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A Trip to the Cannabis Museum 

At one time in American history, cannabis was legal. Before cannabis prohibition in 1937, you could even purchase a cannabis tincture at your local drug store, where most pharmacists made their own unique blends and variations! However, this exciting time for cannabis was short lived and despite the many benefits provided, cannabis was outlawed due to fear and ugly politics. 

Only very recently, 1998 to be exact, was cannabis legalized for medical use in Washington state (in 2012, i-502 passed – allowing recreational use). With legalization, came a new opportunity to better understand cannabis, the endocannabinoid system, and how cannabinoids work to help us in unique ways.

The Dockside Cannabis Museum, located inside Dockside Cannabis SODO, hosts the Wirtshafter Collection of pre-prohibition era cannabis apothecary items. See the physical pieces of history in the delicately blown glass bottles that at one time housed cannabis tinctures once used to treat coughs, anxiety and even Parkinson’s. 

Don E Wirtshafter, curator and collector of the The Wirtshafter Cannabis Museum Collection, has said in his Collector’s statement, “I kept hearing people claim that cannabis had never been accepted as a medicine in the United States. I set off to prove this wrong by collecting the remaining evidence of cannabis use not lost to seventy-five years of prohibition. Through good luck and good help, I found this proof in the bottles, containers and advertising that marked the first golden age of cannabis apothecary, 1850-1937. 

The history of the use of cannabis as a valued medicine was not lost, it was purposefully hidden. Rarely has a subject been under such a strong taboo. Most museums and historical archives destroyed their cannabis accessions. The bottles in this collection were saved by a hidden network of controlled substance collectors. Mostly doctors and pharmacists, these specialty collectors keep their cabinets of curiosities private. They, alone, preserved this important piece of our history. 

The collection has given us an understanding of how much the medical practitioners one hundred years ago knew about cannabis and its various uses. Healers knew cannabis from personal observation; they had no access to the scientific tools of today. A hundred years ago, these drugs were popular simply because they worked and were known to be safe. For sixty years running, cannabis was the third most used compound in medicine. Physicians of the day found it beneficial for a wide variety of indications; indications that match the claims being made by the proponents and patients of medical cannabis today.”

You can read up on this rare and highly curated collection at the Cannabis Museum website. 

Curious about tinctures and dosing? Read our Q&A with Fairwinds Cannabis about ratios and dosing.

Read about the endocannabinoid system here in a journal from Harvard Medical School.

If you’re canna curious and want to figure out what strains work with your own body, keeping a strain diary is very helpful.