How prevalent was “pot” in the West?


A register at the territorial prison in Yuma, Arizona, mentions prisoners being caught with marijuana. How prevalent was the use of “pot” in the West?

David Ragsdale

Chiloquin, Oregon

Marijuana wasn’t common in the U.S. until the 1920s, and the Territorial Prison at Yuma was open from 1876-1909. So the old-time cowboys most likely weren’t one toke over the line.

I would guess those Yuma prisoners were Mexican nationals; pot smoking was more common in their country.

In the Old West, drugs of choice tended to be laudanum, a mixture of alcohol and opium, with opium being the chief ingredient and flavored with vanilla, cherry, orange, lemon or almond. Doctors prescribed laudanum for ailments from snake bites and gunshot wounds to migraines, menstrual cramps, venereal disease, worms, toothaches and diarrhea.

Other popular frontier drugs were opium, cocaine, morphine, some heroin and, that ol’ standby, alcohol.

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