France Forgets Its Golden Age of Healthcare Marijuana


This previous summer season the French meals and drug workplace, the Agence Nationale de Sécurité du Médicament, greenlighted restricted healthcare cannabis trials inside France, some thing that is been illegal due to the fact 1953.

In the middle 19th century, Paris functioned as the epicenter of an international movement to medicalize hashish.

Several have applauded the move as an essential initially step toward rational, public wellness-oriented cannabis regulation in France. The Agence Nationale de Sécurité du Médicament similarly praised the trial for its groundbreaking efforts to make “the initially French information on the efficiency and safety” of cannabis for healthcare therapies.

This is all effectively and excellent. Nevertheless, when it comes to cannabis, a peculiar historical amnesia appears to be gripping French medicine. These trials are not the nation’s initially efforts to make scientific information on medicinal cannabis merchandise. Far from it.

A Drug Not to Be Neglected

During my research into the history of intoxicants in contemporary France, I discovered that in the middle 19th century, Paris functioned as the epicenter of an international movement to medicalize hashish, an intoxicant created from the pressed resin of cannabis plants.

Several pharmacists and physicians then functioning in France believed hashish was a hazardous and exotic intoxicant from the “Orient” – the Arabo-Muslim globe – that could be tamed by pharmaceutical science and rendered protected and beneficial against the era’s most frightening ailments.

Beginning in the late 1830s they ready and sold hashish-infused edibles, lozenges and later tinctures – hashish-infused alchohol – and even “medicinal cigarettes” for asthma in pharmacies across the nation.

All through the 1840s and 1850s dozens of French pharmacists staked their careers on hashish, publishing dissertations, monographs and peer-overview articles on its medicinal and scientific positive aspects.

French epidemiologist Louis-Rémy Aubert-Roche published a treatise in 1840 in which he argued hashish, administered as a compact edible referred to as “dawamesk” taken with coffee, effectively cured plague in seven of 11 individuals he treated in the hospitals of Alexandria and Cairo in the course of the epidemic of 1834-35. An anti-contagionist in a pre-germ theory era, Aubert-Roche, as most physicians then, believed the plague an untransmittable illness of the central nervous technique spread to humans through “miasma,” or poor air, in unhygienic and poorly ventilated locations.

Aubert-Roche as a result believed, mistaking symptom relief and luck for a remedy, that hashish intoxication excited the central nervous technique and counteracted the effects of the plague. “The plague,” he wrote, “is a illness of the nerves. Hashish, a substance that acts upon the nervous technique, has provided me the most effective outcomes. I as a result think it is a drug not to be neglected.”

Reefer Madness

Doctor Jacques-Joseph Moreau de Tours, organizer of the infamous Club des Hachichins in Paris in the course of the 1840s, likewise heralded dawamesk as a homeopathic wonder drug for treating mental illness. Moreau believed insanity was brought on by lesions on the brain. And also believed that hashish counteracted the effects.

Moreau reported in his 1845 operate, “Du Hachisch et l’aliénation mentale,” that amongst 1840 and 1843 he cured seven individuals suffering mental illness at Hôpital Bicêtre in central Paris with hashish. Moreau wasn’t completely off-base today cannabis-primarily based medicines are prescribed for depression, anxiousness, PTSD and bipolar problems.

In spite of the compact sample size, doctors from the U.S., the U.K., Germany and Italy published favorable critiques of Moreau’s operate with hashish in the course of the late 1840s and across the 1850s. One particular praised it as a “discovery of considerably significance for the civilized globe.”

Tincture Wars

Although physicians in France and abroad touted dawamesk as a miracle remedy, they also complained about the inability to standardize doses due to the variation in the potency of distinctive cannabis plants. They also wrote about the challenges posed by the frequent adulteration of dawamesk, which was exported from North Africa and generally laced with other psychoactive plant extracts.

In the early 1830s many physicians and pharmacists in the British Empire attempted to resolve these complications by dissolving hashish in alcohol to make a tincture. By the middle of the decade, French practitioners followed suit. They created and marketed their personal hashish tinctures for French individuals. One particular pharmacist in Paris, Edmond de Courtive, branded his concoction “Hachischine” just after the infamous Muslim assassins often related with hashish in French culture.

By the finish of 19th century the drug was rebranded as an “Oriental poison.”

The reputation of hashish tincture grew quickly in France in the course of the late 1840s, peaking in 1848. That was when pharmacist Joseph-Bernard Gastinel and the aforementioned De Courtive engaged in a legal battle more than the patent – then identified as the “right to priority” – for tincture manufactured even though a certain distillation technique. “L’Affaire Gastinel,” as the press termed it, brought on an uproar in French healthcare circles and occupied the pages of journals and newspapers in Paris for considerably of that fall.

To defend his patent, Gastinel sent two colleagues to argue his case to the Academy of Medicine in October 1848. One particular, a doctor called Willemin, claimed that not only did Gastinel devise the tincture distillation technique in query but that his tincture offered a remedy for cholera, also believed to be a illness of the nerves.

Although Willemin was unable to convince the Academy of Gastinel’s proper to priority, he did convince physicians in Paris to adopt hashish tincture as a remedy against cholera.

Physicians in Paris didn’t have to wait lengthy to test Willemin’s theory. A cholera epidemic erupted in the city’s outskirts just months later. But when hashish tincture failed to remedy the almost 7,000 Parisians killed by the “blue death,” doctors increasingly lost faith in the wonder drug.

In the following decades hashish tincture fell into disrepute as the healthcare theories of anti-contagionism that underpinned the drug’s use against the plague and cholera gave way to the germ theory and as a result a new understanding of epidemic ailments and their remedy. For the duration of the very same period, physicians in French Algeria increasingly pointed to hashish use as a essential lead to of insanity and criminality amongst indigenous Muslims, a diagnosis they termed “folie haschischique,” or hashish-induced psychosis. Heralded as a wonder drug only decades prior to, by the finish of 19th century the drug was rebranded as an “Oriental poison.”

Lessons for These days

These earlier efforts to medicalize hashish in 19th-century France present physicians, public wellness officials and policymakers currently many essential insights as they operate to return cannabis-primarily based medicines to the French industry.

1st, they need to operate to dissociate cannabis intoxicants and medicines from colonial notions of “Oriental” otherness and Muslim violence that ironically underpinned each the rise and fall of hashish as medicine in France in the course of the 19th century. As scholar Dorothy Roberts astutely argued in her 2015 TED speak, “race medicine is poor medicine, poor science and a false interpretation of humanity.”

Physicians and individuals also need to be measured in their expectations of the positive aspects of medicalized cannabis and not overpromise and then provide lackluster outcomes, as occurred with hachichine in the course of the cholera outbreak of 1848-49.

And they need to stay mindful that healthcare expertise unfolds historically and that staking the new profession of cannabis as medicine on contested theories could hitch the drug’s achievement to the incorrect horse, as occurred with hashish just after the obsolescence of anti-contagionism in the 1860s.

But if France have been to engage its colonial previous, reform its prohibitionist policies and continue to open up legal space for healthcare cannabis trials, probably it could once again turn into a worldwide leader in this new healthcare marijuana movement.

This write-up was republished by the Related Press from The Conversation below a Inventive Commons license. Study the original write-up right here. 


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