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Local Officials Pose With Marijuana Plants, Schenectady County, 1940

Local officials pull marijuana plants, Schenectady County.

Local officials pull marijuana plants, Schenectady County.

New York State Archives, NYSA_14655-88_003
Document Description
Local officials pose with marijuana plants in Schenectady County, 1940.
What are the men in the photograph doing?
Who are these men?
Why is their photograph being taken?
How are these men related to the Uniform Narcotic Drug Act of 1933?
Historical Challenges
What role does current law enforcement play in the area of narcotics? What state and federal agencies are responsible for the enforcement of these laws? How are confiscated narcotics handled today?
Interdisciplinary Connections
Design a brochure explaining the narcotic laws of 1933 to the general public.
English Language Art: Write a letter to a state senator requesting the consideration of changes to the current laws regarding marijuana. You can choose to request harsher or more lenient laws, but you must support your request with ample evidence.
New York State. McKinney’s Consolidated Laws of New York Annotated. Pocket Parts. Edward Thompson Company: Brooklyn, 1939.

Historical Context
Drug laws in the United States came into existence during the early part of the twentieth century. During the first two decades of the century, individual states passed laws limiting the use of narcotic drugs with no medicinal value. New York State had one of the earliest laws prohibiting the use and possession of narcotics. In 1933, New York passed a more comprehensive Uniform Narcotic Drug Act as a part of Public Health Law.

The Narcotic Drug Act prohibited the manufacture, possession, sale, prescription, administration, dispense, or compound of any narcotic drug unless otherwise authorized for medicinal use. The law defined a narcotic as “cocoa leaves, opium, cannabis (marijuana), and every substance neither chemically nor physically distinguishable from them.” Cannabis, another term for marijuana, was further defined as “all parts of the plant cannabis sativa L., whether growing or not; the seeds thereof; the resin extracted from any part of such plant; and every compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture or preparation of such plant…” Therefore, the location of growing plants on someone’s property would serve as a violation of this law.

In the event that a law officer encountered a violation of this law, all narcotic drugs were to be seized and destroyed. The commissioner of health was required to keep all records related to the confiscated drugs and their disposal, including types, quantities and forms. The above photograph shows law enforcement officers seizing marijuana plants in Schenectady County in 1940. The action taken by these men was required by the Uniform Narcotic Drug Act of 1933.

Essential Question
How does the government attempt to regulate individual behavior?
Check for Understanding
Write a brief paragraph explaining the scene in this photograph.