Nothing says bourgeois bohemian like the Club des Hashishins. The group of 19th century Parisian intellectuals, philosophers, and writers held a salon during which they got high together and discussed ideas.
Though the club lasted only from 1845-1849, it had a great impact on French culture and cannabis culture going forward. It began with Jacques-Joseph Moreau, who was one of the first physicians to seriously study drugs. He called hashish a kind of “intellectual intoxication” and, with the help of philosopher Théophile Gautier, created the club to “experiment” with hash.
Other club members included Charles Baudelaire, Eugène Delacroix, Victor Hugo, Alexandre Dumas, and Honoré de Balzac. The group met each month for a “seance” at the Hotel Pimodan on L’Isle Saint-Louis on the Seine River.
In an 1846 article published in the Revue des Deux Mondes, Gautier described his first visit with the club:
“One December evening, obeying a mysterious summons, drafted in enigmatic terms understood by affiliates but unintelligible for others, I arrived in a distant quarter, a sort of oasis of solitude in the middle of Paris that the river, surrounding it with its two arms, seems to defend against the encroachments of civilization. It was in an old house on the island of Saint-Louis, the Hotel Pimodan, built by Lauzun, that the bizarre club of which I was a member recently held its monthly sittings where I was to attend for the first time.”
During the club seances, members wore traditional Arab clothing, drank strong coffee laced with hash, and ate cannabis edibles. The hashish coffee concoction also included cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, pistachio, sugar, orange juice, butter and cantharides.
While most of the club members would get high and write about their experiences being “stoned,” others like Balzac would stay sober, most of the time. In 1845, he gave in, and when he did, told his fellow club members that he heard heavenly voices and saw visions of Godly paintings. Baudelaire was also reserved in his approach to weed. He later said he preferred alcohol instead: “Wine makes men happy and sociable; hashish isolates them. Wine exalts the will; hashish annihilates it.”
Restrictive cannabis laws in France eventually made the club untenable. By the time the group broke up, however, Dr. Moreau had published a major work on cannabis. His 439-page book De Hachish et de l’Alienation Mentale – Études Psychologiques (Hashish and Mental Illness – Psychological Studies). Moreover, the legacy of the club lives on, one of the first examples of diverse cannabis culture deviating from the lazy stoner.