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Big Pharma Companies Were The Original Medical Pot Sellers

Maureen Meehan

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At the turn of the century, before the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937, Eli Lilly, Parke-Davis and Squibb of Bristol-Myers Squibb, were marketing cannabis extracts and tinctures labeled as “uniformly effective at dose levels of 10 mg.”

In those days, most medicines had the same generic characteristics, so drug companies had to rely on marketing and brand recognition to sell their products.

According to the Antique Cannabis Book, six percent of all manufactured drugs at the time contained cannabis in one form or another, whether in powder, tablets, fluid extracts or tinctures. Some call that period, from the turn of the century to 1937, the “Golden Age of Medical Cannabis” as marijuana products flourished with little to no stigma or legal ramifications.

Then, like now, cannabis was prescribed for a variety of ailments including epilepsy, migraines, stomach worms, mental illnesses and some addictions. It was also used by veterinaries for pets.

While smoking was not common, tinctures and extracts were developed on a regular basis. The pharmaceutical companies had the benefit of their own expertise in standardizing and establishing dosing and responses. They initially used weed grown in India but soon realized growing their own was more reliable. In doing so, they learned about sinsemilla (seedless) cultivation.

Parke-Davis (now owned by Pfizer) worked with Eli Lilly to create its own plant strain called Cannabis Americana, a domesticated Indica strain. 

According to Forbes, Parke-Davis did not stop with weed. It sold various types of cocaine before it became illegal, developed ketamine and held the patent for PCP.

A Pfizer spokesman told Forbes it was no longer involved in cannabis research. Eli Lilly nor Bristol-Myers Squibb would comment on whether they would get back into the field.

(Photo Courtesy Cannador.com)

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