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|Major Studies of Drugs and Drug Policy|
|Marihuana, A Signal of Misunderstanding - Table of Contents|
The Report of the National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse
Marihuana: A Signal of Misunderstanding
Commissioned by President Richard M. Nixon, March, 1972
The previous Chapter recommended a social policy oriented toward the discouragement of marihuana use and presented a set of proposals for the legal implementation of that policy. In addition to these legal recommendations for federal, and state action, the Commission believes certain other recommendations should be presented for action.
These recommendations are presented in three categories: (1) legal and law enforcement, (2) medical, and (3) other. Some of these recommendations apply to other drugs as well and will be discussed further in our second Report. However, we consider it useful to make recommendations now so that policy planners can be informed of the implications of what has been studied to date.
Foremost among the Commission's conclusions is a need for consistency between federal and state laws affecting marihuana distribution and use, and uniformity of marihuana laws among the states. The administration of all marihuana laws must be mutally reenforcing so that total governmental response to marihuana is both equitable and understandable.
Legal and Law Enforcement Recommendations
RECOMMENDATION: FEDERAL LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCIES, ESPECIALLY THE BUREAU OF NARCOTICS AND DANGEROUS DRUGS AND THE BUREAU OF CUSTOMS, SHOULD IMPROVE THEIR STATISTICAL REPORTING SYSTEMS SO THAT POLICIES MAY BE PLANNED AND RESOURCES ALLOCATED ON THE BASIS OF ACCURATE AND COMPREHENSIVE INFORMATION.
In an effort to obtain information relating to enforcement of the marihuana laws including arrest, prosecution, sentencing and conviction data, the Commission found that sufficient information was available about prosecution and court action, but not about the activities of the law enforcement agencies. We were confronted by and large with inadequate statistical information and little or no in-depth evaluation.
The statistical reporting procedures of the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs and the Bureau of Customs are not uniform, making it extremely difficult to assess the effectiveness of the two principal drug enforcement agencies of the Federal Government. The Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs keeps centralized files but the Bureau of Customs maintains its files on a regional basis. In both Bureaus, statistical information is kept only in its raw form; that is, number of arrests, number of seizures and so on. Very little analysis exists of the procedures leading to arrest, of the characteristics of persons arrested, and of the law enforcement strategies involved in the arrest. For law enforcement personnel to understand more fully how they are carrying out their functions so that internal assessments of particular policies can be made, sophisticated statistics must be maintained.
Both the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs and the Bureau of Customs are aware of these problems. Both were extremely helpful to the Commission and its research staff in seeking useful information from the mass of raw statistics. However, the information from the available statistics is incomplete and of limited utility for policy planning purposes.
In support of this priority recommendation, Congress is urged to provide additional and adequate funding for this area, at the same time requiring both agencies to utilize a common reporting system so that information can be more easily shared between them.
In addition, it is recommended that the Federal Bureau of Investigation, in its Uniform Crime Reports, requests the state agencies to identify marihuana cases separately from narcotic cases and report them as a separate component.
RECOMMENDATION: THE FEDERAL BUREAU OF NARCOTICS AND DANGEROUS DRUGS SH0ULD INCREASE ITS TRAINING PROGRAMS OF STATE AND LOCAL POLICE WITH SPECIAL EMPHASIS ON THE TRAINING IN THE DETECTION OF TRAFFICKING CASES.
The Commission's interviews with state and local police, officials revealed a consistent desire to upgrade the quality of their investigations. Since the Federal Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, through its National Training Institute, has been performing this task well, it is recommended that the funds be granted by the Congress to extend the range of the educational program offered and increase the number of persons trained.
RECOMMENDATION: INCREASED BORDER SURVEILLANCE, A TIGHTENING OF BORDER PROCEDURES, AND A REALISTIC ERADICAT10N PROGRAM TO DIMINISH THE SUPPLY OF DRUGS COMING INTO THE COUNTRY, COUPLED WITH A MORE EFFECTIVE PROGRAM FOR DIMINISHING THE DOMESTIC PRODUCTION AND DISTRIBUTION OF MARIHUANA, ARE REQUIRED.
The Commission, as part of its mandate, studied drug trafficking patterns along the borders of the United States. An analysis of border marihuana seizures was also made. The results of both studies indicated that proportionately larger seizures were made along the borders at locations where, there were no manned checkpoints. The Commission therefore recommends that more vigorous effort be made by federal agencies to interdict smugglers along the entire border while continuing their efforts at the formal checkpoints.
In discussions with representatives of other countries, a common observation made by foreign officials has been this country's somewhat indifferent attitude about the eradication of our home-grown marihuana, an attitude that is not appreciated by other countries wider pressure from the United States to destroy their crops. Since this Administration has wisely made illicit trafficking in all drugs a foreign policy priority, we recommend that priority be supported by an equally assiduous effort to eradicate marihuana within our borders.
We recommend further that preclearance procedures be eliminated so that Customs personnel may more effectively control smuggling of marihuana and other drugs. Preclearance is a procedure whereby passengers and their baggage destined for the United States are inspected by U.S. Customs, Immigration and Agriculture officials prior to departure from a foreign location. This practice is in effect in Bermuda, Montreal, Nassau, Toronto, Vancouver, Winnipeg and the Virgin Islands. Other locations are petitioning for the same privilege.
An inherent weakness in the preclearance procedure is that Customs personnel stationed outside the United States have no authority for search, seizure and arrest. This fact is well-known to the professional smuggler who uses it to his advantage. Since we have been informed that preclearance creates a gap in Customs' interdiction process, reason dictates that the procedure be eliminated in the interest of tighter control.
RECOMMENDATION: ALL STATES SHOULD ADOPT THE UNIFORM CONTROLLED SUBSTANCES ACT TO ACHIEVE UNIFORMITY WITH REGARD TO MARIHUANA AND OTHER DRUG LAWS, WITH THE EXCEPTION THAT THE LEGAL RESPONSE TO POSSESSION FOR ONE'S OWN USE BE UNIFORMLY ADOPTED IN ACCORDANCE WITH OUR RECOMMENDATION IN CHAPTER V OF THIS REPORT.
As noted earlier, one of the greatest needs in the entire drug area is uniformity of state laws with regard to structure and penalties. While this recommendation applies to all drugs and not just marihuana, we feel it essential to make this recommendation now to help deemphasize the marihuana problem. Significant differences in penalties among the states constitute a valid source of irritation and conflict among various segments of our population. In an age of high mobility, it is unconscionable that penalties should vary so greatly in response, to the same behavior.
RECOMMENDATION: EACH STATE SHOULD ESTABLISH A CENTRALIZED COMPULSORY REPORTING AND RECORD-KEEPTNG AUTHORITY SO THAT ADEQUATE AND ACCURATE STATISTICS OF ARRESTS, SENTENCES AND CONVICTIONS ON A STATEWIDE BASIS ARE AVAILABLE.
Several states have systems for maintaining records of drug arrests on a statewide basis. Accurate reporting and compilation of these cases permit the state to assess accurately the impact of law enforcement on drug offenders. The Law Enforcement Assistance Administration of the Department of Justice should assist the states to establish compulsory statistical reporting centers so that individual state needs are met and a clearer picture of the national trends can be, ascertained. Efficient state record-keeping will have an additional benefit of increasing the reliability of the Uniform Crime Reports compiled by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
RECOMMENDATION: THOSE STATES REQUIRING PHYSICIANS TO REPORT DRUG USERS SEEKING MEDICAL ASSISTANCE SHOULD CHANGE SUCH REQUIREMENTS TO INSURE THE CONFIDENTIALITY OF THE DRUG USER'S IDENTITY, SO THAT PERSONS NEEDING MEDICAL HELP WILL FEEL FREE TO SEEK IT.
Seventeen states* currently require physicians to report to a government agency information on those persons treated by them who are dependent on, or are habitual users of drugs. No common pattern emerges among these states.
*California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico. New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia, Washington.
After reviewing these statutes, the Commission believes that the disadvantages of maintaining such reporting systems outweigh the benefits to society or the individual. Fear of disclosure to the police discourages many persons front seeking needed medical help. Furthermore, the requirement makes the physician an informant and an agent of law enforcement.
While a need exists for reliable statistics regarding the number and nature of those persons being treated, the Commission does not feel that identification of the individual user is necessary. We again emphasize that society should encourage persons in need of medical attention to seek out authorized practitioners without having to fear legal repercussions for such action.
RECOMMENDATION: IF THE UNITED STATES SHOULD BECOME A SIGNATORY OF THE PROPOSED PSYCHOTROPIC CONVENTION, WE RECOMMEND THAT CANNABIS BE REMOVED FROM THE EXISTING SINGLE CONVENTION AND CONSIDERATION BE GIVEN TO LISTING IT IN THE PSYCHOTROPIC CONVENTION AMONG DRUGS WHICH HAVE SIMILAR EFFECTS.
Under the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, 1961, of which the United States became a signatory in 1967, cannabis, with the exception of its leaves and stems, is included with narcotic drugs and cocaine. While that categorization had some justification in 1961 when knowledge about marihuana was more, limited, this justification no longer exists. More importantly, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, is not included in the Single Convention and is proposed for inclusion in the Psychotropic Convention.
The Commission sees little sense in having the potent psychoactive ingredient in cannabis covered in one Convention and the natural supplying data from its major foreign studies of chronic cannabis users in Jamaica and Greece. For medical research purposes, an analysis of data derived from populations in other countries with 10, 20 or 30 years of experience with heavy marihuana use will provide useful information about probable consequences if the, incidence of marihuana use in the United States were to continue and increase, and if more people engaged in heavy, long term use.
IV. Therapeutic Uses
RECOMMENDATION: INCREASED SUPPORT OF STUDIES WHICH EVALUATE THE EFFICACY OF MARIHIUANA TN THE TREATMENT OF PHYSICAL IMPAIRMENTS AND DISEASE IS RECOMMENDED.
Historical references have been noted throughout the literature referring to the use of cannabis products as therapeutically useful agents. Of particular significance for current research with controlled quality, quantity and therapeutic settings, would be investigations into the treatment of glaucoma, migraine, alcoholism and terminal cancer. The NIMII-FDA Psychotomimetic Advisory Committee's authorization of studies designed to explore the therapeutic uses of marihuana is commended.
V. Community-Based Treatment
RECOMMENDATION: COMMUNITY-BASED TREATMENT FACILITIES SHOULD BE PROMOTED IN CARlNG FOR PROBLEM DRUG USERS UTILIZING EXISTING HEALTH CENTERS WHEN POSSIBLE AND APPROPRIATE.
In studying marihuana, the Commission has obtained information about a number of treatment centers and services. The wide range of agencies and the variety of goals and techniques present a confusing array of services available to drug users, varying widely in their effectiveness. Uniform criteria for evaluating the "success" of these programs is urgently needed.
The medical members of the Commission believe that some of the techniques being used may pose as much potential harm as good. Many young people who are experiencing profound difficulties resulting from the use of drugs may suppose they are being treated and helped, when in reality they are not. In some cases, the short-term benefit may be disruptive to the long-term welfare of the individual. In the rush to provide treatment facilities, many programs have been given impressive credentials without meeting minimal medical standards. It is essential that treatment facilities have, as their primary orientation, the well-being of the individual under treatment.
VI. Training Programs
RECOMMENDATION: PUBLIC HEALTH COURSES ON THE SOCIAL ASPECTS OF DRUG USE SHOULD BE INCLUDED IN THE CURRICULA OF THE SCHOOLS OF THE HEALTH PROFESSIONS.
The Commission recommends that schools of the health professions include in their curricula courses on the social, public health and therapeutic aspects of drug use as appropriate to the educational purpose of the individual school. The National Survey indicated that the public views the family physician as an important source of information about drugs. Next to school personnel, physicians were mentioned most often in this connection. Persons involved in the health professions must be provided with information about nonmedical as well as the medical aspects of drug use.
1. Reclassification of Cannabis
RECOMMENDATION: THE COMMISSION RECOGNIZES THAT SEVERAL STATE LEGISLATURES HAVE IMPROPERLY CLASSIFIED MARIHUANA AS A NARCOTIC, AND RECOMMENDS THAT THEY NOW REDEFINE MARIHUANA ACCORDING TO THE STANDARDS OF THE RECENTLY ADOPTED UNIFORM CONTROLLED SUBSTANCES LAW.
Scientific evidence has clearly demonstrated that marihuana is not a narcotic drug, and the law should properly reflect this fact. Congress so recognized in the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970, as did The Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws in the Uniform Controlled Substances Law.
In those states where the Uniform Controlled Substances Law has not yet been adopted, twelve of which continue to classify marihuana as a "narcotic", the Commission recommends that the legislatures distinguish marihuana from the opiates and list it in a separate category. The consequence of inappropriate definition is that the public continues to associate marihuana with the narcotics, such as heroin. The confusion resulting from this improper classification helps to perpetuate prejudices and misinformation about marihuana.
RECOMMENDATION: A SINGLE FEDERAL AGENCY SOURCE SHOULD DISSEMINATE INFORMATION AND MATERIALS RELATING TO MARIHUANA AND OTHER DRUGS. THE NATIONAL CLEARINGHOUSE FOR DRUG ABUSE INFORMATION SHOULD BE CHARGED WITH THIS RESPONSIBILITY.
A great proliferation of drug information materials has occurred in recent years. These, materials are currently distributed by a number of federal agencies. Some of these materials conflict with each other. The result is a confusion and uncertainty on the part of the, public about the accuracy of all these statements. The public should have one federal source from which to obtain drug information. The National Clearinghouse for Drug Abuse Information appears best suited to perform this task.
RECOMMENDATION: THE SPECIAL ACTION OFFICE FOR DRUG ABUSE PREVENTION IN THE WHITE HOUSE SHOULD BE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE COORDINATION, DEVELOPMENT AND CONTENT REVIEW OF ALL FEDERALLY-SUPPORTED DRUG EDUCATIONAL MATERIALS ANT) SHOULD ISSUE A REPORT AS SOON AS POSSIBLE, EVALUATING EXISTING DRUG EDUCATION MATERIALS.
The Commission has studied many programs of drug education throughout the country. Some are irrelevant, others are poorly designed, still others are misleading, and a good many of them are, of questionable value. A few are excellent. The Federal Government must provide assistance to the states and school districts in this matter, and should provide the leadership in developing sample programs in cooperation with educational systems. An evaluation of existing programs by The Special Action Office for Drug Abuse Prevention of the White House could be very helpful in improving the standards of drug education.
IV. Voluntary Sector Participation
RECOMMENDATION: THE COMMISSION NOTES THE SIGNIFICANT ROLE PLAYED BY THE VOLUNTARY SEC TOR OF THE AMERICAN COMMUNITY IN INFLUENCING THE SOCIAL, RELIGIOUS AND MORAL ATTITUDES OF OUR NATION'S CITIZENS AND RECOMMENDS THAT THE VOLUNTARY SECTOR BE ENCOURAGED TO TAKE AN ACTIVE ROLE IN SUPPORT OF OUR RECOMMENDED POLICY OF DISCOURAGING THE USE OF MARIHUANA.
Already very active in drug education and prevention activities, the social agencies, service clubs, church groups, and other non-governmental bodies have, been extremely helpful in attending to the difficult problems of drug abuse. The local and personal nature of such organizations gives them an advantage over state and federal governments in the development of attitudes by our citizens.
The policy which we here recommend, indeed any policy which might be recommended, will
inevitably encounter widespread and earnest objections. The fullest efforts of all
citizens of good will be required to attend to the, massive problem of drug abuse in a
calm, just, responsible and effective manner. The help of the voluntary agencies in
working toward this end is earnestly invited and urgently needed.
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
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Legal History of American Marijuana Prohibition
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DEA Ruling on Medical Marijuana
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GAO Documents on Drugs
Response to the Drug Enforcement Agency
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