A blast from the past: exhibit explores weed as medicine

The country is quickly coming around to the notion that marijuana makes us feel better, as 33 states, including Ohio, have legalized the weed for medicinal use.


But it’s really a comeback of sorts for the use of pot as medicine, as cannabis, the active ingredient in weed, was legally prescribed for medicinal purposes until the federal government banned it in 1937.


A new exhibit at the Lloyd Library in downtown Cincinnati explores how cannabis was used as medicine before it became a forbidden substance. The exhibit, called “Through the Rx Bottle,” explores the history of medicinal cannabis through artifacts, especially prescription bottles that housed the medicines.


Early medicinal herbals, medical and trade publications, and botanical illustrations from the Lloyd Library’s collection accompany the artifacts. The exhibit was put together in collaboration with the Cannabis Museum in Athens, Ohio, which is planning to open to the public next year.


Before its prohibition, cannabis was sold by major drug companies, including Eli Lilly, Parke-Davis and Lloyd Brothers Pharmacists, the precursor of the Lloyd Library. Physicians found it useful for a variety of symptoms, as they offered treatments that match many of the claims made by proponents and patients of medicinal cannabis today, exhibit organizers said.


A photo exhibition on the history of cannabis as medicine, produced by the Cannabis Museum, accompanies “Through the Rx Bottle,” as do a series of lectures and a symposium.


Here’s the lineup:

Friday, April 12, 7–8 p.m. “The First Golden Age of Cannabis Medicine: 1830-1937,” led by Don E. Wirtshafter, executive director of the Cannabis Museum. He’ll explore the history of cannabis’ prior uses, including medical, household, and industrial. Wirtshafter draws from more than 1,000 apothecary and trade bottles, historic literature and advertising, and decades of research. It’s free and open to the public, but reservations are required and can be made by calling 513-721-3707 or visiting lloydgoldenage.eventbrite.com.


Saturday, May 11, 11 a.m.–4 p.m. “Cannabis Symposium: Issues from the Past to the Present,” will feature sessions on “Cannabis and Its Ethnobotanical and Medicinal Use through the Centuries;” “Ohio’s Testing Labs and Cannabis Degree Program;” “Women, Cannabis and Medicine Prior to Prohibition;” and exhibition tours with the curators. Reservations are required and the cost is $15 for non-members, $5 for Lloyd Friends. 


Thursday, July 18, 7–8 p.m. “Medical Marijuana: A Social Justice Perspective,” with Rev. Damon Lynch, III. Lynch, pastor of New Prospect Baptist Church, has been a champion for the community, involved with projects including: The Collaborative Agreement Refresh, AMOS Project, and the Opiate Coalition of Hamilton County. His lecture will explore the value of including all members of the community in the implementation of Ohio’s medical marijuana programs. It’s free and open to the public, but reservations are required.


Thursday, August 1, 7–8 p.m. “Medicinal Cannabis and Alzheimer’s Treatment,” with Teaera Roland, a nurse with a diverse clinical and administrative background in health care and an expert on cannabis and the elderly. Her lecture will focus on Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative diseases common with aging. It’s free and open to the public, and the Ohio Board of Nursing and the Ohio Counselor, Social Worker, Marriage and Family Therapist Board have both approved one hour of continuing education credit. Reservations are required. 


The Lloyd Library and Museum is an independent research library and exhibit space established by three brothers who manufactured botanical drugs in Cincinnati beginning in the late 19th century. It focuses on medicinal plants, botany, and pharmacy.


It’s free and open to the public and located at 917 Plum St. Hours are Monday through Friday, and the third Saturday of the month from 9 a.m.–4 p.m. For more information, visit www.lloydlibrary.org or call 513-721-3707.

Read more articles by David Holthaus.

David Holthaus is an award-winning journalist, Cincinnati native and father of three. When not writing or editing, he's likely to be bicycling, hiking, reading or watching classic movies.
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