Cannabis pharmaceuticals from the past

In 1911, the readers of the column ‘Your beauty questions answered’ in the The Seattle Daily Times received a very specific answer about how to cure their corns:  “Make an ointment from cannabis extract, kitchen salt and collodion. Apply the ointment once or twice a day and scrape all superficial skin away in three to four days.”

Anti bacterial properties

At the beginning of the twentieth century, it was not really necessary to make your own cannabis ointment from your own plants. Chemists sold special corn plasters with cannabis as one of main ingredients. Cannabis had anti bacterial properties but was also a very good and cheap colorant and that had a special reason. Pharmaceuticals were often green because people thought medicine in that colour helped more. 

The Marijuana Tax Act

In the United States, the Marijuana Tax Act was passed in 1937. It placed a high tax (for those days) on the possession of cannabis. It was one dollar per ounce for medicinal use. If you did not pay, you received a fine with a maximum of two thousand dollars and a five year prison sentence. Pharmacists, furthermore, had to apply for a special license if they sold medicines with cannabis. There were not many pharmacists that did this.   

In 1942, there was an official end to the production of corn plasters with cannabis, as the recipe (salicylic acid, liquid cannabis extract, alcohol and collodium) was banned by the American pharmacopeia USP. Cannabis was added to the list of poisons and research into cannabis as a medicine completely closed down.

In our museums

The historical medicinal use of cannabis is illustrated in our museums in Amsterdam and Barcelona with the help of various objects, among which original medicine bottles, pharmacist sets and these corn plasters of the brand Fairyfoot from the Foot Remedy Company of Chicago.

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On display here: 

All the great civilizations of the ancient world were familiar with cannabis and its diverse range of medicinal properties – that it has analgesic, calming and stimulating effects.

Exhibited in Barcelona.

The use of cannabis as a medicine can be traced back at least 5000 years. Interest in medicinal cannabis is currently on the rise in many parts of the world.