Smoking Medicine

Written by Mark Pedersen

Written by Mark Pedersen

August 18, 2020

This article was first published in Cronic Magazine in March, 2019.
A Cannabis “joint”. It’s how most of us were first exposed to Cannabis.  It would be difficult to imagine ANYONE not being familiar with a “marijuana cigarette”.

I recall my first experience. Study Hall, 1972. A dubious young classmate sitting across from me was rolling a poorly crafted joint rather daringly from hand to hand across the surface of the table… all the while, brandishing a sheepish smile and squinty red eyes.
I asked him what it was, though I had my suspicions. When he told me, I was amazed at his boldness, but then, he WAS one of the “bad boys”.
I asked him if I could have it. He looked at me for moment…then rolled it across to me.  Perhaps he felt sorry for me – being ignorant of the ways of Cannabis. Whatever the case, there was little doubt in my mind what I was going to do next…  The game was on!

I took that “joint” of mostly twisted paper home with me and smoked it – quite privately but somewhat ceremoniously, in the backyard.  Suddenly, amid plumes of smoke and coughing uncontrollably, I realized.  I, too, had become a “bad boy”.  …only no one knew it. And I was OK with that.  My parents and virtually everyone I went to school with still thought I was a clean-cut American boy.  Of course, years later, that changed dramatically when my mother spied a pack of cigarette papers on my dresser.

I didn’t get anything but a sore throat from that first joint of “ditch weed”, but my curiosity was peeked.
It was another year, more joints, and eventually a couple of dime bags before I finally experienced the “high”.  Still – No pink elephants, but something far better – a calming, pleasant feeling of wellbeing.
I consumed Cannabis throughout the rest of high school and the art school that followed.  After I got married and left college, I did what I thought was the responsible thing and quit.  It wasn’t hard to leave it behind, but I certainly did miss it.  The difficult years that followed would have been so much easier.
Eighteen years later, I came back as a patient with very serious health issues. It was only then, after experiencing its profound benefit that I decided to take a serious look into what I was actually smoking.

Smoking medicine?
If you’re a long-time Cannabis patient, chances are you have heard (many times) someone, most likely a physician, say “…medicine has NEVER been smoked!” …Quite often amid threats of COPD, emphysema or lung cancer.
Well, as I would find out, that wasn’t quite true.
Prohibition largely obscured the history of Cannabis as competing industries pushed hard to recapture the void left by the Federal Cannabis ban.  Much of the ancient and colonial history of Cannabis, or Indian Hemp as it was often called, was deleted or obscured in a puritanical attempt to erase, or cleanse our past evil ways and clear the way for the prescription drug industry. Thanks to Freedom Fighters like Jack Herer (“Emperor Wears no Clothes”), present and future generations can appreciate the profound impact Cannabis has had on mankind.

Cannabis has a rich history as burned or “smoked” medicine.  It was among many throughout the course of human history.  The use of incensing (or “vaporizing) as a method of shamanic healing and enlightenment dates back as far as 5000 BC here in America.  Likewise, the therapeutic use of Cannabis was practiced throughout Europe and Asia during that same time.

The Scythians, a nomadic people who inhabited Eurasia from the 9th century BC to around the 4th century AD, used to mix Cannabis and coriander seeds, vaporizing them to create a thick fragrant smoke. This “sweat lodge” practice was considered a method of “ritual bathing” or “drinking smoke”.

Cannabis was often mixed with other hallucinogenic derivatives. Burning them was practiced by the Babylonians, Indians, Chinese and Israelites.  The ancient Assyrians thought inhaling the fumes could heal Arthritis (or “poison of the limbs” as they called it).
Much later, the practice was incorporated by the Catholic and Orthodox Christians. If you have practiced these faiths, this should give you a whole new perspective regarding their use of incense.

Pipes have even been found in Southeastern Africa – latent with THC – dating back to the 10th to 12th centuries. In the Americas, pottery record has depicted smoking as early as the 9th century, though it is not clear what exactly they were smoking.  For the Aztecs nobles, “smoking tubes” would always accompany their feasts.
Pipes with traces of THC have even been found in Ethiopia, reportedly dating back as far as 640 to 500 BP, predating the introduction of tobacco to Europe and the discovery of the Americas by the Spanish.

Chinese waterpipes made their way into Persia in the early 16th century, giving birth to the “hookah” and bolstering the popularity of Cannabis flower and hashish. This early form of communal smoking would seem familiar to modern day cannabis users as hookah nozzles were usually shared.
Later, tobacco was added to the mix as smoking grew to be an important part of Muslim culture.

Cannabis Cigarettes
Interestingly, Cannabis was not rolled into cigarettes until after the practice of smoking tobacco became the rage. Stretching into the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, cigarettes containing clove, Cannabis, belladonna and other substances were produced to treat coughs and offset the symptoms of asthma and other breathing ailments.
Ten years ago, I traveled to Virginia to meet with the founders of Patients Out of Time and other Cannabis activists to brainstorm and collect patient interviews.  Patients Out of Time is a national Cannabis advocacy organization that conducts informational conferences for physicians and lay people.
During this trip, I observed the photographing of a number of products, bottles and books from the early days of Cannabis medicine.  I had the unique opportunity to view actual packaged cigarettes containing Cannabis and belladonna.
Though belladonna is a known poison, it had been used for centuries to treat respiratory ailments.  Apparently, it’s association with Cannabis, a known bronchial dilator, was a winning combination as products like this were quite popular for the treatment of asthma.

Over the last few centuries, the act of inhaling Cannabis smoke has been considered hugely therapeutic, pleasurable and even spiritually uplifting. It is one of the oldest recorded medicines.
21st century Cannabis and its varied means of consumption may be experiencing a boon in popularity as forms of legalization sweep the nation and the world, but its history is closely bound to human kind stretching back to the beginning of record time, enveloping Kings, Presidents and virtually every known religion.

Mark Pedersen has been a Cannabis educator for over eleven years and a patient for over two decades. He has dedicated his life to counseling the chronically and terminally ill. With over 200 video interviews on YouTube, magazine articles and appearances, Mark continues to strive for greater awareness of this miraculous healing food. An author and consultant for REAL legalization initiatives, he continues to advocate for universal access throughout the nation and the world.

Cannabis Patient Network
Patients Out of Time
History of Smoking
History of Back Door  Bronchodilators

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