After cannabis has been legalized in Canada it seems many countries may soon be joining the trend. Countries are slowly waking up to the reality of marijuana and looking to get on board with the legislation of cannabis after years of prohibition, taxes, bans and stigma, to forget how long it has actually been around. It can also be easy to forget that these years of stigma and bans were not always around, and that there was a time when people were consuming cannabis with as much casualness as we might consume a off-the-shelf batch of Ibuprofen. Thinking back as far as the 1930s may seem absurd, but doing so shows us some interesting facts about the herb and its uses in history!
You might want to think of the year 1937 as the year things started going sour for cannabis consumption. Essentially, this year was the start of the stigma that is only just starting to dissipate in modern times. Prior to 1937, cannabis was commonly used in medical practice as well as everyday life, for issues as grand as a sexually transmitted disease to those as simple as a bit of relaxation. But then came the Marihuana Tax Act in 1937, at which point cannabis’ reputation started its downward spiral.
This did not mean an immediate decline, of course. What it did mean was that stigma became associated with the herb, and the decline of its use medically, which sped up the decline of its reputation. Just like that, a drug that was available readily in shops was suddenly associated with delinquents and drug addicts.
Before this all happened in 1937, though, cannabis was a mainstream product and was used in all sorts of ways. Some of them we are still doing some form of variation of, others might make us a little anxious. Here are some of them:
Sedative. It probably does not come as an overwhelming shock to learn that cannabis was used to put people to sleep, if we consider the way in which a high makes you sleepy! Not only was it used to put people with insomnia to sleep, but it was also used prior to low-key operations to distract and avert the pain.
Hysterical Women. That’s it – you read that just right. Cannabis was once used as a treatment for hysterical women. The real understanding of this comes simply from defining hysteria, which through time has been rashly and unfairly dumped on women’s heads. Often, what was diagnosed as hysteria was often just sexual frustration or menopause. So, when they said it cured hysterical women? What that probably means is it mellowed them out – as cannabis does – while she was PMSing!
Asthma. This was one of the more shocking uses – imagine now having someone suggesting a good smoke as a cure for asthma! The interesting thing is this: cannabinoids are actually useful in decreasing the inflammation that occurs because of asthma, which has been revealed and discovered through modern medical cannabis research. That said, it is not prescribed through smoking, of course.
Gonorrhea. Modern medicine and research does not know everything there is to know, that is one thing that is completely certain. However, they are pretty certain that cannabis is not a suitable treatment for Gonorrhea, as great a revelation that would be to Western medical practice. The likely reasoning behind this product (and its rumoured success) is simply that of pain relief, which cannabis is well-known for achieving. Or, if not that, for allowing you to get high enough that you temporarily forget you have Gonorrhea…?
Relaxation. It is unlikely anybody would argue with this use of cannabis. The 1930s saw plenty of relaxed cannabis-users – it is certainly not only recreational in recent years! The major difference was how common and inoffensive this was – a parent having a quick smoke in the evening was as normal as one having a glass of wine after a long day at work!
Bunions and Corns. Now, don’t get confused here – they did not consume or smoke cannabis and as a result, their bunions and corns miraculously disappeared from the affected areas. Instead, they put a droplet or two on the afflicted area… Which must have hurt a little! The fact that this worked is not overly surprising due to the fact that cannabis has extreme anti-bacterial properties. It is safe to say, however, that there are far less potentially damaging means of removing bunions and corns nowadays – no need for sizzling them off!
Urinary Infections. While we sit here sipping on cranberry juice and dissolving effervescents into water to relieve the pain, the people in the 1930s were blazing up to deal with their urinary infections! Again, this is likely a result of pain relief and anti-bacterial properties rather than it being a targeted solution. That said, there are plenty of prescribed medications in modern times that simply relieve pain rather than completely eradicating it, so this was not too far a stretch from our ancestors.
General Medicine. Back in the day, cannabis was sold as if it were some kind of “cure all” medicine, as well as for the targeted areas mentioned above. One might have thought the fact that it simply got prescribed for everything as a suspicious medical decision, but if it worked for them, why not? We might want to liken it slightly to the way in which someone now may have a paracetamol for general pain.
In conclusion, the 1930s were a mixture of backwards and revolutionary with some of their thinking towards cannabis. Overall, we can probably appreciate their approach at times without being too inspired by it. Medical practitioners now agree that there are certain positive properties to cannabis, which they are researching thoroughly, but they are certainly not at a stage where they are prescribing it for your urinary infections. That said, perhaps what is in store for us in the future is a slightly more informed version of what was going on in the 1930s!