Cannabis Time Capsule 1929: Colorado makes selling and growing pot a felony

Categories: Marijuana

Editor's note: William Breathes is off today. In his absence, we bring you a classic installment of Colorado Cannabis Time Capsule that's even more intriguing than it was upon its original publication in 2012.

The Colorado legislature had passed laws making marijuana a misdemeanor in 1917, with fines up to $100 and a possible month in the pokey. But with what was seen as a growing menace on their hands, Colorado lawmakers again took up criminalizing marijuana possession in 1929 -- writing laws that would pretty much stick with the state to this day with a few minor alterations to penalties along the way.

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At the recommendation of a former state senator and U.S. Marshal Richard Callen, 1929's Senate Bill 409 made a second offense for selling and growing cannabis punishable by one to five years in the state pen. This story, from the March 27, 1929 Rocky Mountain News offered an update on the bill after its second reading.

For reasons unknown, the reporters didn't go to the bill's four sponsors for quotes, but instead turned to then-Denver city chaplain Val Higgens. Because clearly there wasn't anyone better to talk to about marijuana than a government-paid priest. Higgens presumed that because Colorado made the penalties tougher, the marijuana trade would just dry up.

"If a prison term faces growers and sellers of this narcotic weed, they are going to give up its use faster than heretofore," he said, no doubt with a smug chuckle at the end for using the word "heretofore". "It is a dangerous drug, especially since it becomes available to children and forms a habit so quickly." He finished by saying that smoking only a few joints would get someone hooked.

And if there was any doubt as to who the bill was really targeting, the Rocky spelled it out with a quote from Higgens. "Such legislation is necessary. The use of marijuana came into the state with the Mexicans migrating here for agricultural work," he said. "Its use is growing because of the increasing number of Mexicans and the ease with which most of them have been able to avoid penalties." The article then pointed out those seasonal migrant workers from Mexico had increased from 4,500 in 1928 to an expected 6,500 in 1929.

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The Colorado Legislature wasn't done with just cultivation and sales, though. Apparently things got a little heated when lawmakers discussed a related bill that would make public intoxication on drugs or drink illegal in unincorporated parts of the state. At one point, a Republican senator proposed an amendment that would prevent someone from being charged for the same offense twice. That didn't go over well with the Democrats.

"No objection from this bill should come from the Republican majority," said Senator Carl Burke, likely with a booming voice while wagging a finger at the opposite side of the room. "Heretofore the Republicans have drunk all the whisky and the Democrats have assumed all the responsibility. This bill would put responsibility on everybody. "

Both bills were eventually passed into law. Today, cultivation of under six plants is legal by state law, but growing between seven and thirty plants is still a felony, with up to six years in prison and a $500,000 fine. Personal sales are still illegal as well, with up to twelve years in prison and $500,000 fine.

More from our Colorado Cannabis Time Capsule archive: "Colorado Cannabis Time Capsule, 1937: 'School Children Buy Drug'" and "Colorado Cannabis Time Capsule, 1937: 'A growing social menace.'"

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RobertChase topcommenter

Cannabis Time Capsule 2013:  Colorado makes cannabis a Class 1 felony.

DonkeyHotay topcommenter

"I do not believe that there will be any fallout for medical cannabis" 

-- Robert Chase

"There has been no fallout from having passed Amendment 64" 
-- Robert Chase

RobertChase topcommenter

@Hot.Sauce P.S.  By all means, if you do not like my proposed step or have a different idea, please propose one (not a baby step) we should now (not in 2012) take.

RobertChase topcommenter

@Hot.Sauce I am in favor of taking the largest step possible -- since we cannot re-live 2012, and since almost everyone believes that cannabis is legal in Colorado, I say that the way forward is to demand an end to felonies.  In the course of doing so, the fact that there are felonies for cannabis will have to be established.  It is obviously more difficult than citing C.R.S. 18-18-406, because total journalistic incompetence and obsession with the getting and the spending in the regulated trade have resulted in the media repeating the falsehood that "Colorado legalized marijuana" (by way of introducing other false statements) ad nauseam.  This serves the Establishment's chief goal:  to lull the People into complacence while they put back in place every single brick in the wall of Prohibition they can, and even build it higher!

The idea that the commerce in cannabis is sufficient to legalize it may be true in the long term, but MPP's theory presupposes that people who use cannabis will eventually acquire the political gumption to stand up for their own rights, and to work together with each other to end Prohibition; so far, that has not happened much in Colorado.  The Electorate of Colorado enacted Article XVIII, Section 16 of the Constitution, and it implies that felony penalties for cannabis are contrary to its intent.  We can argue that, and point to the continued waste of felonizing people for cannabis, and I believe that if we were to organize more than a relative handful to protest the fact that cannabis remains felonious, we'd begin to get coverage.  Organize as much as SAFER did, and surely we could at least apply real pressure to the General Assembly.  I see a way forward; all we need are informed, committed people to demand change!

DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@RobertChase"and since almost everyone believes that cannabis is legal in Colorado"

Game over, political and PR capital squandered.

e.g. - the daft idiocy posted by that stoner imbecile BarbarianBob.

@RobertChase "...surely we could at least apply real pressure to the General Assembly."

You have no real political pressure to apply -- none whatsoever -- just your unbalanced imagination and delusions of grandeur.

@RobertChase "I see a way forward; all we need are informed, committed people to demand change!"

Oh, is that how it works? Who knew it could be so simple, just DEMAND CHANGE! and it will happen. 

As you already confessed, MOST -- if not nearly ALL -- people erroneously believe Colorado LEGALIZED marijuana -- so your supply of informed, committed people is kaput. You can't even get Lyin' Brian Vicente or Mendacious Mason Tvert to DEMAND and lobby for the repeal of ALL marijuana FELONIES ... because that was NEVER THEIR AGENDA. It was always about COMMERCIALIZATION, disguised as "legalization" for fools and tools like you.

Case Closed, Game Over, You got EXACTLY what you bargained and voted for via A64, nothing more, nothing less.

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