Despite the growing trend against cannabis use at the start of the last century, certain ethnic groups without any stigma were using cannabis as a medical herb. Among these early medical marijuana fans were the Swedes, of which there was a sizable Colorado population in the 1890s.
This find from an 1897 Svensk Amerkanska Western is technically an advertisement for the Svenska Mediciner pharmacy, but it is still worth pointing out.
The Svensk Amerkanska was the Swedish-language newspaper in Denver that ran until the early 1910s, covering all things Swedish in Colorado -- including their pharmacological needs.
We don't speak Swedish, but Google Translate does (sort of), and here's what the top of the advert says: "We have a large stock of sådara. Below is a list of some of them, who were sent to whom address anywhere, on receipt of price."
We're pretty sure something is lost in translation there. But what isn't confusing is the item seven lines down selling for $.75: Maltos Cannabis.
After some quick research, we found that Maltos Cannabis was a type of "medicine" sold as an edible cake by the Red Cross Chemical Works of Chicago (originally made in Stockholm, however). Although, according to the disclaimer on one of the original wrappers we dug up, the Maltos-Cannabis bar isn't meant to be a medicine.
Despite not being medicine, however, the bar is touted as helping with consumption, anemia, dyspepsia, indigestion and "scrofuls" -- a gnarly, flesh-eating side effect of tuberculosis infection. In addition to those claims, the bar was also reportedly good for "nervous persons," convalescents and "weak children."
The first two are both modern-day reasons to obtain medical cannabis. The latter we're not too sure about, but we assume that if you give any child some of this pot food, they'd probably liven up a little bit (or just pass out).
The final benefit is implied by the artwork of the bar -- i.e., it also will you turn away a skeletal Death figure and his sickle when you hold it up to a lighthouse beam on a deserted beach. No big deal.
Intrigued by this mystery bar, we also found an old medical text that reviewed the product and its composition. After testing 337 "grammes" of the stuff, researchers found that it mostly contained carbohydrates and fat and was completely fine for human consumption: "I consider Maltos Cannabis a highly nutritious and stimulating food remedy."
Now, keep in mind this doctor was part of the Illinois food inspection division and easily could have been paid off -- the 1890s being a time of outrageous political corruption, after all.
Finally, it is interesting that the manufacturers chose the term "cannabis," which at the time wasn't widely known as an alternate name for what was then called "Indian hemp" and "hasheesh." Not too far off from people today, who insist on distancing medical cannabis from "marijuana" and other stoner-stigma names.
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