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Chapter 4: “A Drug not to be Neglected”: Medicalizing Hashish in 1840s France The intoxication produced by hashish throws the user into a sort of ecstasy similar to that achieved by Orientals through the use of opium; it even happens that users, fallen pretty to its effects, engage in brutal actions that arise from dementia and delirium. But cannabis deserves the attention of
   Guba 1 Chapter 4: “A Drug not to be Neglected”: Medicalizing Hashish in 1840s France   The intoxication produced by hashish throws the user into a sort of ecstasy  similar to that achieved by Orientals through the use of opium; it even happens that users, fallen pretty to its effects, engage in brutal actions that arise from dementia and delirium. But cannabis deserves the attention of  pharmacists and chemists. Could they not extract, through analysis and diverse tests, some principles that we can extract and some preparations that it can furnish?  –  Bulletin de Pharmacie (1809)  I thus must point out that this substance, hashish, may well become very useful in medicine. I believe it is a drug not to be neglected. Those who experience it will recognize the therapeutic value against the plague and other diseases.  –  Louis-Rémy Aubert Roche (1840)  Dr. Willemin has particularly drawn the attention of the Academy to a medicine which he has experienced, and of which he has obtained good results against cholera. This remedy is the extract of Cannabis indica but not raw hashish, produced more or less concentrated and impure, but the active ingredient of the plant, isolated by a French pharmacist from Cairo, Joseph-Bernard Gastinel.    –L’Abeille Médicale (1848)   Introduction According to a 2016 study by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, France has the highest rates of cannabis consumption among all member states of the European Union. The report concluded that 11% of all French citizens ages 15-64, some 700,000  people, regularly (and illegally) consume cannabis. 1  A 2014 World Health Organization study of cannabis use among 15-year olds in Europe, Israel and North America likewise revealed that France had the highest percentage of consumption (15%) among 42 nations on both sides of the Atlantic. 2  Despite these high rates of cannabis use, France continues to enforce  —  against the 1 “Prevalence of Drug Use in Europe - 2016,” European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction: 2   “France tops teen cannabis use survey: WHO,”  France 24 (March 15, 2016): ; “Growing up   Guba 2 wishes of a majority of French citizens who support reforms  —  arguably the most repressive laws against the drug in the EU, with possession offenses punishable by up to 1 year in prison and a 3750 Euro fine and trafficking and cultivation offenses by up to a 10 year sentence and 75,000 Euro fine. 3  Moreover, as the previous chapter detailed, the French politicians who crafted these laws in the late 1960s built them around the centuries- old and scientifically verified “fact” that cannabis is an Oriental intoxicant that transforms Western youths into violent maniacs. The resulting  Droit de la Drogue  passed in December of 1970, which still structures French drug laws today, thus blamed the nation’s cannabis problem on “undesirable foreigners” and “persons who travel excessively to the Middle or Far Orient.” 4  And as a 2009 study conducted by the Open Society Justice Initiative and the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique   (CNRS) revealed, France’s current war on drugs disproportionately targets the nation’s Arab and Muslim minority communities, believed by legislators and police to be the primary traffickers and distributors of illegal substances in the Fifth Republic. 5  While several candidates in the Unequal: Gender and Socioeconomic Differences in Young People’s Health and Well - Being, Part II, Chapter 5” WHO 2013/14 study: unequal-Part2-Chapter5.pdf?ua=1 3  A 2016 Ipsos poll revealed that 80% of French citizens believe current drugs laws in France are ineffective, and 52% support some level of decriminalization. Cecilia Rodriguez, “Marijuana Legalization in Europe: Is France  Next?”  Forbes (January 6, 2017): in-europe-is-france-next/#47596c94c96e Trafficking penalties are located in Penal Code, arts. 222.34--222.39; see 4  Journal Officiel de la République Française: Débat Parlementaire  –   Assemblée Nationale, Compte Rendu Des Séances  (Hereafter  JORF  ) 63   (Vendredi 24 Octobre 1969): 2935. 5   The study concluded that “black” and “Arab” Parisians were respectively six and eight times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than their white counterparts. See Sihem Souid, “La guerre aux drogues, une guerre contre les minorités ethniqu es?”  Le Point   (July 11 2014), Accessed September 10, 2016,; and Kim Hullot- Guiot and Cécile Bourgneuf, “La lute contre les drogues,   Guba 3 upcoming 2017 French presidential election have proposed reducing punishments for cannabis  possession offenses, the frontrunners Emmanuel Macron, Francois Fillon, and Marine Le Pen all support the maintenance of a juridical and penal anti-drug regime based on the racialized logic of the law from 1970. 6  This reluctance to reform cannabis laws and concede ground in France to the international legalization movement currently sweeping the United States and other European nations has had the effect of stymying medical marijuana research and legislation in recent decades that could deliver effective medicines to ailing French citizens. As of the end of 2016, only a handful of cannabis-based medications were available on the French market, including Marinol, Kanavape, and Sativex. 7  But the story of Sativex, a cannabis-based oromucosal spray designed to treat spasticity disorders in muscular dystrophy patients, is illustrative of the general reluctance of French politicians to reverse two centuries of drug-related demagoguery at the  policy level. Though approved by the French Ministry of Health in 2014, Sativex has remained out of French pharmacies due to a pricing dispute between the French government and the medicine’s creators, the British -owned GW Pharmaceuticals. 8  In a recent interview in  Le une <<guerre raciale>>?”  Libération  (15 avril 2015) Accessed September 10, /04/15/ la-lutte-contre-les-drogues-une-guerre- raciale_1240975 6   “Cannabis: un débat de campagne inédit: Quatre des cinq principaux candidats souhaitent une évolution de la loi,” April 5, 2017,  Le Monde: inedit_5105363_1651302.html 7 Gaspard Glanz, “France’s First Cannabis E - Cigarette is Completely Legal,” Vice (December 16, 2014): cigarette-legal-876 8   Lise Loumé, “Cannabis thérapeutique: pourquoi le Sativex n’est - il toujours pas vendu en France?” Science et  Avenir (Avril 5, 2016): pas-vendu-en-france_30163   Guba 4  Parisien, Senator Esther Benbassa (EELV) argued that this reluctance comes entirely from  politicians and constituencies who are “too conservative. Today,” she continued,  sick people have to go to other countries to get Sativex. The legalization of cannabis is not a taboo and should not remain so...Look at the United States, they have already gone through some stages of therapeutic cannabis to recreation. We are one of the most repressive countries in the world when we are among the  biggest consumers. This is a problem that needs to be addressed with rational answers. 9  Again, while many of the candidates for the upcoming election have proposed varying degrees of rational reforms to France’s cannabis restrictions, none but the Socialists (who failed to make it through to the second round) proposed complete legalization and the dismantling of the the foundations set by the 1970 drug laws. Thus for the foreseeable future, taboos will continue to drive French anti-drug policies and further prevent effective cannabis-based medicines from reaching French patients. This current reluctance to budge on anti-cannabis laws and corresponding dearth of scientific research on and experimentation with medical marijuana in France today is made all the more curious when compared to the ubiquity of cannabis in French medicine during the the first half of the 19th century. Many pharmacists and physicians at this time believed that hashish, though a dangerous and exotic intoxicant from the Orient, could be tamed by the developing  pharmaceutical sciences of the West and once refined used by physicians to treat a variety of ailments. Thus instead of stymying the attention of scientists and physicians, racialized taboos about cannabis in the early and middle 19th century conversely sparked serious research into the 9   Benjamin Derveaux, “ Paris: une marche pour la dépénalisation du cannabis entre Bastille et République,”  Le  Parisien (29 avril 2017): pour-la- depenalisation-du-cannabis-29-04-2017-6902247.php
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