Cannabis Time Capsule, 1917: Beer made worse thanks to secret ingredient -- marijuana

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This week's article isn't so much damning cannabis (or Indian hemp as it's called in the piece).

No, cannabis' reputation as a sinful vice seems to have been already established at this point.

Instead, a doctor loosely links cannabis with alcohol to make the demon of booze seem even worse (gasp!).

The blurb comes from a March, 1917 printing of the Wray Rattler, from Yuma County.

Judging by the date, we're assuming the item was published as part of the growing temperance movement against liquor and beer in the United State that came to a full head (bad pun) in January of 1919 with the prohibition of alcohol.

From best we can tell, the piece is called "Making a Fool of Himself" -- though we could only manage to uncover about half of it, making the context sometimes hard to grasp. Either way, there's no missing the argument the author is making: Booze is bad and must be stopped

"The trouble is that [the alcohol drinker] makes, too often a wild beast of himself," the article quotes prohibitionist leader Clarence True Wilson as saying. "The trouble is that in that condition he is liable to make a corpse of somebody else. If one man out of ten, or one out of fifty, turned out by a saloon is for the time being a maniac, it is about time to shut up the saloon and let the other forty-nine men gratify their appetites in a less hazardous way."

The article goes on to explain just why liquor and beer make men crazy, and that's where we find out historic cannabis reference. See, according to a Dr. Forel of the University of Zurich, who's quoted in the article, whiskey and brandy make "a man crazy," but "beer tends to make him stupid."

And just why is that? Well, let the good doctor explain it:

"The reason for this sottishness is that each pint of beer contains a small quantity of pure alcohol, a percentage of lupulin, the active principle of hops, which acts very much like the poisonous principle of Indian hemp. At one time, Indian hemp was used as a medicine (Note: it never went away as a medicine), but it had to be abandoned on account of its varying and poisonous characteristics."

So beer is made with hops and hops is sort of related to marijuana. Therefore, if you drink beer, you're using cannabis.

Whatever you say, doc. While cannabis is related to hops, the plants don't share any of the same intoxicating effects, nor is the active ingredient in marijuana (THC) considered alcohol.

But common sense didn't seem to be in great supply during this era, and screeds like this helped push alcohol prohibition on the American public, no doubt helping to cement cannabis's place as a lowly street drug in the process.

More from our Cannabis Time Capsule archive: "1915: 'First ever medical drug plant farm'" and "1907: Pain pills safer than cannabis?"

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