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|Major Studies of Drugs and Drug Policy|
|Marihuana, A Signal of Misunderstanding - Table of Contents|
Marihuana, A Signal of Misunderstanding
The Report of the National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse
marihuana and social policy
DISCUSSION OF STATE RECOMMENDATIONS
The states have primary responsibility for enforcing the existing proscriptions against possession for personal use. Their present efforts are designed mainly to keep marihuana use contained, and in private. Such an enforcement policy is consistent with our social policy approach, and is an appropriate exercise of the states' obligations to maintain public order. So while we see no need for criminal sanctions against possession for personal use or against casual transfers, we recommend a number of provisions for confining marihuana use to the home.
The first point is that even marihuana possessed for personal use is subject to summary seizure and forfeiture if it is found in public. This concept is now applicable under federal law which we commend also to the states. In our view, the contraband feature symbolizes the discouragement policy and will exert a, major force in keeping use private.
Another means of symbolizing the discouragement policy which has been suggested is the imposition of a civil fine on those possessing marihuana outside the home for personal use.* Under such an approach, a fine would be levied and processed outside the criminal justice system. Essentially, possession of marihuana would be the equivalent of a traffic offense in those jurisdictions where such an offense is not criminal.
Such a scheme would accomplish little more than that achieved under a partial prohibition scheme. Warrants would presumably not be issued for searches of private residences, and possession offenses would be detected only by accident or if the offender uses the drug in public. The more direct way to confront such behavior is a penalty against public use.
A further problem with the civil fine approach lies in the area, of non-payment of the
fine. With traffic tickets, or with civil fines levied against industrial polluters,
society can compel compliance by withdrawing its permission to engage in regulated
activity. For example, it can revoke the motorists' license to drive or the polluters'
license to do business within the state. In short, the state has remedies beyond the
criminal law to achieve its policy goal. The same would not be true for the marihuana user
and enforceability of the statute would ultimately require court action.
*See the views of Commissioners Rogers, Carter and Ware expressed in the footnote on
As we have suggested, a central feature, of our statutory approach at the state, level would be a vigorously enforced prohibition of public use. No intoxicant should be used in public, both because it may offend others and because the user is risking irresponsible behavior if he should be under its influence in public. Moreover, where marihuana is concerned, continuing societal disapproval requires that the behavior occur only in private if at all. Public use, under the proposed scheme, would therefore be punishable by a fine of $100.
We also recognize the need for some prophylactic measure for anticipating distribution, even though there may be no intent to sell for profit. To this end, and in order to deter public use, possession and transfer, we have drawn a line at one ounce of marihuana. Possession in public of more than this amount would be punishable by a fine of $100.
For these same reasons, we believe the states should prohibit all transfers outside the home, whether or not for remuneration. A transfer for profit would be a felony, as under present law. A casual transfer of a small amount would be punishable by a fine of $100.
Taken together, the contraband feature, the proscriptions of public use and public possession of more than an ounce (even if for personal use) and the prohibition of public transfers will reflect the discouragement policy underlying the entire, scheme.
The remaining set of recommendations alms at irresponsible behavior under the influence of marihuana. Whatever the precise legal scheme employed, these provisions should be included.
First, the "drunk and disorderly" statutes presently in force in the states are useful tools for maintaining public order. We would suggest similar statutes in the case of marihuana, punishing offenders by up to 60 days in jail, a fine of $100, or both. Law enforcement authorities must have a means to halt antisocial behavior exhibited incidental to marihuana use.
The second aspect of irresponsible behavior is the operation of automobiles, other vehicles, or any potentially dangerous instrument while under the influence of marihuana. Such behavior is gross negligence in itself, risking harm to others unnecessarily. In addition to penalizing a person who "drives under the influence" as a serious misdemeanant, we would impose absolute civil liability on anyone who harms the person or property of another while under the influence of marihuana.
Finally, no one should be able to limit his criminal accountability by alleging that he
was under the influence of marihuana at the time of the crime. Under both federal and
state law, the defendant should not be able to negate the mental element of "specific
intent," which some offenses carry, by pleading that he was under the influence of
marihuana and was therefore unable to have formed such an intent. Unlike many users of
heroin, the user of marihuana is not physically dependent on the drug. The use of the drug
is usually a matter of choice. Although we believe on the basis of available evidence that
there is no causal connection between marihauna use and crime, we would under no
circumstances allow a person to escape the consequences of his actions by hiding behind
the cloak of marihuana use.
Schaffer Library of Drug Policy
Major Studies of Drug and Drug Policy
Marihuana, A Signal of Misunderstanding - The Report of the US National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse
Licit and Illicit Drugs
Short History of the Marijuana Laws
The Drug Hang-Up
Congressional Transcripts of the Hearings for the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937
Frequently Asked Questions About Drugs
Basic Facts About the Drug War
Charts and Graphs about Drugs
Information on Alcohol
Guide to Heroin - Frequently Asked Questions About Heroin
LSD, Mescaline, and Psychedelics
Drugs and Driving
Children and Drugs
Drug Abuse Treatment Resource List
American Society for Action on Pain
Let Us Pay Taxes
Marijuana Business News
Reefer Madness Collection
Medical Marijuana Throughout History
Drug Legalization Debate
Legal History of American Marijuana Prohibition
Marijuana, the First 12,000 Years
DEA Ruling on Medical Marijuana
Legal References on Drugs
GAO Documents on Drugs
Response to the Drug Enforcement Agency
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