A Funny Tree Grew in Brooklyn – When Marijuana Grew Wild in NYC

The Brooklyn Public Library’s blog has a fascinating story complete with pictures illustrating the NYC Sanitation Dept. effort in the early 50s to eradicate marijuana plants grown by the enterprising Nancy Botwins of the Truman era. Pot-trepreneurs cultivated marijuana in massive numbers in the open lots of Queens and Brooklyn until they were confronted by the General Inspector of the Sanitation Dept. fulfilling the role of the overstuffed fuddy-duddy always obsessed with the idea that somebody somewhere is having a good time. He directed his special “White Wing Squad” to find and destroy the devil weed.

The fact that there was a special squadron of incorruptible garbage men like a sanitation version of the Untouchables is hilarious enough. As they say, “NY was no friend to pot.”

Over the course of the summer about 41,000 pounds of marijuana were uprooted and destroyed during a campaign to eradicate the psychotropic stuff from vacant lots in the city. After Queens, Brooklyn accounted for the largest haul — about 17,200 pounds…

The (Brooklyn) Eagle reported that the “drug plant” was growing here in “lush impudence.”


They do not talk about the early disastrous effort to burn the plants, which, when the wind changed, caused a massive run on the the record stores and pizzarias of Brooklyn and the Great Jazz Record and Pizza Shortage of 1951 my parents told me about. 

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