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Marihuana, A Signal of Misunderstanding - Table of Contents

History of Marihuana Use: Medical and Intoxicant

From: Marihuana, A Signal of Misunderstanding, the Report of the US National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse, 1972

The 19th Century

Documents of the 19th century report on the use of cannabis to control diarrhea in cholera and to stimulate appetite. In his reports of the late 1830's and early 1840's, O'Shaughnessy (1842: 431) stated that tetanus could be arrested and cured when treated with extra large doses of cannabis.

John Bell, M.D., Boston, reported enthusiastically in 1857, about the effects of cannabis in the control of mental and emotional disorders as opposed to the use of "moral discipline" to restrain the mentally ill. Similarly, in 1858, Moureau. de Tours reported several case histories of manic and depressive disorders treated with hashish (Walton, 1938: 3).

The Ohio State Medical Society's Committee on Cannabis Indica, convened in 1860, reported that their respondents claimed cannabis successfully treated neuralgic pain, dysmenorhea, uterine hemorrhage, hysteria, delirium tremens, mania, palsy, whooping cough, infantile convulsions, asthma, gonorrhea, nervous rheumatism, chronic bronchitis, muscular spasms, tetanus, epilepsy and appetite stimulation (McMeens, 1860: 1).

The India Hemp Commission (1894: 174) likewise was informed of similar medicinal uses for cannabis. Specific reports included the use of cannabis as an analgesic, a restorer of energy, a hemostat, an ecbolic, and an antidiaretic. Cannabis was also mentioned as an aid in treating hay fever, cholera, dysentery, gonorrhea, diabetes, impotence, urinary incontinence, swelling of the testicles, granulation of open sores, and chronic ulcers. Other beneficial effects attributed to cannabis were prevention of insomnia, relief of anxiety, protection against cholera, alleviation of hunger and as an aid to concentration of attention.


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