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Exhibition: Marijuana

  • Scientific drawing of the plant cannabis sativa (marijuana).

    Cannabis in Charles F. Millspaugh, American Medicinal Plants, 1887

    Courtesy National Library of Medicine

    botanical iconBOTANICAL, Cannibis

    American physician and botanist Charles Millspaugh noted the global history and preparation and use of cannabis in his classic work on American medicinal plants.

    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 113 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22

  • Photograph of a bottle containing cannabis extract.

    Cannabis Fluid Extract, U.S.P., Parke, Davis & Co., 1933

    Courtesy National Museum of American History

    curative iconCURATIVE, Questioned Cure

    As physicians sought to professionalize the practice of medicine, many discredited popular botanical remedies, including cannabis, to treat a wide variety of conditions. Meanwhile, pharmacologists attempted to harness the active properties of the substance for medicinal use. This bottle of fluid extract included instructions to measure the dose administered.

    4 Fl.ozs.
    No. 598

  • Photograph of a Book with marijuana plants on the cover.

    The Connoisseurs Handbook of Marijuana, a celebration of the drug and its popularity among the American counterculture, 1971

    Courtesy National Library of Medicine

    market iconMARKET, Lucrative Herb

    Fueled by a social and cultural revolution, cannabis had become the most widely-used illegal drug in the United States by the end of the 20th century. Sellers, while breaking the law, pocketed the profits. More recently, the permitted/lawful use of medical marijuana has generated revenues for tax coffers and entrepreneurs.

    The Connoisseur’s Handbook of marijuana
    By William Daniel Drake Jr

  • Advertisement with an illustration of a man injecting a woman with a chemical and the pitfalls of drug usage.

    Advertisement for the film Marihuana, 1936

    Courtesy National Library of Medicine

    consumer iconCONSUMER, Marijuana on the Margins

    In the 1930s, officials relabeled cannabis with the Spanish name “marijuana,” to link it to Mexican immigrants. Over the next 20 years, the use of cannabis for pleasure spread and by the 1960s, the drug was associated with the urban poor, criminals, political radicals and social misfits known as beatniks.

    Weed with roots in Hell!

  • Metal roach clip and rolling paper for smoking marijuana.

    Rolling papers and roach clip for smoking marijuana

    Courtesy National Museum of American History

    consumer iconCONSUMER, Marijuana on the Margins

    In the 1930s, officials relabeled cannabis with the Spanish name “marijuana,” to link it to Mexican immigrants. Over the next 20 years, the use of cannabis for pleasure spread and by the 1960s, the drug was associated with the urban poor, criminals, political radicals and social misfits known as beatniks.


  • Cartoon discussing the consequences of marijuana usage.

    Hooked!, an anti-drug comic book, 1967

    Courtesy National Library of Medicine

    prohibitive iconPROHIBITIVE, Hooked!

    In the 1960s, scientists’ general observations of the widespread social use of cannabis suggested the substance might be less harmful than once believed. As a result, public health messages shifted to focus on the idea that it might serve as a “gateway” to other, more dangerous substances.

    Junkie 1- Man, where IS that cat? I been here two hours a’ready, an’ I feel like I’m shakin’ apart!
    Junkie 2- How long you been hooked, man?
    Narrator- This is Eddie, one of a bunch of junkies waiting for the “connection” who sells them their dope…
    Junkie 1- I been on the stuff maybe ten, twelve years- Started when I was thirteen or so.
    Junkie 2- Man! I’m tired of waitin!

    Narrator- No matter how blazing hot or bitter cold it may be, an addict spends most of his waking hours trying to obtain drug and the money to buy them…
    Junkie 3-
    Once I stood like seven hours waitin’ for the man when the temperature was down to zero.
    Eddie- That’s nothin’… “One time I walked fifty blocks when the thermometer said a hundred even though I was so sick I could hardly stand, ‘Cause I had just enough dough for the junk and none for carfare!”

    Eddie- Yeah—what haven’t I done? I’ve lied and cheated, stolen from my family, even tried to sell my blood—anything to get a “fix”! “I guess it all started when I was hanging around with my older brother Bob’s gang…”
    Gang member- Take a drag of pot, kid. You ain't chicken are you?

    Bob’s gang member- Take a drag of pot, kid. You ain’t chicken are you?
    Eddie- Not me! Lemme have it!

    Dealer- That's it, kid... don't waste it! That's real high grade marijuana! Eddie- Hey, man... great! I feel goofy the way my old man looks when he's drunk!

    Eddie- “All of us used pot for awhile, till one of the guys got caught by the cops…”
    Quitter- That’s enough for me… I’m not taking any more chances with that stuff! You’d better quit too, ED.
    Eddie- Not me! I’m havin’ a ball!
    Eddie- “Well, I kept using pot for a couple of years, till finally…”
    Pot Smoker- Man, this school bit is for the birds!
    Eddie- Yeah, an’ I made up my mind- I’m quittin’ school. A sharp guy like me can always get a good job or find an angle!

    Eddie- Anyway, I’m so far behind, I’ll never catch up. “Then one day my mother found out I was smoking pot…”
    Mother- Oh, my poor baby!
    Eddie- Cut it out, Ma!

    Brother (Bob)- You could get kicked out of school! Then you’ll never get a decent job!
    Eddie- Yeah? Well, I already quit school, and I got a job on a truck!
    Brother (Bob)- Eddie, I’m telling you… Pot can lead you on to far more dangerous things!
    Eddie- Good! Anything’s better than slaving your life away for nothing, like our old man did!

    Brother (Bob)- We all have to face problems… Me too, but I’m working, and going to school. And…
    Eddie- Great! …You be the sucker! “ A while later some guy showed us how to use ‘H’… Heroin. We all started sniffing an’ skin popping. It seemed like a real great kick for awhile…”

    Eddie- “My brother had a girlfriend, and about that time I met her younger sister, Jeanie. Man, she was the cutest little doll I ever saw!”
    “I really went for Jeanie, and she went for me.”
    Jeanie- Should you spend so much money, Eddie?
    Eddie- Don’t worry, Baby—I’m doing all right!

    Eddie- “But I was wrong, I couldn’t get enough heroin on my salary, so I started borrowing from my mother and brother. But when Bob caught on…”
    Brother (Bob)- No, Eddie! I’ll give you money to cure yourself, but I’m sure not going to help you ruin your life!
    Eddie- “But I had to have the stuff, so what could I do? I started lifting things from the apartment and hocking them!”
    “Then one day bob caught me sneaking out with his good suit, and…
    Brother (Bob) - Eddie, listen to me! You’re SICK… but if you had any guts, you could be cured…

    Brother (Bob)- I’ll take you to a doctor, or to the hospital. We’ll support you till you kick the habit, and…
    Eddie- I’m moving out! It’s the only way I can get you off my back!
    “Then Jeanie found out I was on ‘H’. First she tried begging and crying…”
    Jeanie- Please, Eddie! What’s going to happen to us?!

    Eddie-“Then she tried threatening, but nothing she did got through to me…”
    Jeanie- If you don’t quit, we’re through, Eddie!
    Eddie- That’s fine by me! I’m sick of you telling me what to do!
    Eddie-“It was after one of our fights that I tried ‘mainlining’. The guy I’d moved in with dared me to, and besides…
    I’ll show her she can’t push me around!

    Eddie- “A few weeks later I woke up one morning with the shakes and dying for a shot, and…”
    Junkie Roomie- You’re hooked good, man! Now you’re a real junkie!
    Eddie- “He was right. I couldn’t live without my junk. I began taking money from Jeanie…”
    Jeanie- But, Eddie! That’s all the money I have till payday!

    Eddie- “Poor Jeanie. I sold her radio, a gold ring her mother had given her. …Sometimes I took her last cent… but it still wasn’t enough!”
    “So I started breaking into cars and stealing things. Well, I wasn’t very good at it, so pretty soon I got caught…”

    Eddie- “But it was my first arrest, so I got off with a light stretch that time…”
    Judge- …But if you don’t cure yourself of the drug habit, you’re in for real trouble next time.
    Eddie- “The doctor in the prison hospital was a good Joe. He told me a lot I didn’t know…”
    Doctor- … Also, because you get careless about yourself, drugs can lead to malnutrition, sickness and death.

    Doctor- Remember… once you’ve kicked the habit, you won’t be physically addicted anymore. The danger is in going back to old habits and old friends. Above all, avoid your former friends who are still addicts!
    Eddie- “What the doc said made sense. I was cured, and I decided to stay that way…”
    Brother (Bob)- There’s a job waiting for you, Eddie- and so is Jeanie!

    Eddie- I’m off the stuff for good, Jeanie, I swear!
    Jeanie-I knew you could do it, Eddie!
    Eddie-“Well, Bob had gotten me a pretty good job in the supermarket, and I was sure I was cured, so
    Jeanie and I got married. We couldn’t afford a honeymoon, but we made out great…

    Eddie- “We had a ball fixing up our little apartment, and every time I saw how happy Jeanie was, I felt like a King!”
    “But six months later I was feeling real low one day. Jeanie wanted to have a baby, but I couldn’t find a better job… with my education. And that was the day I had to run into an old friend who’d turned pusher…”
    Pusher- I got just what you need, Eddie…

    Eddie- “Well, I figured I could pick myself up with a shot. What harm could it do? Just one little shot…”
    “But, believe me, there’s no such thing as one shot of that stuff! Pretty soon I was stealing money from Jeanie again.”

    Eddie- “And next thing you know I was hocking the furniture. It almost broke poor Jeanie’s heart…”
    Jeanie- EDDIE, NO! OH, NO!
    Eddie- I’m sorry, Baby—I can’t help it!
    “But she stuck with me, even when we had to move to a crummy furnished room. Then one day...”
    Please, Baby… gimme the money! Look, why don’t you have a shot, too, so you’ll understand…?
    Jeanie- All right Eddie…

    Jeanie- I guess it’s the only way I ever will understand!
    Eddie- Sure you will, Baby… now gimme the dough!
    “Yeah, that’s right… I had to have my shot, even if it took making an addict of my own wife!

    Eddie- “ The stuff got Jeanie fast. In a couple of weeks she was really hooked.. so bad that she couldn't keep a job..”
    “Then Bob found out what was happening. THe poor Brother (Bob )- Eddie, for god’s sake, turn yourself and Jeanie in for a cure! I’ll take care of…
    Eddie- You wanna help? Okay, gimme enough dough for a bag!

    Eddie- “I had a night job in a cheap hotel, but to support both our habits I had to steal. I’d come home at Seven in the morning, grab three or four hours of sleep, then get up and stagger out again…
    “It took me all day to steal and sell enough stuff to buy the amount of junk we needed. I lifted from stores and supermarkets…”
    “And I broke into places, scared to death all the time…”

    ”And then I had to wait and wait for the pusher. I was putting in like twenty hours a day to raise the $50 we needed just for junk…”
    “But nobody can go on like that forever. One day I just couldn’t get out of bed, and I was sick as a dog for a week. But sick or not, a junkie’s gotta have his junk…”

    “So it was up to Jeanie to get it. How? You guessed it.”
    “You wouldn’t think things could get worse than that, but they did. All of a sudden the junk got scarce, and we had to fill in with goof balls and pep pills…”

    “I was so far gone that I had to take dozens of pills to get any effect and one day I took too many and passed out in the street…”
    “The doc at the hospital told me how bad the pills can be…”
    Doctor- They can do you even more harm than heroin. They can cause severe vomiting, weight loss, delirium, and convulsing so bad they can kill you.

    Eddie- “But I was past caring about anything by then. I wasn’t out of the hospital an hour before I was back here lookin’ for the pusher…”
    Eddie- Jeanie? I guess she was luckier than me, in a way. At least she’s out of it now…

    “One night I came home and found her on the floor. I called an ambulance, but it was too late. She was dead, of an overdose of heroin! Maybe I’ll go that way, too…”
    “At the funeral, Jeanie’s sister called me a murderer, and my brother told me to stay away from the whole family…”

    Eddie- But I never got cured. Oh, sure a few guys make it, but most of them don’t… like me. I went right back to it every time, even the time I kicked the hard way—“cold turkey”.
    “Ever see a junkie kickin’ it cold turkey? Man, it’s murder! You turn hot and cold, all your muscles ache, you get the most god awful stomach cramps, you throw up…”
    “And you scream and scream and scream—for a shot you won’t get. It’s torture believe me!

    “And even after that, most junkies go right back on the habit. Well, that’s how it’ll be- I may drop dead right here, or in a jail cell or some cheap room. But till I do, I’ll be right here… waitin’ for “THE MAN.”
    You know, some people call us Junkies “The Living Dead”… an’ I guess they’re right. Anyway, that’s what it’s like to be HOOKED!

In the 19th century, cannabis was available in patent medicines sold at pharmacies or via prescription. Recreational users began by smoking the resin from the plant until the 1920s when Mexican immigrants introduced the technique of smoking the leaves. This association of the drug with unpopular groups of users undermined its legitimacy as a medical resource for decades.

By the 1970s, cannabis became a controlled substance and physicians who prescribed the drug were in danger of losing their licenses whilst their patients risked criminal prosecution. After years of lobbying, some states now allow limited use for treatment of medical conditions.

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