A letter from 1803 reveals that early 19th century British Romantic poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge — known not only for his writing talent (“Rime of the Ancient Mariner”; “Kubla Khan”) but also for his opium appetite — was aware of the medical properties of cannabis, and that it would be useful in treating his friend’s intestinal ailments.
Coleridge wrote the letter to his landscape painter friend Samuel Purkis of Brentford, Middlesex, to ask about acquiring some bhang (a hashish preparation) for his friend Tom Wedgwood, according to the Australian maritime history website Merchant Networks
He requested that Purkis ask the eminent Sir Joseph Banks — whom Coleridge had heard was in possession of some — for some bhang. Banks advised the government of Great Britain on what best to do to expand British-controlled supplies of hemp.
Coleridge wanted the bhang to treat the intestinal malady of his friend Tom Wedgwood, son of the famous potter Josiah Wedgwood; Sir Joseph Banks knew Josiah. As Banks probably knew, Tom’s health collapsed when he was about 21 — not coincidentally, when he was experimenting with silver nitrates and photography (the younger Wedgwood is credited with being the Father of Photography).