Cannabis Time Capsule, 1939: Marijuana "well under control" thanks to women's clubs

This week's Time Capsule takes us back to 1939 in Steamboat Springs, with an update on the Colorado chapter of the General Federation of Women's Clubs (GFWC). What's the GFWC, you ask? The organization has been around since the 1890s and was a powerful force at one time, notably working to get women the right to vote.

But interestingly, the GFWC was also a major force in the 1920s temperance movement. And by six years after prohibition officially failed in 1933, members had moved on to another target: marijuana.

In fact, the group had a specific narcotics division set up to examine the matter, joining other missions: blind aid, child welfare, Indian welfare (seriously), public safety, corrections and state institutions. The article we found summarizes these efforts.

The group was concerned with creating jobs for the sightless, including mop- and broom-making. Members also pushed stands at federal buildings where blind people could sell their wares. Regarding kids, the group distributed information on how to raise a child with "the right background." Meanwhile, the Indian welfare department worked with local Native American groups to "encourage the Indians in arts and crafts and create a market for their products" -- basically exploit them for the things the women cared about and forget about any broader job training or education programs. Women were urged to learn more about the local tribes by writing to the Denver Art Museum for a pamphlet, not by actually going out and meeting with any Native Americans.

Then we get to marijuana and the Narcotics Department of the GFWC, which contended that marijuana "is getting well under control." The group apparently stationed a lookout at local junior and senior high schools to keep an eye out for "men and women who loiter around" -- after which they would report the results of their snooping to the school principals. The club also met to talk about how marijuana was grown, manufactured, sold and the effects it has on the body. Sadly, the articles doesn't get into much pot hysteria here. We presume the GFWC saved that for the weekly meetings.

The Narcotics Department also lobbied for the creation of an addiction treatment hospital in Colorado while at the same time working "to arouse public opinion so that pitiless publicity will be centered on those judges and district attorneys who give only a slap on the wrist to drug peddlers and addicts."

Hmmm. A group of prohibitionists making it a point to call out state leaders and officials over what they say is too much marijuana tolerance?

That sounds somewhat familiar to us for some reason.

More from our Colorado Cannabis Time Capsule archive: "Cannabis Time Capsule, 1913: Pulp fiction meets hash fables."

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
William Breathes
Contact: William Breathes

Latest Stories