Cannabis’s historic use is well documented, but did you know that early extractors tested their hash oils on canines?
“Indian churrus or hasheesh is a hard resinous mass of a greenish-gray color, containing much gritty earth, and, as it occurs in Egypt, of a feeble, hemp-like odor and taste.” Explains The 1918 United States Dispensatory, a guidebook detailing pharmaceutical use of various botanicals and herbs.
The Dispensatory goes on to describe how the plant’s cannabidol can be extracted and recommends testing the tinctures on pets first:
“The animals differ considerably in susceptibility to the drug and therefore it is best to make preliminary tests upon several dogs with average-sized doses and select from among them the animals which react easily to the drug.” Advises the Dispensatory, adding. “As a rule, fox terriers serve very-well for the purpose, but any dog may prove satisfactory.”
The guidebook specifies that the two dogs should be separated and not fed for 24 hours before the tests, which should be performed by the dog’s owner, or someone else who knows the animal well enough to reliably differentiate the oil’s effects from normal dog behavior. Projected effects include a brief giddiness, followed by “symptoms of muscular incoordination” similar to the effects of alcoholism on a person.
The symptoms caused by cannabis indica in the dog recall those of alcoholism in the human being. There is at first a slight loss of control in the hind legs so that the animal staggers as he walks, later the ataxia becomes so marked that the dog is unable to stand up without leaning against some object, and about this time begins to show distinct drowsiness, and may eventually pass into a heavy sleep.
Some dogs may grow lethargic or disinterested in the tests as they build a tolerance to the bud; The Dispensatory warns that dogs often “learn the effects of the drug and so refuse to stand up.”
The Dispensatory also describes a hemp oil extracted with human fat and distilled in an alcohol tincture:
Momea or mimea is a hemp preparation said to be made in Thibet with human fat. From gunjah the Messrs. Smith, of Edinburgh, obtained a purer resin by the following process: Bruised ganjah is digested, first in successive portions of warm water, until the expressed liquid comes away colorless; and afterwards for two days, with a moderate heat, in a solution of sodium carbonate, containing one part of the salt for two of the dried herb. It is then expressed, washed, dried, and exhausted by percolation with alcohol. The tincture, after being agitated with milk of lime containing one part of the earth for twelve of the gunjah used, is filtered; the lime is precipitated by sulphuric acid; the filtered liquor is agitated with animal charcoal, and again filtered; most of the alcohol is distilled off, and to the residue twice its weight of water is added; the liquor is then allowed to evaporate gradually; and, finally, the resin is washed with fresh water until it ceases to impart a sour or bitter taste to the liquid, and is then dried in thin layers. Thus obtained, it retains the odor and taste of gunjah, which yields from 6 to 7 per cent of it.
There’s something quaint about a time when cannabis’ effects could be described calmly in a run of the mill pharmaceutical manual, though it may have also been a time when animal cruelty was semi-normalized– the dogs mentioned in the Dispensatory don’t sound like very happy or consenting test subjects.
Today, we have access to a much wider selection of cannabis tinctures, and know far more about cannabis and oils derived from the plant; some of these are non-psychoactive, and even recommended for canines in particular. Products like CannaPet use CBD formulas to eliminate THC that might make a pet (or human) uncomfortable, so pets can enjoy the plant’s medicinal benefits without suffering through overpowering psychological or physical effects of a potent undesired high.