Cannabis, The Cold War, and Chemical Warfare

If you’re reading this blog, you probably know that some strains of cannabis have energizing properties while others have sedative properties. Back in the late 1940s, the U.S. Military was particularly interested in cannabis strains that produced the famous  “couch lock” effect; in other words, cannabis strains that would tranquilize people. The idea was to develop a non-lethal but potent chemical that could be sprayed from airplanes to incapacitate enemy lines. After both the confusion and enemy soldiers settled down, the U.S. Military would move in and basically round them up, capturing large numbers of our enemies without ever firing a shot. We first reported on this in our recent blog post, 18 Fun Facts About Cannabis. In that post, the 11th fun fact read, “In 1949, the U.S. Military created a synthetic version of cannabis called “Dimethylheptylpyran.” Just 1 mg can have effects lasting 3 days.” That intrigued us, and we thought our readers might like to learn more, hence this post.

So, exactly what is dimethylheptylpyran?

Dimethylheptylpyran, also known at DMHP, is high potency synthetic cannabis. According to Wikipedia, DMHP is a pale yellow, viscous oil very similar in structure to THC. DMHP produces a stronger sedative effect and weaker psychological effect than THC, and its effects incapacitate most people for up to three days. Sounds like a perfect non-lethal chemical weapon, right?

Why was dimethylheptylpyran never used in combat?

The idea was great, but alas, like so many things, the reality didn’t live up to expectations. DMHP had such strong sedative properties, the chemical caused blood pressure to drop to concerningly low levels, often leading to muscle weakness, fainting and impaired heart functioning. In addition, other chemicals proved to be more effective, and ultimately continued cannabinoid research funding was not approved.

Dimethylheptylpyran is now just another interesting footnote in U.S. Military history.

Now we know, and you do, too!


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