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

Image by way of the Brooklyn Public Library

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

New York City was not generally so averse to weed, nonetheless. Just before the 1950s, cannabis plants essentially grew wild all across the 5 boroughs. Entire fields of 10-foot-tall hemp and marijuana plants could frequently be noticed developing in empty lots and underpasses. This wild weed was ultimately 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 very first mentions of cannabis in a regional newspaper occurred on (think it or not) April 20, 1924 in the Brooklyn Everyday Eagle. This write-up specifics how “loco weed” from Mexico was getting shipped to the US “for sale to addicts of the plant.” The write-up acknowledged that weed can create 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 season of 1951, John E. Gleason, head of the NYC Sanitation Division made 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 season, 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 getting grown in a vacant lot that was getting created into the Brooklyn Civic Center. In total, the Sanitation Division claimed they destroyed $six million worth of weed that summer season.

In September of 1951, the White Wings found Brooklyn’s “biggest crop yet” developing in Coney Island. In a subsequent interview, Gleason told the Brooklyn Everyday 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 currently, wild cannabis can sometimes be located developing in New York. In 2010, a keen observer spotted a young pot plant sprouting out of a fence in the East Village. That very same year, other wild-developing plants have been spotted in Union Square and Brooklyn. It was under no circumstances found whether or not these plants have been grown intentionally, or have been leftovers from a time when weed utilised to develop naturally in the city streets.