NEW YORK— The New York Academy of Medicine’s LaGuardia Report was one of the nation’s first systematic studies that critically examined common assertions and prevalent beliefs about the purported dangers of marijuana. To mark the report’s 70th anniversary, NYAM and the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) are hosting a day-and-a-half symposium to look back on the LaGuardia Report to inform a rich discussion of contemporary drug policy reform efforts, both nationally and in New York. The conference will bring together leading academics, elected officials, policy experts, and activists from around the country to discuss the origins of current marijuana policies and explore where New York and the nation might go to achieve drug policies grounded in science, compassion, and equity.

“From the LaGuardia Report in 1944 to the repeal of the Rockefeller Drug Laws in 2009 to last year’s joint report with the Drug Policy Alliance, Blueprint for a Public Health and Safety Approach to Drug Policy, The New York Academy of Medicine has maintained that the current criminalization-based approach to drug policy is inappropriate and not based on evidence. Instead, we support a shift to a public health-oriented approach based on the four pillars of prevention, treatment, harm reduction, and public safety,” said Jo Ivey Boufford, MD, NYAM President. “We are pleased to lead the continued discussion of New York State and national drug policy in the historic frame of the Academy’s work of so many years ago.”

In 1939—on the heels of the national 1937 Marihuana Tax Act, which established federal marijuana prohibition—New York City Mayor Fiorella LaGuardia called upon The New York Academy of Medicine to produce a report about marijuana. The La Guardia Committee Report: The Marihuana Problem in the City of New York was published in 1944 in the midst of a national debate about marijuana. The NYAM published report concluded “the sociological, psychological, and medical ills commonly attributed to marihuana have been found to be exaggerated.” Despite its findings, this groundbreaking report had minimal impact on local or national policy, and marijuana prohibition has stood largely intact for almost 70 years. Today, a national discussion is again underway about marijuana policies, and recent changes in marijuana policy in the U.S. suggest we may be entering a new era.

“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,” said Julie Netherland, Deputy State Director for New York at the Drug Policy Alliance.

On the evening of Thursday, May 1, Richard Bonnie, Harrison Foundation Professor of Medicine and Law at the University of Virginia School of Law, will deliver the keynote address on “The Surprising Collapse of Marijuana Prohibition: What Now?” Mr. Bonnie served as an advisor on drug policy to the Nixon, Ford and Carter Administrations, was a member of the Shafer Commission (aka the National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse) and is the author of The Marijuana Conviction: A History of Marijuana Prohibition in the United States. A panel of experts will discuss the topic following his talk.

The full-day program on Friday, May 2 will include panel discussions on Drug Wars Past & Present, The Contemporary Research Agenda for Drug Use and Abuse, and New York Marijuana Policy Reform in 2014. Several New York City, New York State, and national government representatives will make remarks, including Melissa Mark-Viverito, Speaker, New York City Council; Jeffrion Aubrey, Speaker Pro Tempore, New York State Assembly; Richard Gottfried, New York State Assembly, 75th District; and Hakeem Jeffries, United States Congress, 8th District. Cultural historian Dr. David T. Courtwright of the University of North Florida will deliver closing remarks.

Registration is available online for the May 1 keynote and May 2 panels.

About The New York Academy of Medicine
The New York Academy of Medicine advances the health of people in cities.
An independent organization since 1847, NYAM addresses the health challenges facing the world’s urban populations through interdisciplinary approaches to policy leadership, innovative research, evaluation, education, and community engagement. Drawing on the expertise of diverse partners worldwide and more than 2,000 elected Fellows from across the professions, our current priorities are to create environments in cities that support healthy aging; to strengthen systems that prevent disease and promote the public’s health; to eliminate health disparities; and to preserve and promote the heritage of medicine and public health.

About the Drug Policy Alliance
The Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) is the nation's leading organization of people who believe the war on drugs is doing more harm than good. DPA fights for drug policies based on science, compassion, health and human rights.