Girl Goes Silly, 1923
Cannabis was made illegal in the UK in 1928 for general use, although you could grow your own marijuana plants until 1964, and doctors were still able to prescribe cannabis for medical purposes until 1971. That year The Misuse of Drugs Act brought in the classification of dangerous drugs as either A, B or C – cannabis was class B, then briefly class C between 2004 and 2009, only to bounce back to B from 2009 onwards.
In the nineteenth century, though, it was a different story. You could find many pharmaceutical adverts for cannabis-containing remedies, such as Grimault’s cannabis cigarettes for asthma. Strange as the idea of smoking to help asthma may seem, this isn’t a medical treatment relegated to the past. The benefits or otherwise of using cannabis as a way of relieving asthma are being debated vociferously right now across the Internet, with official medical sites advising that smoking cannabis is a Bad Idea, versus vast numbers of cannabis-friendly blogs stating the exact opposite.
Then there was cannabis to help cure corns.
And a recipe to make your own at home. The other main ingredient was salicylic acid, still used in corn remedies now, minus the marijuana.
In 1923 The Motherwell Times reported on an interesting story which had been written up in the British Medical Journal. Under the wonderful headline of GIRL GOES “SILLY”, it tells the tale of a young man who induced two teenage Shrewsbury sisters to “sniff up the dusty tobacco at the bottom of his pouch”. This was “a foolish joke” on his part.
The older sister was sick, while the younger one became “frankly intoxicated. She was taking incoherently, and giggling in a fatuous manner.” The reason for this became clearer when analysis revealed that cannabis was mixed in with the tobacco dust. Its inclusion is presented in an almost inconsequential way, however, with the doctor’s conclusion being only that tobacco must have a much stronger effect when it was snorted rather than smoked. The fatuous laughing though, well, I think maybe that wasn’t entirely the tobacco’s fault.
One thing which startles me is that the girl is reportedly oblivious to her surroundings “unless well shaken“, which makes me imagine the whole scene as basically this: