Colorado Cannabis Time Capsule, 1937: "School Children Buy Drug"
In doing research for our feature on the history of cannabis in Colorado, we came across some amazing old news stories from local papers about marijuana arrests and more. We'll share the most memorable of them in our quasi-regular feature, Colorado Cannabis Time Capsule.
Today's item, from August 9, 1937: "Marijuana American Hashish; School Children Buy Drug."
Last week we wrote about a salacious August 8, 1937 Rocky Mountain News expose featuring two reporters slinking out into the late night on Larimer Street to score some "hay." But the day after that article appeared, the Rocky published one of the better pieces we found -- one that offered an interesting look the cannabis culture of the 1930s. The writers looked at cannabis from a wide angle, talking about who used it, what it does and what penalties were like. But while it's a more balanced look at things, it is, of course, sprinkled with a heavy dose of racism and fear, as the scary headline indicates.
"Beet workers, returning from the fields, bring sacks filled to the brim with marijuana," the article states. Police Judge Ellet Shepherd -- who proudly brags about sentencing "scores of addicts and peddlers to jail" -- tells the Rocky that the workers do it to help augment their "scanty income." Yes, even back then, we knew we were paying these workers a below-livable wage and then criminalizing them when they tried to make a little side scratch.
Which they apparently could, because Colorado was considered a paradise for marijuana growers compared to other states. The story chalks this up to the almost mythic-sounding claim that the minerals in the soil here offer the perfect mix to grow the most high-grade cannabis known to man. Colorado ganja was so good that it easily fetched a higher price than Nebraska and Iowa weed on the black market in Chicago. (Boom! You can have your damn corn!)
In a surprising moment of honesty and clarity, there is brief mention of marijuana being used medically along with other drugs to treat "nervous headaches" -- though the reference includes the caveat that doctors use it sparingly and little had been done to study the plant up to that time.
And then it's right back to good old blatant racism, with comments about marijuana being a common drug around the world -- especially in the "Orient," where the article claims people are "particularly addicted" to its use. The writer quotes a current (at the time) manual of pharmacology that goes so far as to say Asians show marked intoxication compared to other people and the high is often accompanied by "some irritability, dozing" and "hallucination of double personality."
A cigar tin full could run as high as $5 in 1937.
Another report cited says that nearly every smoker becomes an imbecile at some time. This wasn't meant as an insult, but as a serious health warning. "Imbecile" was an actual medical term used for people with moderate to severe mental retardation and an IQ no greater than fifty. Police also said that smoking marijuana and drinking booze caused people to run amok and commit senseless acts of violence.
Page down for the rest of this week's Colorado Cannabis Time Capsule.