Uses of Marijuana

When I was writing The Cartoon Guide to Recreational Drugs I scoured the local libraries and bookstores looking for useful and interesting historical works. Uses of Marijuana is one of my sources.

The parts I generally took notes from were either about the drugs themselves or the prohibition of drugs. You’ll find the information garnered from these books throughout the Prohibition Politics section of this site. It will also have informed some of my own postings stored in the older Prohibition Politics archive.

If you find this information useful, you will want to search out the books themselves to read the text in context. All of the books here are at least moderately interesting.


Solomon H. Snyder writes about the history of marijuana use, with an emphasis on medical use and mostly from the 1800s up. One of the interesting points he makes is that the hypodermic needle was part of what reduced interest in marijuana as a medicine. Marijuana isn’t soluble in water, and thus isn’t injectable. A drug that can’t be injected is of less interest to doctors more and more interested in miracle drugs.

“Sometimes men dressed in leather suits or jackets pass through the fields of cannabis sativa rubbing and crushing roughly against the plants early in the morning just after sunrise and when a fall of dew has taken place. The resinous material which sticks on is then scraped off their jackets and forms the charas resin of commerce.”—Chopra, R.N.: Indigenous Drugs of India, The Art Press, Calcutta, 1933, p. 78.

“It acts as a soporific or hypnotic causing sleep; as an anodyne in lulling irritation; as an antispasmodic in checking cough and cramp; as a nervine stimulant in removing languor and anxiety; also in raising the pulse and enlivening the spirits, without any drawback or deduction of indirect or incidental convenience; conciliating tranquil repose without causing nausea, constipation or other signs of effect or indigestion, without headache or stupor.”—Aulde, J.: Ther. Gazette, 6:523, 1890.

“Cannabis is very valuable for the relief of pain, particularly that depending on nerve disturbances; it produces sleep; it gives great relief in paralysis and tends to quiet tremors… and it is used in spasm of the bladder due to cystitis or nervousness; it is used in cough mixtures and does not constipate or depress the system as does morphine.”—Hare, H.A., and Chrystie, W.: A System of Practical Therapeutics, Lee Brothers, Philadelphia, 1886.

“Indian hemp, night and morning and continued for some time, is the most valuable remedy met with in the treatment of persistent headache.”—Letter from London: The Lancet, December 3, 1887, p. 732.

“I am satisfied of its immense value… the chief point that struck me was the immediate action of the drug in appeasing the appetite for chloral [hydrate] or opium and restoring the ability to appreciate food.”—Birch, E.A.: The Lancet, March 30, 1889, p. 625.

p. 16

The introduction of the hypodermic needle was a major part of the downfall of cannabis: cannabis is not water soluble; and in the civil war the use of injectable morphine became the norm. Opiate addiction became known as “the soldier’s disease” after the Civil War.

“With a wish for speedy effect, it is so easy to use that modern mischief-maker, hypodermic morphia, that they [young physicians] are prone to forget remote results of incautious opiate-giving. Would that the wisdom which has come to their professional fathers… might serve them to steer clear of narcotic shoals on which many a patient has gone awreck.… My experience warrants this statement: cannabis indica is a safe and successful anodyne and hypnotic.”—Mattison, J.B.: St. Louis Med. Surg. J., 61:265, 1891.

p. 20

“To the Hindu the hemp plant is holy. A guardian lives in bhang… Bhang is the joy giver, the sky flier, the heavenly guide, the poor man’s heaven, the soother of grief… No god or man is as good as the religious drinker of bhang. The students of the scriptures at Benares are given bhang before they sit to study. At Benares, Ujjain and other holy places, yogis take deep draughts of bhang that they may center their thoughts on the Eternal.”—Indian Hemp Drug Commission Report (1893), new printing, Thomas Jefferson Press, Silver Springs, Maryland, 1969, p. 492.

p. 89

“At San Francisco General Hospital 5000 acute drug intoxications were treated in 1967. Despite the high incidence of marijuana use in San Francisco, no “marijuana psychoses” were seen. In fifteen months of operation the Haight-Ashbury Clinic has seen approximately 30,000 patients—visits for a variety of medical and psychiatric problems. Our research indicated that at least 95 per cent of the patients had used marijuana one or more times, and yet no case of primary marijuana psychosis was seen.”—Smith, D.E.: J. Psychedelic Drugs, 2:37, 1968.

p. 38

“It has surprised me that the facts upon which these statements have been based have not been brought before the Committee by competent primary evidence. We are referred to newspaper publications concerning the prevalence of marijuana addiction. We are told that the use of marijuana causes crime. But yet no one has been produced from the Bureau of Prisons to show the number of prisoners who have been found addicted to the marijuana habit. An informal inquiry shows that the Bureau of Prisons has no evidence on that point.

“You have been told that school children are great users of marijuana cigarettes. No one has been summoned from the Children’s Bureau to show the nature and extent of the habit among children. And inquiry of the Children’s Bureau shows that they have had no occasion to investigate it and know nothing about it.”

Taxation of Marijuana, Hearings before the Committee on Ways and Means of the House of Representatives, 75th Congress, First Session on HR 6385, April 27-30, 1937.