The LaGuardia Committee Report on Marijuana
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:
- To observe schools in order to see if pupils bought marihuana cigarettes from any
peddlers operating in the neighborhood.
- To investigate thoroughly complaints made by parents to school and police authorities
relative to marihuana and its use by school children.
- To interview principals, assistant principals, and teachers of many of the schools in
New York City with reference to our project.
- 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
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.
- High School. Predominantly white. The principal stated, "The school has never had
any connection with marihuana, not even a rumor."
- 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
- High School. Predominantly white. The principal emphatically stated, "I have had no
trouble with marihuana in my school."
- A vocational school in the Borough of Queens. Mixed. "I have never heard the
slightest thing about marihuana in connection with this school."
- High School. Queens. Mixed. "We never had the slightest connection with marihuana
in any way."
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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."
- 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.
- Junior High School. Latin-American predominating. The principal stated that she had not
had any trouble with marihuana.
- 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.
- 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.
- Junior High School. White. The principal stated that she had never found anything to
indicate the use of any drug in the school.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Junior High School. White. The authorities stated that there had been no traces of
- Junior High School. White. The authorities stated that there had never been the
slightest suggestion of marihuana smoking in the school.
- Junior High School. White. The assistant principal stated that he knew of no marihuana
problem in the school.
- 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.
- 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.
- High School. Predominantly white. Authorities, including the medical department, stated
that no student had ever been reported for being under the influence of marihuana.
- High School. Predominantly white. The principal stated, "There is no indication of
a marihuana problem in the school."
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- High School. Mixed, predominantly white. The principal stated that he was positive that
there was no marihuana problem in his school.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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