New York Today: A Cultural History of Marijuana

Good morning on this brightening Monday.

Will New York be the next state to legalize marijuana? Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s 2018 budget plan calls for a study of the pros and cons.

If legal weed comes to New York City, it would finally achieve legitimacy in a place with a long, mixed record of tolerance and crackdowns. Here’s a quick spin through the cultural history of pot here.

In the 1930s, as authorities nationwide waged war on “reefer madness,” a doctor at the Manhattan Detention Complex urged treatment, not incarceration, for the city’s marijuana “addicts,” including jazz musicians who “find it necessary to take it before playing.”

Pot moved out of jazz clubs and marginalized communities and into mainstream (read: white) culture with the help of the Beat authors. Jack Kerouac, according to his first wife, took his first hit from the saxophonist Lester Young at Minton’s Playhouse in Harlem in the early 1940s.

The New York Academy of Medicine’s 1944 La Guardia report, commissioned by the mayor, debunked the myth of the murderous marijuana fiend. Researchers found that a typical smoker “readily engages in conversation with strangers, discussing…

Continue reading at

About New York Times