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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

addendum

Legal and Law Enforcement Recommendations

1. Federal

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.

H. State

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.

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