The curious history of medicinal marijuana in France — Quartz

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

A lot of have applauded the move as an crucial initial 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 initial French information on the efficiency and safety” of cannabis for health-related therapies.

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

‘A drug not to be neglected’

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

A lot of pharmacists and physicians then operating in France believed hashish was a risky and exotic intoxicant from the “Orient”—the Arabo-Muslim world—that could be tamed by pharmaceutical science and rendered protected and helpful 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 added benefits.

French epidemiologist Louis-Rémy Aubert-Roche published a treatise in 1840 in which he argued hashish, administered as a smaller edible named “dawamesk” taken with coffee, effectively cured plague in seven of 11 sufferers he treated in the hospitals of Alexandria and Cairo throughout 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 method spread to humans through “miasma,” or negative air, in unhygienic and poorly ventilated places.

Aubert-Roche hence believed, mistaking symptom relief and luck for a remedy, that hashish intoxication excited the central nervous method 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 method, has provided me the most effective benefits. I hence 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 throughout 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 sufferers suffering mental illness at Hôpital Bicêtre in central Paris with hashish. Moreau wasn’t entirely off-base nowadays cannabis-primarily based medicines are prescribed for depression, anxiousness, PTSD, and bipolar problems.

In spite of the smaller sample size, medical doctors from the US, the UK, Germany, and Italy published favorable critiques of Moreau’s operate with hashish throughout the late 1840s and across the 1850s. 1 praised it as a “discovery of substantially significance for the civilized planet.”

Tincture wars

Even though 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 distinct cannabis plants. They also wrote about the challenges posed by the prevalent adulteration of dawamesk, which was exported from North Africa and typically 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 sufferers. 1 pharmacist in Paris, Edmond de Courtive, branded his concoction “Hachischine” following the infamous Muslim assassins typically related with hashish in French culture.

The recognition of hashish tincture grew quickly in France throughout 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 recognized 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 health-related circles and occupied the pages of journals and newspapers in Paris for substantially of that fall.

To defend his patent, Gastinel sent two colleagues to argue his case to the Academy of Medicine in October 1848. 1, a doctor named Willemin, claimed that not only did Gastinel devise the tincture distillation technique in query but that his tincture supplied a remedy for cholera, also believed to be a illness of the nerves.

Even though Willemin was unable to convince the Academy of Gastinel’s suitable to priority, he did convince medical doctors in Paris to adopt hashish tincture as a therapy 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,” medical doctors increasingly lost faith in the wonder drug.

In the following decades, hashish tincture fell into disrepute as the health-related theories of anti-contagionism that underpinned the drug’s use gave way to germ theory and hence a new understanding of epidemic ailments and their therapy. Throughout 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 nowadays

These earlier efforts to medicalize hashish in 19th-century France give medical doctors, public wellness officials, and policymakers nowadays many crucial insights as they operate to return cannabis-primarily based medicines to the French industry.

Initially, they should 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 throughout the 19th century. As scholar Dorothy Roberts astutely argued in her 2015 TED speak, “race medicine is negative medicine, poor science, and a false interpretation of humanity.”

Physicians and sufferers also should be measured in their expectations of the added benefits of medicalized cannabis and not overpromise and then provide lackluster benefits, as occurred with hachichine throughout the cholera outbreak of 1848-49.

And they should stay mindful that health-related understanding unfolds historically and that staking the new profession of cannabis as medicine on contested theories could hitch the drug’s good results to the incorrect horse, as occurred with hashish following 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 health-related cannabis trials, possibly it could once again turn into a worldwide leader in this new health-related marijuana movement.

This short article is republished from The Conversation below a Inventive Commons license. Study the original short article.

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