Colonizing cannabis : medication, taxation, intoxication and oblivion, c. 1839-1955

Mills, James H.; Deb Roy, Rohan and Attewell, Guy N.A., eds. (2018) Colonizing cannabis : medication, taxation, intoxication and oblivion, c. 1839-1955. In: Locating the Medical. Oxford University Press, New Delhi, pp. 200-216. ISBN 9780199486717 (

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The recent, renewed interest in thinking about the question 'what is colonial about colonial medicine?' has stimulated a range of fresh approaches to the issues raised. Among these approaches has been a focus on substances considered to be medical and the production of detailed accounts of their histories and the ways in which they came to feature in British scientific and medical circles. After briefly considering the rewards to be had from such an approach, this chapter will look at cannabis products and their history in the nineteenth and twentieth-centuries. In part this story is about the entry of preparations of the plant into western medical knowledge and practice. However, the paper also demonstrates that cannabis was not simply constructed as a medicine in western circles in this period. The ways in which competing understandings emerged of the plant and the substances that could be manufactured from it will also be explored. The purpose of doing this is two-fold. In the first instance the chapter begins to provide some answers to the question related to the one above of 'what is medical about colonial medicine'? In addressing this question the chapter also addresses its second concern, which is to put the plants back into the picture of the history of medicine in the colonial period.