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History detective: Reefer madness – a never ending craze

by Carolyn Newman


WALSENBURG — History repeats itself, or so they say.

Do these 1926 newspaper phrases sound familiar?

“Large number of criminal cases traced to use of mariaguana (sic).”

“Drug is sold on streets of Walsenburg.”

“…men at one of the prominent colleges in the state secured some of the drug… became addicted to its use and soon began to prefer it to bootleg whisky…”

Although spelled differently 90 years ago, marijuana, known also then as Mexican hemp, appeared to be especially popular in southern Colorado. The drug was also called hashish, bhang, janja, charas, or churrus.

Laws were different then; anyone caught using or selling the drug could be prosecuted only if he grew it himself. A person could even open a shop and sell mariaguana openly if he didn’t grow it himself. There was no talk of taxes.

According to the Walsenburg Independent newspaper, mariaguana grown in the warm areas of the world, including southern United States, developed properties which induced marked derangement of the central nervous system.

Mariaguana’s medicinal properties were barely mentioned. Methods of use ranged from smoking, either alone or mixed with tobacco, as an intoxicating drink, or mixed with sugar to make an edible confection.

Commonly in Walsenburg, mariaguana was smoked by city vagrants and local young men gathered in the lower part of town. One local boxer admitted he robbed the Colorado and Southern railway depot while under the influence.

Information is from the Nov. 23, 1926, The Walsenburg Independent. The History Detective is a service of the Huerfano County Historical Society.


Bertha Trujillo

  Bertha Trujillo, 97, from Gardner, Colo., entered her eternal home on Feb. 12, 2024. She was born in Gardner, Colo., on Sept. 30, 1926,

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