Medicinal Milkshakes and the End of Marijuana Prohibition


SOAR Study Skills
In America, the fountain manager at one of the original Walgreen’s, Ivar “Pop” Coulson, took the traditional British milkshake (booze and all) and added ice cream. These babies took off like … ice cream mixed with booze

By Jack Rikess
Toke of the Town
Northern California Correspondent

I have a theory about beer: Consumption of it leads to pseudo-military behavior. Think about it – winos don’t march. Whiskey guys don’t march, either. Beer drinkers are into things that are sort of like marching – like football.
~ Frank Zappa
I drink your milkshake.
~ There Will Be Blood 
Beer goes where angels and politicians fear to tread.
~ Jack Rikess 
June 8, 2012
I love basketball and it is Finals time. It is down to few remaining games. The players are exhausted from a truncated season shortened because of contract negotiations that plagued the beginning of the season.  
(As a side note: Part of the arbitration dispute that almost sidelined the whole season, besides that the owners wanted the players to take a pay cut, was the issue of being drug tested for cannabis-during the off-season. The pro hoopsters won the right not to pee in a bottle for weed during their four months off.) 
For the past few months, Budweiser has been the major sponsor of the NBA Finals. That means I’ve been watching the same commercials over and over, sometimes the exact same message, 15 to 20 times a night. The repeated advertisement I hate the most is the stupid Budweiser commercial extolling the virtues of it being the end of Prohibition. An optimistic, bright-eyed kid beats the band running downs Main Street announcing Prohibition is over to a waiting, thirsty, hops-hoping nation of Americans! We’re back in business. Booze is King, again!

Edible Geography
Prohibition agents emptying barrels of liquor

If you didn’t know anything of U.S. history or Prohibition, from that Budweiser commercial, you’d think that Prohibition must have gone on forever; that America never wanted Prohibition and was waiting for the day it was rescinded. And that it looked like it a stupid idea to begin with and that most people were waiting for the rest of the country to figure that out.
Budweiser, in so many words, is saying Prohibition: Bad; access to beer and alcohol: Good.
This commercial is repeated Ad Nauseum during most referee breaks and critical time-outs, literally turning my stomach. It would be like going to a Dead show and having a commercial for “Retired Republicans Who Harpoon Baby Seals and The Women Who Love Them Incorporated” break out after “Ripple.” It’s not right. It shouldn’t be done. 
This whitewashing of America is so puke provoking, it takes away from the enjoyment of the game I’m watching and the joint I’m smoking. As a marijuana activist, this commercial is so far beyond hypocrisy: why don’t we just let the Texas School System rewrite all of our history and be done with it?
I get the sense that Budweiser is laughing at us potheads. 
My Gawd, for 13 long years, the length of Prohibition, America didn’t have alcohol. Boo-hoo. We’re 75 years into Cannabis Prohibition. Almost six times as long as alcohol was kept away from the poor, non-connected schlubs and schmucks who trusted that the government knew what they were doing by denying them the benefit of John Barleycorn in their lives. 

Edible Geography
A prescription form for Medical Alcohol from Prohibition

From what I read in history books those that wanted alcohol got it. To me it looks like the people who trusted that their government was telling the truth in the Thirties, that alcohol was bad, were saps. But I’m just going by a Budweiser commercial that depicts a hapless nation reawakening with the promise of alcohol and the all the joy that six horses can bring. 
Then I went to my favorite book of 2010, Last Call, the Rise and Fall of Prohibition, by Daniel Okrent. This fascinating and well-written book leaves no stone unturned, or still untapped, as he lifts the veil of hypocrisy, and the machinations at work, that anchored America for 13 supposedly dry years. I cannot recommend this book enough. As I’ve researched Prohibition, most books reference Mr. Okrent’s book as source material. Between his Last Call, the Internet, and the San Francisco Public Library (Park Branch), here’s what I’ve learned about Medicinal Alcohol.
As we all know, the three exemptions to Prohibition that allowed for alcohol to be consumed legally were: A) if it was religious or sacramental in nature, B) if you were country-folk and made hard cider that wasn’t for sale, C) if the alcohol was used solely for medicinal purposes.
A) In San Francisco, the Catholic Archdiocese vino consumption was so great that during Prohibition Beaulieu Vineyards introduced lines of sauternes, chablis, riesling, cabernet sauvignon, tokay, sherry, Angelica, burgundy, port, and muscatel. This was during Prohibition. I guess either sales were up or the lines for sin-telling grew as the church membership expanded with the need for wine.
B) Hardware stores of the time sold stills for home use and most farmers and small town people had a recipe for cider or a mash. The “jug” or “the bottle” hidden out of sight, except for emergencies or celebrations, was as common as Mom’s apple pie, Carter’s Little Liver Pills or Coca-Cola in the little houses that dotted the prairie.  
C) Medicinal Alcohol?  Why does that sound familiar?

Edible Geography
A federal agent closes a saloon during Prohibition

Unlike the first two exemptions to Prohibition, you could dispense medicinal alcohol. Fifteen thousand physicians put in for permits to sell booze before Prohibition was six months old. Patients were allowed a pint every 10 days.
I think that would equal about a quarter of an ounce comparably. Doctors could write up to hundred ‘scripts a month at $3-4 a pop ($40 at today’s rate) on government-issued forms, sending the patient to a drug store where the prescription was filled for roughly the same amount. Dentists and veterinarians also had the power of prescription pad.
Drugstores were one of the best ways to get booze. Druggists began adding whiskey to all their potions to cash in on the lucrative Medicinal Alcohol movement. Even easier for the smart druggist was to take what they had on hand like Old Grand-Dad whiskey and add to the label, “Unexcelled for Medicinal Purposes.” Legal. Done.
One of American most popular novels, The Great Gatsby, is the story of a dispensary owner who gets rich selling medicinal drugs while he parties like a Kardashian. “He owned some drugstores, a lot of drugstores,” Daisy Buchanan said. “He built them up himself.”
Medicinal alcohol is as much part of our mythology as are the hemp sails that brought our explorers to the New World. 
We just pretend like it never happened. 
Budweiser, along with other breweries, reached down deep in their oversized pockets at election time to defeat Medical Marijuana legislation. The rule of the street is that even if there was an attack from Mars, when mere mortals think business has stopped, the creative ones will find a way.

Edible Geography
Makeshift distilling equipment: The “illegal grow rooms” of Prohibition

During Prohibition, the Big Boys, like Anheuser/Busch and others, devised ways to keep the game moving for a hungry black market that’s never satiated. No matter the time period, the rules of the streets prevail. From the kid on the corner dealing dime bags to the Seagram’s empire the Number One Rule is keep the dollars flowing. 
Medicinal Alcohol doesn’t have the evolution of Medicinal Marijuana. It didn’t come out of the fight or struggle that Medicinal Marijuana did and still does. Medicinal Marijuana has its roots in the Gay Community. Marijuana showed scientific value to the lovers and caregivers that first treated boyfriends and friends with HIV, while the cocktails given in the beginning were harsh and impacting. It worked in assisting with the quality of life, relieving pain and suffering.
But for some reason we cannot get our politicians to believe that marijuana has scientific value.
California Attorney General Kamala Harris has questioned the validity of some of the Golden State’s many Medical Marijuana patients, but back in the Thirties, in order to get your M.A. card you had to be suffering from: anything from anxiety to the flu, anemia, high blood pressure, heart disease, typhoid, pneumonia, and tuberculosis, not to mention tremors, the shakes. Plus everyone knew for sleep or the aches and pains you get from making buggy whips, gramophones, and building bridges were relieved by “Grandpa’s medicine.”
And when that wasn’t available, you’d go see your doctor, no questions asked. If they weren’t sure of the name or the ailment, it might go down in the record books as “Le Grippe” or “Debility.” Physicians believed that alcohol stimulated digestion, conserved tissue, was helpful for the heart, and increased energy. And they wrote thousands of prescriptions to prove it.
A common adult dose was about a shot glass full every two or three hours. Child doses ranged from 1/2 to two teaspoons every three hours.

Edible Geography
Alcohol Prohibition didn’t just end; people had to fight to end it

Why did the movers and shakers behind the Prohibition legislation allow for the Medicinal Alcohol clause while just saying no to the rest of the booze? Probably because most of the people of that time had grown up with Mom dispensing homemade cures for soothing their toothaches and calming their coughs with shots of whiskey, brandy or rum.
See, even before the learned doctors knew, people for thousands of years had been caring for each other with recipes and medicines, handed down from generation to generation, that worked. They grew up with it. For many of us, that is one of the reasons marijuana doesn’t scare us. We’ve grown up with it and seen it work.
Besides for a doctor’s prescription for attaining booze, there was the home-care market for many over-the counter products like Pinkham’s Tonic and other still legal potions that contained alcohol or even opiates. These cheaper alternatives were still available for medicinal purposes to a tweaking public that relied on certain elixirs to keep their “normal” going. 
Another druggist who profited from Prohibition was a gentleman from Chicago’s South Side name Charles Walgreen. Mr. Walgreen started with some 20 tiny shops in the Windy City and in a short period was able to amass to more than 500 spanking new Walgreen’s throughout the U.S. This was during Prohibition, and his success was partly due to an English invention, the milkshake. 
The term “milkshake” was first mentioned in a British newspaper in the year 1885. The drink was described as a “sturdy, healthful eggnog type of drink, with eggs, whiskey, etc., served as a tonic as well as a treat.” The first exposure of that drink to England was in bars.

Edible Geography
Prohibition passed with the support of groups like the Women’s Christian Temperance Union

In America, the fountain manager at one of the original Walgreen’s, Ivar “Pop” Coulson, took the traditional drink (booze and all) and added ice cream. These babies took off  like… ice cream mixed with booze. The drugstore that advertised itself as “The Pharmacy America Trusts,” expanded to be in every state with a worldwide brand approaching billions. 
All thanks to the Medicinal Milkshake.
Would Coca-Cola be as popular as it is today if the original recipe didn’t contain cocaine? Would the milkshake have reached the popularity it has today if it didn’t have booze in it during the no-no time of alcohol? 
There is a huge difference, ethically, between the Medical Marijuana of today and what passed as Medicinal Alcohol in 1920. Because of the familiarity of spirits, homemade and store-bought, alcohol never had the fear factor that marijuana somehow carries.
Medicinal Marijuana came out of a medical need and fought every arrow that the Powers That Be tried shooting at MM’s progress. The Medical Marijuana trade I know of begs to be regulated and taxed. They want to be transparent with t
he idea of other successful Medical Marijuana businesses to follow.
This isn’t about what goes out the backdoor but being upfront and accountable.

Jazz FM
Prohiition ends, 1933

I know Medical Marijuana will be here soon on a large scale and is only being stalled or hijacked by politicians who are waiting for their big payday from Big Pharma or whomever. 

Medical Marijuana is inevitable. Science or no science, when the Old Folks’ Homes are full of my kind, the Baby Boomers, it isn’t the medicated booze they’ll be asking for. It will be a Kush or a nice Indica or some Milk of Magneto’s, the newest hybrid on the elderly titanium-hipster scene.
People want what they want. You can call it what you want. You can pretend that there’s no such thing as Medical Marijuana. You can call it a sham. You can say that there’s never been a precedent for a market like this. You can say that it doesn’t have any scientific value.
But then you’d be lying.
So grab some buds. You’ll be glad that you did. 
And hopefully like the commercial says, Prohibition will be over. 

Jack Rikess
Toke of the Town correspondent Jack Rikess blogs from the Haight in San Francisco

Jack Rikess, a former stand-up comic, writes a regular column most directly found at

Jack delivers real-time coverage following the cannabis community, focusing on politics and culture.

His beat includes San Francisco, the Bay Area and Mendocino-Humboldt counties.

He has been quoted by the national media and is known for his unique view with thoughtful, insightful perspective.