Plants as Psychoactives and Medicines: Touring Allen Centennial Gardens

On a sunny, fall day in Wisconsin, the “Psychedelic Pasts, Presents, and Futures” Borghesi-Mellon working group teamed up with the Allen Centennial Gardens to host an event where participants were exposed to the role of plants as the basis of psychoactives and medicines. Specifically, those who attended were given the opportunity to learn about and interact with tobacco, poppies, catnip, cannabis, salvia, morning glory, castor bean, wormwood, and numerous medicinal plants in the Hmong Garden. The event was facilitated by Dr. Lucas Richert, Amanda Pratt, and Reba Luiken, and each specific plant was overseen by a faculty member, staff member, or graduate student who offered educational information on the plant, including Reba Luiken (Allen Centennial Gardens), Ryan Dostal (Horticulture), Shelby Ellison (Horticulture), Lucas Richert  (Pharmacy), JJ Strange (History), and Isaac Zaman (Horticulture).

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Points Interview: Cannabis and control in South Africa with Thembisa Waetjen

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Today’s post features an interview with Thembisa Waetjen, a professor at the University of Johannesberg. She is a historian focusing on South Africa, who looks at twentieth century South African political and social history, with two main interests: medical humanities in South Africa and transnational Indian Ocean histories.

Thembisa recently authored ‘Apartheid’s 1971 Drug Law: Between Cannabis and Control in South Africa‘ in the upcoming Fall 2022 issue of the Social History of Alcohol and Drugs. Find out more about Thembisa’s background, article and future research plans in this interview.

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Points Interview: ‘Born addicts’ in North Africa with Nina Studer

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Today’s post features an interview with Nina Studer, a UK-based historian. Nina focuses on the history of medicine and colonial medicine in Middle East and North Africa.

Nina recently authored ‘’The native is indeed a born addict, but so far he has not yet found his true poison’: Psychiatric theories on overconsumption and race in the colonial Maghreb‘ in the upcoming Fall 2022 issue of the Social History of Alcohol and Drugs. Find out more about Nina’s background, article and future research plans in this interview.

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Points Interview: Cannabis narratives in British India with Utathya Chattopadhyaya

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Today’s post features an interview with Utathya Chattopadhyaya, an assistant professor at the University of California-Santa Barbara. He is a historian focusing on the British Empire and South Asia, who looks at British colonialism’s role in reshaping agrarian communities and the political economy of intoxicant commodities.

Utathya recently authored ‘Reading cannabis in the colony: Law, nomenclature, and proverbial knowledge in British India‘ in the upcoming Fall 2022 issue of the Social History of Alcohol and Drugs. Find out more about Utathya’s background, article and future research plans in this interview.

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Cannabis Consumption in India: A History

Editor’s Note: In her latest post for Points Kawal Deep Kour resurrects a past editorial feature: ‘Cannabis: Global Histories‘. She contributes to this rich history by outlining the multitudinous roles and affordances of cannabis within Indian cultures.


Much before the Irish physician Sir William Brooke O Shaughnessy (1808-1889) introduced cannabis into Western medicine sometime around the mid-nineteenth century, Ganja (hemp) had already been part of India’s living culture as medicine and an intoxicating agent – even before 1000 B.C. The use of hemp in India was also mentioned by Jewish physician Garcia de Orta in 1563 and subsequently by the Dutch administrator in India, Hendrik van Rheede ( 1636-1691) who in his treatise, Hortus Malabaricus (the garden of Malabar) described that ganja smoking was popular on the Malabar coast. Ganja is an intoxicating drug, derived from the leaves of the Cannabis Indica plant. The philosophy of cannabis consumption in India entails the sacred lore of having emerged in the form of a pot of nectar while the gods and the demons were churning the ocean with the help of mountain Mandara and Vasuki, the serpent king. It was named Vijaya and was believed to bestow victory upon its votaries. It is said that the Gods then wished that it be sent to live with humans on Earth and aid in their merriment and enjoyment of the pleasures of life. 

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“Global Histories of Drugs: Why and What’s Next?”—Reflections on the Cannabis: Global Histories Workshop

Ackerman Title Card

Editor’s Notes: Today’s post by Eron Ackerman reflects on his participation in the “Global Drug Histories: Why and What’s Next?” workshop held jointly this past October at the University of Wisconsin–Madison School of Pharmacy and the British Library. Dr. Ackerman recently completed his dissertation, “Cannabis and Colonialism in the British Caribbean, 1838–1938,” at Stony Brook University and is currently a Visiting Assistant Professor at Albion College.

When Lucas Richert invited me to attend the joint US-UK meeting, “Global Histories of Drugs: Why and What’s Next?” at the University of Wisconsin–Madison School of Pharmacy on October 6, I jumped at the chance—even if it meant having to cancel some mid-week classes. The meeting was inspired by the release of the new collection of essays Cannabis: Global Histories (MIT Press, 2021), which intersects so closely with my own work about the history of Caribbean ganja that I couldn’t miss it. The organizers used Zoom to link our group in Madison to a larger group of book contributors and guest panelists “across the pond” at the British Library.

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“Contested Cannabis: A History of Marijuana in Wisconsin and the Wider World”—Digital Exhibit and Online Roundtable Discussion

Contested Cannabis Social Card

The American Institute of the History of Pharmacy (AIHP) is pleased to announce the completion of its digital exhibit, “Contested Cannabis: A History of Marijuana in Wisconsin and the Wider World,” funded in part by a generous grant from Wisconsin Humanities.

Drawing upon AIHP historical collections as well collections at the Wisconsin Historical Society, the exhibit uses objects and items—including children’s anti-drug coloring books, pro-marijuana festival posters, archived World War One-era medicinal cannabis correspondence, and other artifacts and texts—to investigate and analyze the history of cannabis, marijuana, and hemp in the state of Wisconsin and in the United States.

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The Tragedy of George Schlichten; Or Reconsidering Cannabis Conspiracies

Editor’s Note: Today’s post comes from contributing editor Bob Beach. Beach is a PhD candidate in history at the University of Albany, SUNY.  

There are a lot of conspiracy theories in the story of cannabis. The long, confusing, complex, and politically charged history of the plant in the United States, coupled with the absurdity of its current legal status at the federal level—and in a rapidly dwindling number of states—perhaps lends itself to this kind of thinking among American observers.

One alleged conspiracy involved the newspaper industry and the tragedy of German-American inventor George Schlichten. Schlichten made his name in the fiber industry, and he worked on improvements to decortication, the process of stripping the outer layer of fibrous plants prior to their further processing. But, the conspiracy theory alleges, his bid to manufacture hemp for newspaper production was sabotaged by scheming industrialists.

Schlichten Decorticator Machine 1919
Schlichten Decorticator Machine from George W. Schlichten’s 1919 patent.

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