Bulk Cannabis Containers/ HOME BREW MEDICINES

Chapter 5 - (2nd Edition)
Bulk & Home Brew Cannabis

Chapter 5

1905 Ad for large botanical tin's sold by Parke Davis
[Oil Paint & Drug Reporter Magazine July 10, 1905]

Bulk Prices
Bulk Prices
Hemp Cards
Hemp Cards
Bulk Cannabis
Bulk Cannabis
Cannabis Tins
Tin Container
Tin Container
S.B. Penick
Compton's 1935
Compton's 1935

2nd Edition Stuff
Home Brew Box
Bulk Labels


Technically speaking the term BULK means, "A Large Quantity of".   Thus implying that the term Bulk Cannabis, was merely another way of saying; The buying and selling of large quantities of Medical Cannabis.   And while true, as many antique collectors have come to know, BULK Cannabis had many meanings.

More correctly, the term BULK CANNABIS, was used by pre-1937 botanical houses for any of the following forms of Cannabis:
  • BULK CANNABIS - Simply meaning the dried Flowering tops the Hemp Plant or any of the other below meanings.
  • SOLID CANNABIS: Or the Dried and tightly pressed flowered tops of the Hemp Plant.
  • GRANULATED CANNABIS: This is a bit embarrassing, but the author doesn't exactly know what "Granulated Cannabis" is.   It was however constantly being referred to in old pharmaceutical and botanical catalogs. One assumes that it's a cross between Solid and powered Cannabis.
  • POWDER CANNABIS: Solid Cannabis after it has been milled into a fine powder.
  • RAW CANNABIS: This term is used, but could mean just about anything. No references will be made to it in this book.
Four major events or milestones (all within the 20th Century) have come to shape the prices paid for Medical Cannabis by medical patients today.   In addition, these same milestones have also come to have the same effect on the prices paid for Cannabis antiques today.

The Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906: -- Originally, this was thought of as solely a truth in labeling law.   It simply required the pharmaceutical manufacturers to note that Cannabis (along with other substances) was being used as an ingredient and to what percentage. However, with modifications, at a later time the act would be used by the narcotics police as a means to tax, limit and then outlaw the importation of Medical Cannabis into the U.S.   This was quite clear already in 1914 when a DEA [then known as the Bureau of Chemistry] conducted an investigation along the US Mexican border [1] finding that many wholesalers and botanical importers were, NOT Paying their taxes on imported Cannabis.   It recommended legal action.   Simply put, the Act put a crimp on Medical Cannabis imports.

World War I: - For whatever reason, during this time, Americans were not able to, or not allowed to, obtain Cannabis Indica from then British controlled India.   All my research into this subject seems to show that this action was instigated by the British government, with NO American involvement.   I am not sure as to why this action was instigated.   However, what is important is that the pharmaceutical companies, now no longer able to import it, started massive research into locally grown Cannabis: What was than termed, "Cannabis Americana."

These pharmaceutical companies, lead by Parke-Davis and Eli Lilly, with the help of American Farmers, were able to established that locally grown Cannabis, although about 20% weaker than Imported Indian Cannabis, was JUST AS GOOD.

The Great Depression: - As can be seen from the price charts [see pictures] the price for one pound of Cannabis dropped from an all time high [no pun intended] of $10 dollars in the go-go 1920's, to $2.oo, a price not seen since before the Great War.   One cannot under stress the affects of that trouble times.

The Passage of the (1937) Anti-Medical Marihuana Laws: - I'm not sure what effect it had on the use of Medical Marihuana by patients, but the laws sure had one hell of an upward affect on the price, not just of actual Cannabis but on antiques as well.   Maybe some words of wisdom are in order: A few years before the passage of the anti-Medical Marihuana laws, an ardent anti-narcotics crusader, by the name of Earle Rowell, wrote about a conversation he had had with a drug dealer.   The conversation went as follows:
DRUG DEALER: I tell you, Marihuana is the coming thing.
ROWELL: But, I protested in surprise, "marihuana is not a habit-forming drug like morphine or heroin; and, besides, it's too cheap to bother with."
DRUG DEALER: He laughed. "You don't understand. Laws are being passed now by various states against it, and soon Uncle Sam will [also] put his ban on it.   The price will then go up, and that will make it profitable for us to handle." [2]
And while many of us may not like Drug Dealers, technically he seemed to be 100% correct.   Today the price of a pound of Medical Marihuana [High Quality] sells for over $4,000.

TRIVIA QUESTION:     Ever wonder what a pound of Cannabis would cost today, if it were legal.   The answer is between $35 (poor quality stuff) to $100 for a good pound of Medical Marihuana.

The way I figured it out is as follows: I looked up a series of medical bulk herbs sold openly in 1931.   Herbs such as Parsley, Passion flowers (no I don't know what that is), Peppermint, Rhubarb (no joke, rhubarb), Cascara Saqrada, etc.   Next, I looked up the same herbs and noted what they were selling for then and now.   [Note roots were compared with roots, leaves with leaves etc.]

Next, doing a little math, [dividing the present day price, by the 1931 price], I came up with a cost increase rate of between 18(X) [low end] all the way up to 50(X) at the top end.   As one pound of Cannabis was selling [wholesale price] for $2, I figure that using the worst case scenario the present day price would [at most] be $100, but it could be much less.  

5.2.1 - PRE-1937 PRICING: [SEE MORE]
The following Price Data was taken from the Druggist Circular Magazine [Red Book, Bi-yearly Price Guide].   Note that to the uninitiated, the prices seem to have no rhyme or reason. However, if one notices the dates and those of the great milestones (such as the great depression etc.), soon a sense of order comes into being.

Note that Cannabis was still offered for sale after 1937.   Officially, it would not be totally outlawed until 1972.

The following tables [Tincture & Fluid Extract] are included for price comparison.   Note that it doesn't require one Lb. of medical Cannabis to manufacture a pint of Cannabis tincture (which is about 80% alcohol), and certainly not a pint of fluid extract (which also includes water).   However, it did require a bit of manufacturing; which implies labor costs, lab., equipment etc.   These differences really show up during the depression during which the price of ALL herbs dropped sharply.

Other tables exist for Granulated as well as Powder Cannabis, however, they seem to have been sold by the oz. (even at the wholesale level), which implies that these products were meant for the retail trade.


Pricing data, after the passage of the anti-Medical Cannabis laws is a little hard to obtain. As one trade magazine reported:
OIL PAINT & DRUG REPORTER --- Sep. 20, 1937 - pp 52.
Herbs and Leaves
Cannabis. ------ Prices have withdrawn as the article is no longer to be sold on the open market under conditions free from those prevailing on all articles coming within the narcotic control laws of the nation and its states.
The author had to read that article three or more times until it made sense.   Simply put, that trade magazine stopped listing the price of Cannabis after the law took effect. [SEE MORE]

According to the Drug Enforcement Agency [DEA], by implications, Medical Cannabis comes to us today, either from dirty Mexicans (who are controlled by big time Medical Marihuana drug lords in Mexico), and a few small time Mom and Pop, operations run by Americans of the lower classes.

[Examples Medical Marihuana Growth]

Whether this is true or not is irrelevant, before 1937 things were much, much different.   Medical Cannabis was simply seen as a by-product of Industrial Hemp.   And as can be seen by the below post-cards, it was being grown just about everywhere for its pulp and fiber.


And as can be seen from the following Playing/Trade Cards, Hemp was also held in high esteem [no pun intended] by society in general.


Before 1937, not only was Medical Cannabis [Industrial Hemp] legal, it was being grown just about everywhere.   Below is a page from the 1935 Compton's Encyclopedia.

[Compton's Encyclopedia 1935]

To Place emphasis on this point, below is a list [only a partial list] of Hemp Patents:[5]

Year         Patent #      ID
  • 1837             178     Hemp cutting cradle
  • 1837             234     Hemp and flax breaking and dressing machine
  • 1837             235     Hemp and flax breaking and dressing
  • 1837             261     Hemp etc., hackling machine


  • 5.5 - BULK CANNABIS:

    In general bulk Cannabis containers can be subdivided into two categories; large tins (meant for industrial users) and the smaller paper bag and carton packages.   The term "Bulk Container" may at times be misleading, as some of them (notably the smaller paper bagged packages) were actually meant for retail sale and the home brew medicine market.

    In a way, from a historical/medical viewpoint, bulk Cannabis emphasizes all that was right as well as wrong with botanical medicines.   From the first there were questions as to exactly which parts of the hemp plant contained active medical properties.   Was it just the flower tops? What about the leaves, and if so, which leaves? What about the rest of the plant? [7]

    The situation was made even worse by the fact that even botanists disagreed among themselves as to exactly how many different species of the hemp plant existed.   Was Cannabis Indica the same as Cannabis Americana?   The answer is still being debated to this very day.   Even well into the 20th century, when it was generally agreed to define Cannabis as only being the flowering tops of the female plant (taken just before pollination), it was still possible to find twigs and stems (and who knows what) as part of a bulk container mix.

    5.6 - LARGE TIN CONTAINERS:[See Pictures]:

    With regards to bulk Cannabis containers, the problem facing all antique collectors today is the fact that bulk containers (Cannabis or otherwise) were just that, bulk containers, meant primarily by wholesalers and manufacturers.   As such, convenience and cheapness were the two over-riding factors, not beauty and durability.   In fact, some shipments were made in the most ugly unmarked burlap sacks ever made.

    However, bulk tins were different---although still meant for the wholesale trade, they were shipped mostly to small mom & pop manufacturing druggists who in turn would either restock and sell the item by the oz., or use it for their own locally made medicines which was quite a common practice before 1937.

    Because Cannabis loses it potency when exposed to air or sunlight, large airtight tin containers quickly became a favorite of the major pharmaceutical houses for shipping and storing raw Cannabis.

    Some pharmaceutical houses like Parke Davis & Co., had their own farms for growing botanical products, and so were able to sell not only Cannabis medicines but the raw flowering tops of the hemp plant as well.   Other (import/export) houses, such as S.B. Penick & Co., of Weehawken New Jersey, not only imported large amounts of Cannabis Indica but also acted as the middleman for many local farmers who grew Cannabis Americana.

    From all the evidence, these wholesale houses did a brisk business. As an example: Just one pharmaceutical house, Eli Lilly & Co., despite having its own botanical farm (a part of which was devoted to growing Cannabis), still found it necessary to purchase more of it from outside sources.   In between 1904 and 1916 Eli Lilly & Co. repeatedly bought tons of raw cannabis flower tops from the following:[4]
    • Parke Davis Co.
    • S. H. Hanna Co.
    • R.W. Andrus Co.
    • P. E. Anderson & Co.
    • J. L. Hopkins & Co.
    • Pearl Day Co.
    • Aug. & Geo. Fischer
    • R. J Filliers Son Co.
    • Peek & Velsor
    • Stanley Jordass Co.
    • R. H. True
    • Thos. B. Young
    • McKesson Robbins
    • Chas L. Huisking
    • Murray Nickle Mfg.
    • and others.

    5.6.1 - FRAUD WATCH:

    While it's hard to reproduce the effects of faded, flecking and chipped paint on (what by now is) a rusty tin can.   Because of the generic/prefabricated nature of these industrial containers, the contents of which were only distinguishable by a stamped label, a fraud watch is in order.

    In the case of the two Parke-Davis containers (above) note that only identifier of what kind of botanical product is inside the tin lays in the printed red label (added only after the package was packed), a stamped label that is all too easy to reproduce or repaint over.

    5.6.2 - PRICES - Large Container Tins:
    Not to be confused with those teeny-weenie little pillboxes, or Prince Albert tobacco tins that can be found in almost any antiques store.   These large (two to five gallon range) containers were meant for large industrial consignments.   Unfortunately because they were meant only for shipment to manufacturers or large drug stores, there aren't that many of them still around and so prices are somewhat hard to establish.

    General retail prices for large medical tins even if they did not contain cannabis, vary greatly depending upon condition, $35 at the low end (in poor condition) to $140 at the high end (in excellent condition).   However, if the tin once held Cannabis, then the prices go though the roof (add between $100 to $200 more).

    But -- let the buyer beware.   While it is hard to reproduce the effects of faded, flecking, and chipped paint on (what by now is) a rusty tin can.   Because of the generic nature of botanical container tins, in most cases the only thing that distinguishes their contents is a stamped label that is all too easy to reproduce.   Again, know your seller.


    INDIAN CANNABIS JAR - 2" x 1 " Cannabis Indica US Jar in fair to good condition.   The jar appears not to have had a lid, but sealed with wax, paper and a string. The original string remains.   Cannabis sativa var indica, Foreign Indian Hemp, Gunjah, Hashish, Bhang.   Exhilarant, antispasmodic and powerful narcotic. --- There is no manufacturer listed on the label.

    Other good examples of small packages can be found in the section on Home Brew Medicines, which ranged from small [1 oz] paper bags, to small soap size boxes of bulk Cannabis.

    TRIVIA QUESTION: How many manufacturers of pre-1940 medical Cannabis medical medicines were there?
    ANSWER: Probably somewhere between two hundred and three hundred thousand.

    To many first time antique collectors, the very concept behind home brew medicines, (the art of making batches of ones own medicines at home), must seem a little odd at best.   And given today's standards for drug purity and exact dosages, not without good reason.   The practice (at least in this authors opinion) must have been a haphazard one at best.

    Yet at one time, home brewed medicines were very common.   In fact, from an ideological viewpoint, they were part of the Jeffersonian ideals. Perhaps the following quote best describes this viewpoint:
    "It bestowed upon everyone the alleged ability to heal themselves apart from the pretensions of the allopathic physician.   Such a therapeutic system resonated with a Jacksonian democracy attempting to divest itself of what it viewed as elitist European notions that skill and knowledge are reserved only for those of rank and privilege." ---"John Uri Lloyd" by Michael Flannery - pp30
    And in addition, one should note that in an age when 'Quack' medicines were all too prevalent, the idea of making one's own medicines (from a quality standpoint) actually made some sense.

    Of course others made home brewed medicines because their geographic isolation limited their access to standard medicines.   And yet others did so out of financial necessity either they were cheapskates, or they simply couldn't afford the more expensive store-bought ones.

        Given modern chemistry and pharmaceutical standards, we tend to forget that a large percentage of all drugs on the market today are, still, nothing more than plant extracts or synthetics made to copy their actions.   [Example: Although thought of as a manmade* substance, aspirin is really nothing more than a synthetic compound originally isolated from the bark of a tree.]   And, as one travels backwards in time, botanical drugs take on a greater and greater importance.   Even at the turn of the 20th Century, as many as 90% of all oral medicines were botanical in nature.

    *My apologies for the term man-made, no one would understand the term people-made.

    Needless to say, this market did not go unnoticed by the numerous botanical medical/spice wholesalers and importers of their day who were quick to capitalize on what they saw as an ever-growing market.   By the 1880's, they even began to sell specialized botanical packages, which were specifically marketed with the home brew market in mind.   Unlike the tin containers (meant only for large industrial shipments), these smaller paper bagged or cartons packages (sold through retail establishments) in many cases only held two or four ounces of bulk Cannabis (or other botanicals).

    While I personally have not been able to locate any accompanying formulae or instruction booklets, (in all likelihood they do exist), in any case they would not have been needed.   After all, this was a time when most major pharmaceutical houses (with the exception of patent medicine) manufacturers were making standard generic products to which everyone knew the ingredients.   All one need do was obtain the raw materials, a coffee maker, and then simply boil or brew and mix your own.

    Among some of the wholesalers (manufacturers) that sold bulk herbal medicines [3] are:
    • S.W. Gould & Bros., Malden, Mass.
    • Botanic Garden
    • Huber & Co.
    • Fuller-Morrission co., Chicago Ill.
    • Huber & Fuhrman Drug Mills.
    • Murray & Nickell, Chicago Ill. (sold Cannabis)
    • Allaire Woodward & Co., Peoria, Ill.
    • Parke Davis & Co., Detroit, Mich. (sold Cannabis)
    • S.B. Penick & Co. - Crude Drugs, NY (sold Cannabis)

    About the pictures:-- I plead poverty
    I know, I know, these pictures are NOT of Medical Cannabis products.   The author, has tried and tried to obtain legal permission to use pictures of actual Cannabis Home-Brew products, but was unable to do so.   Please just use your imagination for now. [6]

    No, these home brew Herb Container DID NOT contain Cannabis.   And note that the museum only paid $5 for each of them, as opposed to between $100 and $1,000 that collectors are willing to pay for them (empty or not) if they had.   However, the packages are identical to those that did contain Cannabis and it is simple to use one's imagination to visualize how a Cannabis label would have looked like.

    The museum does have actual pictures of Cannabis products, BUT has not been able to obtain permission for their public display.   If you wish to privately see them, feel free to contact the museum.

    In addition, the term bulk Cannabis, was also used when reference was being made to sales of small [1 oz] packages of Cannabis.   The following is a good example:

        While not wishing to speak ill of those in the back-to-nature movement, it must be emphasized that some of these home brewed medicines can be quite dangerous and possibly even life threatening.   Please, unless you have an advanced college degree in chemistry/botany, do not attempt to make your own in today's world.   It may endanger your life, and it's probably cheaper to just go to your local drug store anyway.  

    5.7.1 - PRICES -- Home Brew Medicines:
    Warning - If ever the term "beware of fraud" ever applied, this is the place.   Paper/cardboard material was used for the same reasons that it's used in today's supermarkets; it was cheap and readily available.   And just like in today's world, most paper bags ended up in the trash soon after use.   Logic and reason dictate that few, if any, are still in existence.

    Cardboard boxes on the other hand had better luck and many have survived.   However I myself was surprised to see what a little battery acid could do to the (aging) appearance of freshly printed paper/cardboard.

    With prices for such Cannabis containers being well over $100 and even as much as $1,000 (normally such containers go for between $5 and $12 each), I would not be surprised if one started to print ones own.   Again know your seller and don't be afraid to ask where she got it in the first place.

    [1]- 1914 - Report of investigation in the State of Texas, particularly along the Mexican border, of the traffic in, and consumption of the drug generally known as "Indian hemp," or cannabis indica : known in Mexico and states bordering on the Rio Grande River as "Marihuana, " sometimes also referred to as "Rosa Maria, " or "Juanita." Author: Smith, R. Publication: Washington : Dept. of Agriculture, Bureau of Chemistry, - Year: 1917 - Description: 86 leaves ; 28 cm. [Note the museum has a copy]
    [2]- "On the Trail of Marihuana -The weed of Madness" by Earle Albert and Robert Rowell 1939 - Also another pamphlet. Marihuana--The Weed of Madness, The Killer Drug 1938 by Earle Albert Rowell
    [3]- While in all probability all botanical suppliers sold bulk Cannabis, unless stated it can only be assumed that they did. The reader is invited to make additions to the list.
    [4]- List obtained from old (hand written) records, spelling/transcription errors possible.
    [5]- One can obtain [FREE] copies of these patents, by going to www.USPO.gov
    [6]- The museum does have actual pictures, but again, we can't legally put them up on the web. However, we can send them out to anyone who e-mail in asking for them.
    [7]- See Appendix C - Historical U.S. Pharmacopoeia.


    Due to space / download time considerations, only selected materials are displayed.   If you would like to obtain more information, feel free to contact the museum.   All our material is available (at cost) on CD-Rom format.  

    Herbie the Leaf