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  • Alec Chenkus

History of Cannabis Use: Reintroduced to Western Medicine

Updated: Sep 3, 2021

History of Cannabis Use
History of Cannabis Use: Reintroduced to Western Medicine

While there is evidence that cannabis has been used in a medicinal capacity as far back as roughly 4,700 years ago in China, it was not until the 19th century that cannabis was reintroduced into Western medicine. Enter: William O'Shaughnessy.

William O'Shaughnessy
William O'Shaughnessy is credited with reintroducing cannabis into Western medicine

O'Shaughnessy was an Irish physician working and teaching in India in 1838 when he published a noted account of his experiments with cannabis. O'Shaughnessy described the use of cannabis in India, which prominently featured a cannabis preparation called bhang lassi that had been present in the Indian subcontinent for over 1,000 years.

O'Shaughnessy's work in India - then a part of the British Empire - garnered attention in Europe, with physicians across the continent spending the next 50 years studying cannabis as a medical application. By the year 1887 cannabis was being touted in Europe as a remarkably effective medicine. Most notably, Italian physician Raffaele Valeri provided some of the earliest observational scientific evidence supporting the use of high-CBD cannabis for a range of conditions including neuropathic pain, Grave's disease (an autoimmune condition), COPD, asthma, and migraines.

Furthermore, J.R. Reynolds, the personal physician to Queen Victoria, wrote in the highly-respected British medical journal, The Lancet:

"In almost all painful maladies I have found Indian hemp [cannabis high in CBD] by far the most useful of drugs."

The pursuit of medical cannabis research culminated at Cambridge University in the 1890s when agricultural chemist Thomas Barlow Wood, scientist Thomas Newton Spivey, and chemist Thomas Hill Easterfield claimed to have isolated the cannabinoid CBN during a study of the constituents of cannabis resin. While it would be another 40 years before a team at the Lister Institute would confirm the isolation of CBN and another 70 years before THC would be isolated for the first time, the isolation of specific cannabinoids kicked off a new wave in medical cannabis understanding.

Cannabis was hailed at this time, not only for its incredible medical diversity in the treatment of a wide range of conditions and symptoms, but as a safe medical treatment option. In 1895, an editorial was published in the Medical and Surgical Reporter citing the safety of cannabis as there "had never been a poisoning attributable to the use of medicinal cannabis."

Marihuana Tax Act of 1937
The Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 would, essentially, illegalize medical cannabis in the United States

Sadly, as moved into the 20th century, the world would see a concentrated effort to smear and vilify cannabis and its users. These efforts would culminate in the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 that would subsequently ban cannabis across the United States.

Be sure to check in next week when we cover the prohibition era led by an individual that made it his sole mission to illegalize cannabis across the world, with his effects still leaving a lasting impression on societal views of cannabis: Harry Anslinger.


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Ohio Marijuana Card

If you are an Ohioan suffering from one of these 21 medical conditions you may be eligible to treat your ailment with medical marijuana, which includes both THC and CBD products.

Click here to learn more about what Ohio Marijuana Card's state-certified medical marijuana doctors can do for you, or give us a call at (866-457-5559) and our friendly support team can walk you through the entire process, and set you up with an appointment.

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