Peruse a rare stash of cannabis artifacts collected by one of the nation’s preeminent marijuana scholars, Michael Aldrich, and discover how the medicinal and spiritual use of ganja is part of our shared human history.
Michael Aldrich literally has a PhD in pot. The author of the first doctora' dissertation on cannabis in the United States, Marijuanc Myths and Folklore (SUNY Buffalo, 1970), and a tireless researcher and advocate, Aldrich has earned the nickname "Dr. Dope." Fascinated by the righteous herb's history of religious and medical
use since he got "turned on" in 1963, the young student began collecting newspaper clippings, old books and articles-anything that catalogued the positive attributes of cannabis. His parents were supportive of his scholarly habit, with his father even bringing back pipes and bongs from his safaris in Africa.
Michael founded the first student LeMar (Legalize Marijuana) organization in 1967 at SUNY Buffalo, was the editor of the first pot-themed publication, The Marijuana Review, from 1968 to 1973, and co-founded Amorphia, the first cannabis cooperative, in 1971. Always an advocate of legalization, Michael was an organizer for the 1972 California Marijuana Initiative, and he believes that cannabis spirituality will continue to thrive despite government oppression. “The use of cannabis to heal both body and soul traces back to the oldest religious texts in the world,” Aldrich says, “and it continues steadily up to modern times in a variety of cultural contexts.”
Today, Michael and his wife Michelle have amassed one of the most extensive cannabis archives in the US, with more than 300 boxes of books and papers in storage, and precious artifacts on display in their small San Francisco apartment. Their bookshelves are lined with the ancient lore of psychedelic wisdom, and a handsome wood-and-glass case houses their “antique headshop,” a collection of rare old pipes, bongs, papers and other accoutrements of the classic Stoner lifestyle. Their African pipe collection is also considered one of the best in the nation—which is why we were so thrilled when the Aldriches gave High Times a close-up look at their stash of precious historical paraphernalia and artifacts, and chose some of the most interesting specimens to share. “I got the first pipe in ’69 from Botswana, and then started with the bongs in ’71,” Aldrich recalls. “We’ve been talking for many years about opening a museum.”
Called dagga in Africa, cannabis is regarded as a tool for spiritual insight, and has a long history of shamanic use among the continent’s various tribes. Some of the first bongs were developed in Africa, with archaeological digs in Ethiopia uncovering ceramic water pipes dating back to AD 1320. Other tribes fashioned water pipes from gourds with detachable stone bowls. So, the next time you’re puffing on a Sherlock or hitting your prized Roor bong, remember the irie ancestors who came before you and dedicate your session in their honor. You just might have a revelation of your own!
This bottle of tincture from the Victor Remedies Company dates back to the 1880s, when patent medicines containing not only cannabis but opium and cocaine were all the rage. This concoction of cannabis and chloroform was recommended “for all looseness of bowels” and for teething children. In the advertisement for Victor Infants Relief, parents are assured that “especially during the teething period with its distressing and often fatal effects does Victor Infants Relief prove a boon and a blessing.” A printed testimonial from one satisfied customer declares that “instead of one bottle of Infants Relief, I suppose we used one dozen for our little girl. It is pleasant to taste and does the work.”
PARKE, DAVIS CONTAINER
This container from Parke, Davis dates back to 1879 and would have sat on a druggist’s shelf, waiting to be refilled with Cannabis sativa direct from the pharmaceutical company. A label on the back of the container helpfully explains that “Herbs and other Botanic drugs will keep perfectly fresh and intact for a much longer period of time in these containers than in open drawers.” Parke, Davis goes on to say: “The quality is absolutely the best which is produced” and “Our direct connections enable us to have especial care bestowed upon the collection and preservation of drugs intended for our use.” The legal drug dealer (once the oldest and biggest drug company in the US, now a part of Pfizer) also assures the pharmacist that “Every package is full weight,” just in case the middleman was worried about getting shorted by his source.