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American Journal of Nursing: (July 1936) Mariahuana - By Victor Lewitus

There is a plant which at present offers promise of adding its weight to our already overburdened narcotic problem. It is technically known as Cannabis indica, but is more commonly recognized as Indian hemp, hashish or mariahuana. It is also variously known, according to its manner of preparation, as bhang (the infusion), charas (the extracted resin), ganjah (as a tobacco), and majum (as a confection). The term mariahuana originates from the Mexican or South American Language in which the term connotes any substance which produces an intoxication, and the term hashish or hasheesh is partly represented in our own word "assassin." The terms thus point to some of its deleterious properties.

Although originally indigenous to India, Asia Minor, and Northern Africa, the drug has reached our shores where it grows in the wild state as Cannabis sativa. Recently it gained a place for itself in the newspaper columns because the New York police department discovered a lot in Brooklyn covered with the stuff. It was found on investigation that this "crop" was supplying the "needs" of a large number of soldiers on Governor's Island who came easily into the habit of purchasing the stuff in order that they might make "reefers" for themselves. The officers noticed that their troops went "loco" and could not report for duty, and this lead the police to investigate, with the results referred to.

The plant consists of an herb which reaches several feet above a man's shoulders, bearing compound finger-like leaves which are conspicuously toothed, and flowers at the upper terminal ends in clusters. It contains an active resin which is optimum during the flowering stage--abundant in the female plant.

At one time it was cultivated in many parts of the world and in our own country for its fiber from which rope, twine, and cloth was made and for this purpose it is still utilized in some localities. It has also been employed for its oil (from the seeds) which is quick drying as in linseed oil. The seeds themselves are widely used in bird foods of various types. Furthermore, the resinous principle has marked analgesic properties and for this reason it is used as a part of the formula of corn collodions since it readily allays pain.

In the narcotic world, however, it is known as the "murderous" narcotic--a well-deserved caption for it is known that in the Orient bands of men under its influence have run amuck and perpetrated the most heinous crimes. The drug is used similarly to opium--often smoked, or chewed in the form of a sweetmeat. It produces hallucinations in which the mind is freed from all restraint. The imaginary experiences and sensations are intensely realistic and the victim of this narcosis finds delight in this, as if they were actual experiences. The reaction later reverses itself, and there is an imaginary suffering which finds expression in violent acts which often lead to a strong impulse to do great harm. It is during this stage that the desire to kill is greatest, and large groups of men have been known to engage in mortal combat under its influence. In large dosage, Cannabis may cause paralysis of the extremities, difficult breathing, and a feeling of impending death accompanied by that of uncontrollable terror.

Fortunately, unlike most other narcotics, the drug is not known to cause a permanent addiction, for by abstinence the victim can be cured. Continual use, however, is known to produce a violent type of insanity which has brought to it the name "loco weed." The subject will suddenly turn with murderous violence upon whomever is nearest to him. He will run amuck with knife, axe, gun, or anything else that is close at hand, and will kill or maim without any reason. After the sudden outburst wears away, the memory is left blank and the victims of these narcotic effects returns to normal.

The federal laws do not include hashish in their regulations but many of the progressive states have embodied in their statutes, measures to prevent its cultivation, sales, and distribution promiscuously. Even thought it is not truly a "habit former" the danger of its widespread use, because of ease of cultivation, must not be overlooked. There have been some rumors as to its use by school children, which cannot be denied since it is easy to believe that these adolescents will "try anything once." Strict control such as that provided in the Harrison Narcotic Act is the remedy in this instance.


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