Landmark Conference: On 70th Anniversary of the Mayor LaGuardia Commission Report on Marijuana, Symposium Explores Past, Present and Future of Marijuana Policies in New York

Press Release April 29, 2014
Media Contact

<p>Contact:&nbsp;&nbsp; Tony Newman: 646-335-5384 or gabriel sayegh: 646-335-2264</p>

New York, NY: Thursday May 1st, marks the start of a major one-and-a-half day conference at The New York Academy of Medicine (NYAM) to discuss marijuana and broader drug policy reform.  The conference commemorates the 70th anniversary of one of the nation’s first systematic studies to address many of the myths about marijuana, The La Guardia Committee Report: The Marihuana Problem in the City of New York, published in 1944. The NYAM published report concluded that “the sociological, psychological, and medical ills commonly attributed to marihuana have been found to be exaggerated,” but marijuana prohibition has stood largely intact for seventy years – until now.

When the LaGuardia Commission released its final report on marijuana in 1944, it was in the midst of a national debate about marijuana, and prohibition was still new. Now, seventy years later, a national discussion is again underway about our marijuana policies. From the growing momentum to pass a medical marijuana bill pending in Albany, to the recent declaration by the Brooklyn District Attorney that he will no longer prosecute low level marijuana possession arrests, to the call last week by former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stevens to end marijuana prohibition, there is a growing consensus that our current state and federal marijuana policies are broken.  The conference will bring together leading academics, elected officials, policy experts and activists to discuss where we are with respect to marijuana policies and how we got here, and explore where New York and the nation might go to achieve drug policies grounded in science, compassion, and equity.

The conference, Marijuana & Drug Policy Reform in New York: The LaGuardia Report at 70, is being co-hosted by the Drug Policy Alliance and The New York Academy of Medicine and brings together elected officials, historians, medical professionals, researchers, people in recovery, people who currently use drugs, activists, and more. Like the original LaGuardia Commission report itself, the conference is being supported in part by the New York Foundation.

The conference kicks off Thursday evening with a panel discussion and a keynote address by University of Virginia law professor and drug policy historian Richard Bonnie, titled “The Surprising Collapse of Marijuana Prohibition: What Now?” Professor Bonnie was  policy advisor to Presidents Nixon and Carter is author of The Marijuana Conviction, a classic history of marijuana prohibition in the U.S.  On Friday, three different panels will examine the legacy of drug wars past and present, the contemporary science base for addiction and drug policy reform, and current drug policies reforms pending in NYC, Albany and Congress. Additional speakers include New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, U.S. Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, Speaker Pro Tempore of the New York State Assembly Jeffrion Aubrey, New York State Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, community organizer Bobby Tolbert, leading drug policy historian David Courtwright, cannabis researcher and expert Dr. Sunil Aggarawal, journalist Maia Szalavitz, author and researcher Julie Holland, and many more.

Participants will discuss the historical legacy of the LaGuardia report and marijuana prohibition, evidence-based strategies for building a coordinated, health-focused approach to drug policy in New York, and how New York can build on the legacy of Mayor LaGuardia and lead the nation by implementing more effective and more equitable drug policies.

Full conference details are online here:

A young woman holds a sign that says "End the Drug War."

Sign up for updates from DPA.