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 October 12, 1937: "Arrest of Four Aliens Reveals Denver Marijuana Sales Ring."
Over the last few weeks in Colorado Cannabis Time Capsule, we've seen how newspapers of the past loved to latch onto the scary stories and sensationalize about helpless children finding their way to cannabis, plus evil, brown-skinned people selling the demon plant and getting everyone hooked (gasp!).
But in this 1937 Denver Post story, the menace that is marijuana has reached into the schools -- oh no!.The reporter puts it a little bit more sinisterly: He writes that four Hispanic dealers were "making addicts of young boys and girls" around Denver.
But what's really a gem in this one is the Reefer Madness-quality description of the nighttime raid. On Friday, October 8, 1937 four Denver detectives busted into the small one-story house at 3957 Jason Street where they found 33-year-old Juan Moya, who had just smoked some marijuana. According to Denver Detective Sam Finne, Moya "was a madman. When he saw us he flew into a maniacal rage."
Moya was so high on this loco weed that -- despite being described as a small man -- he fought all four police for about ten minutes inside the house with "almost superhuman" strength. Somehow in the middle of the struggle, the cops say Moya was able to eat a "half-can" of marijuana that the police were trying to get as evidence. (The story later says Moya got so sick that they thought he was going to die, and the cops had to call in a doctor to the station to attend to him overnight).
No matter what spin the cops and reporter put on the whole thing, I can't help but laugh at the whole scenario, since it reads like a slapstick comedy. We all know pot doesn't give you Incredible Hulk strength or anything like that. But I can still picture this tiny Hispanic man taking on four doughy Irish cops in the living room of that little house for ten minutes. No doubt they had to blame the marijuana and unprecedented strength to save some face.
After Moya's bust, the officers went on to a home on Mariposa, where they snagged a mother and her son, Moses Rodriguez. While cops were making that bust, four teenagers came up to the door and narc'd her out. They told police they usually got two joints for a quarter, adding that everyone they knew was smoking herb -- probably in some cool way like, "It's cool, daddio, like all us hep cats are swingin' with this tea!"
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While in custody, Rodriguez reportedly revealed the details of his entire operation. He would send out scouts to local high schools and junior highs to hand out free joints to kids, telling them that if they wanted more, they could just stop by Mariposa Street and buy them. The herb was kept there, as well as at another house on 23rd Street, where they would use a flour sifter to sort seeds and stems from bud for rolling into joints.
The four were handed over to the U.S. District Attorney's office. All four defendants were described as "aliens", though it's unclear whether that means legal or illegal immigrants. There wasn't ever a followup on the story, either. Though given the climate at the time, and from we've seen in other stories, it wouldn't be surprising if all four were sent back across the border.
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.'"