Cannabis Time Capsule, 1890: Marijuana is deadly and alcohol is a valuable medicine

Here's an article that actually ran in several papers over the years, though we've singled out the version from the September 1890 Aspen Daily Times. Basically, it's a "correspondence" with an unnamed doctor who lists ten dangerous drugs and the fates that befall the users of each.

The drugs, in no particular order: opium, laudanum, morphine, cocaine, chloral hydrate, chloroform, cannabis indica, alcohol, absinthe and quinine. Yes, it sounds like something out of Hunter S. Thompson's travel bag.

As for the drugs and their effects, this unnamed doctor seems pretty well versed. Opium addicts visit "opium joints" to "hit the pipe", which he also called the "layout". He actually admits to visiting an opium den at one point, describing the scene as a stereotypical Chinese-run gathering of doped-up users loafing around for hours on end. There were even women in "silk fineries." Gasp! "This was indeed the 'hell' as only Dante could appreciate," our brave author writes.

There's more about the dangers of a chloroform dependency, insanity from absinthe, and the mundane addiction to quinine. But, frankly, even the wild descriptions of the doctor's drug encounters are overshadowed by the way he treats alcohol and cannabis.

"Cannabis Indica is the extract of the leaves of the Indian Hemp. It is the 'hasheesh' of the East and an extremely subtle and deadly drug," he writes. "In India its victims can be counted by the hundreds. In this part of the world it is as yet but little used as a nerve soother, except by professional men. Its effects are on the brain chiefly, and madness is the outcome of the habit once formed of using it."

So pot is deadly and causes madness. Seems like the BS we are being told in 2014, but okay. Hopefully, he has a similarly dim outlook on alcohol, which even in the 1890s was known to be a killer, right? Wrong.

"Alcohol is to [sic] well known to need comment at length," he begins. "After all, no drug has a greater effect on society. The sot is one of the most unfortunate victims of neurosis that can well be pictured. Yet no drug, rightly used, is of more value. A little wine for the stomach's sake can do no harm for the majority of people."

To recap: Opium takes you to hell on earth, marijuana kills you and alcohol is the best medicine there is and ever will be. Sadly, that sentiment remained in vogue for at least the next hundred years or so -- even with the alcohol death toll steadily rising each year.

For more Colorado cannabis history, check out our Cannabis Time Capsule archive.

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