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Records of the Research Institute for the Study of Man's (RISM) Study of Chronic Marihuana Users in Jamaica (The Ganja Study)

Call Number



1970-1981, inclusive
; 1970, bulk


Research Institute for the Study of Man


30.5 Linear Feet in 43 boxes

Language of Materials

Materials are in English.


The Study of Chronic Marihuana Users in Jamaica (The Ganja Project) is a collection of materials relating to an anthropological and medical study of the long-term effects of cannabis smoking. It was commissioned by the National Institute of Mental Health in 1970 and conducted by the Research Institute for the Study of Man, in collaboration with the University of the West Indies, between 1970 and 1972. Materials include human subject data, background research on the physiological and psychological effects of cannabis use, the legal issues surrounding research involving controlled substances, and published materials relating to the study.

Historical Note

The Study of Chronic Marihuana Users in Jamaica was initiated at the invitation of the Center for Studies of Narcotic and Drug Abuse of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and carried out by the Research Institute for the Study of Man (RISM) in collaboration with the Faculty of Medicine at the University of the West Indies (UWI). The research program was designed to provide data on the clinical and social effects of chronic cannabis smoking in Jamaica, the first study to be undertaken in a natural as well as laboratory setting. Preparation for the study involved negotiation with several agencies within the Government of Jamaica, which at the time prohibited the cultivation, use and possession of cannabis. Discussions with authorities in the Jamaican government and the University of the West Indies resulted in full support for the project. Agreements were made for the protection and privacy of field workers, informants, subjects and staff, and arrangements were made for facilities to conduct clinical studies of long-term effects of smoking cannabis. Combining anthropological and medical research methodology, the study began in June 1970 with anthropological field studies which were conducted over the first 18 months. Sixty volunteer subjects were selected from these communities and admitted to the University Hospital in November 1970. Thirty marijuana users with a history of at least ten years of past use, and 30 non-smokers, underwent medical and psychological examinations over a period of six days. Anthropological and clinical data analysis was completed in February 1972, and findings were reported to the NIMH and the Jamaican Government in March of the same year. Controversy surrounded publication of the results of the study. They did not confirm existing research concerning negative consequences derived from the use of cannabis, most particularly the "anti-motivational" aspect often associated with the use of the substance. In 1973, a Conference on Cross Cultural Perspectives on Cannabis was held in Chicago preceding the IXth International Congress of the International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences. Supported by the NIMH, the conference was attended by over sixty scientists involved in various aspects of research on the complexities of cannabis in relation to man and culture, representing the fields of anthropology, botany, genetics, pharmacology, psychiatry and sociology. The proceedings, edited by Vera Rubin, were published as Cannabis and Culture in 1975.

References Rubin, Vera, and Lambros Comitas. Ganja in Jamaica: A Medical Anthropological Study of Chronic Marihuana Use. The Hague and Paris: Mouton and Co., 1975. Rubin, Vera, ed. Cannabis and Culture. Paris and The Hague: Mouton. 1975.


Folders are arranged alphabetically by subject/author heading then chronologically within each subject/author heading.

The files are grouped into five series.

  1. Human Subject Data
  2. Subject Files
  3. Reports
  4. Journals, Articles, and Reprints
  5. Newspapers and Clippings

Scope and Contents

The bulk of the collection consists of human subject data from medical analyses conducted in 1970. There exists a substantial amount of background research material for the study relating to existing research on the effects of cannabis smoking and other drug use. Other background research includes an assessment of the legal status of marihuana use in Jamaica, which was produced for the study, and materials examining the legal issues related to clinical studies involving illegal substances. This research includes pamphlets from groups such as NORML and nearly two years of issues of The U.S. Journal of Drug and Alcohol Dependence. Also included are press clippings, book reviews, magazines, and journals with content relating to the published results of the Study of Chronic Marihuana Users in Jamaica, as well as the final report as issued to the National Institute of Mental Health. Data from the ethnographic study of Jamaican communities are not part of The Ganja Project collection.

Conditions Governing Access

Restrictions apply to certain materials in Series I: Human Subject Data and will therefore not be displayed in this inventory. For further information regarding restrictions, please contact the New York University Archives.

Some restricted materials pertaining mainly to finances, internal administration, and private information remain at the Reed Foundation and are closed to researchers.

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to publish materials must be obtained in writing from the:
New York University Archives
Bobst Library
70 Washington Square South
New York, New York 10012
Phone: 212.998.2641
Fax: 212.995.4225

Preferred Citation

Published citations should take the following form: Identification of item, date (if known); Records of the Research Institute for the Study of Man's (RISM) Study of Chronic Marihuana Users in Jamaica (The Ganja Study); RISM RG 12; box number; folder number; New York University

Location of Materials

Materials are stored offsite and advance notice is required for use. Please contact at least two business days prior to your research visit to coordinate access.


The collection was donated to the New York University Archives by the Research Institute for the Study of Man in 2006. In 2017 an accretion of materials was transferred to the University Archives from the Reed Foundation; the accession number associated with this gift is 2017.023.

Collection processed by

Melissa Gasparotto (front matter) and Peter Asch (inventory). Inventory revised by Julianna Monjeau and Norma Chaires, September 2010. Additional processing by Celeste Brewer.

About this Guide

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on 2023-08-20 17:56:27 -0400.
Language: Finding aid written in English

Processing Information

Decisions concerning the arrangement, description, and physical interventions taken on this collection prior to 2017 have not yet been recorded. In 2017 an accretion was rehoused in archival folders and incorporated into the collection's existing arrangement structure based on the materials' content.

Revisions to this Guide

June 2017: Record edited by Rachel Searcy to reflect incorporation of 2017 accretion

Edition of this Guide

This version was derived from MS Word and MS Excel documents.


New York University Archives
Research Institute for the Study of Man
New York University Archives
Elmer Holmes Bobst Library
70 Washington Square South
2nd Floor
New York, NY 10012