The LaGuardia Report: Exploration of a Chronic Issue in American Drug Policy

On May 1 and 2, The New York Academy of Medicine and the Drug Policy Alliance co-hosted a conference, The LaGuardia Report at 70. Featuring more than 25 speakers, including historians, policy experts, political figures, and community organizers, the conference provided a forum to understand the state of marijuana regulation and enforcement in New York and to see the current debates in the context of over a hundred years of public policy fights around drugs and drug regulation in the United States.

For the conference, we created a small exhibit featuring facsimiles of materials from the New York Academy of Medicine’s Committee on Public Health Relations archive, as well as the original 1944 report. We are pleased to share the images with you on our blog.

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In 1938, at the request of Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, The New York Academy of Medicine’s Committee on Public Health Relations formed a subcommittee to study marijuana use in New York City. As you can see in this letter to Mayor LaGuardia from the Academy’s president, James Alexander Miller, M.D., the subcommittee determined a more extensive study was necessary. They recommended two approaches, a sociological study of marijuana use in the city and a clinical investigation of its physiological and psychological effects. (Click to enlarge.)

In the sociological study, six police officers acted as social investigators. They ventured into places where marijuana might be available and socialized with people in order to find out who was using marijuana and how it was being distributed. Olive J. Cregan was one of the investigators. This page from her report describes some of her interactions, including one in a speakeasy that she called “the worst dive I have ever seen.” While they learned a great deal about marijuana use in the city, one of the study’s conclusions was that “the publicity concerning the catastrophic effects of marihuana smoking in New York City is unfounded.”

In the sociological study, six police officers acted as social investigators. They ventured into places where marijuana might be available and socialized with people in order to find out who was using marijuana and how it was being distributed. Olive J. Cregan was one of the investigators. This page from her report describes some of her interactions, including one in a speakeasy that she called “the worst dive I have ever seen.” While they learned a great deal about marijuana use in the city, one of the study’s conclusions was that “the publicity concerning the catastrophic effects of marihuana smoking in New York City is unfounded.”

This report from the clinical team gives a sense of the reputation marijuana had at the time of the study, a view that the study eventually countered. There was great concern about marijuana’s potential for addiction and its role in crime. The study found little basis for its bad reputation.   (Click to enlarge.)

This report from the clinical team gives a sense of the reputation marijuana had at the time of the study, a view that the study eventually countered. There was great concern about marijuana’s potential for addiction and its role in crime. The study found little basis for its bad reputation. (Click to enlarge.)

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The LaGuardia report, formally titled The Marihuana Problem in the City of New York, was published in 1944.

2 thoughts on “The LaGuardia Report: Exploration of a Chronic Issue in American Drug Policy

  1. Pingback: MedHum Mondays: NYAM on Public Outreach | Fiction Reboot | Daily Dose

  2. Pingback: The LaGuardia Report: Exploration of a Chronic Issue in American Drug Policy | Kayla Arielle • Life on Fire

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