This isn’t the first time in history cannabis has made a major debut. Until mid nineteenth century, cannabis use remained quite secretive in Europe until the dawn of an elite and very public Parisian group, called Le Club Des Hashischins, (“Club of the Hashish-Eaters”).
The club was founded by a French psychiatrist, Dr. Jacques-Joseph Moreau who was the first physician to do systematic work on drugs’ effects on the central nervous system.
Moreau felt that hashish could treat mental illness and urged doctors to try it.
"To understand the ravings of a madman, one must have raved himself, but without having lost the awareness of one's madness," he said.
His 1845 studies on hashish, published in a book entitled “Hashish and Mental Alienation” documented both physical and mental benefits, and ultimately led to modern psychopharmacology and the use of numerous psychotomimetic drug treatments.
The club was active from about 1844 to 1849 and its members like Victor Hugo, Alexandre Dumas, Charles Baudelaire, Honoré de Balzac, Eugène Delacroix and Gustave Flaubert were the most famous and creative artists and authors of that time
The club members would gather together once a month at the Hôtel de Lauzun (at that time Hôtel Pimodan) on the Île Saint-Louis.
Dr. Moreau, as a master of ceremonies would give each member a spoonful of green jelly paste that was made of pistachio, cinnamon, nutmeg, sugar, orange peel, butter, cloves and hashish.
They ate the paste - called dawamesc (Arabic for "medicine of immortality") and then sat down for dinner and later a séance.
Charles Baudelaire wrote in his book “On Wine and Hashish” that "It is as though one lives several lifetimes in the space of an hour, like living a fantastic novel rather than reading it."
Although he says there are no dangerous physical consequences from hashish, he argued that the psychological risks are serious: "You have scattered your personality to the four winds of heaven, and how difficult it is now to "recover and reconstruct it."
Hashish is psychodynamic which amplifies what already exists and draws out what is already latent in the mind, so it’s important to be sound of mind and body.
Baudelaire did not have the best of experiences with cannabis, so he advised "Each man has the dream he deserves…hashish is nothing miraculous, absolutely nothing but an exaggeration of the natural.”
Gustave Flaubert and Baudelaire had some differences about the use of cannabis. Flaubert wrote him and said hashish was readily available on sale at French pharmacies. Baudelaire argued, "If by means of a teaspoonful of sweetmeat man can instantly procure all the blessings of heaven and earth, then he will not be prepared to earn one thousandth part of the same by hard work." In the end he condemned the use of hashish as a doomed attempt to avoid necessary suffering.
Dr. Moreau noticed the effect of cannabis is dose dependent. If the dose was too high his subject became insane and with moderate use he identified long-term subtle personality changes, including a shortened attention span, distractibility and a progressive loss of mental powers."
He also stated, "The action of hashish weakens the will- the mental power that rules ideas and associates and connects them together.
So, as the ancient Greeks have said, "All things in moderation”.