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The Black Candle

By Emily F. Murphy

"Janey Canuck"

Police Magistrate and Judge of the Juvenile Court, Edmonton, Canada






Note: Marijuana was made illegal in Canada in 1923 - a year after this book was published.

"My eyes are veiled, because I drink cups of bhang."

-- Afghan Song.

THIS drug is not really new but, as yet, is comparatively unknown in the United States and Canada, although three of the American States -- California, Missouri and Wyoming -- have legislated against its use, the authorities and police officers generally being woefully ignorant of its nature or extraordinary menace.

At the Convention held at The Hague in 1912, Italy suggested a study of this drug, holding that its use would increase as the opium traffic was suppressed.

Marahuana is known by chemists and physicians as cannibis indica, and more commonly as Indian hemp. Sometimes it is called hasheesh or hashish. In Chapter 31 of The Count of Monte Cristo, Dumas gives us an account of a hashish debauch. In this chapter "Sinbad" the host, describes the green preserve as nothing less than the ambrosia which Hebe served at the table of Jupiter. "Sinbad" speaks of this as "the hashish of Alexandria -- the hashish of Abour-Gor, the celebrated maker, the only man to whom there should be built a palace, inscribed with these words, 'a grateful world to a dealer in happiness.'"

Eminent medical doctors in India, principally at Calcutta, have made experiments with Cannibis Indica and have discovered that it induces symptoms of catalepsy or even of trance. It is also claimed that the fakers of India who suffer themselves to be buried and who are later disinterred, do so through the agency of this drug.

Some years ago, Dr. James Braid of Edinburgh wrote a monograph on this subject entitled "Trance and Human Hybernation," which was published by John Church of Princes Street, Soho, London.

Hashish or hasheesh is the Arabic name and means literally "dried herb." It may be smoked, chewed or drunk. Our English word "assassin" comes from this word.

The hemp resin for smoking and chewing come in three forms -- chang, ganja and charas.

This Indian hemp is used chiefly in Asia Minor, India, Persia and Egypt, but is being increasingly used on this continent, particularly by the Mexicans, who smuggle it into the United States. Last year fifty-four persons were convicted for using, or peddling it in Los Angeles, California.

Charles A. Jones, the Chief of Police for the city, said in a recent letter that hashish, or Indian hemp, grows wild in Mexico but to raise this shrub in California constitutes a violation of the State Narcotic law. He says, "Persons using this narcotic, smoke the dried leaves of the plant, which has the effect of driving them completely insane. The addict loses all sense of moral responsibility. Addicts to this drug, while under its influence, are immune to pain, and could be severely injured without having any realization of their condition. While in this condition they become raving maniacs and are liable to kill or indulge in any form of violence to other persons, using the most savage methods of cruelty without, as said before, any sense of moral responsibility.

"When coming from under the influence of this narcotic, these victims present the most horrible condition imaginable. They are dispossessed of their natural and normal will power, and their mentality is that of idiots. If this drug is indulged in to any great extent, it ends in the untimely death of its addict."

Mr. Hamilton Fyfe in The Real Mexico, writing of this drug says of it, "They (the Mexicans) madden themselves with a drug called Marahuana. This has strange and terrible effects. It appears to make those who swallow it do whatever is uppermost in their thoughts. At El Paso, a peon came across the International Bridge firing a rifle at all and sundry. Much talk against the Americans and a dose of Marahuana had decided him to invade the United States by himself. The bridge-keeper quickly put a bullet into the poor wretch."

W. H. B. Stoddart of the Bethlehem Royal Hospital of London, says the drug is used for the purpose of inducing pleasurable motor excitement and hallucinations which are commonly sexual in character among Eastern races. This contention is, however, denied by the Encyclopaedia Brittanica, which says there is no evidence that the drug is an aphrodisiac. 

Stoddart says further that, hasheesh causes epigastric sensations, with anathesia of the arms and legs. The acute intoxication is characterized by sleepiness and "a certain impudent, dare-devil demeanor." As in intoxication from alcohol, the gait is staggering. The addict has delusions of persecution or of measureless grandeur. Speaking of the latter delusion, Dr. Palmer writes that in India, under its influence, your servant is apt to make you a grand salaam instead of a sandwich, and offer you an houri when you merely demanded a red herring.

Dr. Warnock in The Journal of Mental Sciences for January, l903, states that acute mania from hasheesh varies from "a mild, short attack of excitement to a prolonged attack of furious mania, ending in exhaustion or even death."

He describes the hasheesh user in the following words: "They are good-for-nothing lazy fellows who live by begging or stealing, and pester their relations for money to buy the hasheesh, often assaulting them when they refuse the demands. The moral degradation of these cases is their most salient symptom; loss of social position, shamelessness, addiction to lying and theft, and a loose, irregular life makes them a curse to their families."

It appears that in using this poison, the time-sense becomes impaired in such a way that time appears to pass slowly. One addict says that on recovering from a debauch "It was like returning home from an eternity spent in loneliness among the palaces of strangers. Well may I say an eternity," he continues, "for during the whole day I could not rid myself of the feeling that I was separated from the preceding one by an immeasureable lapse of time."

It is also a peculiarity of hasheesh that its fantasia almost invariably takes Oriental form. "It is hasheesh which makes both the Syrian and the Saxon Oriental," quoth one of its habitués.

De Quincey tells the same of opium, but this may only have been because in normal hours his imagina- tion dallied with Eastern themes and scenes. Speaking of these fantasia with their "unimaginable horrors" he writes, "I was buried for a thousand years in stone coffins with mummies and sphinxes in narrow chambers at the heart of eternal pyramids. I was kissed with cancerous kisses, by crocodiles, and laid confounded with unutterable slimy things amongst reeds and nilotic mud."

It is believed that the Arabian Nights were written under the motor excitement of hasheesh. The romancer under its influence travelled on a magic carpet and saw strange lands and sights.

Blown on some mystic wind conjured up by the drug, the modern habitué, in a phrensy of travel, passes through all latitudes in gigantic tours. Now, with joyous lightness, he is "on the way to Mandalay," or again, in the profoundest dejection, he has come to "say good-bye." He travels through marshy jungles over mid-earth lakes, across desert plains, over valleys of roses, or in the high air where insane faces howl at him and curse horribly.

Sometime about the middle of the last century, a remarkable volume entitled The Hasheesh Eater was written by Fitz-Hugh Ludlow, an American author of great ability and high culture. He was born in the State of New York in 1836 and died of consumption in Switzerland in 1870. He was special correspondent to the New York dailies; wrote much magazine literature and edited Vanity Fair from 1858 to 1860.

The effects of hasheesh, "this weed of madness," being explained to him by a druggist, he was impelled by curiosity, and by a desire to record these effects scientifically to experiment with this narcotic, not only on himself but on his fellow students.

There are plenty of folk who pretend to themselves that they yield to narcotic enchantment in a desire for research and not for sensual gratification, and that they inure their friends to its effects for the same reason, but, however kindly in judgment, one finds these statements hard to credit, and even if credited, only demonstrates these persons as rascals-manifest.

Ludlow has described the delirium of hasheesh, with its hellish agonies, as no one ever did before, or could wish to again. He told of the jubilance from the drug, and of its reactory results in physical and mental depression; of the nervous waste from hasheesh addiction, and the necessity of again using the drug to supply the waste which it first occasioned.

He also tells the story of his enfranchisement from this fell and deadly habit till that time when he was no longer "an outcast from man's league with God." 

It has been pointed out that there are three ways out from the regency of this addiction:

1st -- Insanity.

2nd -- Death.

3rd -- Abandonment.

This is assuredly a direful trinity and one with which the public should be cognizant in order that they may be warned of the sharp danger that lies in even curiously tasting poisons which have been inhibited, or which are habit-forming.


Scanned by Dave Haans,

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