Cataleptic trances, enormous appetites, and giggling fits aside, W. B. O'Shaughnessy's investigations at a Calcutta hospital into the potential of medical marijuana — the first such trials in modern medicine — were largely positive. Sujaan Mukherjee explores the intricacies of this pioneering research and what it can tell us more generally about the production of knowledge in colonial science.
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The Hasheesh Eater: being passages from the life of a Pythagorean, by Fitz Hugh Ludlow; 1857; Harper & Bros., New York. The Hasheesh Eater: being passages from the life of a Pythagorean is an autobiographical book by the American novelist and journalist Fitz Hugh Ludlow in which he describes his altered states of consciousness and philosophical flights of fancy while using a cannabis extract. Many pages are given over to detailed and elaborate descriptions of the visions he underwent after ingesting the drug. He also curiously talks of the perils of severe addiction although such a thing is not normally associated with cannabis use (some put this down to an overactive wish to align himself with his hero Thomas De Quincey and his experience with opium). The book was very popular on its publication in 1857 and led to great interest in the drug it described. Not long after its publication, the Gunjah Wallah Co. in New York began advertising “Hasheesh Candy”: The Arabian “Gunjh” of Enchantment confectionized. — A most pleasurable and harmless stimulant. — Cures Nervousness, Weakness, Melancholy, &c. Inspires all classes with new life and energy. A complete mental and physical invigorator. Cult figure Terence McKenna would [...]