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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

The Report

In this Chapter, we have tried to put the marihuana problem in perspective. In the remainder of this Report, we explore several aspects of the phenomenon of marihuana use, its effects, its social impact and its social meaning, assessing their relative importance in the formulation of social policy.

In Chapter II, we consider the effects of the drug on the individual user, with particular attention to the size of the user population for whom various effects are relevant. The Commission emphasizes that this material is related only indirectly to its policy-making function. The social policy planner is concerned not about the effects on the individual per se, but about the impact of any adverse effect on his behavior and on the larger society and about the meaning of this behavior in the larger social perspective. The material in Chapter II serves primarily to educate and inform.

In Chapter III, the Commission evaluates the various threats which marihuana use is perceived to present to the public safety, public health, and dominant social order. This Chapter is designed to assess the social impact of marihuana use, the initial step in the policy making process.

In Chapter IV, we consider what role marihuana use plays and will play in the life of American society. This is the dynamic element of marihuana use and is the most intangible of the marihuana realities, but is particularly important from a policy-planning perspective. This consideration is the one most overlooked by contemporary observers and participants in the marihuana debate.

Because social meaning is not a directly measurable entity, we must examine the ways in which society responds to the behavior and whether such responses, both formal and informal, are fluid or. static. After analyzing public opinion, law enforcement behavior and the reactions of medical, educational, and other segments of the population, we then discuss what marihuana use has come to mean and is likely to mean in the future. Particularly important in this highly speculative endeavor is the wider cultural perspective which we described earlier in this Chapter.

In Chapter V, we bring this information to bear on a policy-making process. After establishing the philosophical framework, we explore the spectrum of social policy options, choosing the one we judge most suitable to the present time. Then we consider the range of legal alternatives for implementing this chosen policy, and select the one we believe to be most appropriate for achieving it.

In an addendum to the Report, we present some ancillary recommendations. Some of these recommendations flow from our basic premise, others are a result of independent evaluation by the Commission of other areas of concern.

We ask the reader to set his preconceptions aside as we have tried to do, and discriminate with us between marihuana, the drug, and marihuana, the problem. We hope that our conclusions will be acceptable to the entire public, but barring that, we hope at the least that the areas of disagreement and their implications will be brought into sharper focus.

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