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Big Pharma: The First Medical Marijuana Retailers

Big Pharma Marijuana

Before the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937, Big Pharma companies like Eli Lilly and Parke-Davis and Squibb of Bristol-Myers Squibb were marketing marijuana medicines – such as extracts and tinctures – labeled as “uniformly effective at dose levels of 10 mg.”

Back then, most medicines had the same universal characteristics, so drug companies had to rely on marketing and brand recognition to sell products.

According to the Antique Cannabis Book, 6% of all manufactured drugs at the time contained marijuana 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, marijuana was prescribed for a variety of ailments including migraines, epilepsy, stomach worms, mental illnesses and some addictions. It was also used by veterinaries for pets.

While smoking was not very 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 marijuana 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.