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Major Studies of Drugs and Drug Policy
Marihuana, A Signal of Misunderstanding - Table of Contents

National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse

Marihuana: A Signal of Misunderstanding

Chapter III

Social Impact of marihuana use

Marihuana and Public Safety

The belief that marihuana is causally linked to crime and other antisocial conduct first assumed prominence during the 1930's as the result of a concerted effort by governmental agencies and the press to alert the American populace to the dangers of marihuana use. Newspapers all over the country began to publish lurid accounts of "marihuana atrocities." In the absence of adequate understanding of the effects of the drug, these largely unsubstantiated stories profoundly influenced public opinion and gave birth to the stereotype of the marihuana user as physically aggressive, lacking in self-control, irresponsible, mentally ill and, perhaps most alarming, criminally inclined and dangerous. The combination of the purported effects of the drug itself plus the belief that it was used by unstable individuals seemed to constitute a significant danger to public safety.

Now, more than 30 years later, many observers are skeptical about the existence of a cause-effect relationship between marihuana use and antisocial conduct.


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