Wyoming’s Cocaine Epidemic in the Early 1900s
These days, we hear a lot about marijuana, meth and prescription drug abuse here in Wyoming. 100 years ago, the Cowboy State had a different drug of choice, cocaine.
According to a recent Westword article, cocaine use was prevalent all over Wyoming in the early 1900s.
While authorities were cracking down on Chinese opium dens in Cheyenne's infamous red light district, cocaine was becoming popular among wealthy merchants and businessmen. The stimulant was also widely used by ranchers, cowboys and cattlemen across the state.
And it wasn't hard to find. In those days, Wyoming law allowed anyone with a medical license to prescribe cocaine for any reason.
The state's biggest drug dealers were doctors in Cheyenne, who openly prescribed the drug in large quantities to residents.
Based on an account from the Aspen Democrat-Times, published in August of 1909, the city coroner was even publicly accused of selling drugs by the Cheyenne City Council.
However, because the coroner and other medical practitioners were legally allowed to prescribe cocaine, local authorites could not stop them.
In 1914, the Harrison Narcotics Tax Act, which regulated the prescription and distribution of cocaine and opiates, was passed by Congress.