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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A Tale of Two Clauses: Due Process in Racialized Reproductive Freedom

For Women’s History Month, I’m so pleased to celebrate three women who have each, through their original work, taught me important lessons about the history of drug control. This second post in my series on Drugs, Women, and Families summarizes an exceptional research paper written by Lydia Wendel during my seminar in drug law last year. She identified two very different constitutional and legislative histories that defined reproductive freedom: one path for white women and another path for all other, or BIPOC, women. The U.S. Constitution’s “due process of law” clause appears twice, commanding both federal and state governments to provide it to all citizens. Wendel’s remarkable insight into how these words have worked to protect the rights of some women while forsaking others gave me a deeper understanding of this difficult and vital aspect of constitutional law. She arrives at a chilling conclusion: that these two constitutional paths are now converging to the detriment of overall reproductive freedom for all women in the United States.

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SALIS Digital Library—Indispensable Drug & Alcohol History Resource

Salis Collection
SALIS Collection home page.

Editor’s Note: Today’s post comes from Points Editor Emeritus Ron Roizen.

Dear POINTS readers, 

If you haven’t yet made use of the SALIS Collection of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drugs digital library, then you may have a real treat in store. Curated and maintained by the Substance Abuse Librarians and Information Specialists (SALIS) and hosted on the Internet Archive, the SALIS Collection:

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Quiet Radicals: The Life and Work of Ruth and Edward Brecher

Brechers Title Card
Image of Ruth (Cook) Brecher from the Philadelphia Inquirer, April 9, 1933; Image of Edward Brecher from the Minneapolis Star Tribune, June 6, 1932.

Part 1 – Ruth Came First

Editor’s Note: This post is by Points Managing Editor Emerita Emily Dufton. She holds a PhD in American Studies from George Washington University and is the author of Grass Roots: The Rise and Fall and Rise of Marijuana in America. Email Emily at emily.dufton@gmail.com and follow her on Twitter @emily_dufton. Welcome back, Emily!

There’s something about the topic of drugs that can invite great writer couples to tackle the subject together. Going back nearly a century, spouses Dr. Charles E. Terry and Mildred Pellens co-authored their 1,042-page opus The Opium Problem in 1928. In 1996’s Smoke and Mirrors: The War on Drugs and the Politics of Failure, Dan Baum (who passed away from brain cancer last year) dedicated the book to his wife Margaret, who was his “reporting and writing partner” and “a genius at wrangling meaning from a sentence.” “My name is on the cover,” Baum acknowledged, “but the book is equally Margaret’s.”

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CFP ADHS 2022—”Rethinking Alcohol and Drugs: Global Transformations / Local Practices in History”

The Alcohol and Drugs History Society is pleased to release its call for papers for the 2022 biennial ADHS conference, currently scheduled for June 15–17 in Mexico City. The 2022 conference theme will be “Rethinking Alcohol and Drugs: Global Transformations / Local Practices in History.”

The conference will be a collaboration between the ADHS and Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México-Instituto de Investigaciones Sociales (IIS-UNAM). ADHS hopes that this conference will be an in-person event, but please stayed tuned for more details in early 2022.

Descubrimiento del pulque
José María Obregón, El descubrimiento del pulque, 1869. Image courtesy of Wikimedia.

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Teaching Points: Transforming a Survey Course and Improving Student Research

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.  The Teaching Points series investigates the role of alcohol, drug, and pharmaceutical history in the classroom.

When I first started teaching in 2009, I assigned my class a research project. With absolutely no classroom experience beyond my own, I naively assumed that students just kind of knew how to do research, and I quickly grew frustrated with the poor results. From that point on, I decided to forego “independent” research entirely in my classes and instead to focus on providing a “guided tour” of the material, providing students with textbooks, articles, and/or primary sources and requiring a mix (over the years) of exams, quizzes, analytical essays, and/or source analyses. Unable to spend sufficient class time explaining the research process or troubleshooting issues, I reasoned that the efficacy of a research project in a survey course would always be undermined by my students’ limited exposure to proper research methods.

In subsequent years, I continued teaching under this assumption. But, coinciding with my transition to a PhD program at Albany and my TA responsibilities, I also increased my efforts to explore how others instructors taught their survey courses, and I continued to make adjustments to my own teaching based on knowledge gained at conferences and in professional journals, newsletters, and magazines. I encountered two appealing strategies. The first is the idea of the flipped classroom, where the activities that typically take place in a classroom and those activities usually occurring outside the classroom are flipped. The second are strategies that stress digital literacy (a topic covered recently on Points by Stephen Siff) to help future citizens confront the information dump that they see every day online.

Combining these two strategies, I thought, would provide the ideal model for teaching real-world “research skills” during class time. On this forum (so long ago) I dreamed of one day flipping my classroom, but I lamented the prep-time required—particularly for a doctoral student and later an adjunct. I could, and did, adjust for prioritizing digital literacy, but the flipped classroom remained just that, a dream.

Then the pandemic came, and everything changed.

Beach August Teaching Points Title Card
Left: Sample student research subject, “Why did the Reagan Administration show Just Say No Ads with the likes of NFL and MTV Stars?” Image of Nancy Reagan accepting a “Just Say No” jersey from quarterback Doug Williams in 1988 courtesy of the Ronald Reagan Library.

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Watch 2021 “Kreminar” Videos—History of Opiates & Opioids

2021 Kreminar Social Card

In May and June of 2021, the American Institute of the History of Pharmacy and the Alcohol and Drugs History Society hosted and helped organize the second annual Edward Kremers Seminar in the History of Pharmacy & Drugs. The Summer 2021 “Kreminar” explored the theme of Opiates & Opioids and featured six virtual seminars, presentations, and discussions by scholars and practitioners researching and writing about the history and the contemporary status of opiates, opioids, and addiction. The six presentations were:

  • Dr. Benjamin Breen: “Three Ways of Looking at Opium: Flower, Latex, Pharmaceutical.”
  • Dr. Diana S. Kim: “Empires of Vice: The Rise of Opium Prohibition Across Southeast Asia.”
  • Dr. Daniel Skinner in conversation with Kerri Mongenel: “The Humanity of Addiction: What We Can Learn from Families, Educators, and Practitioners”
  • Dr. Nancy Campbell and Dr. David Herzberg: “Unexpected Histories of Opioids and Overdose.”
  • Dr. James Bradford: “Poppy Politics: Drugs in Afghanistan, Past and Present.”
  • Maia Szalavitz: “Undoing Drugs: Harm Reduction, Opioids and the Future of Addiction.”

Each 2021 Kreminar event drew between 50 and 70 attendees for a total attendance of 327 people across the six webinars. The hosts and sponsors of the Summer 2021 Kreminar were: the American Institute of the History of Pharmacy, the Alcohol and Drugs History Society, the University of Wisconsin–Madison School of Pharmacy, and the University of Kentucky College of Arts and Sciences Cooperative for the Humanities and Social Sciences.

Videos of each presentation are embedded below or available to watch on AIHP’s YouTube channel.

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