TEXAS (NEXSTAR) – Marijuana is currently illegal recreationally in the state of Texas, but was that always the case?
In the U.S., 21 states, two territories, and the District of Columbia allow recreational adult use of marijuana. While Texas allows some degree of “low-THC cannabis” usage under its compassionate-use law, the substance is mostly illegal.
According to TexasMarijuana.Org, an organization detailing marijuana legislation in the state, Texas first started prohibiting marijuana as early as 1915, when the city of El Paso officially became the first American city to pass an ordinance banning the substance.
According to the El Paso Times, the reason for the ban was an incident two years earlier, when a man high on marijuana killed a Juárez police officer and stabbed a separate officer, all while chasing an El Paso couple.
The publication cited an article published on June 4, 1915, in the El Paso Morning Times that showed how differently marijuana was thought of at the time. The article stated, “Marijuana is known to create a lust for human blood in the users and some of the most atrocious crimes committed in the city and elsewhere have been attributed to these fiends.”
The state of Texas followed suit and prohibited the transfer of narcotics, cannabis included, for non-medical purposes, in 1919. Not long after, the state added more restrictions to the law, which prohibited the possession of marijuana with intent to sell in 1923.
The Schaffer Library of Drug Policy states Texas banned the possession of marijuana entirely in 1931. Marijuana would stay banned and would be classified as a narcotic until 1973 when marijuana decriminalization efforts began.
Prior to 1915, however, there are hardly any official accounts of marijuana usage in Texas. What we do know is marijuana made its way to the U.S. long before any official prohibition took place.
According to Dr. Lucas Richert, an associate professor in the School of Pharmacy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, in 1850, cannabis made its way into the US Pharmacopoeia. That is the book of quality specifications for medicines still used in modern medical practices. Back then, doctors and physicians would prescribe cannabis for a variety of different health-related issues.
“Cannabis has always functioned as an intoxicant and a therapeutic substance in both regulated and unregulated spaces,” Richert said.
However, the substance was also used outside medical practice. Richert said depending on where someone was living prior to 1915, they could easily access marijuana in a drugstore, apothecary, or general store. Without specific regulations in place, people were able to purchase preparations like marijuana cigarettes.
In fact, a report from PBS.org stated marijuana became a popular ingredient in medicinal products and was sold openly in public pharmacies.
“We’re really talking about the absence of regulations in this period of time,” Richert said. “Back then, you didn’t have the well-developed regulatory architecture in the United States that governs the use of cannabis. It’s really not until the turn of the 20th century, moving forward into 1914 and beyond that, you begin to see sort of the implementation of drug regulations.”