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Reports - LaGuardia Committee Report
Written by Nicholas Pastore   


Dudley D. Shoenfeld, MD


In order to understand fully the purpose and scope of this particular part of the survey conducted by the Mayor's Committee on Marihuana, a brief digest of the history of the growth and usage of this drug is essential.

Indian hemp, from which marihuana (the American synonym for hashish) is obtained, has been known to man for more than three thousand years. This plant, although originally indigenous to Central Asia, is now found in practically every section of the world, growing either wild or cultivated, legally or illegally.

When originally discovered, the use to which this plant was principally put was the conversion of its fiber for commerical purposes in the production of cord, twine and textiles. Shortly thereafter its pharmaceutical properties were employed in the practice of medicine and surgery. Authoritative proof is available that the Chinese found it valuable as an effective anesthetic in surgery as far back as two thousand years. It was not until approximately the tenth century that the peoples of Africa and Asia began to use it in a rather indiscriminate manner for its intoxicating effects.

Very shortly after its usage became popular, this drug engaged the attention of the various African and Asian governments, as well as of lay persons interested in medical, religious and sociological problems. Some of these very early investigators propounded the theory that physical and mental deterioration was the direct result of smoking hashish. Others extolled its benefits, deeming it actually essential to life, and urged people to indulge in it.

During this early period, the peoples of Europe were aware of the use of hashish in Africa and Asia, and considered it a vice particularly common to the peoples of those continents. In the nineteenth century their interest was raised to a high pitch because of the fictional reports of the smoking of hashish given by the romanticists of that period. These individuals, who had the power of the pen, experimentally indulged in the smoking of hashish, and described in an expansive, subjective manner the effects the drug had upon them. A review of the fanciful literature reveals that in most instances these writings referred to the authors' experiences with toxic doses. Summed up, the conclusions were that hashish could cause psychotic episodes and even death and that prolonged use would result in physical and mental deterioration. The exalted position held by these romanticists tended to influence the Europeans to accept their conclusions as scientific monographs on the subject of hashish, so that the smoking of hashish did not become popular with them. However, in recent years there has been a fairly wide participation on the part of Europeans in smoking hashish or marihuana, but it is referred to as an American vice. This allows one to infer that whereas the knowledge pertaining to this habit was very early recognized in Europe, at the present time participation in it is from their point of view the direct result of its introduction into Europe not from Africa and Asia, but from America.

In America, Indian hemp was planted in the New England colonies, solely for commercial purposes, as early as the seventeenth century. At the present time it can be found growing either wild or cultivated, legally or illegally, in practically all our states. Lawful cultivation is confined principally to the states of Kentucky, Illinois, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. It has been estimated that not more than ten thousand acres are devoted to its legal production. It is of value commercially in the manufacture of rope, twine, and textiles. The seed is used for bird- food, and the oil extracted from the seed is occasionally used as a substitute for linseed oil in the preparation of artists' paints. A rosin extracted from the plant is used in the production of pharmaceutical preparations.

Since the history of hemp cultivation in America dates back to the seventeenth century, it is exceedingly interesting, but difficult to explain, that the smoking of marihuana did not become a problem in our country until approximately twenty years ago, and that it has become an acute problem associated with a great deal of publicity only in the past ten years.

The origin of the word "marihuana" is in doubt. Some authorities are of the opinion that it is derived from the Portuguese word "mariguano," meaning intoxicant. Others are of the opinion that it has its derivation in the Mexican words for "Mary and Jane." The introduction into the United States of the practice of smoking marihuana has been the subject of a great deal of speculation. The most tenable hypothesis at the present time is that it was introduced by Mexicans entering our country.

It is accepted that in Mexico marihuana smoking is an old, established practice. Therefore, it would appear logical to assume that Mexican laborers crossing our border into the Southwest carried this practice with them. Having used marihuana in their native land, they found it natural to continue smoking it in the new country, and planted it for personal consumption. Once available, it was soon made use of by our citizens. At the present time, the smoking of marihuana is widespread in this nation.

Believing that marihuana smoking might be deleterious, and knowing it to be widespread, federal and municipal governments, private individuals, and such agencies as the Opium Advisory Association, the International Narcotic Education Association, and others investigated the subject. These investigative organizations have contributed a great deal of data and pertinent information to the knowledge of the use of marihuana. The mass of information so obtained when untangled can be summed up with the general statement that a majority of investigators are of the opinion that marihuana smoking is deleterious, although a minority maintain that it is innocuous. The majority believe that marihuana smoking is widespread among school children; that the dispensers of the drug are organized to such an extent that they encourage the use of marihuana in order to create an ever- increasing market; that juvenile delinquency is directly related to the effects of the drug; that it is a causative factor in a large percentage of our major crimes and sexual offenses; and that physical and mental deterioration are the direct result of the prolonged habit of smoking marihuana.

As a result of these official and semi-official conclusions in regard to the disastrous effects produced by this habit, the newspapers and magazines of our country have given it wide publicity. At this point it may be profitable to give the conclusions of some of the investigators and quote the publicity associated with it. In a pamphlet "Marihuana or Indian Hemp and Its Preparations" issued by the International Narcotic Education Association, one finds:


Marihuana is a most virile and powerful stimulant. The physiological effect of this drug produces a peculiar psychic exaltation and derangement of the central nervous system. The stage of exaltation and confusion, more marked in some addicts than in others, is generally followed by a stage of depression. Sometimes the subject passes into a semi- conscious state, experiencing vivid and extravagant dreams which vary according to the individual character and mentality. In some the stage is one of self-satisfaction and well-being. In others, it is alarming, presenting the fear of some imminent and indefinite danger or of impending death. Later the dreams are sometimes followed by a state of complete unconsciousness. Sometimes convulsive attacks and acute mania are developed.

The narcotic content in marihuana decreases the rate of heart beat and causes irregularity of the pulse. Death may result from the effect upon the heart. Prolonged use of marihuana frequently develops a delirious rage which sometimes leads to high crimes, such as assault and murder. Hence marihuana has been called the "killer drug." The habitual use of this narcotic poison always causes a very marked mental deterioration and sometimes produces insanity. Hence marihuana is frequently called "loco weed." (Loco is the Spanish word for crazy.)

While the marihuana habit leads to physical wreckage and mental decay, its effects upon character and morality are even more devastating. The victim frequently undergoes such degeneracy that he will lie and steal without scruple; he becomes utterly untrustworthy and often drifts into the underworld where, with his degenerate companions, he commits high crimes and misdemeanors. Marihuana sometimes gives man the lust to kill unreasonably and without motive. Many cases of assault, rape, robbery, and murder are traced to the use of maribuana.(1)

(end quotation)

(1) International Narcotic Education Association. "Marihuana or Indian Hemp and Its Preparations." Los Angeles, 1936.

In an article published in the New York Daily Worker, New York, Saturday, December 28, 1940, there appeared under the column headed "HEALTH ADVICE":

(start quoted article)


Bill Wilson was strolling by his favorite soda joint on the way home from high school when he heard a familiar voice whisper loudly, "Hey, Bill, c'mere." Behind the Texaco billboard, he found his side-kick Jim, who said excitedly, "I got some reefers!" "Reefers, what're they?"

Mysteriously, Jim reached into his pocket and pulled out two large cigarettes. "Marihuana!" Jim's pupils dilated. "Come on over to the club and we'll smoke 'em. Boy, that's fun!" Bill is only one of thousands of new marihuana smokers created yearly among boys and girls of high school age.

What is this drug? It is a narcotic in the same class as opium and is derived from a plant, which grows wild, extensively in some parts. For this reason, it is hard to control and the drug is easy to obtain at very little cost. Smoking of the weed is habit-forming. It destroys the willpower, releases restraints, and promotes insane reactions. Continued use causes the face to become bloated, the eyes bloodshot, the limbs weak and trembling, and the mind sinks into insanity. Robberies, thrill murders, sex crimes and other offenses result.

When the habit is first started, the symptoms are milder, yet powerful enough. The smoker loses all sense of time and space so that he can't judge distances, he loses his self-control, and his imagination receives considerable stimulation.

The habit can be cured only by the most severe methods. The addict must be put into an institution, where the drug is gradually withdrawn, his general health is built up, and he is kept there until he has enough willpower to withstand the temptation to again take to the weed.

The spread of this terrible fad can be stopped only when the unscrupulous criminals trafficking In the drug are rooted out.

(end quoted article)

Dr. Robert P. Walton, Professor of Pharmacology of the School of Medicine of the University of Mississippi, has written a most comprehensive book on the subject of marihuana, embodying in detail pharmacological and social studies.(2) A chapter on the "Present Status of the Marihuana Vice in the United States" was prepared by Dr. Frank R. Gomila, Commissioner of Public Safety of New Orleans, and C. G. Lambou, Assistant City Chemist. They refer to New Orleans as being possibly the first large city in the United States where the drug habit became widely established among the native population, and they therefore believe that the authorities in this city had a decided opportunity to observe the progress of the smoking of marihuana as a social problem. Referring specifically to the use of marihuana among school children, they state that reporters in New Orleans not only heard about but observed large numbers of boys of school age actually buying and smoking marihuana cigarettes. One peddler was so brazen as to keep his stock under the street stairs to a girls' high school.

Inquiries further revealed that school children of forty-four schools in New Orleans (only a few of these were high schools) smoked marihuana. As a result of exposure and widespread agitation,

(start quotation)

Verifications came in by the hundreds from harassed parents, teachers, neighborhood pastors, priests, welfare workers and club women. Warrington House for boys was full of children who had become habituated to the use of cannabis. The superintendent of the Children's Bureau reported that there were many problem children there who had come under the influence and two who had run away because they couldn't get their "muggles" at the Bureau. The Director of Kingsley House for boys received many pleas from fathers of boys who had come under the influence and were charged with petty crimes.

After personally seeing these boys in an hysterical condition or on the well-known "laughing jags," the director termed the situation decidedly grave. The Waif's Home, at this time, was reputedly full of children, both white and colored, who had been brought in under the influence of the drug. Marihuana cigarettes could be bought almost as readily as sandwiches. Their cost was two for a quarter. The children solved the problem of cost by pooling pennies among the members of a group and then passing the cigarettes from one to another, all the puffs being carefully counted....

The result of these investigations ended in a wholesale arrest of more than 150 persons. Approximately one hundred underworld dives, soft-drink establishments, night clubs, grocery stores, and private homes were searched in the police raid. Addicts, hardened criminals, gangsters, women of the streets sailors of all nationalities, bootleggers, boys and girls, -- many flashily dressed in silks and furs, others in working clothes -- all were rounded up in the net which Captain Smith and his squad had set.

. . . Notwithstanding the thoroughness with which this police roundup was carried out, it did not entirely eradicate in one stroke a vice which had already become so well established. During the next few years New Orleans experienced a crime wave which unquestionably was greatly aggravated by the influence of this drug habit. Payroll and bank guards were doubled, but this did not prevent some of the most spectacular holdups in the history of the city. Youngsters known to be "muggle-heads" fortified themselves with the narcotic and proceeded to shoot down police, bank clerks and casual bystanders. Mr. Eugene Stanley, at that time District Attorney, declared that many of the crimes in New Orleans and the South were thus committed by criminals who relied on the drug to give them a false courage and freedom from restraint. Dr. George Roeling, Coroner, reported that of 450 prisoners investigated, 125 were confirmed users of marihuana. Dr. W. B. Graham, State Narcotic Officer, declared in 1936 that 60 per cent of the crimes committed in New Orleans were by marihuana users.(3)

(end quote)

The Mayor's Committee on Marihuana decided to confine its investigations to a limited area. For a number of reasons the Borough of Manhattan seemed to be the most profitable section of the city in which to concentrate. In order to crystallize our particular project we deemed it advisable to direct our efforts to finding answers to the following questions:

1. To what extent is marihuana used?

2. What is the method of retail distribution?

3. What is the general attitude of the marihuana smoker toward society and toward the use of the drug?

4. What is the relationship between marihuana and eroticism?

5. What is the relationship between marihuana and crime?

6. What is the relationship between marihuana and juvenile delinquency?

In the course of our investigations, we have made extensive use of subjective data obtained from those who were actual smokers of marihuana and directly acquainted with its effects and those who were not smokers, but, because of residence, occupation or other interests, were acquainted with the general subject.

(2) Walton, R. P. Marijuana: America's New Drug Problem. J. B. Lippincott Co., Philadelphia, 1938.

(3) Ibid.


Organization of Staff

In October 1939 Police Commissioner Lewis J. Valentine designated Deputy Chief Inspector Daniel Curtayne, Lieutenant Edward Cooper, Sergeant Bernard Boylan and Detective Joseph Loures of the Narcotic Squad of the Police Department of the City of New York to cooperate with the Mayor's Committee on Marihuana. These police officials submitted a list of intelligent young officers with a suitable background. From this list six officers were selected: two policewomen, and four policemen, one of whom was a Negro. They were: Mr. James Coen, Mr. William Connolly, Mr. Benjamin Weissner, Mr. John Hughes, Miss Adelaide Knowles and Miss Olive Cregan. These police officers were encouraged to read literature on the subject of marihuana and to familiarize themselves with some of the characteristics of the plant, as well as of marihuana cigarettes. They became expert in detecting the aroma of burning marihuana, and were thus able to recognize it and to identify its use in a social gathering.

Regular assignments were made by the director of the survey. At intervals each officer dictated a general report on his activities and findings to a stenographer engaged by the Committee. Frequent conferences were held in the office of the director of the survey, at which time individual reports were discussed in detail and evaluated.

An attempt was made to give the "marihuana squad" a psychological approach to the performance of their duties. At no time were these officers permitted to make known their activity to other members of the police force, or to make arrests. This arrangement was considered essential in order that they might maintain an effective role of investigator without being in any respect recognized as police officers. Although they were members of the police force and constantly in contact with violators of law, their immediate superiors cooperated to an extreme degree by allowing the "marihuana squad" to report directly to the director of the survey.

While on duty the squad actually "lived" in the environment in which marihuana smoking or peddling was suspected. They frequented poolrooms, bars and grills, dime-a-dance halls, other dance halls to which they took their own partners, theatres -- backstage and in the audience -- roller-skating rinks, subways, public toilets, parks and docks They consorted with the habitues of these places, chance acquaintances on the street, loiterers around schools, subways and bus terminals. They posed as "suckers" from out of town and as students in colleges and high schools.

We highly commend these officers individually for their exceptionally good performances. The aid given by Deputy Chief Inspector Daniel Curtayne, Lieutenant Edward Cooper, Sergeant Bernard Boylan and Detective Joseph Loures throughout deserves mention and appreciation. At times we must have been a source of annoyance to them, but our requests were always cheerfully met and assistance heartily extended.

Method of Retail Distribution

In general, marihuana is used in the form of a cigarette. Occasionally some individuals chew the "weed" and seem to get the same effect as do others through smoking. The common names for the cigarettes are: muggles, reefers, Indian hemp, weed, tea, gage and sticks. Cigarettes made of marihuana differ in size as do cigarettes made of tobacco: they are long, short, thick or thin.

The price varies in accordance with the accepted opinion as to the potency of the marihuana used in the cigarettes, and this appears to be determined by the place of origin. The cheapest brand is known as "sass-fras," and retails for approximately three for 50 cents. It is made of the marihuana that is grown in the United States. Smokers do not consider such marihuana very potent. They have found that they must consume a greater number of cigarettes in order to obtain the desired effect colloquially termed as "high." This opinion, expressed by smokers in the Borough of Manhattan, is at variance with that of some authorities who believe that marihuana grown in the United States is as potent as the marihuana grown in other countries.

The "panatella" cigarette, occasionally referred to as "meserole," is considered to be more potent than the "sass-fras" and usually retails for approximately 25 cents each. The hemp from which the "panatella" is made comes from Central and South America.

"Gungeon" is considered by the marihuana smoker as the highest grade of marihuana. It retails for about one dollar per cigarette. The "kick" resulting from the use of this cigarette is reached more quickly than from the use of "sassafras" or "panatella." It appears to be the consensus that the marihuana used to make the "gungeon" comes from Africa. The sale of this cigarette is restricted to a clientele whose economic status is of a higher level than the majority of marihuana smokers.

A confirmed marihuana user can readily distinguish the quality and potency of various brands, just as the habitual cigarette or cigar smoker is able to differentiate between the qualities of tobacco. Foreign-made cigarette paper is often used in order to convince the buyer that the "tea is right from the boat."

There are two channels for the distribution of marihuana cigarettes-- the independent peddler and the "tea-pad." From general observations, conversations with "pad" owners, and discussions with peddlers, the investigators estimated that there were about 500 "tea-pads" in Harlem and at least 500 peddlers.

A "tea-pad" is a room or an apartment in which people gather to smoke marihuana. The majority of such places are located in the Harlem district. It is our impression that the landlord, the agent, the superintendent or the janitor is aware of the purposes for which the premises are rented. The "tea-pad" is furnished according to the clientele it expects to serve. Usually, each "tea-pad" has comfortable furniture, a radio, victrola or, as in most instances, a rented nickelodeon. The lighting is more or less uniformly dim, with blue predominating. An incense is considered part of the furnishings. The walls are frequently decorated with pictures of nude subjects suggestive of perverted sexual practices. The furnishings, as described, are believed to be essential as a setting for those participating in smoking marihuana.

Most "tea-pads" have their trade restricted to the sale of marihuana. Some places did sell marihuana and whisky, and a few places also served as houses of prostitution. Only one "teapad" was found which served as a house of prostitution, and in which one could buy marihuana, whisky, and opium.

The marihuana smoker derives greater satisfaction if he is smoking in the presence of others. His attitude in the "tea-pad" is that of a relaxed individual, free from the anxieties and cares of the realities of life. The "tea-pad" takes on the atmosphere of a very congenial social club. The smoker readily engages in conversation with strangers, discussing freely his pleasant reactions to the drug and philosophizing on subjects pertaining to life in a manner which, at times, appears to be out of keeping with his intellectual level. A constant observation was the extreme willingness to share and puff on each other's cigarettes. A boisterous, rowdy atmosphere did not prevail and on the rare occasions when there appeared signs indicative of a belligerent attitude on the part of a smoker, he was ejected or forced to become more tolerant and quiescent.

One of the most interesting setups of a "tea-pad," which was clearly not along orthodox lines from the business point of view, was a series of pup tents arranged on a roof-top in Harlem. Those present proceeded to smoke their cigarettes in the tents. When the desired effect of the drug had been obtained they all merged into the open and engaged in a discussion of their admiration of the stars and the beauties of nature.

Because of the possibility of spreading disease, note should be taken of what seems to be a custom known as "pick-up" smoking. It is an established practice whereby a marihuana cigarette is lit and after one or two inhalations is passed on to the next person. This procedure is repeated until all present have had an opportunity to take a puff or two on the cigarette.

Occasionally a "tea-pad" owner may have peddlers who sell their wares in other localities and at the same time serve as procurers for those who wish to smoke marihuana on the premises.

One also finds other methods of retail distribution. After proper introduction, one may be able to purchase the cigarette in certain places. This is not an easy procedure, but it can be accomplished. In some bar-and-grills, restaurants, and bars our investigators were able to establish contact with someone who in turn, would introduce them to a peddler who apparently made regular rounds of these places in order to sell cigarettes. It appears that the owners of such places are not aware of this practice, and in many instances they would discharge any employee known to be directly or indirectly associated with the sale of marihuana.

On rare occasions public guides, if properly approached would refer one to a place where the "reefer" could be bought. There was no evidence that the guide received money when acting as go- between. Terminal porters, mainly Negroes, appeared to be more directly connected with the traffic of marihuana. They were more conversant with the subject and it was easier for them to establish contact between purchaser and peddler.

Marihuana smoking is very common in the theatres of Harlem according to the observations of the investigators. We have reason to believe that in some instances, perhaps few in number, employees actually sold cigarettes on the premises. In the Harlem dance halls smoking was frequently observed either in the lavatories or on the main floor. The patrons as well as the musicians were seen in the act of smoking. There was no evidence of sales being made by employees on the premises, or that there was any gain on the part of the owners or employees in permitting this practice. Whereas the smoking of marihuana was not encouraged, nothing was done to prohibit such practice.

There are specific sections in the Borough of Manhattan where the sale of marihuana cigarettes appears to be localized: 1) the Harlem district; 2) the Broadway area, a little east and west of Broadway and extending from 42nd Street to S9th Street. While it is true that one may buy the cigarette in other districts, it is not as easily obtainable as in the two localities mentioned.


The Mental Attitude of the Marihuana Smoker Toward Society and Marihuana

Most of the smokers of marihuana coming within the scope of our survey were unemployed, and of the others most had part-time employment.

Occasional, as well as confirmed, users were all aware of the laws pertaining to the illegal use of the drug. They did not indulge in its use with a spirit of braggadocio or as a challenge to law as has been reported by some investigators in other districts. They did not express remorse concerning their use of marihuana, nor did they blame this habit as a causative factor in the production of special difficulties in their personal lives. Except for musicians there appeared to be no attempt at secretiveness on the part of the habitual smoker. This attitude is in marked contrast to that usually taken by those addicted to morphine, cocaine, or heroin.

The consensus of marihuana users is that the drug is not harmful and that infrequent or constant use of marihuana does not result in physical or mental deterioration.

In describing the most common reaction to the drug they always stated that it made them feel "high." Elaboration of just what the smoker meant by "high" varied with the individual. However, there was common agreement that a feeling of adequacy and efficiency was induced by the use of marihuana and that current mental conflicts were allayed. Organic illness was not given as a cause for smoking "reefers."

A person may be a confirmed smoker for a prolonged period, and give up the drug voluntarily without experiencing any craving for it or exhibiting withdrawal symptoms. He may, at some time later on, go back to its use. Others may remain infrequent users of the cigarette, taking one or two a week, or only when the "social setting" calls for participation. From time to time we had one of our investigators associate with a marihuana user. The investigator would bring up the subject of smoking. This would invariably lead to the suggestion that they obtain some marihuana cigarettes. They would seek a "tea-pad," and if it was closed the smoker and our investigator would calmly resume their previous activity, such as the discussion of life in general or the playing of pool. There were apparently no signs indicative of frustration in the smoker at not being able to gratify the desire for the drug. We consider this point highly significant since it is so contrary to the experience of users of other narcotics. A similar situation occurring in one addicted to the use of morphine, cocaine, or heroin would result in a compulsive attitude on the part of the addict to obtain the drug. If unable to secure it, there would be obvious physical and mental manifestations of frustration. This may be considered presumptive evidence that there is no true addiction in the medical sense associated with the use of marihuana.

The confirmed marihuana smoker consumes perhaps from six to ten cigarettes per day. He appears to be quite conscious of the quantity he requires to reach the effect called "high." Once the desired effect is obtained he cannot be persuaded to consume more.

He knows when he has had enough. The smoker determines for himself the point of being "high," and is ever conscious of preventing himself from becoming "too high." This fear of being "too high" must be associated with some form of anxiety which causes the smoker, should he accidentally reach that point, immediately to institute measures so that he can "come down." It has been found that the use of such beverages as beer, or a sweet soda pop, is an effective measure. Smokers insist that "it does something to the stomach" and that it is always associated with "belching." A cold shower will also have the effect of bringing the person "down."

Smokers have repeatedly stated that the consumption of whisky while smoking negates the potency of the drug. They find it is very difficult to get "high" while drinking whisky, and because of that smokers will not drink whisky while using the "weed." They do, however, consume large quantities of sweet wines. It is their contention that this mild alcoholic beverage aids the drug in producing the desired effect. Most marihuana smokers insist that the appetite is increased as the result of smoking.

We have been unable to confirm the opinion expressed by some investigators that marihuana smoking is the first step in the use of such drugs as cocaine, morphine, and heroin. The instances are extremely rare where the habit of marihuana smoking is associated with addiction to these other narcotics.

Marihuana and Eroticism

In the popular agitation against the use of marihuana, its erotic effects have been stressed repeatedly. As previously stated in this report, our investigators visited many "tea-pads" in the Borough of Manhattan. It is true that lewd pictures decorated the walls but they did not find that they were attracting attention or comment among the clientele. In fact one of the investigators who was concentrating his attention on the relation between marihuana and eroticism stated in his report that he found himself embarrassed in that he was the only one who examined the pictures on the wall.

Numerous conversations with smokers of marihuana revealed only occasional instances in which there was any relation between the drug and eroticism. At one time one of our investigators attended a very intimate social gathering in an apartment in Harlem, having succeeded in securing the position of doorman for the occasion.

There was a great deal of drinking, and the dancing was of the most modern, abandoned, "jitter-bug" type. This form of dancing is highly suggestive and appears to be associated with erotic activity. The investigator made careful observation of those who were dancing, and found that there was no difference between the ones who were and the ones who were not smoking "reefers." Similar impressions were received after careful observations in public dance halls, places where they knew that some persons were under the influence of marihuana.

Visits to brothels which occasionally also served as "teapads" revealed that the use of marihuana was not linked to sexuality. These observations allow us to come to the conclusion that in the main marihuana was not used for direct sexual stimulation.


One of the most important causes of the widespread publicity which marihuana smoking has received is the belief that this practice is directly responsible for the commission of crimes.

During our investigation many law enforcement officers, representing various federal, state and local police bureaus, were interviewed and asked for a confidential expression of opinion on the general question of crime and marihuana. In most instances they unhesitatingly stated that there is no proof that major crimes are associated with the practice of smoking marihuana. They did state that many marihuana smokers are guilty of petty crimes, but that the criminal career usually existed prior to the time the individual smoked his first marihuana cigarette. These officers further stated that a criminal generally termed as a "real" or "professional" criminal will not associate with marihuana smokers. He considers such a person inferior and unreliable and will not allow him to participate in the commission of a major crime.

In the period beginning October 1939 and ending November 1940, the Police Department made 167 arrests for the possession and use of marihuana. Classified according to race they were: white, 33 men, 4 women; Latin-American, 26 men, 2 women; Negro, 83 men, 6 women; Latin-American (colored) 9 men, 1 woman- British East Indies 1, Filipino 1, Chinese 1. Classified according to age, 12 per cent were between the ages of 16 and 20, 58 per cent between the ages of 21 and 30, 24 per cent between the ages of 31 and 40, and 6 per cent between the ages of 41 and 50.

During the period under discussion, the Police Department confiscated approximately 3,000 pounds of marihuana.

The sale and use of marihuana is a problem engaging the vigilance of the New York Police Department. However, the number of officers available for such duty is limited. Officers specifically assigned to the Narcotics Division of the Police Department are acquainted with the problem, but the majority of the officers are fundamentally without authoritative knowledge regarding this subject.

The relation between marihuana smoking and the commission of crimes of violence in the city of New York is described by Dr. Walter Bromberg, psychiatrist-in-charge of the Psychiatric Clinic of the Court of General Sessions, in an article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association:

(start quotation)

In the south of this country (New Orleans) the incidence of marihuana addicts among major criminals is admittedly high. Sporadic reports from elsewhere in the country of murders and assaults due to marihuana appear in the press frequently. It is difficult to evaluate these statements, because of their uncritical nature. The bulletin prepared by the Foreign Policy Association lists ten cases "culled at random from the files of the U.S. Bureau of Narcotics" of murder and atrocious assault in which marihuana was directly responsible for the crime.

Among the ten patients, the second, J. O., was described as having confessed how he murdered a friend and put his body in a trunk while under the influence of marihuana.

J. O. was examined in this clinic; although he was a psychopathic liar and possibly homosexual, there was no indication in the examination or history of the use of any drug. The investigation by the probation department failed to indicate use of the drug marihuana. The deceased, however, was addicted to heroin.

Our observations with respect to marihuana and crime were made in the Court of General Sessions over a period of five and a half years. The material in that court is limited as to residence to New York County, although it must be remembered that the offenders come from many sections of the country and are of many racial types. This is important, because the British investigators have noted in India that cannabis does not bring out the motor excitement or hysterical symptoms in Anglo-Saxon users that occur in natives. There are several other difficulties in collecting reliable material, one being the complete dependence on the history and statements of the prisoners without an opportunity for objective tests or other corroborative check, as in the case of other drugs, e.g., heroin or morphine.

During routine interviews of some 17,000 offenders in six and a half years, several hundred have been found who had direct experience with marihuana. Their testimony checks with experimental results and clinical experiences with regard to the symptoms of intoxication, the absence of true addiction, and the negative connection with major crime. Especially is this noteworthy among sexual offenders and in cases of assault or murder. The extravagant claims of defense attorneys and the press that crime is caused by addiction to marihuana demands careful scrutiny, at least in this jurisdiction....

Most of the narcotic cases in New York County are heard in the Court of Special Sessions, where misdemeanants are handled and where indictments on charges of the possession of drugs for use are returned. In the Court of Special Sessions in the same six-year period, of approximately 75,000 indictments for all crimes, 6,000 resulted in convictions for the possession and use of drugs.

Since neither the law, the district attorney nor the police department makes any distinction between the several kinds of narcotics in arraignments or indictments, there were no figures from which to estimate the number of users of marihuana as distinguished from the number of users of other drugs. A system of sampling the 6,000 cases was therefore adopted in order to furnish an approximate estimate of the total number of marihuana users who came into conflict with the law.

In this sampling the records of 1,500 offenders, or 25 per cent of the 6,000, were examined. Of these, 135 were charged in connection with marihuana. From this fact it was estimated that about 540 offenders, or 9 per cent of all drug offenders coming to the Court of Special Sessions in six years, were users of marihuana. In analyzing this sample of 135 cases, it was found that 93 offenders had no previous record, the previous charges or charges of 8 concerned only drugs, 5 had records including drug charges and 29 had records not including drug charges. Among those with longer records, that is, from four to seven previous arrests, none showed progression from the use of drugs to other crimes.

As measured by the succession of arrests and convictions in the Court of General Sessions (the only method of estimation) it can be said that drugs generally do not initiate criminal careers. Similarly, in the Court of Special Sessions, only 8 per cent of the offenders had previous charges of using drugs and 3.7 per cent had previous charges of drugs and other petty crimes. In the vast majority of cases in this group of 135, then, the earlier use of marihuana apparently did not predispose to crime, even that of using other drugs. Whether the first offenders charged with the use of marihuana go on to major crime is a matter of speculation. The expectancy of major crimes following the use of cannabis in New York County is small, according to these experiences.(4)

(end quotation)

Bromberg, W., "Marihuana: a psychiatric study." J.A.M.A. 113: 4, 1939.

Marihuana and School Children


One of the most serious accusations leveled against marihuana by special feature writers has been that it is widely used by the school children of this nation. These authors have claimed that it has so detrimental an effect on development that it is a major factor in juvenile delinquency. This phase of the marihuana problem was deemed serious enough to merit primary consideration in our study of the marihuana problem in New York City -- specifically in the Borough of Manhattan. We decided to attack this aspect of the problem along the following lines:

  1. To observe schools in order to see if pupils bought marihuana cigarettes from any peddlers operating in the neighborhood.
  2. To investigate thoroughly complaints made by parents to school and police authorities relative to marihuana and its use by school children.
  3. To interview principals, assistant principals, and teachers of many of the schools in New York City with reference to our project.
  4. To gather relevant statistics from various city bureaus and private agencies.

Unknown to the school authorities, our investigators had under surveillance many of the schools in the Borough of Manhattan. They would observe a particular school for a number of consecutive days, watch loiterers and suspicious characters in the locality, and, under certain circumstances, follow some of the children. This procedure was repeated at varying intervals in different localities. From time to time the investigators would return to some of the schools which they previously had kept under surveillance. Attention was naturally concentrated upon those schools from which emanated the most numerous complaints and which were located in suspected neighborhoods. We must admit that it would have been possible for such sales to have taken place during the time that our investigators were not on duty, but we came to the conclusion that there was no organized traffic on the part of peddlers in selling marihuana cigarettes to the children of the schools we observed.

Certain of the school authorities deserve special commendation for their alertness in singling out suspicious characters loitering in the vicinity of their schools. While investigating one of the suspected schools, our investigators who were loitering in the neighborhood were suspected and treated as "suspicious characters" by the school authorities.

During the period of this survey the Police Department while engaged in an entirely separate criminal investigation received a lead indicating the sale of marihuana to children in a certain high school. As a result, one pupil was arrested and convicted for selling cigarettes to his classmates.

In the Harlem district we discovered a few places where school children gathered during and after school hours for the purpose of indulging in smoking ordinary cigarettes, drinking alcoholic beverages, and engaging in homosexual and heterosexual activities.

One of our investigators, having gained entrance to such a place, ostentatiously displayed marihuana cigarettes which he had with him. The madam of the place promptly cautioned him against using the "weed" and insisted that at no time did she permit any person to smoke it on her premises.

A surprising number of school children smoking ordinary cigarettes were noted. A checkup revealed that these cigarettes were being illicitly sold by men on the street and in candy stores in the "loose" form. It is possible that this trade in ordinary cigarettes is occasionally misinterpreted as trade in "reefers."

Interviews with school authorities were very significant, and it is of value to summarize briefly some of the statements actually made by them. The locations of the schools and the names of the persons quoted are in our official files.

  1. High School. Predominantly white. The principal stated, "The school has never had any connection with marihuana, not even a rumor."
  2. High School. Predominantly white. The principal at first appeared to be evasive and did not readily volunteer information, but after repeatedly being pressed with the question stated that the school "had not had any difficulty with the subject of marihuana."
  3. High School. Predominantly white. The principal emphatically stated, "I have had no trouble with marihuana in my school."
  4. A vocational school in the Borough of Queens. Mixed. "I have never heard the slightest thing about marihuana in connection with this school."
  5. High School. Queens. Mixed. "We never had the slightest connection with marihuana in any way."
  6. Junior High School. Harlem. Predominantly Negro and Latin-American. The principal stated that there had been a few marihuana cases among the boys about eighteen months ago. His assistant volunteered the information that there had been some boys in the school who had "reefers" in their possession. On other occasions some of the boys appeared to be intoxicated and when examined confessed to having smoked "reefers." He further stated, "It was difficult to be sure if sleepy, perspiring, pallid-looking boys were feeling the effects of marihuana or were just recovering from too much 'partying' or drinking." He volunteered the opinion that since marihuana was an acute problem among the adult population in that particular district, it could be assumed that marihuana could occasionally become a problem in the school.
  7. Junior High School. White and Latin-American. On the fringe of Harlem. Principal and assistant principal stated that they have never had the slightest difficulty arising from marihuana.
  8. Junior High School. White and Negro. Bordering on Harlem. The principal, because of his short tenure of office, was unable to express his opinion on the subject. The chief clerk stated that marihuana had never been a problem in the school. She was certain, however, that it was sold in the neighborhood.
  9. Junior High School. White, with a high percentage of Negro and Latin-American. The principal stated, "As yet we have had no contact with marihuana although, considering the neighborhood, it would not be unlikely."
  10. Junior High School. Latin-American, Negro, and some white. The principal stated, "We have had no trouble with marihuana." He was of the opinion that because of the locality it would be possible for some older boys to smoke it without anybody being cognizant of it. He added that he would let us know if any boys were detected smoking. During the period of the survey no such report was made.
  11. Junior High School. Latin-American predominating. The principal stated that she had not had any trouble with marihuana.
  12. Junior High School. White predominating. The principal stated, "I have had no contact with it." However, due to the location of the school, which was near Harlem, she stated she would notify the Juvenile Aid Bureau if such a problem arose. During the period of the survey no such report was received.
  13. Junior High School. White. The principal stated that no information concerning the use of any narcotics had ever come to his attention and was equally insistent that teachers would have reported any such information to him.
  14. Junior High School. White. The principal stated that she had never found anything to indicate the use of any drug in the school.
  15. Junior High School. White and mixed. The principal stated that last year he had suspected that a group of chronic truants were using marihuana but he was unable to obtain any direct evidence.
  16. Junior High School. White. The principal and his assistant stated that they had no real evidence of any marihuana problem in the school, and they do not believe that the drug is used to any extent.
  17. Junior High School. White. The principal stated that although she had no tangible evidence of marihuana smoking among the students, she has problem groups that gather in premises where she is inclined to think that marihuana could be obtained if they wished to get it. She is certain no marihuana is used in the school itself. We investigated thoroughly the suggestions made by the principal as to premises where marihuana might be sold but we were unable to gather any evidence of its sale.
  18. Junior High School. White. The acting principal and a teacher in the school who had been there for a number of years stated that there had never been any evidence of the use of marihuana or any other drugs in the school.
  19. Junior High School. White. The health director of this school stated that any evidence concerning the use of narcotics by pupils would have been called to his attention, but none had been.
  20. Junior High School. White. The authorities stated that there had been no traces of marihuana smoking.
  21. Junior High School. White. The authorities stated that there had never been the slightest suggestion of marihuana smoking in the school.
  22. Junior High School. White. The assistant principal stated that he knew of no marihuana problem in the school.
  23. Junior High School. White. The principal stated that because of the publicity given to marihuana smoking she had been on the alert to discover indications of its use in her school but had found no evidence of marihuana in the school or of anything that would lead her to believe that any one of her students used marihuana outside of the school.
  24. Junior High School. White. The principal stated that nothing pertaining to the use of narcotics had been reported to him in all the years he had been there.
  25. High School. Predominantly white. Authorities, including the medical department, stated that no student had ever been reported for being under the influence of marihuana.
  26. High School. Predominantly white. The principal stated, "There is no indication of a marihuana problem in the school."
  27. Grammar School. The principal stated that anonymous letters had been received from time to time from pupils in the school in reference to marihuana. One letter was actually signed by a pupil of the school, who reported the sale of marihuana in a candy store in the vicinity. The principal with held the name of the pupil but requested us to investigate the report. We kept this school, the immediate neighborhood, and all candy stores in the vicinity under strict surveillance, but were unable to gather any evidence which would indicate that the pupils of this school were obtaining marihuana.
  28. Junior High School. Negro. Queens. The assistant principal stated that he had never heard anything about marihuana being a problem in his school. We had received a complaint about this school and one of our investigators had an informal chat with one of the teachers of this school who, because of her interest in the school children, appeared to be more conversant than anyone else with general problems at the school. She stated that she was certain marihuana was used by some of the students. She elaborated on the subject and recalled that a few months prior to the interview she had sent home five students (three Negroes and two Italians) whom she had noticed acting "dopey" in the classroom after the noon recess. She was not positive they were under the influence of marihuana but was fairly certain that they were under the influence of some drug. A student had told her that these boys used "reefers" and, noticing their stupor, she had concluded that they were under the influence of marihuana. Superficial examination showed her that their condition was not due to drinking whisky or any alcoholic beverage. In this school it was not necessary to notify the principal if a student was sent home. The teacher did so on her own account, arriving at a diagnosis without informing the principal of the condition. There was no doctor or nurse to examine the students.
  29. Grammar School. Negro. The principal and the social worker attached to this school stated that some time prior to the interview they had heard that cigarettes were being sold to children in Harlem. We were told of a certain man who was suspected of selling them to the children. The social worker was certain that a year before the interview marihuana cigarettes were sold on a certain street in Harlem to school children, but she had no knowledge as to whether the condition existed at the time of our investigation. While working on another part of the survey, we interviewed a young Negress, approximately 20 years of age, who was a marihuana smoker. She stated that she and another girl started to smoke marihuana cigarettes while attending this particular school.
  30. High School. Mixed, predominantly white. The principal stated that he was positive that there was no marihuana problem in his school.
  31. High School. Predominantly white. A student was arrested for selling marihuana cigarettes to other pupils. We kept this school under surveillance after the arrest. Although we heard rumors that the sale of marihuana would start again, we were unable to gather any evidence of this. Our investigators attended the dance of the graduating class of this school at one of the hotels in the city. The dance was well conducted and had a large attendance. There was no evidence of smoking at this affair. The principal was cooperating with the Juvenile Aid Bureau of the Police Department in conducting the investigation of the marihuana problem in his school.
  32. High School. White and Negro. Although rumor is widespread that "reefer" smoking is common at this school, thorough investigation did not produce evidence of it at the time of our investigation. We did obtain information, which we consider authoritative, that in 1935 a man was offered the concession to sell marihuana cigarettes to the students of this school. He refused the offer. The principal of this school stated that there had never been any trouble as a result of marihuana smoking and he knew of no actual cases.
  33. High School. White, Negro, and Latin-American. The director of health education, who was conversant with the subject, stated that the school had no problem with regard to marihuana smoking on the premises but that a Puerto Rican student who lived in Harlem had informed him that he could obtain marihuana cigarettes in his locality.
  34. College. White, some Negroes and Latin-Americans. We did not interview the authorities. Observation of the be havior of and conversation with students did not reveal any marihuana problem.
  35. College. White, some Negroes and Latin-Americans. This college is located near one of the famous "tea-pads" of Harlem. Many of the students pass the house regularly. Continued observation did not reveal any student attendance.
  36. Junior High School. Negro. Most of the boys of this school were familiar with the subject of marihuana. The pupils of the school are incessant smokers of ordinary cigarettes. We were unable to obtain any information which would indicate that they used "reefers." Some students were observed entering a house in which there was a "tea-pad," but we never found any of the occupants of this "tea-pad" to be pupils of the school. The counselor at the school stated that during the previous term there were suspicions regarding the use of marihuana.
  37. Junior High School. Negro. The principal, who is considered qualified to discuss this subject, stated that for the three months prior to the interview there had been no marihuana problem. She ventured the opinion that a few cases do arise in the spring and summer. Observation of this school reveals that practically every day young boys between the ages of 18 and 20 loitered near the gates of the schoolyard at the close of the session. Some of these boys were known to our investigators as "reefer" smokers, and they associated with the girls of the school. Two young girls known by our investigators to be "reefer" smokers stated that they started to smoke marihuana while at that school.
  38. High School. White, many Negroes and Latin-Americans. Many students smoked ordinary tobacco cigarettes. Numerous complaints and rumors were associated with this school. The principal stated that in 1934 they had an acute marihuana problem but that at the present time they did not think it existed. They are constantly on guard, especially at the beginning of a term, because they get many new students from the Harlem district. We are of the opinion that there are definite signs indicating that there is some marihuana smoking in the school.
  39. High School. Negro and white. The principal of this school stated that they did not have a marihuana problem. We are certain, however, that this school does to some extent present an acute problem for we have observed a few students smoking "reefers" away from the school. We have reason to believe that some of them smoke it while at school. The girls attending this high school have a very low moral standard.

On the basis of the above statements and findings, we feel justified in concluding that although marihuana smoking may be indulged in by small numbers of students in certain schools of New York City, it is apparently not a widespread or largescale practice. In the belief that actual facts concerning the role played by marihuana in the production of juvenile delinquency could best be revealed in the records of the Children's Court of New York City, we interviewed the proper authorities on this subject. On the basis of the Children's Court records for 1939, marihuana is not an important factor in the development of delinquency.



From the foregoing study the following conclusions are drawn:

  1. Marihuana is used extensively in the Borough of Manhattan but the problem is not as acute as it is reported to be in other sections of the United States.
  2. The introduction of marihuana into this area is recent as compared to other localities.
  3. The cost of marihuana is low and therefore within the purchasing power of most persons.
  4. The distribution and use of marihuana is centered in Harlem.
  5. The majority of marihuana smokers are Negroes and Latin-Americans.
  6. The consensus among marihuana smokers is that the use of the drug creates a definite feeling of adequacy.
  7. The practice of smoking marihuana does not lead to addiction in the medical sense of the word.
  8. The sale and distribution of marihuana is not under the control of any single organized group.
  9. The use of marihuana does not lead to morphine or heroin or cocaine addiction and no effort is made to create a market for these narcotics by stimulating the practice of marihuana smoking.
  10. Marihuana is not the determining factor in the commission of major crimes.
  11. Marihuana smoking is not widespread among school children.
  12. Juvenile delinquency is not associated with the practice of smoking marihuana.
  13. The publicity concerning the catastrophic effects of marihuana smoking in New York City is unfounded.

Our valuable member Nicholas Pastore has been with us since Monday, 20 February 2012.

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