The True Story of Two Drifters Who Became Cannabis Pioneers

After the recent election, marijuana is now legal in some form in 25 states. Colorado, of course, was a trendsetter in this regard, legalizing pot for recreational use in 2014 with the passage of Amendment 64.

According to the Drug Policy Alliance, a decidedly pro-marijuana group, the initial results have been pretty positive: “Since the first retail marijuana stores opened on January 1st, 2014, the state of Colorado has benefitted from a decrease in crime rates, a decrease in traffic fatalities, an increase in tax revenue and economic output from retail marijuana sales, and an increase in jobs.”

Early findings from the Colorado Department of Public Safety certainly agree on the impact on the criminal justice system, with the total number of marijuana-related filings declining 81 percent between 2012 and 2015, among other findings that were collected before commercialization really took hold.

There is a lot of chatter about what will happen around federal law enforcement of drug laws during Donald Trump’s presidency, especially considering Trump’s pick of Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions for attorney general. Sessions famously said, “Good people don’t smoke marijuana,” which may be news to the 109,922 Coloradans registered as medical marijuana cardholders in 2015. Session’s dislike of the demon weed seems to parallel the “Reefer Madness” history of this country’s marijuana laws, which were notably spearheaded by Harry J. Anslinger, the first head of the now-defunct Bureau of Narcotics.

In reporting for, I delved into the origins of federal “marihuana” law, where Denver plays a prominent role. I discovered more about the inherent racism that drove early drug laws, learned about the history of the Curtis Park and Five Points neighborhoods and met a colorful only-in-Colorado character named “Uncle Mike.”

But the story begins with two Denver drifters, Moses Baca and Samuel Caldwell. Read it here.

Photo by Carlos Gracia, Creative Commons, Flickr