Marihuana - William Irish (1941)

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Images retrieved from: on October 26th, 2014. on October 26th, 2014.

Marihuana is a 1941 novella by Cornell Woolrich, published under the pen-name William Irish. The story is about a man who goes on a murder spree after being exposed to marijuana for the first time.

Woolrich's depiction of marijuana is in keeping with popular views of the time which saw the drug as causing "insanity, criminality, and death."[1] Inhaling marijuana smoke initially makes King lethargic and he loses all sense of time—something that continues throughout the story as he thinks several days have gone by despite it being the same night; his murder of Eleanor is prompted by his insistence that a half hour has passed since she ordered room service, when in fact it was only five minutes. King and his friends also experience munchies which causes Bill to raid the ranch's kitchen for food; King later notes that "the hempseeds create a false, insatiable appetite." King's lethargy soon turns to hallucinations and paranoia, which causes him to embark upon his murder spree.

Though King and his friends are all middle class, they travel to Hell's Kitchen, an area that had been a center for bootleggers during Prohibition. The "ranch" operates similarly to a speakeasy—the proprietor bribes local police officers, visitors leave their cars several blocks away so as not to draw attention to the ranch, and a bouncer guards the door, inspecting each person through a peephole before letting them enter. Peculiarly, Woolrich has the ranch operate as a buffet, with each visitor paying a cover charge in exchange for an unlimited amount of marijuana.

The term "ranch" is Woolrich's own invention, derived from the slang term for marijuana, "grass." Characters also refer to it as "reefer," though they always describe the joints as cigarettes.
Text retrieved from on March 5th, 2011.