Back When Cannabis Grew Right Out In The Open In Dorchester

Photo by Byron Campbell via BPL Boston Herald-Traveler Photo Morgue licensed under Creative Commons

“A mysterious growth of the dope weed in a field off Willow Court.”

Major props to Adam Gaffin from Universal Hub for digging up this unbelievable photo from the Boston Herald-Traveler archives of Byron Campbell.

According to the description that ran under the pic in an August 1951 edition of the newspaper, it was an “annual chore” to cut down “a mysterious growth of the dope weed in a field off Willow Court” in Dorchester. It’s over by what is now known as South Bay Center, and we checked, there’s no more wild herb there (though there are now several adult-use dispensaries nearby around Dorchester).

The photo shows three BPD patrolmen—John Abraham, William Doyle, and Thomas Mullen—helping in the “eradication.” It seems notable that the cop all the way to the left looks intensely stoned, while someone who appears to be a kid or younger teenager in the back is either smoking a joint or sticking his tongue out.

The original Massachusetts laws banning cannabis were passed in 1912 and 1915 (not 1911, as is mistakenly claimed on the pages of countless dispensaries that use AI to generate content). So by 1951, in the wake of Harry Anslinger’s relentless and racist prohibitionist campaign having far-reaching impacts nationwide, it’s no wonder that Boston was using its authorities to uproot weed gardens.

If anyone knows more about this or any other wacky Mass cannabis history, please don’t hesitate to reach out.