Pubdate: Wed, 25 Nov 1998
Date: 11/25/1998
Source: The Daily Star (Oneonta, NY)
Author: Bruce Dunn

Recently there was in The Star an article by Jeremy Boyer about
experts debating pot legalization. The debaters were a NORML guy,
Allen St. Pierre, and former DEA administrator Peter Bensinger. Part
of Bensinger's argument was that the medicinal benefits of cannabis
are unproven. Actually the historical record of hemp as medicine
begins with its listing as an herbal during the reign of Chinese
emperor Chen Nung 5,000 years ago. It was recommended for
"absentmindedness" and "female disorders."

The first Westerner to observe cannabis used as medicine was W.B.
O'Shaughnessy who studied its use in India while teaching at the
Medical College of Calcutta. After doing animal studies to determine
its safety he used it on patients suffering from tetanus, rabies,
rheumatism and epilepsy. He found it effective as an analgesic and as
a muscle relaxant. In 1842 O'Shaughnessy returned to England and in
1854 cannabis was listed in the United States Dispensatory.

It was reported to the Ohio State Medical Society in 1860 to be useful
in the treatment of "tetanus neuralgia, dysmenorrhea (painful
menstruation), convulsions, the pain of rheumatism and childbirth,
asthma, post-partum psychosis, gonorrhea, and chronic bronchitis." It
was noted to stimulate appetite. H.A. Hare said it relieved anxiety
and distracted a patient's mind in terminal illness. Others found it
effective with migraine.

Its use waned by the end of the 19th century, especially as an
analgesic. This was due to the invention of the hypodermic syringe,
greatly increased use of opiates and the development of synthetic
drugs such as aspirin, chloral hydrate and barbiturates. Also cannabis
preparations differed in potency and reactions to orally ingested
cannabis varied.

Prescribing cannabis after the Marijuana Tax Act became so burdensome
for physicians that in 1941 it was removed from the United States
Pharmacopeia and National Formulary.

Bruce Dunn,
Maple Grove