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Marihuana, A Signal of Misunderstanding - Table of Contents

The National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse

Marihuana: A Signal of Misunderstanding

I -- marihuana and the problem of marihuana

"There are no whole truths; all truths are half -truths. It is trying to treat them as whole truths that plays the devil."

Alfred North Whitehead (1953)

We are a nation of problem-solvers. We are restless and impatient with perceived gaps between the way things are and the way we think ought to be. Understandably, such an impulse toward self-correction never leaves us wanting for social problems to solve. Although it is a prerequisite to social progress, this problem-solving orientation misdirects our attention. In order to maximize public awareness we are apt to characterize situations as being far worse than they really are. Because any activity is commonly regarded as a move toward a solution, rhetoric and stopgap legislation sometimes substitute for rational reflection. We become so impressed with social engineering that we overlook inherent human limitations.

Since the mid-sixties, American society has been increasingly agitated by what has been defined as a marihuana problem. The typical sequences of "a national problem" have resulted: exaggeration, polarization and the inevitable demand for a. solution. The appointment of this Commission and the publication of this Report reflect the escalation of marihuana use into the realm of social problem. Since the beginning of our official life, we have grappled with the threshold question: Why has the use of marihuana reached problem status in the public mind?

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