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Modern Medical Marijuana – A Very Brief History

In one of my regular recent online gatherings with friends who operate retail cannabis shops, mail order marijuana outlets as well as online marijuana dispensaries the topic of medical marijuana and the history surrounding it came up. The resident science expert from the best online dispensary in Canada (now also known as the resident historian) gave us a brief lecture on the topic—in short, this is what was said…

Essentially cholera and an Irish doctor studying in India is responsible for the introduction of medical weed to the modern age. In the 1830’s this doctor found that when patients were given herbal medicines during the course of their treatment, those who were given cannabis extracts experienced a notable decrease in stomach pain and nausea. Though a French doctor on a long trip to the Orient discovered the effects of hashish around the same time, his research in using it to treat melancholia and migraines, which though notable, is not widely attributed to the use of cannabis in modern medical use.

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By the mid 1800s medical interest in the use of cannabis had reached the west and by the early 1900s cannabis was the secret ingredient to many over-the-counter patent medicines which often disregarded safety and true effectiveness all in the name of profit. As any local or online dispensary in Canada can attest to, government regulation is a way of life and even in the past, these governing bodies tried to make life safer for its citizens. Given the rampant use of cannabis, narcotics and other stimulants in so-called medicines—there were over 2000 products that contained cannabis or cannabis by-products alone prior to 1937 in the United States, governments instituted food and drug acts in an attempt to make these products safer for consumers. It was not until the syringe became used widely and new readily available effective pain relief drugs such as aspirin was introduced that the popularity of cannabis for therapeutic use declined.

Laws made recreation cannabis use a criminal offense in the United States for many years, however, the use of cannabis was discovered to be useful in treating glaucoma patients by the end of the 1950s and was once again brought to the forefront. The counterculture of the 1960s saw attitudes change towards marijuana and returning Vietnam War veterans turned to cannabis for addressing pain as a result of battle. By the late 1970s synthetic THC was available for use in the United States in capsule form, however, the benefits of marijuana for those suffering from certain medical conditions was already widely known and users who needed the drug were already accessing via other venues.

In a nutshell and via an online gathering, a number of us involved in the cannabis industry—from producers of cannabis, to retailers in brick and mortar stores as well as mail order marijuana outlets and online marijuana dispensaries were given a brief history lesson. As we were reminded by our “lecturer” from the best online dispensary in Canada this was by no means a comprehensive history of medical marijuana but only gives us a very brief glimpse into the work done by those who came before us.

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