] so put up, in a dry form, air and water tight, that it can be kept uninjured, for any length of time, in any climate, and under any circumstances. It can also be taken without the inconvenience of measuring, using liquids, or any other troublesome requirement, thus ensuring secrecy and facility of use, let a man be situated however he may. A gentleman can keep it in his vest pocket without any fear of detection from smell, or appearance. It will go anywhere by post, with perfect safety, and in such a form that no one through whose hands it passes would ever suspect its nature, or that it is anything peculiar! [14]

Would-be purchasers were assured that they could not obtain this secret preparation form any retail dealer. Only by writing to Hollick personally could they hope to receive this potent elixir of sexual nirvana. "I do this," Hollick explained, "to avoid trouble, and also to prevent counterfeiting which would be sure to be practiced if it were generally sold through agents."

By the 1860s, so much hashish was being used in America that an English writer, Mordecai Cubitt Cooke, told his readers:

Young America is beginning to use the "bang" so popular among the Hindoos, though in a rather different manner, for young Johnathon must in some sort be an original. It is not a "drink", but a mixture of bruised hemp tops and the powder of the betel, rolled up like a quid of tobacco. It turns the lips and gums of a deep red, and if indulged in largely, produces violent intoxication. Lager beer and schnaps will give way for "bang" and red lips, instead of red noses [Cooke predicted, will] become the style. [15]

In 1869, the periodical Scientific American carried a report to the effect that hashish, "the Cannabis indica of the US Pharmacopoeia, the resinous product of hemp, grown in the East Indies and other parts of Asia, is used in those countries to a large extent for its intoxicating properties, and is doubtless used in this country for the same purpose to a limited extent." [16]

In that same year, Louisa May Alcott, author of Little Women, published a short story entitled "Perilous Play", in which she describes the effects of marijuana. The story begins ominously with Bell Daventry's plea: "If someone does not propose a new and interesting amusement, I shall die of ennui!" Rising to the challenge is a Dr. Meredith, who produces a box of "bonbons". "Eat six of these despised bonbons, and you will be amused in a new, delicious and wonderful manner," he promises. As the story progresses, the main characters lose their self-control as a result of taking the "bonbons". Rose, for example, exclaims after kissing Mark, "Oh what am I doing? I am mad, for I, too, have taken hashish." [17]

In 1874, hashish was once again the subject of a poem. This time the poet was Thomas Bailey Aldrich. In "Hascheesh", a short poem which appeared in Cloth and Gold and Other Poems, Bailey first describes the beautiful visions he dreamt while under the influence of the drug. In the midst of all this beauty, he suddenly is seized with a sense of terror. Ugly creatures begin appearing from a black hole and start crawling toward him. "Away, vile drug! I will avoid thy spell," he cries, "Honey of Paradise, black dew of Hell!" [18]

Aldrich's attitude toward hashish in this poem probably epitomized the attitude of many Americans to pleasure in general - it had to be paid for, and often the price was not worth the few moments of delight.

Critical though they might be about those who flaunted the mores of the times, the American reading public still loved to read about the sinners in its midst and the national tabloids satisfied their appetites. "Secret Dissipation of New York Belles: Interior of a Hasheesh Hell on Fifth Avenue" ran the caption to an Illustrated Police News (December 2, 1876) drawing showing five young women, elegantly dresses, and languishing on divans in a stuporous condition. [19]

In 1883, Harper's New Monthly Magazine ran a short article on the new hashish pastime entitled "A Hashish House in New York, , The Curious Adventures of an Individual Who Indulged in a Few Pipefuls of the Narcotic Hemp." [20] Although anonymous, the author is generally believed to be H. H. Kane, a prominent American physician of the era who published several books on what he regarded as the growing drug menace in the United States.

The article begins with a conversation in which a friend tells the writer that "there is a large community of hashish smokers in this city [New York] who are daily forced to indulge their morbid appetites, and I can take you to a house up-town where hemp is used in every conceivable form, and where the lights, sounds, odors, and surroundings are all arranged so as to intensify and enhance the effects of this wonderful narcotic."

The following evening the two men visit this hashish house, whose address is given as near Forty-second Street and Broadway. The clients "are about evenly divided between Americans and foreigners... all the visitors, both male and female, are of the better classes and absolute secrecy is the rule. The house has been opened about two years, I believe, and the number of regular habitu├ęs is daily on the increase."

According to the author, there were about six hundred of these "habitu├ęs" in New York City alone. Other cities boasting comparable hashish dens were Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, and especially New Orleans. In Baltimore, there was no need for secrecy since hashish devotees could purchase the drug in the form of candy in the city's business district. [21]

In Philadelphia, during the American Centennial Exposition of 1876, some pharmacists carried ten pounds or more of hashish on stock in case Americans or foreigners had a yen for the drug during the festivities. [22]

Why there should have been any secrecy about hashish at all is puzzling, since there certainly were no laws against the drug at this time.

As these magazine and newspaper articles and books on the drug circulated around the country, more and more Americans began experimenting with commercial cannabis preparations which were easily obtained from local pharmacies. The extent of these personal experiences is more than evident from the many reports of "cannabis poisonings" that began to fill the nation's medical journals and the "provings" that filled the homeopathic medical journals such as American Prover's Union, American Journal of Homeopathy and the American Homeopathic Review. In fact, the sheer bulk of these reports was enough to persuade many doctors that cannabis was a dangerous drug.

Cannabis in American Medicine

Even before O'Shaughnessy published his pioneering studies of cannabis, the drug was familiar to European and American practitioners of homeopathy, a branch of medicine based on the principle that like cures like. In 1839, the homeopathy journal American Provers' Union published the first of many reports on the effects of cannabis. [23] In 1842, the New Homeopathic Pharmacopoeia and Posology or the Preparation of Homeopathic Medicines was published from an earlier German text. "To make the homeopathic preparation of hemp," the author explained, "we take the flowering tops of male and female plants and express the juice, and make the tincture with equal parts of alcohol; others advise only to use the flowering tops of the female plants, because these best exhale, during their flowering, a strong and intoxicating odour, whilst the male plants are completely inodorous." [24]

Cannabis was first mentioned as a medicinal agent in a "formal" American medical text in 1843. [25] In 1846, Dr. Amariah Brigham, the editor of the American Journal of Insanity, brought the drug to the notice of American psychiatrists with a review of Moreau's book and experiments. Brigham was very exited about the prospect of using cannabis to treat insanity (homeopathy?), and he sent to Calcutta for some of the drug which he subsequently administered to several patients at the Lunatic Asylum in Utica, New York. "From our limited experience," he concluded, "we regard it as a very energetic remedy, and well worthy of further trial with the insane, and thank M. Moreau for having called attention to its use." [26]

By 1854, the US Dispensatory began to list cannabis among the nation's medicinals:

Medical Properties Extract of hemp is a powerful narcotic, causing exhilaration, intoxication, delirious hallucinations, and, in its subsequent action, drowsiness and stupor, with little effect upon the circulation. It is asserted also to act as a decided aphrodisiac, to increase the appetite, and occasionally to induce the cataleptic state. In morbid states of the system, it has been found to produce sleep, to allay spasm, to compose nervous inequietude, and to relieve pain. In these respects it resembles opium in its operation; but it differs from that narcotic in not diminishing the appetite, checking the secretions, or constipating the bowels. It is much less certain in its effects; but may sometimes be preferably employed, when opium is contraindicated by its nauseating or constipating effects, or its disposition to produce headache, and to check the bronchial secretion. The complaints to which it has been specially recommended are neuralgia, gout, tetanus, hydrophobia, epidemic cholera, convulsions, chorea, hysteria, mental depression, insanity, and uterine hemorrhage. Dr Alexander Christison, of Edinburgh, has found it to have the property of hastening and increasing the contractions of the uterus in delivery, and has employed it with advantage for this purpose. It acts very quickly, and without anesthetic effect. It appears, however, to exert this influence only in a certain proportion of cases... [27]

However, in recommending cannabis, the Dispensatory cautioned physicians that "alarming effects" were possible if large doses were prescribed, owing to the variability in potency of commercially available preparations.

In 1859, Dr. John P. Gray, a future president of the American Psychiatric Association, described his clinical experiences with the drug and noted that there had been a widening interest in cannabis during the previous three to four years. [28]

In 1860, the Ohio Medical Society catalogued the conditions in which cannabis had been successfully used. Among those mentioned were neuralgia, nervous rheumatism, mania, whooping cough, asthma, chronic bronchitis, muscular spasms, tetanus, epilepsy, infantile convulsions, palsy, uterine hemorrhage, dysmenorrhea, hysteria, withdrawal from alcohol, and loss of appetite - an imposing list of disorders drawn mainly from O'Shaughnessy's and other reports published in England. Little notice of the drug, however, seems to have filtered down to American doctors since cannabis was used only to a very limited extent during the Civil War, the most frequent applications being for the treatment of diarrhoea and dysentery among soldiers.

After the war, when the number of "cannabis poisonings" began to attract notice, physicians found themselves in a quandary as to how to treat these drug overdosings. Many recommended forced vomitings to be followed by hot coffee, lemon juice, ammonia, strychnine, atropine, or nitrous oxide. Some physicians also recommended electric shock and artificial respiration.

But despite the frequency of such "poisonings", physicians frequently noted, "an overdose has never produced death in man or the lower animals. Not one authentic case is on record in which Cannabis or any of its preparations destroyed life... Cannabis does not seem capable of causing death by chemical or physiological action." [29]

Nevertheless, American doctors were never very exited by cannabis for drug therapy. It had too many shortcomings. The potency of commercially available preparations differed quite considerably from pharmacist to pharmacist. Quite often a given dose of drug obtained from one supplier would have no noticeable effects whereas the same amount obtained from another supplier would be far above the amount which produced unpleasant effects.

Doctors were also at a loss to deal with the perplexing variability in the response of different patients to the same amount of the drug. Some patients reported that they felt much better after taking the drug; others complained of delirium and hallucinations.

There were other drawbacks to contend with. Cannabis was not soluble in water and consequently it could not be given by injection. Compared with a fast-acting pain killer such as morphine, which was water soluble and could therefore be given by syringe, the action of cannabis was extremely slow and a doctor might have to remain with his patient for more than an hour after he swallowed the drug to make sure that not only was it having a desired effect, but also that the dosage had not been too high.

Faced with such uncertainty of drug action, a lack of pure compounds, difficulties in administering the drug except by mouth, and a long delay before the drug took effect, doctors understandably retained little interest in the possible therapeutic benefits of cannabis preparations.

Nevertheless, the pharmaceutical industry continued trying to turn cannabis into a viable medicinal agent. By 1896, several new cannabis derivatives were developed, among them cannabin, cannabindon, cannabine, and cannabinon. Cannabis was also included along with other drugs in various preparations such as "Chlorodyne" (a stomach remedy manufactured by Squibb Co. which mainly contained morphine), Brown Sequard's Antineuralgic Pills, and Corn Colodion. [30] Most corn remedies, in fact, contained cannabis as a main ingredient, but it was only included as a coloring agent.

At the turn of the century the US government was particularly interested in the therapeutic potential of marijuana and planted cannabis as well as opium and henbane along the banks of the Potomac near Washington. "The plants selected for culture in this government garden," the Boston Sunday Globe (Jan 10, 1904) told its readers, "are those that yield the deadliest of poisons... The most striking feature of the poison garden... is a patch of Indian hemp, from which the famous drug 'hasheesh' is obtained." The Globe then went on to explain: "Most people have read of that remarkable secret society in the Orient, organized for wholesale and systematic murder whose members called themselves Hashhashin - hence our word 'assassin' - and stimulated themselves for their deeds of atrocity by doses of this drug."

The experiment was short-lived, however. In the wake of controversy over the "doping" of Americans that prompted the Food and Drug Act of 1906, the federally sponsored project was terminated and the "dope" fields were eradicated, to be occupied years later by the Pentagon. [31]

Some eminent American psychologists were also very interested in marijuana's effects and tried it on several occasions. James McKeen Cattel (1860-1944) during his student days at The John Hopkins University in Baltimore (1882-1883) took hashish on several occasions. However, years later, Cattel, who eventually became president of the American Psychological Association, regretted having done so. "On reaching years of somewhat greater discretion I was not altogether proud of my enterprise," he confessed in his personal journal. [32]

Another prominent psychologist who experimented with cannabis around the turn of the century was Edmund Burke Delabarre (1863-1945), Director of the psychology laboratory at Brown University in Rhode Island. Delabarre began experimenting with cannabis in 1893 and continued studying the effects on himself until 1931. In 1898, Delabarre described some of his early work at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association in New York, and, later that year, he spoke before the Art Club in Providence on his hashish experiments. Apparently, these reports were listened to with a great deal of interest, but for some unknown reason, most psychologists were not motivated enough to conduct their own studies with the drug.

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