IN MY OPIONION: Like Dr. Shoop's snake oil, medical benefits of marijuana limited, legalizing it dangerous


I was born and raised in Racine, not far from a place known as Shoop Park. There was also a majestic old structure on the river called the Shoop Medical Building.  Dr. Shoop’s name was actually on a lot of things, and growing up I assumed he was a wealthy philanthropist from olden times. 

Only when I was older did I learn that the guy was actually a snake oil salesman — and one of the most successful ones in the country. These were the days of “patent medicines,” and Dr. Shoop sold stuff called  Restorative Nerve Tonic, Green Salve, Catarrh Cure, Worm Cure Syrup, Pain Panacea and Magic Ointment. He also offered a money back guarantee: “There are 39 chances out of 40 that I can cure you or your friend. I will pay all the cost if I don’t.”

His remedies were immensely successful in that era and Dr. Shoop made a fortune. 

When the 1906 Food and Drug Act made it illegal to manufacture and sell adulterated or fraudulently marketed drugs, Dr. Shoop apparently didn’t even try to justify his claims. He simply converted his equipment and made toiletries. The reality was his products weren’t cures for anything at all. They never had been. His fortune had been made off of people’s gullibility and misperceptions, and the available history does not record how many were actually injured by his conduct. 

The only medical benefits of marijuana that can be sourced are limited, and every one of these hypotheses is still under investigation. Unlike the world of social policy, the hard sciences — like medicine — are driven by proven research and medical consensus. The current medical research on marijuana focuses on a limited number of disorders: chemotherapy related nausea, HIV or cancer-related anorexia, multiple sclerosis-related spasticity and neuropathic or chronic pain. Opposing this, a wealth of other scientific research tells us that the effects of marijuana on the adolescent brain are devastating. 

With that in mind, consider what some of our elected officials in Madison are now saying:

“Most people view medical marijuana as an issue of providing comprehensive health care to those with serious illnesses,” State Senator Jennifer Shilling said. “Medical research, scientific studies, and personal experiences clearly support the use of medical marijuana. I think it’s time for Wisconsin to join the majority of states that have already legalized medical marijuana to help treat patients with unbearable and debilitating pain.”

Perhaps the majority of Americans want to smoke marijuana, but that kind of talk brings to mind a couple of things my mother used to say, like: “Just saying something’s so doesn’t make it so” and “If everyone else decided to jump off a cliff, would that make it a good idea for you?” 

The reality is that the science of marijuana is not well understood, and matters of public health and safety should not become leaps of faith. Legalizing marijuana is an unproven, bad and potentially dangerous idea. 

Back to Dr. Shoop. One of the snake-oil cures that was taken off the market was Dr. Shoop’s Corn Cure. The magic ingredient was 5% cannabis indca — marijuana in liquid form.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

The author is district attorney of Ozaukee County.


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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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