Till the 1950s, it was widespread to see hemp and weed plants “the size of Christmas trees” increasing wild in abandoned lots and yards all through New York.

Image through the Brooklyn Public Library

In spite of New York City’s reputation as 1 of the most liberal cities in the US, it continues to uphold archaic cannabis prohibition laws, in spite of the reality that neighboring states have embraced legalization. By the early 2010s, NYPD produced a lot more weed arrests than anyplace else in the globe. Final year, police information revealed that 94 % of all New Yorkers arrested for weed have been men and women of colour.

New York City was not normally so averse to weed, even so. Prior to the 1950s, cannabis plants essentially grew wild all across the 5 boroughs. Entire fields of 10-foot-tall hemp and marijuana plants could normally be observed increasing in empty lots and underpasses. This wild weed was sooner or later eradicated immediately after public opinion turned against cannabis in the ‘20s, which was fueled by racist Reefer Madness myths began by asshole supreme: Henry Anslinger.

Photo Credit: Brooklyn Library

A single of the initially mentions of cannabis in a neighborhood newspaper occurred on (think it or not) April 20, 1924 in the Brooklyn Each day Eagle. This report information how “loco weed” from Mexico was becoming shipped to the US “for sale to addicts of the plant.” The report acknowledged that weed can generate a feeling of “exhilaration or grandeur,” but also claimed that “instances have been identified exactly where crazed addicts have committed murder.”

The United States officially criminalized cannabis in 1937, but feral weed continued to develop wild in NYC till the 1950s. In the summer time of 1951, John E. Gleason, head of the NYC Sanitation Division developed the “White Wing Squad,” a group of sanitation workers tasked with eradicating the city’s naturally occurring weed. More than the course of that summer time, the White Wings uprooted and destroyed about 41,000 pounds of pot — 17,200 pounds of which came from Brooklyn alone.


“As tall as trees” (Photo Credit: Brooklyn Library)

Most of these cannabis fields have been purely feral. But the White Wings also cracked down on intentional weed develop-ops, seizing “millions of dollars” worth of black industry pot from “marijuana plantations” in Brooklyn, the Brooklyn Public Library reports. In July of 1951, cops raided a weed farm becoming grown in a vacant lot that was becoming created into the Brooklyn Civic Center. In total, the Sanitation Division claimed they destroyed $six million worth of weed that summer time.

In September of 1951, the White Wings found Brooklyn’s “biggest crop yet” increasing in Coney Island. In a subsequent interview, Gleason told the Brooklyn Each day Eagle that some of these plants, which have been “apparently cultivated,” have been the “size of Christmas trees.” All through the rest of the ‘50s, the Sanitation Division continued to seek and destroy New York’s wild weed. Then, this duty shifted to the NYPD in the ‘60s.

Gallery — When Joint Rolling Becomes an Art:

Even these days, wild cannabis can sometimes be discovered increasing in New York. In 2010, a keen observer spotted a young pot plant sprouting out of a fence in the East Village. That identical year, other wild-increasing plants have been spotted in Union Square and Brooklyn. It was never ever found whether or not these plants have been grown intentionally, or have been leftovers from a time when weed employed to develop naturally in the city streets.