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Glenwood’s first drug bust

Frontier DiaryWilla SoncartyRegistrar, Frontier Historical Society and Museum

In about 3400 B.C., the Sumerians began the cultivation of the opium poppy in lower Mesopotamia. This poppy, recognized for its euphoric effects and narcotic qualities, was named Hul Gil, or the “joy plant.” For the next 3,000 years, the knowledge of the poppy’s cultivation as well as the opium it produced would be traded throughout the Middle East, Europe and China. The opium trade evolved into a lucrative business. While many cultures looked at the drug’s recreational misuse as barbaric or works of the devil, some tried to harness opium’s possible medical uses. Laudanum, a mixture of opium thebaicum, citrus juice and quintessence of gold, was introduced in 1527 as a painkiller. English apothecary Thomas Sydenham improved laudanum in 1680 by adding the narcotic to sherry wine and assorted herbs. Sydenham’s laudanum became a popular remedy for infinite medical ailments. By the 1800s, opium was found freely in patent medicines. Morphine, codeine and eventually heroin would all be derived from opium during this time. As the 19th century progressed, opium continued to be traded freely throughout the world, and governments passed laws designed to restrict its recreational use. In 1890, Congress approved a tax on opium and morphine. However, by 1903, heroin addiction had climbed to unprecedented heights.Glenwood Springs was not immune to the opium epidemic. Night Policeman Charles V. Messick had suspected for some time that a house in town was the scene of opium activity. On an evening in late June or early July 1903, Officer Messick decided to pay a visit to the house. He found what he had long suspected.Seated together were two men and two women described as “preparing to hit the pipe.” Messick, after quelling the protests of one of the men, confiscated “the tools of an opium fiend,” which included a bone opium jar, alcohol lamp, bamboo pipe and opium. Messick let the male leader know that opium use was not tolerated in Glenwood Springs. The man and one woman quickly left town and both were encouraged not to return. This was probably the first recorded drug bust in Glenwood Springs’ history.Congress banned opium in 1905. Dr. Alexander Lambert, who traveled to Glenwood Springs with President Theodore Roosevelt in 1905, unveiled a year later his cure for heroin addiction. Lambert’s cure would be one in the never-ending attempt to stop opium use.”Frontier Diary” is provided to the Post Independent by the Frontier Historical Society and Museum, 1001 Colorado Ave., Glenwood Springs. Winter hours are 1-4 p.m. Monday and Thursday through Saturday. For more information, call 945-4448.Post Independent, Glenwood Springs Colorado CO


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