Leadville in the 1880s was a tough town populated by mining tycoons, the poor miners that made those tycoons rich and the businesses that supported the industry. Okay, there were also a bunch of bunch of thieves, cheats, hookers, gamblers, drunks, visiting opera singers and (apparently) drug addicts around, too.
Our story this week finds us at the intersection of two such groups almost 126 years ago to the day, with a pharmacy at the center of the action.
Taylor's Drug Store was located in the Vendome Hotel Building -- now known as the Tabor Grand. At the time, the town was booming and owner George Taylor was seeing all types in his store. Apparently, a reporter caught up with him one morning when he was on a tear about them.
"You talk about cranks," Taylor told teh reporter, who added that "the druggist has not only his full share but a great deal more in the way of idiots who bother him."
Taylor went on about Leadvillans (Leadvillites?) demanding drugs without a doctor's prescription and wanting Taylor to assess their conditions himself and simply sell them what they needed. He also bemoaned the people who came in and puledl the "dog act" just to "try all sorts of medications on themselves."
All of these are common problems today in Colorado. Visit a Walgreens on Colfax to see for yourself.
In the midst of his screed, however, the pharmacist inadvertently touched on what would become a staple of "farm"-acies around Colorado well over a century later: pot candy.
"The narcotic fiend, who approaches you in a confidential manner and wants you to get Indian Hemp [marijuana] confections...regardless of the fact that such things don't exist," he said. "He has read about them somewhere and imagines that such things are made.
"I suppose," Taylor continued, no doubt guffawing at his own sense of humor in an old-timey fashion, "that some idiot will come here and ask for morphine lemon drops or arsenic chewing gum."
While the morphine lemon drops haven't surfaced, we all know "Indian hemp" candies aren't just a figment of someone's imagination anymore. They're a million-dollar industry. (The jury is still out on arsenic chewing gum. It sounds like something the CIA would have messed around with by now).
Taylor could have gotten into this field himself if he'd been quicker on the draw. There weren't any laws restricting the use of cannabis at that time in Colorado and pharmacists often put together their own tonics in-house. Taylor certainly did, as this glass bottle from his shop would indicate:
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
For more Colorado cannabis history, check out our Cannabis Time Capsule archive.