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Opening Volley

This month’s letter is brought to you by one of Ohio’s unknown legends: R.R. McMeens, Civil War surgeon, facial hair pioneer, and….

Old-timey weed doctor.

Okay, so only one of those titles is official, but my research this month, for our analysis of the fight over medicinal marijuana, was imbued with his spirit of this interesting gent. after finding the text for his Report of the Ohio State Medical Committee onCannabis Indica, which he delivered in earnest at the 15th Annual Meeting of the Ohio State Medical Society at White Sulphur Springs, June 12 to 14, 1860.

Yes.

At work, I read a 23-page, 180-year-old document about a lot of people getting high, written by a man who was also at work.

Thank the green gods that McMeens M.D. was able to compile said report before he perished at the Battle of Perryville in Kentucky. His research, which gathered anecdotal and empirical test evidence on cannabis from Ohio and all over the world, is a treasure. Not only did I learn delightful words rarely used in modern conversation – paroxysms, nictations, and such – but, were it not for his hard work, I wouldn’t have been struck with one simple revelation: marijuana, or sticky-icky, or weed, or cannabis, or gigglemint, and all its potent properties have hardly changed a damn bit in two centuries.

Allow me to demonstrate by relaying a few passages, which he compiled from several doctors, with their modern relatable equivalent in {BOLD}:

“My friends loudly expressed their conviction of the humbug of hasheesh, but I, unwilling to give up the experiment at this point, proposed that we should take an additional half spoonful {DUDE, I DON’T THINK IT’S WORKING}_, and follow it with a cup of hot tea, which, if there were really any virtue in the preparation, could not fail to call it into action. This was done, though not without some misgivings, as we were all ignorant of the precise quantity which constituted a dose, and the limits within which the drug could be taken with safety…he subsequently learned that he had taken a quantity sufficient for six men._ {OH NO! I’M SUPER HIGH NOW!}

“…an Englishman, retired, on the first intimation of its action, immediately to his room, where he remained, in company with his wife, during its operation, and refused ever after to make any disclosure of his conduct; in consequence of which it might be inferred, from the reputed properties of the drug, to have been of an aphrodisiacal character {BEST VALENTINE’S DAY EVER!}

Or, strangely similar reports of very specific hallucinations by two different patients:

“One of his companions, as soon as the drug took effect, was suddenly metamorphosed into a locomotive; which impression continued, and kept him in a violent state of imitative exertion, until overcome by the somniferic or stupefactive influences of the narcotic. {GOT SO HIGH, THOUGHT HE WAS A TRAIN}

“…he blew off steam with loud and forcible expirations, and came to a stand-still, his whole body bathed in a profuse perspiration…was prepared with one drachm of the tinct., of Cannabis Indica, which was administered in a cup of diluted coffee. He then gradually let on steam, and resumed his locomotive operations. {GOT REALLY SWEATY, SO HIGH, THOUGHT HE WAS A TRAIN}

Of course, those are just the funny ones. The rest of the report details numerous cases where cannabis or hemp was the chief catalyst, in their medical opinion, for relief or healing in their patients. It’s fascinating to watch an ancient medical field marvel at the curative properties for asthmatics, hemorrhaging mothers, epileptics, and those suffering from the effects of everything from gonorrhea to depression to bronchitis. Or just a simple little swelled glottis.

Hard not to wonder if Dr. McMeens would get his handlebars a little tangled up over the raging debate taking place in our post-War on Drugs society. It’s all right there, in his report: a potent concoction that could be abused, sure, but one clearly with the ability to cure ills that other medicines couldn’t. Sounds a lot like allmedicine.

Will our great state be one of the next in line to open their minds to a prescription from the past? Only time will tell.

In the meanwhile, I’ll focus on the best legally acquired throwback buzz, and pour myself a classic cocktail instead. After all, weed makes me feel like a sweaty train, too.

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Travis Hoewischer

I've been working in journalism in central Ohio for more than a decade, and have been lucky enough to be a part of (614) Magazine since the very first issue. Proud to live in a city that still cares – and still reads.