Tracing Colorado's Demonization Of Marijuana

November 6 2005, 9:22 AM

The Rocky Mountain News has a fascinating article today on Colorado's first marijuana case.

In 1937, a man named Samuel Caldwell was the first person to be charged with a marijuana crime when he was busted after selling two joints to Moses Baca. He was arrested on the date that the Marijuana Stamp Act became effective. In a dizzying swirl of law enforcement, Caldwell and Baca were busted on a Wednesday night, indicted on Thursday (they pleaded guilty) and sentenced on Friday. "I consider marijuana the worst of all narcotics, far worse than the use of morphine or cocaine," thundered Symes from the bench. "Under its influence, men become beasts, just as was the case with Moses Baca . . . "Marijuana destroys life itself. I have no sympathy with those who sell this weed. I will impose the heaviest penalties. The government is going to enforce this new law to the letter." Then Symes backed up his tough talk by sentencing Caldwell to four years' hard labor at Kansas' mighty Leavenwo

Baca, the purchaser, got 18 months. Both men served every day of their sentences. Caldwell died a year after his release. The article also discusses the racism and hyperbole behind the demonization of marijuana.

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