.. As medicine progressed after 1903, marijuana’s use declined, but its therapeutic value remained unchallenged, and doctors continued to prescribe it. Early recreational use of marijuana in the United States. A number of colorful references to the recreational use of marijuana and hashish in the nineteenth century are available. Lush descriptions of their personal experiences were published by Baudelaire, Gautier, Dumas Pere, and other members of a Parisian institution, the Club des Hachichins, where strong forms of marijuana were eaten.
In December 1856 a young American, Fitz Hugh Ludlow, of Poughkeepsie, New York, published an account of his own marijuana-eating experiences in Putnam’s Magazine, which he then expanded to 371 pages in The Hasheesh Eater, a book published by Harper and Brothers the following year. Young Ludlow had read De Quincey’s Confessions of an English Opium Eater, and was probably influenced as well by the French accounts of hashish eating published in the 1840s. His interest in drugs thus kindled, he made friends with a Poughkeepsie apothecary named Anderson and soon Anderson’s drugstore was his favorite lounging place. He wrote: Here, many an hour have I sat… [He later wrote,] and here especially, with a disregard to my own safety which would have done credit to Quintus Curtius, have I made upon myself the trial of the effects of every strange drug and chemical which the laboratory could produce.
Now with thbe chloroform bottle beneath my nose have I set myself careering upon the wings of a thrilling and accelerating life, until I had just enough power remaining to restore the liquid to its place upon the shelf, and sink back into the enjoyment of the delicious apathy which lasted through the few succeeding moments. Now ether was substituted for chloroform, and the difference of their phenomena noted, and now some other exhilarant, in the form of an opiate or stimulant, was the instrument of my experiments, until I had run through the whole gamut of queer agents within my reach … When the circuit of all the accessible tests was completed, I ceased experimenting, and sat down like a pharmaceutical Alexander, with no more drug worlds to conquer. * * He was sixteen years old at this time. One spring morning in the early 1850s, however, apothecary Anderson greeted young Ludlow with a question: Have you seen my new acquisitions? Ludlow looked toward the shelves in the direction of which he pointed, and saw, added since my last visit, a row of comely pasteboard cylinders enclosing vials of the various extracts prepared by Tilden & Co.
. . . I approached the shelves, that I might take them in review. One of the Tilden products was a marijuana extract.
After consulting the United States Dispensatory (quoted above) and Johnson’s Chemistry of Common Life, Ludlow took ten grains of it. Nothing happened. A few days later he took fifteen grains. Again nothing happened. Gradually, by five grains at a time, I increased the dose to thirty grains, which I took one evening half an hour after tea.
I had now almost come to the conclusion that I was absolutely unsusceptible of the hasheesh influence. Without any expectation that this last experiment would be more successful than the former ones, and indeed with no realization of the manner in which the drug affected those who did make the experiment successfully, I went to pass the evening at the house of an intimate friend. In music and conversation the time passed pleasantly. The clock struck ten, reminding me that three hours had elapsed since the dose was taken, and as yet not an unusual symptom had appeared. I was provoked to think that this trial was as fruitless as its predecessors. Ha! What means this sudden thrill? A shock, as of some unimagined vital force, shoots without warning through my entire frame, leaping to my fingers’ ends, piercing my brain, startling me till I almost spring from my chair.
I could not doubt it. I was in the power of the hasheesh influence. Ludlow went on eating marijuana extract on occasion for the next four years, from the age of sixteen to the age of twenty. Then he stopped, and reported his experiences at inordinate length. Marijuana continued in use after the Civil War as a rare and exotic drug claiming relatively few devotees by twentieth-century standards.
The Scientific American reported in 1869: The drug hashish, the cannabis indica of the U.S. Pharmacopoeia, the resinous product of hemp, grown in the East Indies and other parts of Asia, is used in those countries to a large extent for its intoxicating properties and is doubtless used in this country for the same purpose to a limited extent. The December 2, 1876, issue of the Illustrated Police News confirmed that conjecture with a drawing showing five attractive young women in exotic clothing, reclining on divans-several of them visibly intoxicated. The drawing was captioned, Secret Dissipation of New York Belles: Interior of a Hasheesh Hell on Fifth Avenue. Water pipes (hookahs) similar to those used for smoking hashish were conspicuously displayed.
The most impressive evidence of hashish smoking in nineteenth-century America appears in an anonymous article published in Harper’s New Monthly Magazine for November 1883, entitled A Hashish-House in New York. It opened with a dialogue: And so you think that opium-smoking as seen in the foul cellars of Mott Street and elsewhere is the only form of narcotic indulgence of any consequence in this city, and that hashish, if used at all, is only smoked occasionally and experimentally by a few scattered individuals? That certainly is my opinion, and I consider myself fairly well informed. Well, you are far from right, as I can prove to you. . .
. There is a large community of hashish smokers in this city [New York], who are daily forced to indulge their morbid appetites, and I can take you to a house up-town where hemp is used in every conceivable form, and where the lights, sounds, odors, and surroundings are all arranged so as to intensify and enhance the effects…… The next night the author with his friend visited a hasheesh house on or near Forty-second Street west of Broadway. The hashish smokers there, the author was informed, are about evenly divided between Americans and foreigners; indeed, the place is kept by a Greek, who has invested a great deal of money in it. All the visitors, both male and females are of the better classes, and absolute secrecy is the rule.
The house has been opened about two years, I believe, and, the number of regular habitues is daily on the increase. Dr. Kane was also told: Smokers from different cities, Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, and especially New Orleans, tell me that each city has its hemp retreat, but none so elegant as this. The maintenance of secrecy, the date of opening (presumably 1881), and other aspects of the New York City account suggest that when police pressure was put on opium-smoking dens in New York City and elsewhere after 1875, their place was taken by hasheesh hells modeled after them. Liquid cannabis plus ergot-the drug from which LSD was later derived-were taken by Frank Dudley Beane, M.D., and reported by him in the Buffalo Medical Journal in 1884. Dr.
Beane’s trip, after a period of hilarious exhalation and constant volubility, ended in deep sleep. The ready availability of hashish in candy form in Baltimore was reported in 1894 by Dr. George Wheelock Grover in his book, Shadows Lifted or Sunshine Restored in the Horizon of Human Lives: A Treatise on the Morphine, Opium, Cocaine, Chloral and Hashish Habits: Once while passing down the leading business street in Baltimore, I saw upon a sign above my head, ‘Gungawalla Candy, Hashish Candy.’ I purchased a box of the candy and, while waiting with two or three medical friends at the Eutaw House in Baltimore, determined that I would experiment upon myself [and] test the power of this drug. I took a full dose at 11 o’clock in the forenoon. Hashish taken orally is much slower-acting than smoked hashish, and Dr.
Grover felt nothing for about three hours. Then the drug manifested its peculiar witchery with scarcely prelude or warning. Dr. Grover remarked to his friends, sitting at the dining room table with him: It is undoubtedly here a day of jubilation or of something in the way of celebration. You perceive that the tables are set with golden plate, that the waiters all seem to be dressed in velvet costumes, and that hundreds of canary birds are singing in gilded cages. It must be a celebration of a good deal of magnitude, as the many bands of martial and orchestral music seem all to be playing at once.
The occasional use of cannabis for recreational purposes continued into the twentieth century. One New York City physician, Dr. Victor Robinson, reported in 1910 that he personally had taken fluid extract of cannabis (U.S.P.) and had on several occasions supplied it to his friend’s -in part out of scientific curiosity but also just for fun. General John pershing’s troops were said to have brought marijuana back with them from Mexico where they were chasing Pancho Villa in 1915. Old persons in Kentucky report seeing colored field hands break up and load their pipes with dried flowering tops of the plants and smoke them, Dr. J. D.
Reichard of Lexington, Kentucky told a scientific meeting in 1943. In short, marijuana was readily available in the United States through much of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, its effects were known, and it was occasionally used for recreational purposes. But use was at best limited, local, and temporary. Not until after 1920 did marijuana come into general use-and not until the 1960s did it become a popular drug. Bibliography none Medicine and Health Care.