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The Marihuana Tax Act of 1937


DR. MUNCH: Mr. Chairman, my name is Dr. James C. Munch; I am a pharmacologist at Temple University, Philadelphia.

MR. MCCORMACK: Will you tell us about your education and professional background?

DR. MUNCH: I am a doctor of philosophy. I have majored in toxicology (the action of poisons) and in pharmacology (the action of drugs on animals and on man.)

I was for ten years connected with the Food and Drug Administration, during part of which time I was in charge of the pharmacology laboratory there. I am still a consulting pharmacologist for the Bureau of Biological Survey of the United States Department of Agriculture. I am also professor of physiology and pharmacology in the School of Pharmacology, Temple University, Philadelphia. I ws the drector of pharmacological research for Sharp and Dohme; at present I am in charge of tests and standards, John Wyeth & Bros., Philadelphia Pa.

MR. MCCORMACK: You are a graduate of what college?

DR. MUNCH: Of George Washington University.


DR. MUNCH: In 1924.

MR. MCCORMACK: Are you connected with the Government in any way?

DR. MUNCH: I am consulting pharmacologist for the Bureau of Biological Survey in the Department of Agriculture. I have also been interested in the work of the Narcotics Bureau, particularly in the detection of the doping of racehorses, and in subjects of that type.

MR. MCCORMACK: That is a rather interesting study by itself.

DR. MUNCH: I find it so.

MR. CULLEN: You may proceed with your statement.

Dr. MUNCH: In connection with my studies of Cananbis, or marihuana, I have followed its effects on animals and also, so far as possible, its effects upon humans. I find that the doses which are capable of producing effects may be very nearly poisonous doses; that is to say, small doses have little effect.

The effect is directed first at the hind bain, or the cerebellum, leading to a disturbance of the equilibrium, so that a man will go temporarily into a state resembling alcoholism. Larger doses tend to depress the heart.

Continuous use will tend to cause the degeneration of one part of the brain, that part that is useful for higher or physic reasoning, of the memory. Functions of that type are localized in the cerebral cortex of the brain. Those are the disturbing and harmful effects that follow continued exposure to marihuana.

I have found the active material lodged in male plants as well as female plants.

There are no chemical methods of standardization of this variable drug.

In 1910, 1920, and 1930 the United States Pharmacopoeia revision committee, the commttee that is charges with drafting standards for drugs, considered those methods of standardizatioon in great detail.

In 1910, the method of standardization by producing an effect upon dogs was introduced as the official method of standardization in an attempt to get a more uniform drug to use in medicine.

First, small doses of thematieral to be standardized are hgiven the dogs and then larger doses until we find the dose that produce an effect. I have found in studying the action on dogs that only abut 1 dog in 300 is very senistive to the text. The effects on dogs are extremely variable, although they vary little in their susceptibility. the same thign is true for other animals and for humans.

MR. REED: Will you explain to the committee whether this drug affecgts the nerves, or does it go directly into the blood stream?

DR. MUNCH: It does not matter whether it is absorbed by smoking or swallowing; it goes into the blood stream; it is carried to the brain by the bloood and produces its effects in the brain.

Animals which show a particular susceptibility, that is, which show a response to a given dose, when they begin to show it will acquire a tolerance. We have to give larger doses as the animals are used over a period of 6 months or a year. This means that the animal is becoming habituated, and finally the animal must be discarded because it is no lobber serviceable.

MR. MCCORMACK: We are more concerned with human beings than with animals. Of course, I realize that those experiments are necessary and valuable, because so far as the effect is concerned, they have a significance also. but we would like to hve whatever evidence you have as to the conditions existing int he country, as to what the effect is upon human beings. Not that we are not concerned abou the animals, but the important matter before us concenr the use of this drug by human beings.

DR. MUNCH: I was making the point to show that in 1910 and in 1920 the Pharmacopeia accepted cannbis as one drug for use in human medicine, and that that is the method of standardization, because there was no other method by which this could be standardized.

When we considered the material for the Pharmacopoeia in 1930 we found that this method of standardization was not useful. We found that the Intenrational Committe on Standardization of Drugs of the League of Nations had not admitted cannabis because it is not used throughout the world.

Therefore, that method of standardization was discarded, and so at this time the product which may be used is used without being standardized. But the use of it is definitely decreasing, as is shown by production statistics and surveys of prescription ingredients.

MR. REED: You say the use is receding?

DR. MUNCH: It is disappearing; that is, its use in human medicine is decreasing.

MR. REED: You do not wish to infer that it is decreasing in use as a narcotic, do you?

DR. MUNCH: Not at all. I am discussing the medicinal use.

MR. VINSON: For what was it used?

DR. MUNCH: I can only give you the literature. No physician with whom I am immediately acquainted uses it at this time.

In the early days it was used in cases of sleeplessness and to make your last moments on earth less painful when you were dying from tetanus or rabies. There may be other uses, but I have not found them.

MR. VINSON: Is it ever used now for those purposes? I take it there are several substitutes.

DR. MUNCH: Yes; there are. So far as human beings are concerned, we hve different types of treatment, such as the Pasteur treatment.

MR. VINSON: But you had the Pasteur treatment when you had marihuana, did you not?

DR. MUNCH: Not in human medicine.

DR. MUNCH: No, sir.

MR. VINSON: How long have you had it?

DR. MUNCH: Cannabis or marihuana was introduced into human medicine by O’Shaughnessey in 1838.

MR. VINSON: When did Pasteur come on the scene?

DR. MUNCH: The Pasteur treatment was developed about 1875.

MR. VINSON: Then you had the Pasteur treatment between the period of 1875 until 1920?

DR. MUNCH: Yes, sir.

MR. VINSON: Did they use marihuana in that period for rabies?

DR. MUNCH: Its use had been decreasing during that period.

MR. VINSON: As I understood you, the use of marihuana was to ease the last hours of a person in distress from excruciating pain.

DR. MUNCH: Yes, sir.

MR. VINSON: I feel certain there are many substitutes that could have been used before and can be used now for the purpose for which marihuana, to some extent, was used.

DR. MUNCH: Yes; That is true. Most of the modern drugs for the annulment of pain have been developed since about 1880 or 1890.

MR. CULLEN: Is it used in dentistry?

DR. MUNCH: It is one component of a prescription which has been used from time to time in dentistry in assuaging pain, but there again we have better drugs. At the time -------

MR. CULLEN: (interposing) So it is not used very much today in dentistry?

DR. MUNCH: That is my understanding. With the development of drugs lik novocaine, its use in dentistry has been decreasing.

Its other use is in corn salves and corn plasters. Everyone knows that they must be green and negative. Marihuana contains a green component called chlorophyl. We have made experiments on men as well as upon animals in which we have applied the material directly through the skin, either normal skin containing a corn, and we find that it has no value in preventing pain. Cannabis or marihuana it self will not decrease the pain of a corn. Salicylic acid causes the destruction of the corn tissue.

Cannabis is used because it has a green color, but other green dyes will be just as effective as marihuana for this purpose.

On last Saturday a paper was presented before the Pharmacological Society in Memphis, Tenn. by Dr. Walton, who has been making a special study of cannabis at this time. He said the the cannabis grown in the neighborhood of New Orleans for pharmaceutical purposes was similar in chemical ingredients to that which has been bought in India and elsewhere.

MR. MCCORMACK: I take it that the effect is different upon different persons.

DR. MUNCH: Yes. sir.

MR. MCCORMACK: There is no question but what this is a drug, is there?

DR. MUNCH: None at all.

MR. MCCORMACK: Is it a harmful drug?

DR. MUNCH: Any drug that produces the degeneration of the brain is harmful. Yes; it is.

MR. MCCORMACK: I agree with you on that, but I want to ask you these questions and have your answers for the record, because they will assist us in passing upon this legislation.

DR. MUNCH: I have said it is a harmful drug.

MR. MCCORMACK: In some cases does it not bring about extreme inertia?

DR. MUNCH: Yes, it does.

MR. MCCORMACK: And in other cases it causes violent irritability?

DR. MUNCH: Yes, sir.

MR. MCCORMACK: And those results lead to a disntegration of personality, do they not?

DR. MUNCH: Yes, sir.

MR. MCCORMACK: That is really the net result of the use of that drug, no matter what other effects there may be; its continued use means the disintegration of the personality fo the person who uses it?

DR. MUNCH: Yes, that is true.

MR. MCCORMACK: Can you give us any idea as to the period of continued use that occurs bbefore this disintegration takes place?

DR. MUNCH: I can only speak from my knowledge of animals. In some animals we see the effect after about 3 months, while in others it requires more than a year, when they are given the same dose.

MR. MCCORMACK: Are there not some animlas on which it reacted, as I understand it, in a manner similar to its reaction on human bbeings? Is that right?

DR. MUNCH: Yes, sir.

MR. MCCORMACK: Have you experimented upon any animals whose reaction to this drug would be similar to that of human beings?

DR. MUNCH: The reason we use dogs is because the reaction fo the dogs to this drug closely resembles the reaction of human beings.

MR. MCCORMACK: And the continued use of it, aas you have observed the reaction on dogs, has results in the disintegration of personality?

DR. MUNCH: Yes, so far as I can tell, not being a dog psychologist, the effecgts will develop in from 3 months to a year.

MR. MCCORMACK: The recognition of the effects of the usse of this drug is not only of comparatively recent origin is it not?

DR. MUNCH: Yes, comparatively recent.

MR. MCCORMACK: I suppose one reason was that it was not used very much.

DR. MUNCH: Yes, that is right.

MR. MCCORMACK: I understand this drug came in from, or was originally grown in Mexico and Latin American countries.

DR. MUNCH: "Marihuana" is the name for Cannabis in the Mexican Pharmacopoiea. It was originally grown in Asia.

MR. MCCORMACK: That was way back in the oriental days. The word "assassin" is derived from an oriental word or name by which the drug was called; is that not true?

DR. MUNCH: Yes, sir.

MR. MCCORMACK: So it goes way back to those years when hashish was just a species of the same class which is identified by the English translation of an oriental word; that is, the word "assassin"; is that right?

DR. MUNCH: That is my understanding.

MR. MCCORMACK: Is there any knowledge or information as to the growth of the use of marihuana cigarettes, or any other form of the drug by hman being for drug purposes, in recent years?

DR. MUNCH: Mr. Young was formerly connected with the Bureau of Plant Industry fo the Untied States Department of Agriculture. He left the Bureau several years ago and started a plantation in the neighobrhood of Florence, S.C. for the growth of marihuana for medicinal purposes. It is my understanding that because of the lack of commercial demand he has disconttinued that project after two years. I am not certain but I think he stopped that in 1928 or 1929 because of the lack of demand.

If I may amplify that a little bit, let me say this: In 1932 and 1933 an ingredient survey was made, a study of the components of 122,000 prescriptions. It was found that cannabis was prescribed only four or five times per 10,000.

MR. MCCORMACK: Can you give us any information about the growth in recent years of the use of it as a drug in connection with the purposes that this bill was introduced to meet?

DR. MUNCH: You mean the illicit use rather than the medicinal use?


DR. MUNCH: The knowledge that I have in that connection is based on contacts with police officers as they collected material, even in Philadelphia. They tell me that until ten years ago they had no knowledge of it, but that now it is growing wild in a number of different places.

I was in Colorado about three years ago, gooingg there as a witness in a prosecution brought under the Colorado act in connection with the use of marihuana. The plice officers there told me its use developed there only within the last three or four years, starting about 1932 or 1933.

MR. MCCORMACK: Has there ben a rapid increase in the use of marihuana for illicit purposes - and I use the word illicit to describe the sitaution we have in mind?

DR. MUNCH: It is my understanding that there has been.

MR. MCCORMACK: There is no question about that, is there?

DR. MUNCH: No, sir, there is not.

MR. CULLEN: We thank you for the statemetn you have given to the committee. Who is your next witness, Mr. Hester?

MR. HESTER: I would like the committee now to hear Mr. Wollner, a consulting chemist in the office of the Secretary of the Trasury, who will speak on the chemical phase of this question.

MR. CULLEN: Will you give your full name and the position you occupy to the reporter?

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