Established in 1982 at LaGuardia Community College/ CUNY with a mission to collect, preserve, and make available primary materials documenting the social and political history of New York City. We hold nearly 5,000 cubic feet of archival records and 3,200 reels of microfilm with almost 100,000 photographs and 2,000,000 documents available on our website.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Marijuana Legalization Arguments Similar to La Guardia's Arguments Against Prohibition

Steven A. Levine
Coordinator for Educational Programs

Ninety three years ago this month the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified, banning the "manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors."  Congressman Fiorello H. La Guardia was a major opponent of prohibition. In the 1926 photo below you can see him mixing "near beer" with malt tonic to create 2% beer to demonstrate how easily Prohibition could be flouted.    In his article "Prohibition: A National Farce" (March 1927 "A Smokers Companion"), La Guardia argued that Prohibition was impossible to enforce, led to criminality, and cost the government hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue.  In  "Marijuana Push in Colorado Likens It to Alcohol," The New York Times reports similar arguments being made by proponents of marijuana legalization, "Banning or improperly regulating a substance that large numbers of people will use anyway failed in the 1920s with alcohol - with the spread of speakeasies and corruption during Prohibition - and is failing now with marijuana, they say."

Fiorello La Guardia pouring beer at his congressional office, June 1926.  

The La Guardia and Wagner Archives explores these issues in our "Unforgiving Economy" calendar/website  in a month called "The Underground Economy," and developed a lesson in our Women's Leadership Curriculum on temperance and prohibition, called 19th Century Reformers Ida Wells-Barnett and Frances E. Willard.

Below are some other interesting links related to that theme:

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